When comic books were comic, a syndicated two-panel cartoon strip, There Oughta Be a Law, gave voice and vent to Americans’ frustrations with just about anything they thought was unfair and should be redressed by a law. Between the 1940s and the 80s, Broadway’s biggest musical, Oklahoma!—with its significant exclamation point—ran for an unprecedented five years; the Mad Ave-hyped Ford Edsel lasted for only three; but There Oughta Be a Law stayed popularly in print for four decades.
I wish “Oughta Be” were around today. I would write cartoonist-creator Harry Shorten to say there oughta be a law in New York City that states anything that isn’t good for the city is unlawful. What has me fuming right now is—brace yourself—a bedbug billboard in Times Square. That’s right, a bedbug. On a billboard. If you haven’t seen it, avert your eyes if you come to it… cover the eyes of your children (and pets)… and, by all means, do not let a visitor to New York see it. Detour, sidle past, walk backwards, but take that tourist dearest to you and to the New York economy and jay-walk the hell out of there.
A bedbug on Broadway! Mayor Bloomberg, where are you? A big, ugly, crawly bug is straddling skyscrapers half its size across a billboard sprawling above a pizza parlor! You eat pizza! The villain is an ad—a tawdry, tacky scare ad for a company called Protect-A-Bed, a crass merchant telling us, “Protect Yourself.” But who’s going to protect Broadway theaters and Manhattan hotels and city restaurants from Protect-A-Bed?
Protect-A-Bed claims its same mattress covers protect against bedwetting. Will people come from all over the world to be sobered by a display of a man pissing on a New York skyline? Above a salad bar?
I don’t believe in curtailing free speech, Mayor B., but this isn’t speech, this is visual assault. There oughta be a law! It isn’t free enterprise, it is economic depravity. Why not a bill-boarded illustration of a bedbug taking a juicy bite out of The Big Apple?!
You spent 69 million dollars—and changed a law a lot of New Yorkers thought oughta be—just to keep your job. Let your affluence do the talking. Why not buy the billboard and change it to something all New Yorkers inherently take pride in?
Curious to know what you, the reader, think there oughta be a law about. That’s what the “Comments” section below is for.