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Values Dissonance / Calvin and Hobbes

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Even one of the strips most known for subverting the genre's outdated tropes in the genre would run into some trouble nowadays for certain jokes.

  • In one comic, Calvin draws a squadron of B-1s nuking New York. For all the most obvious reasons, there's no way they'd run that nowadays.
  • The occasional spanking and the (non-literal, to be fair) threats of death Calvin's parents make towards Calvin is this in spades. Back then, making those kinds of threats weren't seen as a big deal. But nowadays with abusive parents and infanticide being more hot topic and front and center, Calvin's parents would definitely receive visits from social services if they physically harmed Calvin or threatened to hurt or kill him.
    • Rosalyn also threatened to kill Calvin in the arc where he stole her science notes, which Hobbes merely reacts with "Boy, some babysitter!". Assuming Calvin's parents found out, Rosalyn would have trouble finding further babysitting jobs at best and receive anger management counseling at worst.
  • In the arc where Calvin plays baseball at recess, Calvin considers dropping out and the coach tells him "Okay, quitter! Goodbye." These days, the coach would be catching a lot of heat and would likely lose his job for talking to a six-year old that way (assuming Calvin told anyone, of course).
    • Not just that but were the arc written in an age where bullies have been caught on video via smartphone, one (or more) of the other kids playing baseball at recess would probably record the abuse Calvin receives (be it for sadistic amusement or to help him). Were it then posted online, the school would likely come under fire for negligence and, as a result, Principal Spittle would have fired Coach Lockjaw (for failure to stop bullying and insulting a six-year-old) and possibly even have the students who bullied Calvin suspended as well.note 
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    • In the same arc, not one girl has the slightest interest in playing baseball, but all the boys except Calvin do. The combination of the boys making fun of his refusal to participate and having to share the playground with all of the girls forces Calvin to join the team, even though he really doesn't want to.
  • The whole concept of Calvin being thrown out of the house on weekends/during the summer. This is something that kids growing up in the 80s and 90s were used to, often hearing things like "don't come back until dark/dinner." Modern kids simply aren't treated this way. Having a "playdate" is something an 80s kid assumes is something between two consenting adults.
  • In one early Sunday strip, Calvin's mom gets so frustrated by the mess he has made with his oatmeal that she angrily blames her husband's chromosome for making Calvin male instead of conceiving a "sweet little girl". A joke like that would more than likely be decried as sexist nowadays when gender stereotypes have been (and are still) challenged and defied by many.
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  • The Double Standard that if Susie beats up Calvin for throwing snowballs and water balloons at her, he is made to suffer for it but she herself gets away with knocking him into next week, throwing a snowball at him, or spraying him with a hose. Back in the 80s/90s when it was published, this was amusingly cathartic but were the strip set nowadays, her extremely short temper and acts of violent retribution towards Calvin would likely get her sent to a child psychologist where she'd undergo anger management therapy.
  • The reason why Rosalyn becomes the default babysitter; before anyone would come to watch their son, Mom and Dad leave Calvin alone while having a night out. After spending a whole strip laughing about the idea, they actually go through with it and tell Calvin to behave himself before leaving their six-year-old in the house with no adult to supervise him. Yeah. Mom's pretty lucky that the worst thing Calvin did was watch a scary movie and booby trap his bedroom door. The 1980s could treat it as a joke, but the 2010s parents would be freaking out about everything that could go wrong or a call from child services.

    The way Rosalyn interacts with Calvin also counts. She makes a bad first impression on him by locking him in the garage, and the next time she babysat threatened to make him sleep in the basement. That wouldn't fly in the age of Nanny cams and babysitter horror stories. He never tells his parents, but they do know she sends him to bed ridiculously early. They never consider that his fear of her may be rational, to the point of asking them where they keep their guns which they don't have. Instead, Calvin's parents always harp on him to behave, his dad once making the Throat-Slitting Gesture before closing the door. At several points, they don't even tell him that she's coming note .
    • Rosalyn becomes Calvin's swimming instructor in her second appearance. When Calvin refuses to go in the water, Rosalyn threatens to whip him with a towel. Assuming Calvin told his parents or a pool employee, Rosalyn today could lose her job for even making such a threat (even if she didn’t mean it, which is likely the case).
  • In some strips, Hobbes is shown to remorselessly antagonize Calvin, even at little to no provocation (up to and including roughing him up, taking advantage of a bee on his friend's back to steal his comics and get him stung and even looking forward to Calvin's death from illness when the latter is clearly anxious about his condition etc.), and usually gets away scot-free yet is still portrayed as a friend and occasional voice of reason otherwise. Naturally, this is Played for Laughs but were the comic strip made in modern times when bullying, as well as toxic friendships and abusive relationships, have become hot-topic issues, Hobbes would likely receive intense hatred from some readers who'd demand he receive Laser-Guided Karma more often.
  • During the Stupendous Man arc where Calvin dons this persona at school, Miss Wormwood drags him to the principal's office twice. After escaping the first time, the second is a lot more physical where (offscreen) Calvin practically begs for help in the ensuing scuffle. In the following day's strip, Calvin states that his mother confiscated his outfit. At the time, it would've been justified (and amusing) comeuppance for a disruptive student but years afterward, a teacher would get fired for what's essentially manhandling a student as young as six. Since many schoolkids have cellphones with cameras nowadays, at least one of Calvin's classmates would record the evidence and take his side. His parents under the circumstances (assuming they found out) would more likely press charges against Miss Wormwood instead of getting mad at Calvin.
  • In general, a lot of the things Calvin does, ranging from his arguments with Hobbes to his disturbing snowmen to his antics in class, would probably be seen these days as Troubling Unchildlike Behavior and get him taken to a child psychologist, while his parents would receive a visit from social services. Another thing is, in the strip, there are several large hints that Calvin either has ADHD, Schizophrenia, and/or is somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, yet his parents and school constantly dismiss these hints as just as him being his disruptive self (in all fairness, Calvin’s behavior can be genuinely horrible at times, although also in his defense, not entirely unreasonable). In the 1980s/90s, mental conditions like these were far less known or recognized. In fact, Rain Man, which was released during the strip's original run in 1988, was the film that popularized the autism diagnosis. Nowadays, with learning, mental, and social disabilities being more publicly known, and with teachers now being trained to spot those conditions in their students and Special Ed programs being more expansive, it's very likely the school would have suspected Calvin had one or more of those types of disorders/disabilities and ordered his parents to take him to a psychologist for an official diagnosis, especially since Calvin often disrupts school with his antics.
  • In one strip, Calvin asks Hobbes if he'd like to go to the zoo with him and Mom, and he responds with "Can we tour a prison afterwards?", resulting in Calvin changing his mind about going. While the "zoos are prisons" mindset may have been partially true when the strip was first published, most mainstream zoos in recent years (at least in North America) have been putting a heavy focus on conservation and education over entertainment.
  • Two different Sunday strips have Calvin give "reports" on overpopulation to the class.
    • The first one is telling the story of Bambi and a herd of deer wielding hunting rifles and shooting random office workers. They actually kill Frank, a Nice Guy minding his own business, and pose with his body for a picture. Calvin explains that humans needed thinning out, and the deer were complying with that mandate. (He's not wrong to make that analogy, but it's disturbing nonetheless). All Miss Wormwood does is send a note home asking to schedule a parent-teacher conference. These days he'd be made to see a therapist in school about how he interprets current events.
    • The second is actually a story about Susie getting Eaten Alive by a pack of carnivorous dinosaurs as well as explicitly advocating for natural selection, to which Miss Wormwood responds by matter-of-factly criticizing his report and telling him to see her after class. After numerous school shootings made headlines and psychological issues concerning children/teenagers have gained public attention, Calvin's teacher would interpret the "report" as a threat to Susie's well-being and he would likely be suspended or expelled (especially in a zero-tolerance school environment), if not also required to see a therapist.
  • Calvin asks Uncle Max if he has any kids, to which he replies "Nope, I'm not even married." Calvin asks what difference that makes, to shocked responses from Calvin's parents, and a comment from Uncle Max that Calvin must watch a lot of TV. Nowadays, the stigma against single parents and unmarried couples having children has gone down significantly, and it's entirely possible that Calvin would have met a child whose parents were unmarried or was raised by a single parent. Not to mention that Calvin could have asked that question out of natural curiosity, even if he didn't know of any unmarried parents/single parents (as a six year old, he might honestly not know what the connection is between them).
  • In one strip, Calvin fires an arrow at Susie while dressed in a very stereotypical Native American costume. Cute and charming when the strip was published, considered problematic cultural appropriation nowadays.
  • One of the Rosalyn babysitting arcs ended with Calvin calling the police to say that he and Hobbes were being held hostage (something that merely gets an eye-roll from Rosalyn). This would be much harder to play off as a comedic punchline nowadays, considering similar false 9-1-1 calls in real life have led to swatting incidents where innocent people have been killed. To add, police tend to respond to suspected hostage situations with extreme force, not a polite door knock as depicted in the comic. Calvin would also be in big trouble for his antics now, perhaps even punished for juvenile delinquency.
  • One example of this was noted by Watterson himself in commentary. He got a lot of angry letters from readers for depicting Calvin's parents as flawed human beings who would often get enraged at Calvin's antics, want to spend time away from him, get into arguments, regret even having Calvin and even be happy at the thought of him disappearing. As Watterson notes, examples of dysfunctional families who didn't always get along appearing in fiction became much more common and exaggerated as the comic progressed, to the point where the complaints of Calvin's parents seemed almost quaint in comparison.
  • Watterson also mentioned that a lot of people complained about a strip where Calvin fantasizes about using a jet fighter to blow up his school (and, presumably, all the people inside), though he defended it at the time, saying any kid Calvin's age has probably fantasized about destroying their school at least once. In the post-Columbine age of mass shootings and other violence at public schools, it's hard to imagine this strip being published.
  • In some strips, Calvin would sit with Hobbes in the car while his parents did errands. Watterson himself said this wasn't an issue when he was growing up. By the 21st century, the general public had become much more aware of how dangerous and potentially fatal it is to leave a six-year old alone in the car, especially during the summer when a locked car can heat up to lethal temperatures ridiculously fast.
  • One story arc in 1990 had Calvin (in the midst of yet another Spaceman Spiff fantasy) running away from school after threatening the class with a rubber band. Woe betide any kid who attempts this nowadays.
  • Calvin's calls to the library about books on making bombs or graffiti would have been dismissed as a joke in the 90s, but would result in a visit from the police or SWAT team nowadays. Same with his calls to the hardware store asking for demolition materials.
  • In the first arc of Valentine's Day strips, Calvin gives Susie a card with "Drop dead" written on it. Assuming Susie told her parents or Miss Wormwood, Calvin would these days be fighting a school suspension.


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