When Avocado Picker first asked me to contribute to Geek Pie I asked him if for ideas on which of history’s geeks I might pay tribute to first...we threw a few ideas around but when he mentioned Walter Softy I knew I had my first homage sewn up.
I read The Beano long after I left the target demographic behind. I’m not sure I ever found it funny but in my early teens, just as puberty was beginning to exert it’s hormonal influence, I got a kick out of it’s innocent humour. Or so it seemed at the time; writing this in my head it occurred to me that Walter Softy just wouldn’t be created today. Sure enough within a week there was an article in Metro about how The Beano and The Dandy had gone PC. Desperate Dan’s gun had been replaced with a water pistol, cowpies had been nixed so as not to offend veggies...and Walter’s relationship with his nemesis Dennis The Menace was deemed homophobic...jeebus, that’s so gay.
Ok, he was what back then was called ‘a pansy’, he liked flowers, owned a wendy house and had a pink poodle called Foo Foo, was he meant to be gay or just a drip? Seriously, did anyone really read The Beano and then go and pick on that uncoordinated kid at school that was more interested in your sisters toys than yours (we all had one didn’t we)...maybe, kids are dumb like that. I didn’t put worm’s in a kid’s sandwich because he was effeminate, I did it because he was a dick...he did turn out to be gay but that's coincidence. You think I didn't get bullied for reading The Beano aged 13? (It could've been the fact I read The FT and used a filofax for my homework diary).
Walter was given a girlfriend in ’96 to make him seem less gay but I don’t think the fact she looked like him in a dress helped much. Walter Softy is a geek of a bygone era, I don’t think was ever any malice intended and indeed he would often ambush Dennis himself...which was all innocent japes but in light of the homo-connotations now seems a bit Kevin Spacey on Clapham Common.
Bollocks to it; glasses, a bowtie, a ‘swot’ – he’s the geek many of us grew up with and his predilection for making perfume out of rose petals and tap water didn’t turn us into nailbombers. Walter, you get the nerd salute; ‘bah!’, ‘coo’ etc