Tom the Dancing Bug: The Next Vampire-Like Romantic Literary Creature



  1. I’d watch this movie…

    …as long as the female lead isn’t the same dead-eyed girl that’s in the Twilight flicks.

    1. Yeah, she’s way too cute and distracts me from all the shirtless wolfies running around. Damn her.

  2. Uhm. That was risky business including that “obsession with Grape soda” line as an association with protohumans.
    I can’t have been the first to notice that.

    1. Yeah, sort of wondering where that came from. I’m fairly sure no protohuman has ever had access to grape soda in any context.

    2. I thought that was supposed to be the same sort of non-sequitor as “sparkling” is with Twilight’s Vampires. What did you think it was? And why?

        1. OK, I was unfamiliar with that stereotype but now I get why some people think the grape soda reference was inappropriate. I was starting to wonder if grape soda drinkers were just really sensitive or something.

        2. @Hawke thanks – i keep forgetting the world outside of US does not exist until the US looks at it, and then ceases to exist once the US turns away. Kind of like a weird cousin to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

          Grape soda is just grape soda to the rest of the world, btw.

          1. Umm, yeah. Duh. Clearly my link to an explanation of what people were talking about was another way of saying, “DUH DOESN’T EVERYONE KNOW THIS!??!?!?!?!”

            Oh wait, no. I was just pointing to an explanation since some people were confused and surprised by it.

      1. Your reaction was the same as mine. After reading “Anonymous” and Lobster’s comments though I think I know what they’re saying.

        There is some strange stereo-typing of african americans and “purple drink” (grape soda?) I’m not sure where it came from or why it exists. So I guess the two previous commenters are trying say the cartoonist is linking “proto-humans” with african americans. I’m not sure if that says more about the thought processes of the commenters or the cartoonist (or mine if I’m misreading all of this).

    3. FYI: In 1974 at Hadar in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia’s Afar Depression, a 3.2 million year old bottle of Fanta was unearthed.

  3. Well the grape soda is a reference to earlier Tom the Dancing bug strips about Charlie the Australopithecine. “Remember the bunny? It didn’t go to a farm.”

  4. I dunno, so far it doesn’t look like it would pass the Bechdel Test:

    1) Only one woman in a speaking role.
    2) Doesn’t talk to other women.
    3) Talk only focuses on a man (male protohominids count?).

  5. Uhmmm…. racists are obsessed with grape soda. Get it? They’re unevolved. Ruben’s a little too subtle for this crowd, maybe.

  6. I don’t think the Twilight fanbase would know of such complex words as Australopithecine, prothomonid, pliocene, semi-arboreal … or is that supposed to be part of the irony?

    Grape soda; African Americans???

    /scratches head

  7. I’ve been reading Tom the Dancing Bug for almost 10 years now, and the ‘grape soda’ thing I think is just meant to be a silly non-sequitir–some teenage American dude trait, like eating microwave burritos or Funyuns. I could be wrong, but I believe that Bolling’s Charley character’s use of grape soda predated the current grape soda connotation as described in the Urban Dictionary.

    Of course, I’m not Ruben Bolling, so it’s just speculation.

  8. Sorry, for that those not living in the south grape soda is considered to be equivalent to fried chicken/watermelon. Just take my word for this.

    1. I will not take your word for this. I’ve lived in the south my entire life (well over 4 decades) and have never once heard of “grape soda” being associated with African Americans. If anything, it’s associated mainly with kids.

      By the way, real southerners would never say “soda” when referring to a cold, non-alcoholic, sugary beverage. The generic term in the south either “coke” or “cold drink” (usually pronounced “cole-drank”). We would say “grape drink” (“grape-drank”) instead of “grape soda”.

      And, in the south, EVERYBODY eats fried chicken and watermelon. It’s not just a black thing.

  9. RE: Grape Soda

    Charley is a reoccurring character in TtDB, who has always been into grape soda and cultural-reference shirts, not for any particular reason. I don’t believe this is any intended reference to black people, from Detroit or elsewhere.

    Personally, I’m more concerned by the stairs being within leaning distance of the lockers in the second panel. I don’t know how that works.

  10. “There is some strange stereo-typing of african americans and “purple drink” (grape soda?) ”

    Purple Drank is not grape soda, it’s Sprite mixed with prescription cough syrup and a Jolly Rancher.

  11. If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

    Also, I believe the “here’s a closet” line is intended to suggest that Charley is secretly gay.

  12. “Personally, I’m more concerned by the stairs being within leaning distance of the lockers in the second panel. I don’t know how that works.”

    At first, I thought the same thing. But I think he’s leaning on her shoulder. After all, she’s been eating bacon. He wants to get in close for a sniff. The lockers are further in the background.

    My first reaction, with the grape soda, was “uh oh”… But I’ve seen this character before. He’s like unfrozen caveman lawyer. He loves all the modern stuff that we would look down on.

    Didn’t he run for political office in one of the earlier dancing bug cartoons? Does anyone remember his press conferences as a candidate?

    1. Zombie romances as the next big thing? I’m afraid that ship has already sailed… and sank, and was raised up, brought into a museum, restored, put on display, stored, forgotten and then eventually burnt up in a warehouse fire.

  13. This reminds me of the time the lady who worked in the office sent a fruit basket as a congrats to the new employee that included watermelon. The new employee was black and took a big offense to it. Bewildered woman was bewildered to the fact that black people find watermelons offensive. When I heard this story on the news I was also very confused and had to look up why it is that black people find watermelons offensive.

  14. “black people find watermelons offensive.”

    Watermelons are f’in delicious. If someone is offended by that, screw them.

    1. Black people don’t find watermelons offensive. Black people find the widespread stereotype that all black people like watermelons (and fried chicken, malt liquor, etc.) offensive.

      I know a guy (Wally Amos of “Famous Amos” cookie fame) who decided that the stereotype was preventing black people from enjoying that delicious fruit without feeling self-conscious and has decided to reclaim it by wearing watermelon-themed hats, shoes, etc. whenever he can, which is pretty often since he runs a childhood literacy program where he reads to kids. Cool dude.

  15. Funny. . .being both black and in the south, Purple drank/drink meant either the drug laced drink or grape kool-aid. Grape soda is just grape soda. . .or Fanta.

  16. the number of racist stereotypes is beginning to exceed the capacity of our brains to keep track of them.

    i blame it on those Puerto Rican Episcopalians and their insatiable desire for Mrs. Vicki’s Salt & Vinegar potato chips. y’all know how *they* are!

  17. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the flavor of their soda, but by the content of their character.”

    Can I get an ‘Amen’?

  18. I’ve got a (very) mixed-race family, and we occasionally get into these weird meta-meta-meta-racism conversations with hilariously uncomfortable people trying overly hard to be politically correct.

    Dig this: Black people DO love fried chicken and watermelon. You know why? Because EVERYBODY loves fried chicken and watermelon! Everybody with any sense, anyway. That shit is GOOD.

    When my chinese/mongolian/african/puertorican/irish/english/german family sits down to some fried chicken and watermelon, nobody goes away hungy.

    Grape soda, it’s a regional thing and we’re not in the region.

  19. it’s kinda interesting that the current big trend in teen romance is trans-species. i used to read a lot of piers anthony as a teen and it was full of so much trans-species romance and sex, it was the highlight of the whole thing. actually come to think of it it’s a theme that comes up in a lot of fantasy, elves and humans being a really common one.

    i think it’s about alienation. teenagers, especially those that read lots of books, are usually socially isolated, and fantasies about being accepted into an alien group are a reflection of a desire for acceptance that has been suppressed to defend the wounds of being at or near the edges of the group, sublimated into a desire to be a part of some other group. vampires and werewolves are especially powerful creatures, immortal, shapeshifting, superhuman mental and physical abilities, in some versions, even magical. so vampire romance’s popularity is not just about alienation it’s also about powerlessness.

  20. The Dreaknocks in the G.I. Joe comics from the 80’s and 90’s loved grape soda, especially with chocolate-covered donuts. What does it mean??

  21. What I want to know is where I can get a “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” t-shirt.


  22. The Grape Soda issue is just a distraction from the “Squirrel!” line…
    That was totally ripped from the UP talking dog.

  23. For the love of all that is good, I know I’m ignorant, but I don’t understand the meanings or origins of this insult…


    …to Google!

  24. sapere-aud: In Texas, it’s all soda, except when it’s Coke or pop. I was once incapable of making it through the day without at least a couple of Grapettes. If there was even a molecule of grape in there, I’d be astonished. Probably should be called Purple High Fructose. It’s around, again, and I’m trying to track down a bottle.

    From their web site:

    Grapette “Unwrapped” By Food Network
    Nostalgic American Favorite To Be Featured October 8

    Malvern, Ark. – The secret formula for the world’s grapiest grape soda is still under tight wraps, but other delicious details about Grapette will soon be Unwrapped by the popular Food Network show. Once the most popular grape soda in the U.S., Grapette has been winning over new generations of thirsty fans since its reintroduction in 2004.

    The Unwrapped episode featuring Grapette will premiere Monday, October 8 at 8 p.m. (CDT). The ‘Grapeful’ episode will showcase – you guessed it – grapey foods and drinks.

    I can hardly wait.

    1. Yeah, here in Texas it’s all soda. I’ve never heard anyone say something that sounds like “cole-drank” but then Texas isn’t really the south.

      This has got to be a regional thing. I’ve really never heard it either! Grape soda tastes horrible though. You know what though I think maybe I remember it from an episode of Drawn Together (which just means I admitted to having watched that show).

      It doesn’t matter though. You can’t tiptoe around the racist exagerations because the way they work is by isolating any thing that black people may do,wear, or consume and then making that negative by association with black people.

      There’s no winning it. In the meantime geodemographic marketing is going to ensure that black communities do have unique consumer tastes (and why shouldn’t they) so there will alwyas be something to use for “othering” and racist jokes.

      1. According to The Internet, it’s mostly “coke” in Texas:

        Also, the Drawn Together episode involved “grape-flavored mentholated pencils” rather than grape soda. But yes, invoking the same stereotype.

  25. Hey, what if it’s a reference to Grape Juice Plus, preferred drink of Zera in “Escape From The Planet of the Apes”? Anyone?

  26. Okay, wait, wait, I think I’m beginning to understand.

    I know nothing about watermelons, or fried chicken, or grape drink being offensive to black people. So, if I offer watermelon to a black friend because I love it and think it tastes awesome and want to share, I’m racist? “Monkey” was my favorite nickname for my little blonde girl, but got in trouble for calling a black baby a “cute little monkey” once. Apparently, that’s racist. But I didn’t know; I was equating that adorable black baby with MY OWN CHILD. I have read that this is called “racial ignorance.” Being innocent of the thinking that a black person is any different than me is apparently racist.

    So, I’m finally learning that, in order to not be racist, I must become utterly preoccupied with keeping up with racist ideas so I can be sure not to trip over them and offend others who are. Have I got that right?


    p.s. This comic totally cracked me up.

    1. No, Hollykins, you just have to be a little less egotistical and realize that not everybody comes to the table with the same life experiences so the little things you think are no big deal are pretty much impossible for them to tell from the things people say when they mean it that way.

      But by all means don’t let that get in the way of your self-rigteousness indignation at being misunderstood due to cultural ignorance. You’re absolutely right. If everyone in the world was like you and hand your experiences there would be no confusion ever!

    2. See my other comment #41, Hollykins.

      Remember, you fight fire with water, not fire. Don’t react with anger and negativity to others’ misapprehension of your meanings and you can enlighten the other to your own cultural background.

      I once received a complaint for “singling out” a black girl during a class. Her mother said the girl felt that my comment (something to the effect that “people have to be more careful cycling at night, and should wear highly visible clothing, this is particularly true of dark-skinned people”) was racist and hurtful, because the girl’s skin is very dark and I looked at her when I said it. When I was confronted with this (by another parent that I know well) I laughed and said “honestly, I say stupid shit like that all the time – I meant no harm, and I have said exactly the same thing to my daughter who is also black” (I’m very white). Then I sought out the girl’s mother and told her that I’m racially colorblind and frequently say dumb things that are easily misinterpreted, and that she had my sincere apologies, and she and her daughter should feel free to call me out any time they think something I said was out of line. I like to think I’m good friends with everyone involved, now, and I have a little insight into the girl in question’s feelings – she is inordinately sensitive about the color of her skin, and she’s aware all the time that she’s the darkest student in the class.

      I could have taken offense at their taking offense – in reality, I’m not the racist here, the girl who assumes her own skin color is somehow unworthy is the one with a problem. But I can’t help her overcome this, and feel good about herself, if I let her problem break down the communications between us. So I choose to be amused by human frailty, rather than disgusted at people’s rush to take offense.

  27. Everyone knows white people hate grape soda as much as they hate watermelon and chicken. So any mention of those things must pertain to the only race that can stand them, people from Qwlghm.

  28. The “grape drank” meme is from a Dave Chapelle record / stand-up routine.

    I believe.

    If it goes back farther than that, then America is stupider than I thought.

  29. Coming in here with a throw-away comment, months after the original thread lived and died. Trash it. Post it. Put it in the male and nominate it for the Pulitzer. Whatever.

    Boing-Boing readers must have a freaky headspace. I’ve scarcely read anything so nerdishly obtuse as this discussion. It may be an australopithecine component (throwback gene) in the human makeup that hearkens to this whole bit with the grape soda. These folk are more fixated on the grape soda than Charlie.

    Here was my take. 1.) It was funny, and I laughed at it. 2.) Obviously, the idea of an Australopithecus male being present in the modern day and attending high school clad in a shirt that says, “Dynomite!” is patently absurd. That’s what makes it funny. Similarly, in this cartoon alternate universe, textbooks tell us that the Australopithecus has a tiny brain, pronounced canines and was obsessed with grape soda. Just another absurdity.

    So, why the focus on the grape soda, when the whole premise is absurd to begin with? Weird, Margaret, weird.

    And FYI, grape soda IS digusting. I remember the Old Man suggesting we drink some warm “Gala” brand grape soda on the stretch from Lassen out to Redding, CA, in 110 F. weather. That’ll hose up grape soda for you even if you liked it to start with.

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