Goofus and Gallant: Where Are They Now?
Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from way back in 1999.
Anyone who visited a doctor's office as a child knows "Highlights" magazine, and the zany moralistic adventures of Goofus and Gallant. Just mention their names to any adult, and they will smile in remembrance, even if they haven't read it in 30 years.
Goofus and Gallant are two boys who provide moral and ethical lessons on how to, or how not to, live life. In the everyday events they found themselves in, Gallant would do the kind, noble, and right things, while Goofus was a total screwup.
"Goofus leaves a pile of clothes on the floor," and "Gallant offers to help his mother fold the laundry." Or "Goofus grabs the remote so he can watch his favorite television program; Gallant says 'That's alright, Mother, I like Lawrence Welk too.'" or "Goofus takes 30 minute showers and uses all the hot water/Gallant keeps a box of wet-naps in his room, and cleans himself every night before bed."
Many scholars (i.e. no scholars at all ever) argue that Goofus and Gallant were a metaphor for Cain and Abel ("Abel works diligently in his fields to feed his family; Cain kills Abel with a big stick"). But there was really only one lesson to be learned from Cain and Abel — "don't kill your brother, even if you really, really want to" — while Goofus and Gallant teach children new life lessons month after month.
When I was young , most of my friends and I thought Goofus was a big jerk and would never even dream of acting the way he did, although a couple friends thought Goofus was cool and funny.
They're in prison now.
But while we thought Goofus was a jerk, we also thought Gallant was completely unreasonable and a panty-waisted sissy boy.
Growing up, Goofus was actually one of the popular kids in school. He brought gum to school, told great dirty jokes, and had the answer key to the teacher's math book.
On the other hand, Gallant collected for UNICEF every Halloween, thought gum was for bad your teeth, and knew every song in the hymnal he kept by his bed.
But that was 35 years ago. They've grown up and carried on with their lives since then. I caught up with the pair at a signing of their latest book, "Who's Goofy Now?" and found out what they've been up to.
"Well," Gallant said, "my good friend Goofus is the VP of Sales at a large software company."
Gallant clapped his hand on his friend's shoulder. Goofus just looked down at his hands and smiled.
"That's nothing," he said. "Ask Gallant about his big promotion."
"Oh, I hate to brag," Gallant smiled, "but I was just promoted to assistant night manager at the local pizza parlor. Finally, after 11 years of hard work, I'm moving up in the world. I realize I don't get to travel around the world as much as my buddy Goofus, but I do get to meet a lot of interesting people."
"What about families? Are you guys married?"
Goofus spoke first. "I just got married for a second time. Her name is Sophie, and she's from France."
"Oh don't be so bashful!" Gallant laughed. "He's too modest to say anything, but she's a big-time supermodel in Europe. She's been on fashion shoots all over the world, and consults for some of the biggest fashion designers in the world."
"But you're still married to the same great woman," said Goofus.
Gallant's smile faded. "Yeah. The same woman. The exact same woman for the past 27 years." He sighed heavily. "And she loooooves the pizza, know what I mean?"
A slight head shake from Goofus kept me from pursuing that one any further. "How about kids?" I continued.
Gallant brightened up again. "I've got two wonderful kids. Sheila's 18, and just finished her first semester at college. Her school just started a new policy that did away with their entire grading system, but she said she passed her classes. She also moved off campus and has a new roommate named Slither, which is an odd name for a woman.
"My son, Jason, is a sophomore in high school, and is really good at computers. He's on his constantly. He must be working on some important job for the government, because I just got a message from the FBI about him yesterday. I think they want to offer him a job!"
Goofus looked startled, then shook his head. "Poor Gallant," he said. "Poor optimistic, misguided, trusting Gallant. We really need to talk."
I could tell that things were going to get uncomfortable, so I said good-bye to the dichotomous duo. It's always painful to be around when this kind of things happens, so I needed to get a safe distance away and hoped I had a strong enough zoom on my video camera.
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