I ran into a news article the other day about Disney being sued by the Al Capp estate for having a ‘Sadie Hawkins’ Day Dance’ on their show, Lizzie McGuire. Most of us know what Sadie Hawkins’ day is. Or at least we should. It’s a day when the girls ask the boys out.
In this day and age, when girls ask girls out, and boys ask boys (by the way, thank you Supreme Court for making consensual gay sex legal!), the idea of having to assign a day or a dance when it’s considered abnormal for girls to ask their chosen personage out seems a little silly. After all, feminism hit the USA hard and fast, and while there are moments of ‘recovery,’ we all seem to be accepting the fact that men and women are equals. Personally I don’t consider it sexism when, in the 1930s and 40s, men always had to ask women out. It was the way things were, and they’ve progressed to more of an even keel since then. Then again, I’m not really a feminist.
Sadie Hawkins Day made its debut in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner cartoon strip November 15, 1937. Sadie Hawkins was “the homeliest gal in the hills” who grew tired of waiting for the fellows to come a courtin’. Her father, Hekzebiah Hawkins was even more worried about Sadie living at home for the rest of his life, so he decreed the first annual Sadie Hawkins Day, a foot race in which the unmarried gals pursued the town’s bachelors, with matrimony the consequence.
By the late 1930’s the event had swept the nation and had a life of its own. Life magazine reported over 200 colleges holding Sadie Hawkins Day events in 1939, only two years after its inception. It became a woman empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence. The basis of Sadie Hawkins Day is that women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date, typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their aggressive dates. When Al Capp created the event, it was not his intention to have the event occur annually on a specific date because it inhibited his freewheeling plotting. However, due to its enormous popularity and the numerous fan letters Capp received, the event became an annual event in the strip during the month of November, lasting four decades.
Morris Harvey College – The start of the craze?
On November 1, 1938, The Charleston Gazette sponsored Morris Harvey College’s first Sadie Hawkins Day celebration. The race and mock wedding that served as its finale were held between halves of the Morris Harvey – New River State football game. It was believed to be the first such celebration in the nation, the genesis of a national craze. Morris Harvey continued this tradition until WWII, when social circumstances prohibited the football game and most of the men from being able to be chased. It was celebrated sporadically in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, finally dying out after the 1963 celebration. Many people cited the demise of football at the college in 1956 and the subsequent loss of appropriate venue as the cause for the demise, but I think that it was just the ’60s themselves that did it. In 1974 and 1988, the college mustered up revivals, but the latter was for the 100th anniversary.
So who owns it and why is Disney in trouble? Capp Enterprises, which handles content licensing for the late cartoonist Alfred “Al” Capp, claims that an unaired episode of “Lizzie” contains unauthorized references to Sadie Hawkins Day, which was derived from Capp’s “Li’l Abner” comic strip. Seems pretty simple. Except Disney says Capp does not have exclusive control over Sadie Hawkins Day. Capp contends that Disney refused to pay the license fee that other programmers have paid. Disney declined comment as it traditionally does regarding pending litigation.
Is it possible to own a holiday? No. Otherwise Hallmark would out and out own Valentines Day and we all know it. But that said, you can copyright a ‘term.’ In this case, ‘Sadie Hawkins Day.’ Did Al Capp invent ‘a day when girls ask boys out’? Yes and no. He made a day where girls catch boys and they HAVE to go out with the girls. Obviously the more modern Sadie Hawkins’ Day comes from this concept, but it’s evolved with time.
Disney has the money to pay for the rights, so obviously they feel there’s something more important going on here. My concern is what business does Disney have, perpetuating the concept that only boys can ask girls out?