Popeye has long played a role as a harbinger of health in cartoon iconography for his mainstreaming of spinach, but his influence has never been scientifically measured. Thankfully, his work has now officially been proven effective: Mahidol University in Bangkok conducted a study that showed children aged 4 and 5 ate four portions of vegetables a day after watching Popeye consume his standard can.
But I’d hold off on giving Popeye the Good Samaritan award; he may have promoted a healthy diet, but in that same TV frame he exposed a generation to a slew of habits running the gamut from poor taste to just unteachable:
Smoking — That little corncob pipe was pretty charming, but it wasn’t just for show. Popeye used that thing to blow out actual smoke. Not to mention it was plastered to his face all the time. Lesson: Smoke all the time.
Littering / Not Recycling — Beyond the spinach power-up, one of Popeye’s more under-appreciated superpowers was his ability to consistently procure the can out of nowhere. You’d think he could use the same ability to manifest a recycle bin, but the ground was always good enough for him. Lesson: Eat the goods, shrug off the can.
Violence — You want that big bully out of the picture? A big ol’ sock in the kisser will work every time. Why bother to even think about diplomacy? Lesson: Punching people solves your problems.
Poor Grammar — “But Olive, we is supposed to be goin’ on a date tonight.” That’s my mildest example. You can barely get the guy to string two coherent sentences together. Lesson: The Navy isn’t concerned with your grades.
I mentioned the poor grammar thing to Mitchell Hartman in passing and he brought up the fact that Popeye was meant to represent a working-class sailor of his time period (30s-50s). This probably goes for most of Popeye’s foibles, but if studies are going to laud his finer attributes, they should also pay some attention to the consequences of his ungroomed side.