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Dissecting Popeye on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday

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If you happen to be strolling around New York City this weekend, take a look at the Empire State Building. The famous lights atop the building will be glowing green. Spinach green, that is, in honor of Popeye’s 75th birthday.

pop1.jpgPopeye has always looked 75, at least to me. For a man that’s wanted by the hottest gal in town, he sure doesn’t look the part of hot stud. No, Popeye looks like the kind of guy that wakes up at noon, heads for the same old bar and the same old barstool, has the same old drink while he tells the bartender the same old stories about life in the Navy. Ah Guh Guh Guh! And then we tattooed him with a branding iron right on his butt. Ah Guh Guh Guh! The bartender probably just stares at him and tries to work up the nerve to ask Popeye why his right eye is always closed like that, leaving him in a perpetual state of winking. If the barkeep ever does get up the nerve to ask about the eye, he should also ask Popeye why the muscles on his arms are in the wrong place.

Not that Olive Oyl is much of a catch. Clearly, she’s a tease, a tramp and completely selfish. She pop2.jpgmay play the part of the weak woman, but inside she is shrewd, calculating and spiteful. She plays Popeye for a fool, often feigning helplessness just to see what lengths he will go to in order to prove his love for her. She plays Brutus/Bluto for a fool as well, making him think that he has a chance when she’s just using him to drive Popeye insane.

And what do these two guys see in Olive, anyhow? Her arms are made of rubber, her nose looks like a penis and she’s clearly anorexic. Maybe she’s the only game in town. I don’t remember many other women in Popeye land. Or maybe it’s just a macho fixation with wanting what your rival wants. And Popeye did get what he wanted, marrying Olive just five years ago. We haven’t heard much from the couple, but I imagine that they are living in a trailer (at least it’s not a garbage can) with five kids and Popeye attends anger management classes while Olive turns tricks to pay for pop3.jpgPopeye’s spinach flavored crack. Of course, she’s probably having an affair with Brutus, who also married recently, but whose wife has a restraining order against him.

The basic Popeye episode went like this: Our hero wants a date with Olive Oyl. Olive Oyl is busy being stalked by Brutus. Wimpy wants a hamburger. Popeye comes upon Brutus wreaking havoc on either Olive or some townie. Popeye engages Brutus in battle and when he is near death, pulls a can of spinach from out of nowhere and beats Brutus to a bloody pulp. If there happens to be an innocent bystander – say, a cow – Popeye will beat the crap out of that cow as well, with just one punch sending the animal up into the air, and when it comes down, it will be in the form of a couple of sides of beef and a few steaks. Wimpy, there’s your hamburgers!

About that spinach: I think that might be the cause of Popeye’s strained look. Spinach is loaded with iron. Iron can make you constipated. Look at that face. Seems to me that what Popeye needs is not a kiss from Olive Oyl or a beatdown from Brutus, but a good laxative and a better diet. You gotta figure that if he’s trying to squeeze one out all the time, he’s probably pretty cranky. One good dump, maybe even an enema (applied by Olive Oyl), would go a long way towards making a kinder, gentler Popeye. Perhaps then he could turn the other cheek when faced with Bluto’s aggression.

The real problem as I see it is with Popeye’s self-esteem. Why would a guy go through so much trouble for a scrawny, screechy woman who makes him run through hoops just for a peck on the cheek? Surely there is some kind of deep, psycholigical need for Popeye to prove himself. Maybe he had parents who were never pleased with him. Maybe all those years in the Navy did a number on his psyche. There has to be some reason for this guy to so crave Olive’s love, devotion and body that he takes so much mental abuse from her and physical abuse from Brutus. Perhaps a psychologist is in order. Or Prozac.

Olive, on the other hand, is just a bitch. She clearly gets off on having two guys fighting over her. Neither of them is good looking, neither have much in the way of personality. But they both want her and that’s good enough for Olive. The poor guys don’t even have any idea that Olive has been giving Wimpy handjobs behind the hamburger stand for a dollar so she can save money to get a much needed boob job. Which is why Wimpy never has any money for hamburgers.

I digress. I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent and into the sordid life of Popeye and friends, but the whole premise of the show has always irked me. Boy wants girl. Boy fights for girl. Girl kisses boy. Then girl kisses other boy. Would you bring flowers to a woman who was fooling around with your arch rival and doing it right in front of you? And Olive, what a head case! She locks lips with a man who has more than once tied her to railroad tracks just to make Popeye piss his pants in fear. Passive-aggressive much?

I’m just saying, the dude is 75 years old. You would think he’d have learned by this age that Olive is just playing games with his heart. I would have liked to see an ending to the Popeye saga; one where Brutus and Popeye finally had their fill of Olive’s antics and they kill her and leave her body by the river’s edge. Then Crispin Glover discovers the body and Dennis Hopper has this blow-up doll and…..sorry, wrong story.

Anyhow, happy birthday Popeye.

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About Michele Catalano

  • http://www.tekwh0re.net Ms. Tek

    Omg… that was some funny shit.

    I had a good laugh. Thanks!

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Michele – I always enjoy your close readings!

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