April 15th, 2011

Girl's Own Annual

Mother Tells You How

Since the second-hand bookshop closed, the best place in town to look for older books is the museum shop. The book I bought there yesterday isn’t very old and I paid too much for it but it brought back so many memories I couldn’t resist. Some of the images leapt off the page at me, I knew them so well. That’s because, way back when even quite poor families had newspapers and magazines delivered, my weekly treat was Girl comic. I’m very displeased with the publishers, though, for making fun of my old friend. Here’s how they sell it: ‘Mother Tells You How’ might appear to be an over-the-top ‘50s spoof, but is in fact a wholly genuine period piece. There is no irony here, and it’s the well-intended, earnest instruction that provides such high comedy in our very different times.’

Mother Tells You How to make a bed/lay a table/keep cool may seem ridiculous but the compilers overlook certain factors. The target audience for the comic may have been teenage girls but as with most comics the readership was actually younger and most readers would have been ten or eleven, as I was when I read Girl. There’s also an aspirational aspect to all these hints; most of the girl readers would not have come from nice middle class homes like Judy’s (see below) and could only dream of having her bedroom and her clothes. ‘our very different times’ have also changed since 2007 when this book was printed. In a recession ‘make do and mend’ makes sense and when more and more people are crafting, hints on knitting, crochet and patchwork don’t seem funny at all.
Collapse )