Historians and critics often view R. F. Outcault’s comic strip Buster Brown (1902–1921) as a subversive series, as it is headlined by a naughty boy who constantly challenges adults and whose pranks appear to undermine family stability. The strip, however, also has a conservative function. While Buster Brown depicts the home as a site of conflict, it also celebrates the middle-class family as a resilient institution. The series specifically suggests that humor is effective in dealing with domestic conflict, suggesting that laughter and playfulness alleviate tensions and allow family members to sympathize with one another. In Buster Brown, the mischief-making child is made delightful rather than threatening. At a time when many Progressive Era Americans worried that the institution of the family was in a state of crisis, Buster Brown assured its readers that poking fun at family matters fortified the home.


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pp. 103-125
Launched on MUSE
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