September 29th, 2012

A thought on Mtigwaki.

I've had a thought on the way Mtigwaki was presented.

One criticism leveled against Lynn's presentation of a Native community is that it ignores the social issues that are often prevalent among First Nations communities (poverty, crime, alcoholism, drug abuse). Not even just ignored strip went to great pains to have Liz say there was VERY LITTLE drinking in Mtigwaki...that it was frowned on. binky_betsy herself criticized this in a Comics Curmudgeon post... "I mean, if you don’t want to get into the subject of alcoholism among First Nations people, how about just avoiding it? Instead of this, 'Oh, they’re too noble to drink!' BS."

Which isn't to say that the strip should have been drowned in it (we don't want to get into Funkyverse territory here), but acknowledging it's there might have been nice. The closest we got was in revealing that Jesse's parents had abandoned him and that his antics were a form of acting out--but even these antics were presented more as "lovable scamp" than as any real troubled behavior. (Even his STEALING from Liz was brushed off as "oh, you only wanted something to remember me by--I should have given it to you.")

But my thought was this...if this sort of thing had been shown to be a problem in Mtigwaki, it might have been a legitimate reason for Liz to want to leave.

Let's say Liz is your typical idealistic teacher, thinking it's going to be this wonderful spiritual experience. (Presumably, she'd have been given orientation, but maybe it didn't really take as much as it ought to and/or her practice teaching lulled her into a false sense of security.) And when she gets there...well, there are rewarding parts of it, but the social problems she faces--damaged kids, parents who are too out of it to be any support--are far more than she expected and grow more difficult for her to handle every day. It might have been shown to be more like an inner-city classroom experience than as anything Liz was used to dealing with, with many students that were difficult-to-impossible for her to reach because nothing had prepared her for it.

And if Mtigwaki had been shown in a more realistic light--then Liz's desire to leave would have been much more believable. She'd have thought she could handle it at first, but then realized that she had no idea what she was getting into and that she really wasn't cut out for it after all. Even her relationship with Paul wouldn't have been enough to overcome this fact.

As it is, she had an early bout of homesickness (shown in the sequence where she adopted Shiimsa) that she seemed to have overcome quite nicely, even referring to Mtigwaki as "home" at one point. (Even her monthly letters started off with a greeting in the Ojibwe language.) After that, the worst we saw was her being slightly overwhelmed/gobsmacked at some points in class. And Mtigwaki itself was shown to be a nice place--even Elly, at first, was amazed by it--that anyone would love to be.

And then she did a 180, decided she just COULDN'T stay, that it was just TOO different from the life she'd known. Never mind that it had been shown as idyllic--the worst that could be said about it was that it lacked city conveniences that Liz was used to. Never mind that she had a great relationship there with a man who loved her enough to transfer for her.

Of course, we know the real reason she left--Lynn just had to get her back home into Anthony's pasty arms again. But it seemed so poorly motivated in-strip given what we saw of Mtigwaki. If it HAD been shown more realistically, then Liz could have been given a motivation that made more sense.

What do you think?
Snarky Candiru2

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Today's mostly-dialogue free strip has Mike and Lizzie record Farley's barking so that they can play it over and over again for their own amusement. This, of course, irritates and confuses Elly.

(Strip Number 6114, Original Publication Date, 2 October 1983)

Panel 1: We start things off with Mike and Lizzie digging around in the hall closet to get the old-fashioned reel tape recorder.

Panel 2: They look in on a sleeping Farley with a gleam of mischief in their eyes.

Panel 3: Lizzie teases Farley with puppets and Mike records his panicked yelping.

Panel 4: Lizzie makes faces at Farley and Mike continues to record his panicked yelping.

Panel 5: Lizzie records Farley's panicked yelping as Mike torments him.

Panel 6: Elly overhears the constant barking and damned near drops her iron on her foot.

Panel 7: She scowls as she trudges down the hallway to wallop Farley with a rolled-up newspaper for disturbing her.

Panel 8: She's astonished to see the children laugh hysterically as they listen to "Barking to Irritate Housewives By."

Summary: Boy. What a swell pair of kids, right? You almost want to cheer Elly on when you realize that a Panel Nine would be her hollering at them for tormenting the poor animal. Almost. At the risk of offending parents who actually are at their wit's end, it's difficult to cheer on a woman who had no wits to start with. A smarter woman would not turn her back on her children as often as Elly does. A smarter woman would also realize that her casual mistreatment of pets teaches kids it's okay to torment them.