Spinach Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

0:00 Popeye is a hopeless romantic. He is smitten by a whining, shapeless gal with Sasquatch-sized feet and a wandering eye. Yet, he endures. He […]

Published February 8, 2024 4:16 PM
3 min read


Popeye is a hopeless romantic. He is smitten by a whining, shapeless gal with Sasquatch-sized feet and a wandering eye. Yet, he endures. He stands firm in his commitment; pipe in mouth, mumbling every man’s thoughts.

When it comes to women, Popeye is an innocent. Olive can be fickle, favoring whoever woos her best or owns the flashier possessions. She is prone to becoming angry with Popeye over minor issues. Nevertheless, he puts up with her ups and downs.

Few people know that Popeye’s character really existed. His real name was Frank ‘Rocky’ Fiegel. When Popeye’s creator met him, he was a retired sailor contracted by Wiebusch’s tavern in the city of Chester, Ill., to clean up and maintain order. He had a reputation for fighting, which resulted in his deformed eye (“Pop-eye”). He had demonstrated his strength in so many fights that he became a local legend. He always smoked his pipe, so he spoke only with one side of his mouth. Popeye is on MeTV at 7 to 7:30 on Saturday mornings.

He would regale children with stories of the antics of his youth, often boasting of his physical strength and loudly claiming that spinach was the food that made him invincible. Popeye’s creator Elzie Crisler Segar was born in Chester and was one of the children who had the privilege of hearing the stories of the former sailor.

It was not love at first sight. Olive’s first words to him were “Aw, shut up, you bilge rat!” They fought bitterly and in classic cartoon form hilariously for weeks, before realizing they cared for one another.

Popeye’s love for Olive Oyl is a defining characteristic of his personality. The reason for Popeye’s obsession with Olive Oyl can be attributed to a few factors. First, she is always in need of rescue, which appeals to Popeye’s heroic nature. Second, Olive is portrayed as the only woman who can tame Popeye’s rough and tough exterior. This shows a sense of emotional vulnerability in Popeye that he may not otherwise display.

Additionally, she is often the target of affection from other male characters, mostly Bluto, creating a sense of competition for Popeye. This fuels his desire to win her over. Finally, the love between Popeye and Olive Oyl is pure and unconditional. Popeye is willing to do anything to protect and care for Olive Oyl, which adds to the romantic appeal of their relationship.

Popeye is comfortable with who he is. He is not trying to be something else. Contrast that with many men who aspire to become the rising professional, the perfect spouse, or the millionaire. Often, we adopt these disguises to win the acceptance and approval of lovers, peers, and society. We come to believe we are our role, and begin the search for an elusive state of happiness and peace of mind.

Eventually, we are overcome by nagging doubts that haunt us with questions. Who am I really? What do I really want to do with my life? What will make me happy? We grow frustrated when we cannot answer those questions. We’ve been so busy trying to live up to someone else’s expectations that we have no idea who we are outside the grind of our daily obligations. Some live under the illusion that they know what they want, while they want what they are supposed to want.

Instead, Popeye wakes, toots his pipe, combs his few hairs, looks in the mirror and says, “I yam what I yam and dats all what I yam.”  This refreshing trait, if accepted, could lead to transcendental enlightenment. It might even reduce the need for so many psychiatrists.

This Valentine’s Day we should embrace the teachings of the Spinach Savant — how he loves Olive Oyl despite the emotional roller coaster she perpetually puts him on. We should do the same with our loved ones. Make the best of who you are. Be yamself.

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