Wow. That is one unwieldy sentence in panel one. Look, I get it, writing is really hard. I always find some real nasty clunkers anytime I go back and reread something I’ve written. But panel one’s sentence is atrocious.
“So you want to marshal our students to walk out of school on the anniversary of last year’s national walkout urging action to stop gun violence?”
The worst part of the sentence is the ‘urging action’ ending, because it adds a new verb into the sentence. It functions as a new ‘clause’ and my brain did a little hiccup trying to tie that verb to any of the previous nouns. Also ‘verb-noun verbing verbtion to verb noun noun-with-implied-action’ has no less than five ‘active’ words in it: (walk, urge, action, stop violence,)yet comes across limp and passive. I am years and years away from the single high school grammar class I took, so I can’t completely diagram this sentence and it’s awfulness. But it does not scan.
I get that the anemic attempt at a ‘joke’ is dependent on Les restating the plan in order to build up the expectation that he will not go along with it, but that doesn’t make the sentence any better. And the ‘joke’ is a trope so tired that Dawn of the Dead 2004 used it.
CJ: Not to s**t on anyone’s riff here, but lemme just see if I grasp this concept, OK? You’re suggesting that we take some f**king parking shuttles, and reinforce them with some aluminum siding, and then just head on over to the gun store and watch our good friend Andy play some cowboy movie jump-on-the-covered-wagon bulls**t. Then, we’re gonna drive across a ruined city, through a welcome committee of a few hundred thousand dead cannibals, all so that we can sail off into the sunset on this f**king a**hole’s boat? And head for some island that for all we know doesn’t even exist?
Tucker: Pretty much, yeah.
CJ: OK. …I’m in.
18 responses to “Marshal Arts”
This hideous dialogue reminds me of one of the first tips/rules of writing I ever read, and one of the many that Batiuk violates on a regular basis: read your dialogue out loud. I mean, I kind of even doubt Batiuk reads what he’s written at all after he’s written it, let alone reading it out loud. There is no way anyone could read that dialogue and think it sounds natural, let alone like good writing. Here’s how it should go:
Les: So you want to organize a student walkout to help stop gun violence?
Les: And you want to do it on the anniversary of last year’s national walkout?
Les: (rolling his eyes dramatically skyward) It used to be students just plagiarized essays, now they’re copying protests . . .
If he read it out loud then someone might hear him?
Speaking of reading dialogue out loud… isn’t that what Bernie is going to do with this “editorial”? So…
1. Why does it really matter how he spells “marshal” as long as he uses the word correctly?
2. How in the heck is he going to use “marshal” in such a broadcast editorial? Is he going to say to the students watching “we are going to marshal you to walk out of school”?
I would bet that a lot of people, young or old, wouldn’t be sure what “marshal” means.
So another rule of good writing is violated–use simple, understandable words. Unless, of course, you can use stilted language as a device for weak humor.
Panel 1 is like “The Lord of Language’s” Magnum Opus…a sentence at once as confusing, painful, ill-considered, and yet so puffed up with its own presumed seriousness that it can’t see how hackneyed and idiotic it is. If Funky Winkerbean’s essence could be distilled into a single panel, this is it.
Or, alternately, he could have skipped yesterday’s time-killer altogether and just had Bernie say “I am organizing a walk-out blah blah blah”. You know, like how normal people act. But because (as usual) he’s a little “light” on content, he needs to drag his little stories out for as long as possible with gobs of clunky exposition and mangled syntax.
And because Batiuk will bend himself in half to avoid even a whiff of “controversy” it’s a near certainty that they’ll talk about this walk-out all week and MAYBE show it in the background of a panel or two, if that. It’s how he operates. If he’s a “writer” I’m a chainsaw juggler and as of right now I still have all ten fingers.
Knowing nothing about you, I have more confidence in your chainsaw juggling abilities than Batiuk’s writing abilities.
Heck, I have more confidence in Becky’s chainsaw juggling abilities…
It’s a no-lose scenario for her. Either she flat out amazes her audience or she enhances her symmetry.
It’s kind of no wonder that the kids can’t express themselves properly with that boob teaching them. It’s like a Powerpuff Girls that had Mojo Jojo serve his community service teaching people to elucidate very clearly every thought with pointless, unnecessary precision that only sounds smart.
Student walk outs. Do they ever accomplish anything? When I was in High School, the students walked out to “save our school from being closed”.
I stayed in and worked on my homework, so I wouldn’t have to do it later.
Batiuk is a Boomer, an age cohort that believes it led the most important youth movement in history.
Leave it to Less to focus on the thing that’s least wrong about that sentence , the misspelling of “marshall”, which (putting on my beady-eyed nitpicker hat) the entire sentence should be in quotes if Less is reading directly from Bernie’s editorial, otherwise it was TB who misspelled “marshall” and he’s unfairly assigning the error to Bernie. Anyway what the fuck difference does it make if Bernie is going to be reading it in front of the camera?
So Les is encouraging a student to call for a walkout but not clearing the action with Principal Nate first?
Nate after the walkout: “There’s nothing in the rulebook specifically prohibiting walkouts commemorating the anniversary of someone else’s walkout.”
“It’s called not writing.”
“Marshal our students”…there’s a nice little example of Westviewnian English (actually, the whole word balloon is a great example, but I’m not going to waste the time it would take to parse the whole thing). The key to the dialect is to use the occasional verb or phrase that *is not* grammatically incorrect, but *is* just antiquated and formal enough to sound stiff and weird. I mean, wouldn’t most people say something like “lead” there? Bernie wants to lead the students in a walkout, blah blah blah?
Of course, most people are not Les, with his fancy famous author talk.
Last year’s walkout at my son’s school bribed the kids with free pizza if they “protested” for at least an hour.