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Capes On the Couch - Where Comics Get Counseling


Why talk about Typhoid Mary when I can talk about Typhoid Mary?

Sep 5, 2018

If you see Typhoid Mary coming your way, walk in the other direction. No, RUN. Typhoid Mary is not someone you need contact with. She has a blatant disregard for your health and safety, all while putting on this sweet, innocent front that lulls you into a false sense of security. I don't have an accurate count, but from what I've read, she has irreparably damaged numerous lives. She needs to be kept away from society until she demonstrates that she is no longer a danger.

Wait, I'm supposed to talk about the comic book character? Whoops! I mean, it's an easy mistake to make. But my point remains the same (except for tense of course, since one of the Marys has been dead for quite a while). For the sake of this discussion, I'm going to refer to “Historical Mary” and “Comic Mary,” because you all know how much I loooove multiple personalities:

Should there be more homage?

The context of Bloody Mary as a myth is much easier to fold into an action comic scenario. But what about the original “Typhoid Mary”, this insidious bland servant that is humbly going about their business and causes indiscriminate illness? Isn't that something worth investigating? I mean, if you use the name, tie it in a bit more snug, eh?

“Historical Mary” was a cook in different private households, and it was no coincidence that people got sick. She didn't care too much about washing her hands, because she didn't exactly have a good grasp of the pathogen hypothesis, let alone carrier status for something that wasn't personally making her sick. The families she worked for weren't so lucky. She was pleasant enough, personable even. But when diarrhea hit the majority of the house, she knew that something was up, and she needed to bail. This happened to at least 7 seven families before someone got the idea that the one common person could be the culprit. She ended up as a case study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, quarantined on numerous occasions, and part of a public campaign (not supported by her) for public and personal hygiene. For a summary on “Comic Mary,” including the subsets of Marys (can we just deal with one personality some time, please?) feel free to listen to our podcast! Now, what do these two have in common besides catchy names?

They didn't ask to be sick

I know, nobody does. Nobody asks for a unique hardship. But how do they both handle the pimp hand/invective agent they're dealt?

They start meek

Comic Mary is innocent and can't possibly be blamed for anything that happens. Historical Mary is not physically ill and wants to provide a good service to the people of her community. Maybe historical Mary could have learned to garner sympathy the way Comic Mary does.

Something goes wrong

Comic Mary has been abused, develops other coping mechanisms (*sigh* personalities, I know) to survive, and in the process becomes a miasma of torment and violence. Historical Mary is willing to be anonymous to avoid any further scrutiny and when interviewed tends to play up a folksy ignorance in the face of medical knowledge and refusing all testing to confirm what was already known.

They get “help”

By help I'm referring to involuntary confinement other than jail, although Comic Mary has had that too. This is the part of psychiatry that I don't like, but I'm aware of it's necessity for someone like Comic Mary. Historical Mary was under medical quarantine on more than one occasion. In both cases, rather than focus on improvements, they focused on inward despair, bitterness towards a system that they considered cold, and what they would do when they got out. There's not much room for personal growth if it's sill not your problem. Well, Historical Mary's gallbladder always had some personal growth.

They mature

Just kidding. Historical Mary died of pneumonia and her autopsy reportedly revealed the typhoid fever pathogen all along. There's a theory that she didn't have an autopsy and this is all hearsay, but then that would point to her being some sort of master diabolical murderer...which would bring her closer to Comic Mary anyway! Comic Mary is a comic book character and therefore has a level of flexibility in her writing that will allow for some modicum of growth for temporary purposes to suit a story.

What have we learned?

Diseases suck. Wash your hands.

~ Dr. Issues

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