With a few strokes of a pen, the "Rhymes With Orange" comic strip cranked the cultural dial a little further.
In a recent strip, cartoonist Hilary Price depicted a couple in bed, one reading, one about to set the white noise machine. The punchline: "You can relax over there — I'm setting the sound machine to sullen silence."
The scenario may ring familiar to many couples, so much so that they might overlook that the two people in bed are women.
Price, 46, has drawn and written "Rhymes With Orange" since 1995. She said it's a relationship strip, about all sorts of relationships.
If a reader sees two figures in a panel "even from two feet away, before you're even reading the panel, you know that this is going to be a relationship strip," Price said. "And the shorthand for a couple has always been a man and a woman.
"But the symbolism has opened up now, which is huge, so you can have two women in bed and people aren't automatically confused. They read it as a couple."
The National Cartoonists Society has named "Rhymes With Orange" a "Best Newspaper Panel" four times. It appears in 400 papers internationally, including the Star Tribune.
Price said she's not seen a same-sex relationship depicted in mainstream comics "and I'm on the lookout, certainly," noting her own long-term same-sex relationship. This particular panel's title, "The White Noise," also serves to describe concerns "that gays and lesbians are going to wreck the institution of marriage or relationships."
But mostly, Price said, the gag is about a couple, working through a tiff.
Claudia Smith, director of public relations for King Features Syndicate, said reaction to the panel was quiet. "Nary a word," she said.
The Facebook page for "Rhymes With Orange" showed one negative comment the morning the strip ran, along with several positive posts, including one noting "Mainstream! On the COMICS page! Yay!!" and another saying, "The revolution just might be televised."