Today’s strip shows the unbelievably named Maris Rogers giving an unbelievable impromptu news cast about the unbelievably petty problem of Les blowing through his monthly copier privileges. But what’s most unbelievable about it is that any student who goes to Westview High would actually be willing to defend this jackass. Les, on the rare occasions when he’s actually shown teaching, is an extraordinary asshole to his students. It simply wrecks my suspension of disbelief that the three students on the Bleat would go up against their principal, in such an inflammatory fashion, to defend this insulting prick. Perhaps that’s why the diminutive Bernie Silver is conspicuously missing.
Btw, I find it instructive that in order to find a sequence of Les actually teaching a class rather than insulting his students over parental permission for a Washington D.C. trip or simply grandstanding, I had to go back nearly five years.
Anyway, if the copier limitations that Les so strenuously protests were so draconian, you’d think the improbably named Maris Rogers (was Ruth Babe too obvious?) would find a more sympathetic teacher than the one who’s been throwing a massive hissy all week before no doubt going back to insult his students yet again.
Today’s strip shows Les continuing to chase Nate around to berate him over his copier use. And not surprisingly, he’s wrong. He’s not being penalized. He’s simply not getting credit for it. He’s not allotted fewer copies than his fellow teachers. He gets just as many, but since he decided to go double sided, he used half as many pages. It’s not Nate’s fault, or the fault of the other teachers that Les was sloppy when heeding the rules.
But I’m more annoyed by the punchline. Batiuk uses a legal term, “don’t make a federal case out of it”, but rather than bringing the Legal Society students in, he brings in the kids in the journalism club (media club, or whatever the hell it is). Wouldn’t a better punchline be “don’t turn this into a front page story”? Or “don’t make a national story of this”? You know, something to reflect the fact that these kids are specifically in the school’s media news activity?
But I don’t know why I’m annoyed. To mix my metaphors, flubbing an open layup like this is par for the course as far as Batiuk’s concerned.
So today Les keeps mashing on the copier, like an unmajestic silverback gorilla, as if mashing it is going to make his problem of blowing through his alloted copies go away.
But it’s panel two that’s the true majesty. Look at that thing. He’s got the aforementioned unflattering angle focusing on his baldness. He’s got the loosened tie that’s supposed to make him look unpretentious and hip but instead makes him look like an unprofessional slob. His eyes are tightly closed like a six year-old’s who’s on a whining binge because his parents didn’t get him the right Christmas present. And finally, there’s that finger that he’s waving as if he’s in any position to lecture his boss about his own wastefulness.
And there’s one more thing, of course. You’d think a guy who’s supposed to be some sort of accomplished writer would be detail-oriented enough to determine from the posted rules whether making a double-sided copy constituted two “clicks” or one. But Les is not that guy.
So today we go back to Les and naturally this means it’s the setup for a week of him complaining about something.
I’ll just ignore Les blowing through his month’s allotment of photocopies, both because I trust all of you to hash it out more than adequately, but also because Batiuk’s going to give us plenty of opportunity to do so over the course of the week, to comment on something else. It’s the way Les is drawn in panel 2, looking down at the top of his recently severely-balding head. (Seriously, look at how significant Les’s hair loss has been in the last two years) I’m going to assume that Burchett leaves the diagramming of the strip’s art to Batiuk, because this is by far not the only time Batiuk’s used this angle. The odd thing is it’s with one exception always a balding man, with the primary focus on his male-pattern baldness. He’s never once drawn a woman from this angle. But now he’s shown Les, Funky and Bull in this fashion multiple times each – an odd, inexplicable angle with their head bowed showing the full ravages of a receding hairline.
It’s remarkably unflattering and jarring. Makes me wonder why Batiuk keeps coming back to it.
So Les is overnighting at Columbus because of course he is. And I bet the museum is footing his hotel bill, although it doesn’t quite look like what Les is accustomed to when it comes to his Lisa travels. No wonder he’s miserable all the damn time.
And there’s Cayla, who spent her Les-free time constantly searching and watching YouTube updates so she could catch yesterday’s lady putting up that video of Les, because of course that woman looked exactly like someone with an active YouTube channel, and Cayla has nothing else to do. Watch as it goes viral, because of course it will, getting more views than any YouTube segment of any network and cable channel in America.
Today’s strip really isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. A woman (who is dressed in lavender shaded clothing- ever notice just how often Batiuk has a middle aged woman dressed in that color?) asks Les if she can record him signing her book for some damn reason. Les being Les screws it up, and when his screw up is pointed out, gets all pissy with the person who pointed it out.
It’s dumb. It’s banal. Why is she recording Les signing her book? Is she going to watch this video again? Post it to Facebook to have her friends watch it? “Oh look, it’s that guy who writes about his dead wife! I’m going to watch him sign his name again and AGAIN.”
And Les, naturally, gets all pissy-faced with her, as if she’s done something irritating to him. Hey man, it’s your screw up. Own it.
Anyway, I was thinking that this book signing can’t possibly last beyond this week, but I’ve underestimated Batiuk before. This guy can stretch a guy signing books out to four weeks easily. That’s a god damn story to him.
And today Batiuk goes back to the tired well of Les running into a former teacher who can’t believe that Les is a successful published author. It’s an odd thing, because while I haven’t read much Act 1, I was given the impression that while Les was hapless (usually due to others’ shortcomings), he wasn’t portrayed as an idiot. It’s just Batiuk’s standard “every high school kid’s an idiot who will never amount to anything” trope. It’s so powerful that it applies even to The Delicate Genius of Westview.
Although I can amuse myself my imagining that instead of the obvious meaning of the punchline, Rita can’t believe that Les wrote a sequel to a book that was about a woman dying of cancer. There can’t ever be a sequel less essential than this one.
Plus, “back in Ohio”? You’re in Ohio now, you damn ninny!