April 11th, 2008

Snarky Candiru2

Here's a good question......

For those of you who thought I'd given up on snarking or something, a note: I'd simply slept through till 3 EDT today. Lynnie can't lose me that easy, no matter how long her stupid flashback goes. This brings me to my point: how long do you think she's going to keep this up this time? Is she done Saturday or do we have another week or two of this crap to endure?

ETA: It seems to me that the only unifying theme of these flashbacks is that Elly has always been a whining, humorless dumbass. Why Lynn felt the need to waste our time showing us something we already knew is beyond me.
Snarky Candiru2

Saturday, 12 April 2008

As I mentioned Wednesday, my local paper foobed up and printed the strip for this Saturday. I post this now so that you'll know what you're in for.

Panel 1: We see Elly sitting down for a second, listening to the radio news. The main headline is about how high mortgage rates and fuel costs are destroying the dreams of young families like hers. In short, the latest housing bubble collapsed because of the latest recession. Not a pleasant thing to have happen to the people who got hurt but not (yet) the herald of disaster the humorless moaner listening to the radio thinks it is. A saner person would realize that sooner or later things would get better because they remember that economic cycles are cyclical. An idiot like Elly would content herself with the comforting nightmare of living in a refrigerator box in a week's time because she thinks that the current trend will last forever and ever.

Panel 2: She switches stations only to hear another chunk of bad news. This one is about a student protest for equal treatment touched off by the fact that the students can't find jobs they're qualified for. This is a tough problem to solve but it can be done if the will to do so is there. Elly's preferred solution of whining about the Man and how things will never get better is playing right into the hands of people who want things to stay the same.

Panel 3: She turns the dial to yet another doomsday scenario: pollution. Again, a tough problem that we can, if not solve, at least mitigate if we act. That action, of course, has got to be more than putting up a sticker in our johns proclaiming that we conserve water. Meanwhile, Elly's downcast expression has attracted Mike's attention.

Panel 4: Having listened to all the bad news, he woefully asks her if there'll be anything left for him when he grows up. My answer is that there will be but it won't be because of passive lumps like his mother who think there's no point in trying to change things. Or, for that matter, oblivious jackasses like his dad who blind themselves to the evils of the world because they think they aren't affected by them. John and Elly are the sort of imbeciles that impede progress and get in the way of people trying to change the world for the better. As tvtropes.org would put it, Elly is a mouse while John is a bat.

Hypothesis: Lynn has yet again inadvertently reminded us that the things we snark have always been part of the strip. Today, we see that we've always had to deal with simplistic, heavy-handed moralizing.

ETA: The funny thing is that all I had to do was mention it was anvilicious and cookie77 knew what it was.

On "bad guys"...and bad authors

I was originally going to put this in yesterday's thread, but thought it was worth a discussion on its own.

In talking about FOOB's downward spiral over the past few years, Howtheduck commented:

However, Mira Sobinski was the first one I can remember who was turned into a villain and stayed a villain, without anyone ever trying to find out why.

This is an important point.  I have found that, in an extended multi-year story, such as is often found in comic strips or television series, the tendency is to have simplistic, cardboard "bad guys" appear in the early years, but for the creator(s) to either flesh them out or replace them with more nuanced, better-drawn antagonists further on in the story's development.

The main example I give for this (simply because practically everyone in the Western World has seen it) is the television version of M*A*S*H.  At the outset, the opponent of the protagonists was the one-dimensional Major Burns, who was not only blindly militaristic but also stupid, ineffectual, cowardly, and a bad doctor.  He clearly only existed to be knocked down by the good guys, and have the audience feel happy when he got his regularly-scheduled comeuppance.  The thought that he actually could be more than one-dimensional, could be a real person with at least some facets worthy of respect, or at least understanding, was absurd.  He was a punching-bag, nothing more.  As years went on, though, and the plot and characters became more nuanced, he was replaced as foil by Major Winchester who, although a stuffed-shirt, was presented as a physician of intelligence and skill, able at times to hold his own against the principals, and always worthy of respect, even as an opponent.  (And the original sub-villain, Major Houlihan, went from being every bit the one-dimensional target as her lover Major Burns, to being a mostly-sympathetic supporting character occasionally allowed her time in the spotlight.)

So the case has been with other extended stories.  The caricatures and simple, one-dimensional villains appeared, if at all, in the early stages, with characters gaining depth and sympathy as time went on.

When, on the other hand, a series suddenly starts developing these cardboard-cutout "bad guys" (such as Howard, Therese, Kortney, Mira, the Kelpfroths, etc., etc.) later on, it's generally a bad sign.  It usually means that the creator or creators have gotten a) lazy enough to stop wanting to waste their effort on developing real characters and situations when cartoons will suffice, or b) cynical and rigid enough to start thinking that other people (normally meaning "those outside our immediate circle" or who won't automatically do what our principals want) really are as stupid, as evil, as shallowly deserving of contempt as the creator is now making these villains.

In Lynn's case, unfortunately, the answer appears to be c) all of the above.