Oh sweet Sousa, it’s HIM! I guess we all knew his appearance was inevitable after Holly brought up band alumni yesterday, but I think we were all hoping he wouldn’t show up as soon as today’s strip. But now he is involved AND he is tossing around comic book/video game terminology like he‘s DSH or the other guy in this strip named Harry, making this story arc go from insufferably bland to straight up insufferable in three panels flat. And now we know Holly wasn’t the only majorette he routinely maimed…
Holly really shouldn’t be surprised he remembers her, though. After all, he named his shoe brand’s majorette marching boots after her. I guess that means he is being sincere then telling her she was the best majorette he ever had, though I’ll also bet he‘s been keeping her royalty checks from the sale of those boots for the past 29 years too.
Today’s glurge filled festival of pathological coddling gives me the opportunity to delve into something I’ve been wanting to examine for a long time. But it’s going to be a challenge to talk about, because I swore that I wouldn’t talk about CERTAIN CHARACTERS by name this week.
Let’s talk about Cayla.
For the last several years, whenever she’s appeared Cayla has been the target of a strange mix of pity and ridicule in the comments. And it’s earned. Because Cayla’s presentation in strip is the most conspicuous manifestation of just how twisted and weird the enshrinement and cult of Dead St. Lisa has become. She is a consolation prize. A tacked-on coda. But rather than be resentful of her situation, she has become a priestess and mouth piece of her glorious predecessor.
The external reason for Cayla to be this way is that she’s been written to be a benign gift to the author avatar. She’s built for comfort, not conflict.
But it is so strange to follow Cayla’s journey, and try to imagine a real, flesh and blood woman choosing a similar path. If there was such a woman as Cayla Williams, who would she be?
What do we know about her personality and her history prior to her entering the strip? She comes from an athletic family, who cared enough about her to attend her wedding, but whom she hasn’t seemed to worry much about since. She has completely adopted Funky, Harry, Holly, and crew as her circle of friends, so must have had no close friendships extant before her move to Westview. She worries about her financial matters, while being a shopaholic. She’s class conscious, and seems to want to buy the good opinion of rich people. Current insecurities and prior blows to her ego seem to have hampered her confidence. A previous romantic partner left her with a daughter to raise alone.
Soon after moving to Westview she saw what she wanted and she pursued it. Of a hundred different seats that were open with no asking, she had a particular one in mind.
And from very early on, she knew that she would be jostling for position with a corpse in a race she might never win.
But she went after it anyway, even duked it out with a younger woman. She was pretty bold with her intentions.
Why? What did Cayla want?
Well, one thing she seemed to want was financial security for herself and her daughter. She was looking for someone to ‘pool resources’ with.
Second, she seemed to want people that she could care for, that would be emotionally dependent. She seems to genuinely enjoy being needed. This would fit with her underlying lack of confidence.
In fact. She enjoys being needed so much, that she seems to put herself in a position to both be needed, and remain needed. She wasn’t just looking for someone who appreciates a kind heart. She wanted something to prop up, because when something is leaning on you for support, your position is secure. They can’t leave. And the type of support she offers often promises future financial or social gain on her part.
So of course she is willing to jump on the Dead St. Lisa bandwagon. Her affection for her predecessor might even be genuine. That dead woman is the source of all her current and future security. And it could be she is content to have a decoy and mirage to distract her meal ticket. Some people find too much romantic attention smothering, better to shunt some of that off on a ghost. Let the feelings you elicit be lukewarm, safe, and necessary. Keep feeding the muse of pathos by offering those threesomes from beyond the grave.
Because. Let’s be real for a minute Cayla. You don’t care if you’ll never live up to Lisa any more. You only cared for a moment, when you were worried she’d keep you from scoring the prize that matters. Lisa’s dead. And the helpless withering worm left in her wake needs you. You’ve made sure of that. Yeah, sometimes he’s annoying and insufferable. But he produces, and he provides. You can give him pleasure, and you can give him pain, according to your whims. And either way, he’ll wake up needing you tomorrow just the same. What you really get off on is the control. You like watching him fawn, but you love watching him squirm.
And that is my headcanon for Cayla. She didn’t want a healthy and whole husband to love only her. She wanted a meal ticket just broken enough so it wouldn’t run out on her. And she’s carefully cultivated the relationship, keeping her victim just neurotic enough to maximize her comfort, security, and enjoyment.
It’s been an interesting two weeks folks. Hope you enjoyed! Beckoning Chasm will be in on Monday. I’m interested to see how he handles Batiuk’s upcoming homage to ‘The Day the Clown Cried,’ we’ve seen presaged in the banner.
Apologies for the short post tonight. I’m visiting family, and really don’t want to take too much time away from my new baby nephew to write about Cayla and HIM. HIIIIIIIIIIIIM.
I’m just saying, panel three isn’t too clear on what turns into a pumpkin after the party. And I’m hoping it is everyone, everyone and everything around Cayla. I hope that, right after she shuts the door at the close of the night, the car, the valet, the driver, the man next to her, all morph into soggy wet gourd. That Cayla is alone, finally alone, surrounded by a nourishing orange universe. Second to no one. The goddess of all she surveys.
Yup. It’s just a neighborhood covered in billboards. Due to Botcons and TFcons in the area, I’ve been to Hollywood four or five times myself. Because every time I went, there was someone else in the group who hadn’t seen it. It’s certainly a place. I’m glad I got to see it once. Point at the stars on the Walk, go to the pavement of the Chinese Theatre, and put my own hands where Harrison Ford (and literally thousands and thousands and thousands of foreign tour groups) have put their hands before.
But I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite place to go in LA.
Because it’s a street lined with desperation. Every person you pass that isn’t a tourist is an uncomfortable sales pitch waiting to happen: smiling with their mouth but not their eyes, scanning every fanny-packed stranger, hunting for the barest indication of eye contact to swoop in. Its not the kind of place for the untrained midwesterner who is used to benignly waving with all five fingers extended at strangers when they pass them on the highway.
Everyone in the comments has been shocked by the survival of the Chateau, and most of Hollywood proper. But I’ll remind you that there have numerous Southern California wildfires since the hotel was built in 1929. I pulled up my old map I made of the fire last year, just to confirm that Hollywood was probably spared, while Cindy and Mason’s Malibu McMansion went up in smoke.
So yeah, it would have been a near thing. If I was the owner, I would have been nervously sniffing my dinner plate of cocaine, and making calls with promises of bribes to the Fire Chief.
But the REAL non-sequitur today is the Starbuck Jones billboard. The premier for that movie was supposed to be going on during the fires last year. Were we supposed to have some pandemic related delay? Those things aren’t cheap to rent, and Hollywood regularly repaints itself in the trappings of whatever the next big blockbuster will be. When I was last there, every billboard, bus stop, and park bench was painted with the Hellboy 2019 movie that bombed.(#notmyHellboy.)
So, we have two options. One, the movie’s release was delayed an entire year and I’m just forgetting. I mean the 2021 Comic Con badges were Starbuck Jones too.
Two, this is a Tommy Wiseau The Room situation. The movie’s already bombed, but they’re hoping to drum up interest in the DVD sales. So they’ve paid for a single Hollywood billboard, month after month, year after year. Four years from now, Masone Jarree will still be staring with his black soulless eyes through his fishbowl helmet out at the drivers on Sunset Blvd.
Oh THANK GOODNESS. We don’t have to sit through airport shenanigans, car rental shenanigans, or any other kind of travel nonsense. Someone gifted Cayla a Mother Box straight from Apokolips and they travelled halfway across the country via Boom Tube.
Apparently someone also gifted Cayla some cut-rate plastic surgery, because she’s got a late-stage Michael Jackson nose going on in panel 3 here. With the weird lines under her eyes, she looks like some kind of internet horror creepy pasta.
I hunted around a bit an was able to find a picture of the front desk of the Marmont. Decent enough approximation in the DRAWING. But I don’t think the entire interior of the lobby is painted in graphite grey like the interior of a parking garage.
Any guesses as to who Cayla is gawking at?
Summer? Cayla hasn’t seen her since Christmas, and even then, she quickly shipped the girls off to minimum wage it as Santa’s Helpers at the mall.
I don’t know what she just bought, but Cayla’s jeans magically manifest on her body between panels one and three. Maybe they slithered up her legs in panel two. Maybe that’s why she looks so shocked.
Anyway, she better run out and get dark sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, and old-timey high collared coats, because she’s going to have to wade through a picket line to get into the Chateau.
Once again, Batiuk writing a year in advance shoots him in the foot. Last September The Hollywood Reporterput out an in depth investigative hit piece on the hotel. After nearly all the staff was laid off due to the pandemic, many were willing to speak out against the hotel for discrimination, harassment, and general mismanagement. The allegations went all the way to the very top, with owner, André Balazs, accused of using the hotel as his own private playground, snorting cocaine, getting drunk, and groping workers.
Since then there’s been regular protests outside the hotel, as well as calls to boycott the business. A movie cancelled a planned film shoot there. Celebrities like Jane Fonda, Alfonso Cuaron, and Lena Headey have all supported the boycott. And when Cersei Lannister is ringing the bell and calling ‘Shame!’ you know it’s gotta be bad.
Not that the controversy has completely killed business, the place looks pretty booked up through the end of September. Sometimes, to my folksy midwestern eye, the entire SoCal area looks like a hyper-charged game of social activism whack-a-mole being played by a manic-depressive. Quixotically clutching their pearls in moral outrage over the living conditions of livestock while snorting cocaine off a dinner plate at a hedonism fueled wrap party.
Shame poor Cayla’s excitement had to be marred by this controversy. I wonder if Batiuk is hoping it will fly under the radar of his normal readers. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised if the last news story Batiuk remembers hearing from the Chateau Marmont is John Belushi’s death.
After taking the bold stand that women have been unappreciated for their contributions to comics, (something that hasn’t been true for literal decades,) Batiuk now declares that WOMEN BE SHOPPING.
And I’m pretty conflicted on it. Because on the one hand, it’s a tired old stereotype. It’s Pluggers level humor. It’s an insult to Cayla’s character. And who is Cayla or Batiuk fooling? She hasn’t changed her hair in any meaningful way since Les paid the chemically relaxed shoulder length cut an anemic compliment back in 2011.
I feel like we can be too reactionary against stereotyping in general. Stereotypes are usually based on observable trends. Moreover stereotypes are such a fundamental part of human humor, that trying to go on a moral crusade against them is a dumb and fruitless as Baptists trying to ban dancing. (See what I did there.)
Some of the oldest written comedies we have are full of humor based in gender, generational, or cultural stereotypes.
LYSISTRATA: Hello Lampito, my dear friend from Sparta. How beautiful you look, so sweet, such a fine complexion. And your body looks so fit, strong enough to choke a bull.
LAMPITO : Yes, by the two gods, I could pull that off. I do exercise and work out to keep my butt well toned.
Lysistrata, Aristophanes. 411 B.C.
CHREMES: He maintained that women were both clever and thrifty, that they never divulged the Mysteries of Demeter, while you and I go about babbling incessantly about whatever happens at the Senate.
BLEPYRUS: By Hermes, he was not lying!
CHREMES: Then he added that the women lend each other clothes, trinkets of gold and silver, drinking-cups, and not before witnesses too, but all by themselves, and that they return everything with exactitude without ever cheating each other; whereas, according to him, we are ever ready to deny the loans we have effected.
BLEPYRUS: Yes, by Posidon, and in spite of witnesses.
The Ecclesiazusae, Aristophanes. 390 B.C.
It’s not the dumb shopping stereotype that’s the problem here.
It’s that an obsession with shopping is literally the only character trait other than doormat that Cayla has been given in the TEN PLUS YEARS she’s been part of the strip. Nothing makes her unique. She has no agency or desires of her own. Except for her skintone she is identical to Cindy, or Holly, or Mindy, or Jess.
Every female character in this strip is as thinly drawn as the forearms of HE WHO SHALL NOT BE MENTIONED.
I spent an entire week working really hard to transmit my enthusiasm for how wonderfully dumb the Phil Holt resurrection arc was; and THIS is how I’ve been rewarded.
Well, jokes on HIM.
For the rest of my shift, I’m going to be lazy. And for the rest of my shift, I will not mention a thing about HIM. It’s what he wants. Attention. And I refuse to give it. The rest of you feel free to savage at will in the comments, as is deserved. For once, I can’t stomach the rightfully earned dismemberment.
So what I’ll say about today is that I really like the porch swing in this strip. I like how it shows up off and on as a gathering place. It gives the strip visual continuity that rewards long time readers, but as far as I remember it doesn’t have the same verbal attention drawn to it by the characters as other locations like Montoni’s. It’s 100% better than that stupid bench that gets talked about all the time by…
That was close.
Cutting it short today so I don’t mess up again. Until tomorrow folks.