“Emasculated by the diaper bag”: Aging, Masculinity, and Fatherhood in Joe Ollmann’s Mid-Life
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Canadian cartoonist Joe Ollmann’s semi-autobiographical book-length comic Mid-Life is a cranky but insightful meditation on aging and fatherhood, but also the manner in which its many demands can negatively affect one’s self-perception, creativity, and relationships. Father of two adult daughters and one baby boy with his much younger wife, the main character fixates on signs of decrepitude he thinks he notices in his early 40s, his dwindling level of attractiveness to the opposite sex, as well as his mediocre job. Fatherhood is introduced as a complicated role that can both build character and ruin it, but always impacts the narrator’s performance of masculinity. In this chapter, I argue that the self-loathing rhetoric and aesthetic of the book undermines the narrator’s negative perception of fatherhood and the grotesque self-representation works well to show the qualities and limitations of John’s involvement as a father.
KeywordsJoe Ollmann Mid-Life Fatherhood Mid-life crisis Old age Gender Masculinity Self-deprecation
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