The Happy Masses

Link to today’s strip.

So, it’s another Sunday strip that adds nothing, but takes up a bunch of space.

The main thing I find of interest is the last panel, where Mason apologizes to Les, because “keeping the masses happy” is “a thing now.” Hasn’t it always been?

Dunno how to tell you this, Mason, since you’re apparently a dimwit and cannot learn new things, but “keeping the masses happy” is a major part of the motion picture industry. (Not so much in the comic strip industry, I guess.) Every studio wants their productions to be seen by as many people as possible.

Of course, Lisa’s Story is an Important Art House Film Designated (By The Author, Not The Critics, And Not The People) For Greatness, so naturally it won’t make the masses happy, and it will not be a popular or financial success. It’s just too special for the ordinary dullards who slog back and forth on this planet. Look at them, they pay their bills, they buy their Egg McMuffins, they sometimes drive to the lake so they can eat sandwiches, they might laugh at those late night TV hosts if they’re not too exhausted after their mundane days. *Shudder*

This is yet another manifestation of Batiuk’s idea that people do not know what’s good for them, they do not seek quality art that shows how a super-sensitive man reacts to his wife’s death (and finds fame thereof), but instead are happy to watch Chris Pratt do handstands in a Burger King parking lot while the soundtrack belts out something about “Cartoon Heroes” or maybe Hobbits and Isengard.

“Keeping the masses happy” is the lowest thing a “creative” person can do. (It’s certainly not the way to *cough* win awards, which should be the focus of anyone who dares to call himself an “artist.”) Look to the Oscars: If a movie is popular and is a big financial success, it’s not winning any awards in today’s movie industry.

The people who make movies, though, would love to make the masses happy. It’s how they make their money. I bet, back in the day, they even hoped Radio Ranch would be a smash hit, rather than a future relic fetishized by aging cartoonists.

One other detail here is very, very telling. In the third panel from the end, Mason mentions that the film is based on Les’ life. Not Lisa, but Les. It would have been easy to substitute the word “book” for “life,” but I guess sometimes Batiuk’s ego gets the better of him.

As long as I’m linking crap, why not link this. It’s wonderfully melancholic and yearning at the same time. Heck, it’s Saturday night, I’ll link everything that–oh hello, officer, no, I was just moving on, thank you!

44 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

44 responses to “The Happy Masses

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Yeah, BatYarn often likes to pretend he exists on some sort of higher pop-culture plane than all this faddish bullshit you’re always hearing about but regular FW readers know better. It’s also hilarious how Les is always uncomfortable with the trappings of fame and publicity, the very things that FW and the guy who writes it do not have. It’s almost as if he’s trying to convince himself that he doesn’t care about that stuff, as if it’s even an option for him.

    So WTF is up with Cayla there in panel five? She’s bald and her hair swoops down under her chin and piles up on her shoulder. A comb-under is definitely a bold look, especially for a woman. Nicely done. And in the last panel she’s still bald, except this time there’s something melting on her head. I mean how do you screw up Cayla 3.0’s hair? It’s straight and it’s black, as elementary as it gets.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Poor Cayla, she’s the real victim here.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I think Les is perfectly comfortable with the trappings or fame and publicity. He’s pretending that he’s not. It’s false humility. He’s trying to act like this is all beneath him, and that he’s not enjoying himself. Because he wants Mason to come up to him and ask, “I’m sorry, Les, are you not having a good time at the party? Can I bring you a hot chocolate and a comic book? Please come to this huge Hollywood party with me and the rest of the A-listers, it wouldn’t be the same without you.”

      Keep in mind this is the same Mason who spent over a year working on a movie about Les’ own life, which JUST BROUGHT LES TO TEARS. All Les did was walk outside of the screening trailer, and he’s already unhappy again. There isn’t a hateful enough word in the universe for what Les Moore is.

      And this is completely consistent with Les’ day-to-day manipulative behavior. He is never satisfied, and demands constant appeasement. But he never tells you what the actual problem is, so you have to guess at it. And whatever you do to make Les happy, it’s going to be wrong and he’s going to pout some more. Or sigh, as if he’s been forced to accept something grossly inferior to his mighty artistic vision.

      This is not what “act like you belong” means. That means to interact with any celebrities you meet as if they were ordinary people, and don’t be intimidated by their fame or power. It does not mean “act like you’re better than them.” Because, believe or not, Hollywood people don’t like arrogant jerks any more than ordinary people do. Especially when those arrogant jerks are irrelevant nobodies who don’t have to be tolerated.

      Hell, anyone who regularly attends Hollywood parties would probably laugh at Les’ act. He’s a buffoon.

  2. William Thompson

    I’ll say one thing for Mason: if he can act manically cheerful after sitting near Les and watching that execrable trailer, well, he must be one of the greatest actors in history. (I don’t believe he’s stoned. Any drugs that powerful would kill you in a minute.)

    • Margaret

      TB has probably forgotten all about it, but way back before they were married, Mason told Cindy that he was bipolar. That was the only mention made about it, and we’ve never seen any evidence of it, but it would be an explanation for Mason being somewhat manic for no real reason. But really, it’s more likely that it will never come up again in any way, like Dinkle being deaf or Funky’s father having alzheimer’s. I’d like to know why TB keeps doing that.

      • William Thompson

        He probably decided that he couldn’t turn those topics into passable jokes, much less award-winning stories. He tried with Bull’s TBI and suicide, but kept missing the mark. We’re lucky he quit while he was behind.

  3. Gerard Plourde

    I’ll admit that my acquaintance with Instagram is minimal, but it seems to me that a star in Mason’s position, having been the star of a successful franchise, would have someone else curating his Instagram account and producing content. But what do I know compared to TomBa?

  4. Banana Jr. 6000

    I’m confused. Is Mason NOT being sarcastic here?

    “Hi folks, I’m the star of a billion-dollar space action franchise, and I’m on my way to a wrap party for the Lifetime Channel cancer porn I shot during my bathroom breaks! And look who’s with me! The writer who gets the ‘based on’ credit! Not even the actual screenwriter! I was going to show you the production assistant instead, but he’s working his other job at Starbucks.”

  5. Les and Cayla both work at a high school. I guarantee you they know what Instagram is, even if they don’t actually like it or know how to use it.

    Actually, Instagram isn’t quite on the level of Facebook and Twitter, but it’s still fairly popular with the Baby Boomer set. I’m just saying that these two would not like it (because it doesn’t have enough Les and/or Lisa worship.)

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Mombook is definitely a boomer thing. Instagram not so much.

      I’m just glad to see Lisa’s Story reduced to an Instagram meme.

  6. Rusty Shackleford

    I knew this was all about _Les_.

    Batty fancies himself as the ultimate white knight. But as we can clearly see, it’s all about him, er, Les.

  7. Banana Jr. 6000

    Is the banner of today’s strip a woeful attempt at a Hirschfeld caricature, or did Mason iron his head?

  8. J.J. O'Malley

    “The man whose life the film is based on”? “The MAN whose LIFE the film is BASED on”!? Oh, for the love of… That’s like saying “Rebecca” is all about Maxim DeWinter and his trouble finding a mousy replacement wife (sound familiar?). That’s like saying “Annie Hall” is all about a whiny nebbish and his neuroses (sound familiar?). And does Lester correct Masonne on the Instagrandma and tell his followers “Really, it’s about my late wife Lisa and her brave struggle” or something like that? NO! He fumbles and mumbles “Hi, Mason fans” like a dweeb caught in the headlights. Cushlamachree, how much smoke can be blown up one person’s posterior?

    And now, I suppose, the whole of this week will be devoted to the party…unless Battyuk the Worst Showman decides to skip over the event itself and Monday will find the Moores on a plane ride back to Ohio. Either one wouldn’t surprise me.

    • Epicus Doomus

      I always kind of assumed that the big cancer movie arc would end with some sort of huge premier event where everyone would cry, grin and congratulate Les on being such a delicate genius. But it’s entirely possible that it’ll just end abruptly and never be mentioned again. In fact, it’s sort of likely.

      • Charles

        Nah, since this is Batiuk’s big favorite thing, I see it much more as being one of those eight-week deals that could have been told in less than a week if Batiuk weren’t such a putz.

        Or could have communicated more things over the course of eight weeks than just three things that are vague repetitions of points he’s already made.

    • billytheskink

      Masone is only parroting Les here. Les himself has insisted that Lisa’s Story is based on HIS life.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        “Where do your ideas” is a common question people ask writers, and a lot of essays have been written about it. Here’s one by Neil Gaiman: https://www.neilgaiman.com/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%3F

        Really, Les has been to at least 75,000 book signings and he doesn’t have a pat answer for this yet? Actually, knowing Les, being a supercilious dick IS his pat answer.

        Gaiman’s essay says “The ideas aren’t the hard bit. Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. Hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build: It’s the ability to put ideas down on paper, and turn them into stories, that make me a writer.

        And that’s exactly why Lisa’s Story doesn’t work. It’s just an idea. It’s never been written, not even as an outline to guide in-universe developments. It’s why Les isn’t believable as a writer. He’s clearly never written anything in his life. It’s why the comic strip has shown the same scene ten times.

        Tom Batiuk is such a bad writer he can’t even write a believable writer.

  9. erdmann

    In her latest “Musical Hell” review (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oREZ2injQgo), Diva (a regular Comics Curmudgeon poster), talks about the false dichotomy between art and success, pointing out that being popular is not a sign that a work lacks artistic merit any more than obscurity is proof of high quality.
    Batiuk wants us to believe that Les (and by extension Batiuk) is “pure,” embracing artistic integrity and eschewing evil success even as it is heaped on him in great steaming piles. Fame, wealth, unprecedented control over the film adaptation of his book? Meh! A Delicate Genius craves not these things! And yet, he selflessly accepts them to protect his art. Oh, and Lisa. Someone has to protect Lisa.
    Will “Lisa’s Story” flop? Well, let’s say it’s actually a really good movie…
    [Pauses to laugh at the absurdity of that notion]
    Ok, let’s say it’s actually good. It might be financially successful, garner some positive reviews and even some award nominations.
    The question is: Can Batiuk go that route and resist the desire to depict his magnum opus as the biggest smash since “Avatar” and a Best Picture frontrunner? I’m not sure he can.
    I think it would be more realistic (and possibly make a better story) if the movie, regardless of quality, quietly bombed. There would be much sturm und drang as everyone blamed themselves and each other before agreeing it was Disney’s fault for releasing “Thor: Love and Thunder” the same weekend.

    • Sourbelly

      “Lisa’s Story” is going to win an Oscar. And maybe Less will win one for a made-up category. Best Purest Long Suffering Artistic Genius or something.

  10. Mr. A

    It strikes me that Mason, being the handsome star of a mega-hit sci-fi film, might have a particularly large and rabid online fanbase. And Lisa’s Story is now on a collision course that fanbase. Do you think Batiuk will make something out of that? Or are we riding the universal-acclaim train all the way to the station?

    • Maxine of Arc

      Given the teeny tiny cast of LS, I’m still thinking of it in terms of a would-be “Marriage Story.” Adam Driver also has a pretty large and rabid online fanbase, and they probably watched it out of loyalty, but I don’t think that’s what any of them fawn over him for. Of course, he hasn’t shrunk to the size of a pencil over the course of a couple of years, as seems to have happened to poor old Masone over there.

  11. Hitorque

    1. Masone not giving Les a courtesy “heads up” before broadcasting his mug out to 30 million IG followers is a dick move… Seriously, what A-list celebrity would ever do this shit, and what on earth makes Batiuk think that Masone would act this way?? There’s literally no difference between this and Les/Cayla livestreaming Masone, his mansion and the pre-production trailer. If one is an unthinkable breach of taste and manners, why is the other acceptable?

    1a. At least the Funkyverse finally admits that social media exists in their world, which makes the total absence of Atomikkk Komixxx from any online presence all the more bewildering.

    2. Even though he was put on the spot with zero warning, Les’ “Hi Masone fans!” was lame as hell and Masone can only lose cool points if he’s actually dumb enough to post that shit…

    3. I don’t know what’s worse — Masone not bothering to introduce Cayla when she’s standing right freaking there, Cayla not having the common sense to realize she’s being insulted, or Cayla not having some agency in speaking up for herself… As an aside, where the hell is Cindye to remind her dear hubby that he’s being a complete asshole?

    4. Masone knows this isn’t some lighthearted happy funny good times movie he just finished, right? It’s somber, sad, completely without uplift or redemption, and more tragic than Kennedy’s funeral… So why is Masone in total wildman party animal mode? Even if he’s just putting up a facade for his followers (since IG only exists to show all the normals and mediocrities how **AWESOME** their celebrity lifestyles are), he did a terrible job of reading the room so to speak.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I took this as a slam against Instagram ( no I’m not calling it Insta) and how ridiculous it is. In this sense I would agree with Batty.

      To further your point, I would suspect his contract would limit what he could say about the movie online.

    • RudimentaryLathe?

      Mason has bothered me as a character from Day One. At all times he’s either the ultimate strawman for Phony Shallow ol’ Hollywood, or he’s a grovelling sycophant to Less, a hateful nobody. No successful actor would do *any* of the stuff he does.
      No successful franchise/action star looks the way Ayers continues to draw him either. He was normal-looking when he was introduced; why is he now an emaciated, rictus-grinning bobblehead? Is Cindy a literal succubus? Why aren’t we seeing THAT story?

  12. Hitorque

    5. Masone’s “keep the masses happy” is too dumb to even tear apart… Yeah Masone, I know your 30 million followers were just dying to see Les’ mopey ass mug on your account. It’s funny because you just could have taken a selfie and accomplished the same thing without making people nauseous…

    6. “The man whose life the film is based on”? What the fuck happened to “Author of the book and co-producer?? I’m surprised even Les didn’t correct him there… Or did TomBa pull another secret retcon and Les was never a co-producer?

    • Charles

      Masone’s “keep the masses happy” is too dumb to even tear apart…

      Him calling them “the masses” also makes him an ass. It’s a word that just drips with disdain and contempt. “Oh yeah, I have to placate the damn rubes…. Hold on a second.” It’s just another thing to show that being great and wonderful and famous is just such a burden.

      Les does it every time he’s shown signing books.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Every single time. His fans are almost always dumb insensitive clods asking dumb insensitive questions, just necessary evils he’s forced to (barely) tolerate. The only exception is when he meets fans who’ve had cancer, as apparently they “get” his work.

  13. Dittmyer J. Horv

    Oh, geeze, I get it now. There’s an Ohio accent most people aren’t familiar with, so “Les” sounds akin to “lease” so the title really is “Les’s Story” but some idiot thought it was “Lisa” because of this accent…

    Ah, crap, forget it. I got nothin’.

  14. My biggest take from this wrap party story arc is: Where’s Cindy? Are she and Mason through already? Is she busy with work?

  15. Professor Fate

    Well I’m glad to see that the Author is working like hell not to keep the masses happy.
    Oh lord not this tiresome nonsense again – The most popular modern strip in modern times was Calvin and Hobbes and nobody could argue that it pandered to the masses. It was excellent and massively popular.
    Unlike a certain strip i could mention.
    There can be a real struggle for an artist between creating what is popular and what they want to do but sorry Batiuk ain’t in that territory.

  16. “Gotta keep the masses happy.” I wish TB would start doing that.

  17. William Thompson

    Based on everything we know about Lisa, her story could have been boiled down to a whiny country song and a made-for-YouTube video. Even then half the lyrics would be about how she hurt Les’s feelings.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      If you asked Tom Batiuk to write a Diane Warren-style pop hit for Lisa’s Story, this is what he’d come up with:

      Imagine Les Moore singing this. It’s not a country song, and it doesn’t mention Lisa by name, though it does mention Summer. It is hilariously, perfectly wrong.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        That was me. Somehow the wrong email address got linked to that post.

      • Oh, this post is so underrated. This song perfectly describes the last 15 years of Funky Winkerbean. It’s been nothing but blue jeans and bloody tears.

      • Sourbelly

        “There’s no life without your life in misery.” SO PERFECT!

        • J.J. O'Malley

          To borrow from the great Burton Gilliam in “Blazing Saddles”: “Hold it, hold it! What the hell is that…?” Not only is the writing in panels two through four total unconnected word salad collapsing under the weight of its own pretentiousness, but why is Lester apparently making up things he once said to Lisa? Was “Lisa’s Story: BJ & BT” some fictional follow-up to the original true story, or did he just “embellish” the things they said to each other all along to try to make them more interesting to his readers? One is sad, the other dishonest.

          • William Thompson

            Never underestimate Les. If anyone can be sad and dishonest at the same time, he’ll knock the park out of it!

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            It was a comedy misfire on my part. The unconnected word salad you speak of are the lyrics of the AI-generated pop song I mentioned. It reminded me of the pseudo-profound drivel that Les (and by extension, Tom Batiuk) thinks is genius. So I liked the idea of Les writing the same meaningless lyrics and praising himself for it.

      • William Thompson

        I can’t imagine Les singing that. When I wonder what he sounds like, I remember reading a critique of Nosferatu that said “Being a silent movie makes the vampire even more repellent. No real voice could be as loathsome as what you imagine for him.”