Yup, like I said yesterday. Conflict is over. On to the fallout.
And, just like the first strip of my shift where Malcolm asked Logan out, today we’re given a reaction from Cayla that would seem normal, human, and understandable. If this one day existed in a vacuum. Which is in stark contrast to yesterday where, as Banana Jr 6000 pointed out, no one acted like a normal human being.
Today shows realistic empathy, concern, and compassion on Cayla’s part. And also a certain motherly wisdom with ice cream bribes. Offering food activates a primal, bond-building part of every human’s brain. Unfortunately, this is all in service of these three sitting down together so we can spend the rest of the week blandly talking about racism.
This entire arc is a slap in the face. Tim Negoda style. Just as Batiuk was about to shove these two kids he had hardly bothered to name down the memory hole, he realizes he can use them for their race. And then he drags Cayla into this. Cayla who, in the nearly fourteen years since her introduction, has yet to have a single arc to herself that wasn’t about Les Moore. She gets to be here now, because he made Cayla black. Something that, up to this moment, was only used for a single throwaway joke.
People have pointed out, numerous times, how Cayla’s ethic characteristics have been leached from her over the years, leading to the nickname CauCayla. Though, this really was only a visual bleaching.
I call this a visual bleaching, because Cayla herself really hasn’t changed in personality, goals, or interests. She’s black, but she’s never been portrayed as culturally different. Some of you noticed this.
Speaking of Derek, he was one of the guys, but he was cool and had his own style. Junebug, who came along later, had spunk and did things her way. These characters were black, and Batty had the balls to write them that way. They were unique and believable. That brings us to Logan Church and Thatsnought Hewmore. All the black characters in the class of 2022 act exactly like the white characters. Awkward, glasses-wearing, brainy, wimpy white nerds. *Yawn*be ware of eve hill
I’m going to start throwing around the words culture and race. Of course, the definition of these two words and their very reality as concepts is constantly being changed and bickered over by social scientists trying to earn their paychecks and gatekeep intelligent conversation by changing the rules faster than Calvinball. But for the purpose of this week I’m going to say race derives from the place of origin of your ancestors and culture is the way of life of a group of people.
For the purposes of this discussion. Race is immutable. You cannot change who your biological parents were. Culture is given to you as a child by the people around you. As you get older you can keep what you’re given, or change it by your behavior and who you choose to associate with.
Just like any racial group in America there are all kinds of black cultures, subcultures, and expressions. There are plenty of black people who are just like Cayla, Logan, Malcolm, and Principal Nate. That they exist, and act this way, isn’t a problem.
But there’s not a single non-white character currently in Funky Winkerbean who acts culturally different from the main cast. Even Adeela, a first generation immigrant, doesn’t act appreciably different.
In vintage FW Derek and Junebug were subtly different, both in the way they dressed AND the way they spoke. But nowadays portraying a character of a different culture can be a dangerous game. Where one person sees as an accurate representation, another person will puff up with outrage at a harmful stereotype. There’s the general consensus that some stereotypes are off limits to outsiders. A white person couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t, be writing something like The Boondocks.
But before you get to a Key and Peele sketch on Civil War Reenactors, there is a massive field of grey where a thousand people with ten thousand agendas are scribbling all over trying to make their line the line no one crosses. Apu gets cancelled. Ben gets taken off his box of rice. Everyone has a big old twitter meltdown over if a white woman should have written The Help. They yell if everyone is the same race. They yell if a culture is portrayed wrong. And what ‘wrong’ is is undefinable and ever changing.
And you know what is safe? You know what is easy? Visual diversity with cultural homogeneity. Race without culture.
It’s also boring, unchallenging, and it only tackles one type of prejudice, while potentially leaving the other standing tall.
If you look at this week’s premise it’s easy to come away saying, “Racism is bad because we are all the same inside.” Malcolm and Logan are ‘good kids’ just like any other kids in Westview. They dress the same, act the same, talk the same.
But what happens when people aren’t just the same? When they’re louder or quieter, colder or warmer? When they dress different, act different, talk different? When they value different things? Those are all learned behaviors, but they are also all choices. And so the previous way of thinking can make a person viciously prejudiced. Because these people can choose to believe something else and they don’t deserve respect until they do!
Real diversity isn’t a bunch of people who all look different and think the same. But Batiuk has only very rarely even attempted to tackle a cultural divide.
79 responses to “Getting Heavy Here.”
These stupid little morality play stories of his are always so gutless and cowardly. Most of the altercation happened “off-screen” and now they’re talking about ice cream and COVID. Except for Malcolm, whose indignant scowl seem to indicate he’ll have some sort of bland, generic platitude to utter in the very near future, probably along the lines of “can’t we all just get along?” or something equally (or even more) banal and trite.
So why did he give the story’s antagonist an “out” with that nonsense about the moving sweater? What purpose did that detail serve? I’ll tell you why: it was to ensure that the racist sales clerk wouldn’t actually do or say anything that was clearly and obviously racist, as that might have generated actual “controversy” or unwanted attention, which BatYarn studiously avoids whenever possible. He could have easily just done an arc where an openly racist sales clerk accuses Logan and Malcolm of stealing for no other reason than being black, which is hardly a new or innovative premise. Other than sensitive racists, who would that have possibly offended? Even they would have probably shrugged and just read “Dilbert” instead and honestly, would you blame them?
But he still deemed it too risky, so here we are a week and a half later, clumsily stumbling around the perimeter of the premise, with the characters delivering feeble recycled gags that sucked the first three times he used them. This story of his was painstakingly engineered to not even brush up against the possibility of possibly offending anyone, expect for people who like good stories and funny jokes, that is.
“Gee, Malcolm, we sure did just graduate!”
“Hey! I believe I may have witnessed you stealing a sweater!”
“I did not! Are you saying……?”
“I’m Cayla Moore. Don’t make me go all Southside on y’all now, hear? Let’s go get some ice cream!”
“LOL OK but I gained a lot of weight during that pandemic thing we had!”
“Oooooh, I am SO MAD!”
I mean, come on. As usual, this bullshit isn’t actually “about” anything. It’s just another box to check off on his legacy checklist, another “topical issue” he courageously tackled. He does this every single time, and every single time I’m amazed by how thorough he is about it. He just files every tiny possible edge down to nothing. FW is the safety scissors of comic strips.
Other than sensitive racists, who would that have possibly offended? Even they would have probably shrugged and just read “Dilbert” instead and honestly, would you blame them?
I'm embarrassed that I used to like Dilbert until about 15 years ago when I learned Scott Adams is a loon.
I’m embarrassed that it took until 2015 for me to realize that Adams is a complete lunatic. (In my defense, I really only read the comic, not anything he had to say outside of that. Once I did start seeing what he had to say, though… hoo-boy, it sure didn’t take long to realize. Haven’t been able to read the comic since.)
I’m not a big Adams fan either but Dilbert is still pretty funny. He recently did an arc where a black person is hired just boost diversity numbers. This person doesn’t want to be used as a pawn and so they self-identify as white.
I thought this was topical, clever, and funny, and totally unlike Batty’s bland nothing burger.
It seems like Adams has spent WAY too much time online. His crazy theories and takes aren’t even consistent. I don’t think he’s always been this way. I think twitter rotted his brain, like so many others.
That being said, I still find Dilbert funny.
Tom Cruise is a crazy man being controlled by an insidious cult, but I’ll still go see the Top Gun sequel too.
Dilbert remains a remarkably funny and incisive satire of white collar workplace culture and corporate behavior when Adams wants it to be. I’m actually pretty impressed that Adams has maintained his insight into American business culture given that he is now 35 years or so removed from that job he held at Pacific Bell and used to cite a lot.
Twitter and such have probably exacerbated the issue, but Adams revealed himself to be a strange fellow way back in the 90s, I thought, with the release of The Dilbert Future. I remember reading that book because I enjoyed the the funny, biting, and only occasionally esoteric The Dilbert Principle… but Future was not the satirical take on workplace futurism I expected it to be. It’s pretty much a philosophy book. Now, judging a philosophy book is probably above my pay grade, though I expect I am not far off in saying that writing one is probably above Adams’ pay grade, but it is clear from the book that Adams’ mind goes to strange places (at one point he ponders whether gravity is an illusion because everything is doubling in size every millisecond) and that he has a pretty high opinion of his own ideas. We definitely see that play out in his social media activity these days.
Dilbert will go down in history as the last great newspaper comic. It’s sharp, funny. has a unique niche, and some relevant things to say. When Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County all went away in the early 1990s, they left a huge gap that no one could fill. Dilbert is the only thing that approached being that good. With newspapers dying as a medium (probably long after they should have), the whole art form just seems dated now.
@BJ6K I actually would put Pears Before Swine as the last great newspaper comic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clipped that one out and put it on my fridge.
“Great” can mean different things, but I get where you are coming from Banana Jr. 6000. Dilbert is almost certain to be last comic strip to become an American cultural icon, a breakout property that could move non-comic merchandise and be a part of popular conversation among folks who are not comics page geeks. Pearls, The Boondocks, and Get Fuzzy will probably go down as the last “hits” ever made for the comics pages… comic strips popular enough to move collections at bookstores and draw a notable number of complaints if dropped from the papers. Pearls is easily the biggest of these three, though I think folks forget that it was not that long ago that the other two put books on bestsellers lists.
I would argue that great content continues to find its way to the comics page, but circumstances being what they are, it is unlikely that achieving even Pearls-level popularity is possible for them. The late Richard Thompson’s Cul De Sac is rightly revered by comic strip fans and Will Henry’s Wallace The Brave is about as well received as any comic strip I’ve ever seen discussed, but neither will ever move many books across the counter at Barnes & Noble.
I like Dilbert fine, and I’m a freedom of speech absolutist, so I think Scott Adams can and should say what he wants. But I also think he’s ridiculously overimpressed with his own brilliance and ability to predict stuff, and he also seems to be running off the rails more lately. And yes, I think Twitter is a brain-rotter for someone like him.
I guess it’s because I’m a rock music fan, but I can’t really understand applying a moral or ideological purity test to artists of any stripe. Actually, that goes for other types of music… and for film… now that I think of it, most interesting artists are weird and/or not the most ethically stellar people.
Dilbert is almost certain to be the last comic strip to become an American cultural icon
That’s more what I was aiming at. No comic strip will ever be as big as Dilbert, Peanuts, Garfield and the other three strips I mentioned once were.
Agree 100%, plus it seems like he cannot keep a relationship.
It’s been two weeks since their second COVID 10
I think they are in denial about an eating disorder.
Malcolm sneering straight into the fourth wall in panel 3 makes me laugh, really. What did we do?
And what is that “Mall Food Court” in the background? Why is it mixed font? And what’s the point of “Mall”? What else would it be?
To differentiate it from Municipal Food Court, where all of Westview’s food related court cases are tried.
Malcolm is sneering because even he knows that punchline was garbage.
And what’s the point of “Mall”?
It’s there to say “Not Westview.”
Batiuk uses the same joke twice in the same arc, but it isn’t a callback. Does he think this is just so funny it can be re-used endlessly?
It also wastes the opportunity to say something meaningful. If Logan said “we just had ice cream, but I suddenly need nourishment again,” that could have been powerful. It could be a window into what it feels like to receive such an incident. It makes you need to stress-eat.
That would have been better than this stupid, repeated, off-topic, sexist joke that completely undermines the seriousness of the moment. This woman was just harassed because of her skin color; is “I worry about my weight too” really a good point to make here?
Maybe its a setup for a bit of wordplay?
Malcolm Ecchs: “No, not ‘burn them all down’, I said ‘burn the mall down’. How could that riot be my fault?”
Wow. The last time anyone de-escalated that quickly, Hitler got Czechoslovakia. And the odds are Cayla will be just as embarrassingly triumphant as Neville Chamberlain was.
You mean you don’t believe this is peace in our time? Or that the sneering salesclerk will miss the bus?
(There may be a Mr. Blackburn waiting to put down a video camera and tell her to shut up, you know.)
That whole scuffle over Logan’s purse didn’t make a scene? No bystanders stared? No one called a security guard? No one had parting words? Is this kind of encounter normal or mild at this mall? And I thought I grew up in a rough neighborhood…
I mean, I didn’t, but I thought I did because I went to school with kids whose parents all owned two story houses. What was I talking about again? Oh hey! Is that Larry David in the background of panel 1, heading into the DYD store?
Based on the events of the story, Malcolm believed he was being followed, so he baited the sales clerk by moving a sweater, which she then accused him of trying to steal. Then Cayla showed up and threatened the sales clerk. There was no actual “racial profiling” depicted in the story. It was only implied, leaving the readers to fill in the blanks themselves.
And the three main parts of the story…Malcolm being followed, the words leading up to the altercation, and how the altercation was resolved…all happened off-screen. BatYam “addressed” the topic by ignoring it entirely.
And dear God, I wish he’d stop trying to make “COVID 10” happen. He’s apparently very, very proud of that gag, based on how often he uses it.
Maybe he should tack on an extra nine pounds, then he can make another moronic “they don’t call it COVID 19 for nothing” joke.
He already did that joke:
No shit she’s upset, Cayla! A violent lunatic just tried to beat her up and steal her purse!
So what happened to the altercation from yesterday? Did the salesclerk get to look in Logan’s bag or not? If not, how could it have ended like this after she was totally willing to commit assault and battery to look inside? If she did, why did Batiuk not choose to show the aftermath of that? Wouldn’t she be chastened to have guessed wrong, especially when it makes her look like a gigantic racist and would almost certainly lead to her losing her job? Wouldn’t the kids rub her face in it after all that she did only to be proven wrong? Why spare her feelings?
Again, we can count on Batiuk to run away from actual drama and denouement. Come back the rest of this week to see these two kids praise Cayla and her pointless brave actions before they’re flushed down the metaphorical toilet and never seen again!
I’m convinced now that Batiuk writes his strip assuming that nobody reads it regularly, and they just come in every so often when they happen to find a newspaper lying around. If you weren’t familiar with this strip, and today was the first time you’d read it in weeks, you would probably think something really serious and dramatic had just happened. You would be wrong.
Also, I think I would feel slightly wary buying ice cream from a place that is just named “Ice Cream”.
I’ve always believed he likes it that way. If too many people start checking out FW, the jig is up. Mainstream attention is the last thing he wants. He wants to control the puff-piece narrative and he can’t do that if everyone is familiar with his bogus tactics.
It’s gotten so much worse lately. It seems like there have been multiple stories lately where he contradicts himself within the span of one week. Or just general crappy writing like when Harry goes back in time and finds the Amazing Fantasy comic that had been sitting on the shelf for almost two decades.
You’re forgetting his hubris. It’s pretty obvious that Batiuk has a high opinion of himself and his abilities, no matter how poorly that reflects reality. Notice how he doesn’t research anything. My sense is not that that’s out of laziness – he wouldn’t agree to be interviewed by the New York Times over his CTE/Suicide sequence otherwise – it’s just that he thinks he’s already sufficiently versed in things that he’s clearly not versed in. He thinks he knows everything he needs to know to write sensitively about CTE, or racial profiling/racism, or homophobia, or medical malpractice, or the First Amendment or Etc. And it’s this blind spot that does the most damage to his strips.
The one thing that consciously sabotages his stories, however, is his timidity, which is a remarkable thing considering his opinion of himself. He hedges and avoids direct conflict or direct assertions whenever possible. And this is how we get stories like The Gay Prom without any gay people, or a CTE/suicide storyline that largely concerns the victim’s wife trying to get compensated for his condition. And as we see this week, an incident of racial profiling that actually involves physical confrontation dissolving into nothing. He really seems to prefer people talking or thinking about the thing in question than actual conflict.
(And FWIW, I think he didn’t do anything with medical malpractice because doing so would have destroyed Lisa’s perfect, beautiful death. Of course, we could look at his need for her “perfect, beautiful death” as a function of his timidity)
“Did the salesclerk get to look in Logan’s bag or not?” The thing is… she DID look in the bag! That was the point of Sunday’s strip, that she looked in the bag and didn’t see the sweater there, which is when Malcolm revealed he had moved the sweater just to mess with Kashier Karen. So why was she still trying to look in the bag the next strip? (I suppose it could be Batiuk trying to say Karen is just so racist that she had to look at every single item in the bag to ensure nothing in there was stolen, but, really, it’s because he can never be bothered to maintain continuity even between consecutive strips.)
1. Another excellent post by CBH.
2. Another successful effort to avoid anything of substance by Batty.
3. Another topic all together: Rick Burchett will be among the writers and artists appearing at the Metropolis, Ill., Superman Celebration Friday through Sunday.
I wish I could make it! Rick Burchett is one of the nicest guys i ever met at a comic con, nothing but respect for him.
A line that stuck with me from Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune was this: “Never say anything to a black woman about her hair, or anything to a white woman about her hips. Even as a compliment.” That was some twenty years ago if not more and I’ve followed that advice all the while, and I think that it’s more applicable now than before.
The panel of Cayla asking about other people asking about her hair is the kind of tone deafness which could incite ire today.
Good post and comments besides, from the rest of you so far. There’s only so much that can be drawn up from the fat void of nothing that he’s provided.
What is it with Batiuk and weight? IIRC Lester, Masone Jarre, Cindye Sommerse-Winkerbeane-Jarre, and Marianne Winterse have moaned about their “COVID 15/30”, and those blonde twins and what’s her name today are already obsessed with getting their “Freshman 15” started like it’s a badge of honor…
Fun fact: I actually fucking LOST weight my freshman year… It was the summer after my freshman year that I began to inflate like the Michelin Man….
Does Batty even realize that it is called fat shaming?
You know how those gals are, am I right? Always worried about their figure. After all, they gotta snag themselves a husband and all. Sigh.
I was wondering recently, regarding Mary-Sue Sweetwater’s backstory, where she went from svelte MILF at one reunion to tank at the next – what kind of artistic direction do you think TB gives his artists for those strips where the Westviewfrauen appear? “first panel: Mary-Sue talking to Les. Mary-Sue is huge, maybe 3 times the breadth of Les, the kind that would take up 3 seat in an airplane. Oh, with tight-curled frizzy hair….”
I lost weight as a freshman too. I missed my mom’s home cooking. I found the dorm food to be subpar.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s episode, when the ice cream server accuses Logan of secreting a half-carton of Rocky Road in her purse and Malcolm reveals he was scattering rainbow jimmies on the counter as an act of social protest.
If only Cayla had asked our non-couple if they’ve seen THE LATEST MARVEL MOVIE yet (Incidentally, how long in this universe until we get Atomix Komix films? I so want to hear about Vin Diesel playing Tip Tide, Scuba Cop!).
Rip Tide. Stupid keyboard.
All I’ll say is, I’m honestly surprised that TB hasn’t retconned Other Woman into *not* being black!
Cayla was clearly channeling chemo-Lisa with that headscarf. Good move on her part, she snared him.
I gotta tell you, if a store clerk manhandled me for any reason, I’d be calling the cops, filing a report, and contacting a lawyer. Especially if it was a chain store, as all stores in this mall presumably are. (And what non-chain store forces its employees to wear great big nametags?)
I’m not a litigious person in the least, but that’s assault, plain and simple.
What was the point of this arc again….? Oh, yeah. Batty has zero idea what is going on in the world outside him, and also wants us to know he’s one of the Good Ones. Another failed effort.
It’s taken me a while to figure out exactly why the yuck factor of today’s strip is so high. Is it because these two people have just been assaulted just because of the color of their skin*, but Cayla wants them to brush it off? No, that’s just typical Batiuk conflict avoidance.
It’s because “You’re upset… how about I get us some ice cream?” is EXACTLY what you would say to an overtired toddler who didn’t want to leave the playground. It’s a classic parent trick that only really works with very young kids — jollying them up to distract from whatever silly incident is troubling their little baby minds.
I cannot believe Batiuk doesn’t realize how condescending and wildly inappropriate this is. “You’ve just been racially profiled, accused, assaulted, and humiliated in front of the whole mall. How about I get us some ice cream?”
*Going by the content of the strips alone, there’s not a single thing that indicates this incident was racially motivated. Not. One. Thing. For all we know, Scowly McNametag is vicious to every single customer because she’s just a total asshat. Or maybe she just got a dressing-down from her boss because people were stealing and she was told that the next theft would cost her her job. Or maybe she is mentally ill and has paranoid delusions. Or she is an alcoholic who had about 5 beers during her lunch break and has been taking nips from the bottle under the counter, and she gets aggressive when she’s drunk. Or maybe Malcolm Eccchs is a dead ringer for a known shoplifter she’s been told to watch out for. Or maybe this is her first day on the job and she’s a total imbecile, and she thinks collaring a shoplifter is the way to get a raise. Or maybe she’s gunning for the job of Grand Dragon at her local KKK chapter. There’s absolutely no information on her motivation. But we all know what Batiuk wants us to think, because he trotted out back-benched, generic black characters just so he could immediately make them victims. Again, YUCK.
“It’s because “You’re upset… how about I get us some ice cream?” is EXACTLY what you would say to an overtired toddler who didn’t want to leave the playground. It’s a classic parent trick that only really works with very young kids — jollying them up to distract from whatever silly incident is troubling their little baby minds.”
While this is true…I have been known to pull this trick on my own mother well into my 30’s.
“Mom, you look upset. Let’s get some ice cream.”
Maybe it’s just my family, but offering food while hashing out emotional fallout is traditional. So much so that someone saying, “Lets sit down and have some coffee and apple crisp.” can put people on edge for a moment.
“Oh man! What did I do? What did THEY do? Is someone dying!? Is there ice cream for the apple crisp !!???!”
offering food while hashing out emotional fallout is traditional.
I agree. These kids are literally entering the adult world this week, and she can probably relate to what they’ve been through. So I have no problem with her taking a comforting approach here. Except that she should be doing something more useful, like filing a police report.
Oh, this is hilarious! More proof of exactly what you said in your entry today, about culture being more important than race in terms of “diversity.”
Is it an East Coast/Midwest divide? An urban/suburban/rural divide? Whatever it is, if I told someone who’d just been assaulted, “Let’s go for ice cream,” I might be the next assault victim.
I guess when I assumed, I made an ASS out of U and ME. Well, actually just me.
LOL Nah! I mean in the context of this being assault, yeah smoothing things over with frozen dairy dessert is probably pretty tone deaf, no matter where you’re from.
I don’t know if it’s cultural, regional, or universal. But my mom has instilled in me a strong sense of, “You sad!? Here food!” It’s why everyone in my family carries around a couple extra pounds of love in the middle.
I interpret it as an older black person, who’s probably been through this before, knowing how to comfort younger black people experiencing it for the first time. I realize that’s being very charitable to the writing, but I think it’s a defensible interpretation.
I apologize for putting a ‘reply’ onto this comment, but my computer won’t let me put it where it belongs for some reason.
“From ComicBookHarriet>>>@BJ6K I actually would put Pearls Before Swine as the last great newspaper comic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clipped that one out and put it on my fridge.”
Please CBH. Start living in the 21 Century. I copy and save PBW on my phone. Then I tape my phone onto the refrigerator for all to see.
Gosh! The number of times I had to drive back home to use my phone. Good times. Good times.
” Then I tape my phone onto the refrigerator for all to see.”
Holy cow SP! That had me laughing out loud in an empty room.
I think Mona Simpson has a mother use it with a daughter in *Anywhere But Here.*
Some of us wondered when Les would become part of this arc. Turns out he’s been here the whole time. He’s just wearing a Cleveland Guardians t-shirt and calling himself Malcolm. First, he’s too shy to ask the girl out. Then he happily joins into her pointless moping, even though she herself points out the logical flaws in it. And now he’s mad because “his” girl suffered, and everything is about him at all times. It’s practically Act I Les, Act II Les, and Act III Les.
Tom Batiuk’s joke-telling style reminds me of this:
Batiuk is just like this, but without the self-awareness, timing, or effort that make the meta-humor work. Batiuk robotically recites a list of lame, random observations, and expects them to get uproarious laughter on their own merits.
I’ve seen Mr. Zed do that microwaves bit 50 times and it still gets a laugh out of me.
It’s one hell of a performance, isn’t it? It’s just a man pretending to be a robot, but it really makes you go “what the hell am I watching?” I think the audience in this clip was so shocked they didn’t laugh as much as they should have. If anything, it’s too good. And too ahead of its time.
Is there supposed to be a vid there? It’s just a black box to me. But you know what? An empty black box sums up his joke telling style exactly.
Yes, a YouTube video of “Mr. Zed”, the robotic comic, from 1993. I don’t know why you wouldn’t see it.
I can see it fine. I’ve never seen that sketch before and it is AMAZING.
I missed the past couple of days because our daughter was visiting. I just read the entire arc and can’t believe how TomBa muddled whatever message he was trying to send. He’s trying to show how evil the salesperson is but the way he constructs the story, her observation that the sweater wasn’t put back is accurate. Malcolm admits that he purposely put it on a different table (I guess TomBa thinks this constitutes a righteous protest action of some sort.) Also, the Sunday strip is a totally self contained story.
Monday’s brawl is completely gratuitous and in the real world would ensure that Malcolm, Logan and Cayla end up being held by mall security. It shows once again that his writing never goes beyond his first draft.
I shudder to think what misguided preaching is going to follow when these three sit down for their ice cream.
It’s like how he did that Cliff Anger testifies in the senate story where Senator McCarthy keeps accusing Cliff of things and Cliff keeps not denying them. We only really know who TB wants us to side with because of Joseph McCarthy’s infamy and angry eyebrows, as written in the strip he’s plausibly in the right to have Cliff locked up.
Batiuk is famous for “tell, don’t show,” but he’s actually worse than that. He tells and shows different things. There’s no evidence this incident is even racially motivated. And we saw that Malcolm escalated the conflict. But we all know the story’s going to spend the week “telling” us what happened.
Your essay was brilliant. Full Stop! Just freakin’ brilliant. You win the internet today with your closing sentence: “Real diversity isn’t a bunch of people who all look different and think the same.” Thank you for being a light in the darkness.
This was going to be a really difficult arc to pull off, since this being racially motivated relies on inner thoughts. A thought balloon would have been too awkward and probably offensive, and a signifier like a Confederate flag t-shirt would have been absurd on an Ohio retail clerk. So TB makes assumptions, the characters make assumptions, and the readers make assumptions.
It would have been super easy to telegraph that Scowly McNametag was an Evil Racist. She could have been shown fawning over white teen couples dressed similarly, all smiles, and then donning her Racist Rageface when she spotted Malcolm Eccchs and Logan.
You’re right, that could have been done. And the sweater thing could have been left out. Then after being followed Malcolm says to the clerk “you’re paying a lot of attention to us but we’re really not that interesting.” Clerk has chastened expression and kids walk out. I still don’t love using the kids, but this would have been more coherent and TB makes the point he wants to.
I was going to mention “Gasoline Alley” instead of “Dilbert”, but I feared that no one would know what the hell I was talking about. Oh well.
Gasoline Alley had its heyday back when Sunday strips were given a full page. Where it’s at now isn’t particularly noteworthy, positively or negatively. It has a similar refusal to adhere to its own self-imposed rules, at least regarding things like Walt still being alive, but it has never pretended to be something beyond what it is and Scarcanelli can at least still draw things properly.
Oh God — I just had the most horrible thought — given the ponderous setup of several days of “too bad this is our first and last date,” what if this horrible incident is actually M&L’s “meet cute”? What if they bond over their shared trauma and fall in love?
Nah. That has kind of a narrative structure to it. I’m sure it won’t happen. Will it…?
Ugh. That’s about 5% more disgusting than my fear that Cayla will tell Logan and Thatsnot “Things were much worse when I was young, so be glad you got off so lightly. Hey, it was just insults and assault, you know!”
I don’t think TB can summon up enough interest in these younger characters to keep them around.
Placing a small bet that Cayla will relate some supposedly insightful anecdote from her own past.
Placing a larger bet that she won’t, because she’s already used up her allotted syllables for the month.
CBH nailed it on the difference between Race and Culture. I noticed a long time ago that the enormous corporation I worked for couldn’t care less what color or biological sex you were; as long as you fit into the stereotypically-white country-club culture, you were a candidate for upward mobility. I sometimes got the feeling our female executives had bigger balls than any of the men, because that’s what the system selected for–the culture, not the sex (or, perhaps, the system became blind to race and sex once the candidate fit the culture).
One of the more interesting exercises we did was an exercise that claimed to determine your “cultural race” by asking a series of questions about your values and preferences. Despite being of overwhelmingly Irish, German and English ancestry, I tested out as culturally black. This did not entirely surprise me.
When I watch Batty’s attempts to do “diversity” and “issues” without actually addressing cultural differences, I’m reminded of Frank Zappa’s classic song, “You Are What You Is.” It’s on YouTube, but I don’t know how to post these things. Look it up if you’ve never heard it (warning: contains “n-word,” so probably not suitable for work).
“Okay, kids. Lemme tell you how hard it is to be black!”
“Wait, Cayla, you’re black??”
“Well… not really. Not anymore. But see, I used to be black.”
“Yeah, we know. When you first came to our school, you had a ‘fro, darker skin, and black facial features.”
“Yeah… yeah… And then you had that angry Snake Hair! You looked like you were ready to FIGHT THE POWER! Gurl, what happened?”
“Well, I met Les, of course. And right off the bat, I had to compete with a cute blonde about 15 years younger than me. Batty wanted us to get together, but a bunch of 75 year old non-ironic fans in Ohio started to get nervous!”
“Mmm hmmm, go on…”
“Les said he’d consider me for his replacement wife, slash housekeeper if I’d just, in his words, lose the angry snake hair and whiten up a bit. Soooo I had the hair straightened, skin bleached, had my nose and lips fixed, and voilà!”
“You a sellout, sista.”
“Yeah. C’mon Malcom. Let’s get outta here. Later, Doris Day.”
Speaking of Derek, he was one of the guys, but he was cool and had his own style. Junebug, who came along later, had spunk and did things her way. These characters were black, and Batty had the balls to write them that way. They were unique and believable. That brings us to Logan Church and Thatsnought Hewmore. All the black characters in the class of 2022 act exactly like the white characters. Awkward, glasses-wearing, brainy, wimpy white nerds. *Yawn*
be ware of eve hill
Dammit. Isn’t pointing out that African American characters aren’t acting like you expect them to a form of racism? Just put a big “L” on my forehead.
I used your comment because it’s TRUE. All the black characters act the same and no different from white characters, which is like… a really weird form of racism.
It’s not racist to want to see cultures other than nebbish nerd portrayed in a comic strip with over 100 named characters.
Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately that’s the way I feel nowadays. I’m so afraid of being racist that I’m treading on glass. I’ve never had an issue with an African American person in my life. I’ve had African American neighbors and coworkers.
I’m not sure how to interpret somebody upvoting my comment. Are they agreeing with my assertion or sympathizing?
Oh, the times we live in.
Later that evening on an internet forum popular with angry, paranoid conspiracy nuts…
URouttaGETME: U wouldn’t believe what happened today, just goes to show they’re all after me
TrustNo1: OMG, me too. Crazy sh!t going on out there. Those of us who know the TRUTH must stick together ALWAYS
URouttaGETME: IKR! I was shopping and this crazy bitch was following me. She must know about the microscopic transponder the CIA planted under the skin of my left buttock cheek, was probably trying to subdue me to dig it out. I kept that enemy agent guessing! Almost came to blows
TrustNo1: No way! Some really inept undercover agent who thinks black teenagers dress like 1950s Archie comics was cruising my store, trying to violently kidnap me and force me to reveal what I know about Area 51
URouttaGETME: See, I TOLD you the world is a REALLY DANGEROUS PLACE when you know too much. The whole damn mall saw, so now they all know about the transponder in my buttock. SMDH
TrustNo1: Wait, what mall was this?
URouttaGETME: West Westview
TrustNo1: OMG, are you the guy with the sweater?
URouttaGETME: Wait, are you the lady with the nametag?
TrustNo1: OMG, fate… URouttaGETME, I think we were meant to be together
URouttaGETME: Imma ditch the normie NPC you saw me with. Meet me in the parking lot, behind the pillar marked 7B. Till then — till I can kiss your beautiful, angry, twisted, paranoid face, my love, know that fate brought us together for a reason…
Whoops! Meant to post that on the next entry (and now I have).