A pair of nameless characters appearing in the B.C. newspaper comic strip will be given names, with an eye toward being more respectful and inclusive of women. The characters, who have recurred for decades, were previously referred to as "The Fat Broad" and "The Cute Chick." The change, which was determined by strip creator Johnny Hart's daughters (they currently oversee his strips, and have since Hart passed away in 2007), will take effect immediately.
The Hart's comic strip business, which includes comics-page perennials B.C. and Wizard of Id, is run by the daughters of the late Johnny Hart, Patti and Perri. B.C. is written and drawn by Hart's grandsons, Mason Mastroianni and Mick Mastroianni.
"Since my grandfather's death, we've strived to be culturally inclusive and preserve the timeless appeal of the strip by focusing on universal human themes. We're all in this together, and we want B.C. to connect with every audience," says Mason, B.C. cartoonist. "By doing nothing, we'd perpetuate pejorative descriptions of these two important lead characters, and that's not what we're about."
"We work hard to keep the strip fresh and relevant for all fans and audiences," said Perri Hart, the strip's letterer and colorist. "And it just seems like the right time for 'the girls' to have names."
"Our family has always had a deep desire to give these two women names," added Patti Hart. "It's not about political correctness or to placate any social pressure, it's simply something we've always wanted to do. Here's to Grace and Jane!"
B.C. is in development to become a feature-length animated movie, which might play a role in giving characters who will have extensive speaking parts names. Producer Kevin Richardson joined the official statement from Hart's studio, saying, "I join the Harts in giving this announcement two thumbs up. We look forward to giving Grace and Jane strong roles, and not detract from the fun characters and situations for which the strip is known."
During his life, Hart's comics became incredibly popular, but in his later years they were increasingly divisive as the cartoonist felt more responsibility to use them as evangelical tools. Overtly Christian messages may have led to the strip being skipped for a day or even dropped entirely by papers who prized objectivity and felt they did not want to explicitly promote any one religion, according to Time Magazine. A Washington Post report in 1999 paraphrased Hart as saying that Jews and Muslims who don't accept Jesus will go to hell, that homosexuality is Satan's handiwork, and that the world may end by the year 2010. The Time report said that Hart did not like the bluntness of the paraphrasing, but stood by the remarks (with the caveat that Jewish people "may get a scriptural dispensation").1comments
His popularity among the evangelical right wing in the U.S. was strenghtened by the controversies that came up, making it unclear whether he gained or lost anything at all when they happened. For Hart's own part, he maintained that he was basically answering questions presented to him honestly, and that he always tried to avoid putting material that had the potential to offend or hurt people in the strips themselves.
Hart came from Endicott, New York, located in Broome County, and the Broome County/B.C. connection remains strong. There is a golf tournament known as the B.C. Open in the area, the local sports teams and parks all use or have used Hart-created characters in their logos and signage, and hs is treated like as much of a local celebrity as is Rod Serling in Auburn, NY, just a short drive down the highway.