Boy, that is one clunky sentence in panel one. Why didn’t Batiuk just have her read the card out loud? All so those filthy newspaper casuals that haven’t been devotedly reading all week aren’t lost.
At least Donna likes the gift. And to me this feels different than Minty loving her stupid engagement tiger. In the hands of a more trustworthy author, this could be decent character work. Everyone thought Crazy was crazy for buying his wife salad dressing, but he knew her better than anyone and knew that she’d like it.
It’s an anniversary present, not an engagement ring/tiger. It can be a sentimental pun costing less than 10 dollars, if that’s how the couple rolls. I mean, my parents never get each other anything for their anniversary. They just use it as an excuse to go out to eat. At a buffet. Because my dad doesn’t have the patience to sit at a restaurant that takes your order. So it’s a plateful of lo mein and imitation crabmeat rangoon. The peak of romance.
Gifts are funny things. The closer you are, the more strange and esoteric your presents to each other can become. I gave my aunt a rock for her birthday this year. It was her favorite present, because my aunt is bonkers for interesting looking rocks. We get my dad a bale of socks every Christmas, and every Christmas he grins unironically and goes, “Gooood. I can use these!” One year my mom taped a tiny rubber hand to a CD album of I Walk the Line because I’d asked for a fistful of cash. Inside the case was the actual money.
My mom specializes in weird, yet meaningful, presents. One year for Christmas, she got me a book on Romanian orphanages, and wrote a little note inside, “Now you can learn about your heritage.” I laughed hysterically for ten minutes. All because my family has an inside joke dating back to the 1992 Olympics, where my mom swore that one of the gymnasts looked like me, and improvised an entire story about how I’d been adopted from Romania after failing to show any athletic talent.
The best gifts come with an unspoken message. And the message is, “I know you.”
All of this to say, if Donna had any personality whatsoever, and we had some prior establishment of Donna and Harry’s marriage, this wouldn’t feel so hollow and bland and borderline insulting. As it is, Epicus put it very well in a comment on yesterday’s strip:
Every Act III marriage is exactly the same. It wasn’t always like that during Act II, but now they’re all identical. Blissfully unaware lummox husband, perpetually disappointed-yet-patient wife tolerating her moron’s idiocy with wry resignation. Cayla, Holly, Donna, Jessica, Harriet…the only one that doesn’t fit the pattern is Mason & Cindy, where the roles are sort of reversed.
21 responses to “It Really Is The Thought That Counts.”
“Harry! You had a thought! How thoughtful!”
Here’s a fun game. Well, maybe not exactly “fun”. More like a mild diversion, let’s say. Once this arc wraps up, when will we see either of these characters again? I figure Harry will pop up again within five or six months, probably with something involving comic books. As far as Donna goes, I figure we won’t see her again until the big “entire cast” 50th anniversary Sunday strip, where she’ll probably be way in the background next to Adeela or Rocky’s mom or someone like that.
As far as the two of them together again, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is the last time that ever happens. If I had to wager I’d bet that this is the last Harry and Donna arc ever. Now watch him do a six week arc about Harry and Donna buying a tandem bicycle or something, just because BatHam loves to torment me like that.
“Here’s a fun game.”
A Montoni’s salad dressing party instead of a Mazola party?
Thanks for your reminder that the gifts real people who treasure each other can have meanings known only to them. The sad thing is that if TomBa had given at least the amount of diligence and personal experience into this strip as you did in your post we’d probably be a lot more laudatory toward him and understanding if the effort fell somewhat short.
You’ve been on fire all week, CBH. I’m sorry that you haven’t had much to work with, but I’m happy that you have a cool family that you obviously love.
Also… Ha ha! Salad dressing?
Thanks NAP! Sometimes having almost nothing to work with can drive some outside of the box thinking. If Tom refuses to be interesting, he forces me to pull out the big guns and share embarrassing family stories.
…and so another Stepview Wife sacrifices her opinions and individuality for the ectomorphic body standard and a slavish devotion to her man’s supposedly adorable “quirkiness.” Woulda been nice if we had any sort of feel for Donna’s life and thoughts before this drawn-out dressing game, but since when did Battyuk ever concern himself with a married female character’s background, save possibly for Cindy’s fragile ego?
CBH is right that we don’t know anything about these characters that would put this in context. On top of that, what we do know contradicts what we’re seeing here.
Donna’s facial expressions indicate that she very much DOESN’T love this gift. And Harry’s facial expressions indicate that he detects her dissatisfaction. Tell me this alternate interpretation doesn’t perfectly match the faces they’re making:
Donna gives us disappointment, then confusion, then annoyance. Harry switches from his I’m-so-wacky face to a shameful, worried look. The non-verbal communication doesn’t match the verbal communication.
To make this even more confusing, the Sunday and Monday strips showed that Harry is oblivious to over-the-top sarcasm. The principle of Chekov’s Gun suggests that this detail must be meaningful to the story, or the writer wouldn’t have devoted 2/7 of the entire story to it.
Here’s my interpretation: Donna hates Harry’s stupid gift, but defuses the situation by making sarcastic praise, relying on Harry’s inability to detect sarcasm. Which would actually be pretty clever, if these were traits these characters had ever shown before. And if the implications of that scenario – that Donna treats her 50-year-old husband like a child – weren’t so creepy.
And another thing. Here’s how that “salad days” joke should have been delivered:
It’s funnier, because the message is revealed to the characters and the audience at the same time. Instead, Batiuk spends two days buying the salad dressing, and one day revealing the salad dressing-related punchline. Donna’s reaction to this message is the centerpiece of the story, but by the time it finally gets to her, it has no impact.
I love your mom’s sense of humor!
Meanwhile over at Crankshaft, Ed continues to bully Bernie Schlepman…
Another deep and meaningful story courtesy of Batty.
Ugh. This is almost as tastelessly out-of-character as that baseball arc where he slept on the bus in solidarity with a black player.
Batiuk needs to watch some Fawlty Towers and learn that If your main character is an asshole, let him be an asshole. Or if you’re going to change him, change him. Ed will fix Keesterman’s mailbox this week because bullying is wrong, and then smash it again within a month as if this week never happened.
To say nothing of Crankshaft drafting this poor kid into helping him with a personal task. And using the school bus for personal reasons when he’s got child passengers, something that should have gotten him fired at least 200 times by now.
Fawlty Towers even explains why the Fawltys don’t get fired, and why they are living in a hell of their own making. Crankshaft just… has absolutely incredible blackmail material on the entire school bus driver’s union, I guess?
Even if he does, that’s still one hell of a strong union if they’re keeping his worthless ass employed. Centerville School District should be bankrupt from Ed Crankshaft-related lawsuits.
Just a few days ago he was bragging about all of his stickers.
“If you liked this gift, you’re going to love where I’m taking you out for dinner!”
Donna understands. Crazy never applied for his USPS pension and can’t afford anything else.
I really don’t know what to say about this. Batiuk clearly intends it to be warm and sentimental, but it just comes off as imbecilic.
It’s pretty certain by this point that he writes a first draft of dialogue, adds that dialogue to the illustration, puts it in the drawer for about a year, and then ships it off to his distributor for publication. At the distributor, his “editor” immediately passes it on for publication.
No, give Batty a little credit. He first looks it over to see if he can milk a few more days out of the gag.
Batty commands Ayers: thin it out some more
Ayers: good gads man. I’ve thinned her out as far as she’ll go, I cannot thin it no more!
Lord it’s Thursday – what do we have to look forward to the next couple of days? No wait don’t tell me. I’d rather be disappointed.
Still I feel for Donna. To be so utterly beaten down as to accept salad dressing as a present. Seriously this took him what five minutes to think up? My sense is that she’s thinking at least he remembered this time. That’s something at least. So let’s humor the man child.