The cartoon strip of aspirational lifestyles and endless sexual liberation.
Arriving on the pages of Britain’s most popular tabloid in the scorching summer of 1976, George and Lynne seemed to be as much a representation of the fantasy of the swinging Seventies as The Sun’s other main attraction, the Page 3 girl. A daily cartoon strip created by writer Conrad Frost, the story followed the lives of married couple George and Lynne Newman, who seemed to be the epitome of middle-class liberation – arguably as far away from the lives of The Sun‘s blue-collar readership as you could get, but then we should never underestimate the power of aspiration. And for someone working a grinding manual labour job, George and Lynne’s lifestyle certainly seemed to be something to aspire to.
Living a fairly luxurious life in the commuter belt of Middlesex, George was possibly something in the city – no one seemed quite sure what, as he only rarely seemed to go to work – and Lynne was his former secretary, now wife (with the inference that George might have been married to someone else when they started their affair), who spends her time lolling around at home or gossiping with the girls, usually wearing very little. That this couple, who we assume must have been in their thirties or forties, had a vigorous sex life was a given – George was chiselled and hairy, with a truly bizarre quiff that defies gravity and the laws of physics, while Lynne had a skinny waist, round bum and the sort of pneumatic boobs that only surgery can give, and both seemed to have a pretty chilled attitude towards nudity – topless sunbathing was common, and George had a nude calendar of his wife made each year. Their lives were sometimes contrasted to the less idyllic ones of their friends (possible stand-ins for the reader) but mostly, the couple seemed to lead an insular existence – and who could blame them? You imagine that George and Lynne spent their time sipping cocktails, listening to James Last LPs and living the good life when not shagging like rabbits – and who needs reality to intrude onto that?
Things were unchanging for 25 years, other than artist John M. Burns making way for Josep Gaul in 1982, but in 2001, the strip had its only ongoing story – over five months, an epic tale of deceit, crime and murder unfolded to astonished readers, as the daily titillation gave way to a story in which George has not one, but two affairs (why, George, why?), finds himself being blackmailed after getting mixed up with gangsters, has an attempt made on his life and almost splits up with Lynne, who also sleeps with someone else to get her own back. It all ends with the murder of George’s internet fling Tryme, and the couple getting back together. Dramatic stuff to be sure, and perhaps not what the readers really wanted from the escapist strip – or perhaps it was. Perhaps people took a certain pleasure in seeing the perfect lives of George and Lynne disrupted. Certainly, we can assume that Frost had tired of – or perhaps run out of – three-panel sexy gags and wanted to do something meatier.
After this, is was business as usual for the couple, but the clock was ticking for their adventures. George and Lynne never aged, but society did, and their sexually liberated adventures would soon seem out of time. There was never a campaign against George and Lynne in the way that people rallied against Page 3, but it was a strip effectively cut from the same cloth, and in 2010, the couple were unceremoniously booted from the paper to make way for Wallace and Gromit. Could anything be more undignified, or a more telling sign of the coming times?
I can only imagine what the reaction to George and Lynne would be today, with its copious nudity, sexist gags, lechery and laissez-faire attitude towards sex in general. It was very much of its time, even though it survived the changing attitudes of the miserable 1980s and beyond. But now, it feels like an innocent nostalgia piece, a fun look at a Britain that perhaps only ever existed in the fevered fantasies of a nation otherwise beleaguered by industrial unrest, social upheaval and the threat of a hotting up Cold War. In these polarised times, dare I say that we all deserve a George and Lynne lifestyle to escape into?
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