Friday, May 22, 2009

Comic 586: Culture War

Mission to sucking
Ugh this is going to be a short post. This comic is dumb, the end. It's trying, I guess, to go for the hilarious "person in a situation where they are not usually" type humor, and it fails. "They must make more money because they have bigger instruments, also that means they are better" is not even close to a good joke - it's almost pathetic in how far away it is from joke success. Also, the last panel's words are waaaay to packed in there - the girl's second line functions as the punchline, or what should be a punchline, and that should get its own panel. That also adds a bit of a pause before you read the punchline which is usually a good thing.

Also that second panel, with her all scrunched up by the door, is creeping me out too. You see Randy, when you draw one pair of stick figures having sex, suddenly they all look like they are doing it! Draw some damn clothes. And bodies for them.

On a more meta note, I'm finding that these posts are more and more just repeating what other people are saying - simply because so many people are now realizing these comics are so bad. I'm still going to keep blogging, but I'm getting the sense that my posts (this isn't true for your comments) are not as needed anymore - and that's in many ways a good thing.


  1. I still have a link to XKCD at the bottom of my website because the old comics used to kick ass, but lately it's gone downhill. It's like Randall ran out of ideas so he just puts whatever the hell he wants on the front page and most of his fans are too enamored with how XKCD used to be to notice. Seriously. The Race? What the fuck, Munroe?

  2. IWontGetOvertheDamMay 22, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    Yeah, not too big a fan of this one.

    "Also that second panel, with her all scrunched up by the door, is creeping me out too. You see Randy, when you draw one pair of stick figures having sex, suddenly they all look like they are doing it! Draw some damn clothes. And bodies for them."

    Gotta say, you're totally wrong here. If Randall gave them clothes, it wouldn't look right at all.

  3. Or he could just learn to draw. I think that's one of the biggest problems with xkcd now - Randall's trying to make a shift towards visual humor, and that doesn't work with stick figures.

    Take the first two panels here. If a good artist had drawn them, they would have been funny. But Randall's art doesn't have enough personality to make it work.

  4. Speak for yourself; my comments sure as heck aren't needed. You lot should be grateful I haven't started boring for Britain about the Mercury Prize yet.

  5. I'm pretty sure a techno fan would not think there's any correlation between instrument size and income, considering that most techno is created on very tiny instruments (samplers, keyboards, etc.).

    I mean what the fuck is that punchline about? It's just retarded.

  6. There really doesn't seem to be any humour at all in this comic. It left me scratching my head. What the hell? And, as far as I can see, there was no intention at "seriousness" here at all. "Techno vs. classical" does look like a very stupid topic for a 4 panel comic.

    By the way, "OMG, stick figures without clothes!!!" is a pretty stupid criticism. The sex comic is already long gone; grow out of it already.

  7. By the way, "OMG, stick figures without clothes!!!" is a pretty stupid criticism. The sex comic is already long gone; grow out of it already.If by "long gone" you mean "a week old" then what the hell is wrong with you, that's not what "long gone" means at all. The latest sex comic was 584--a scant two updates prior to this entry's. And, immediately before THAT sex comic, there was ANOTHER one, 583. Two comics before THAT was Randall fantasizing about naked Nathan Fillion.

    So, out of the last seven comics, three have been about sex or fantasies about naked people.

    My point is that "Randall has sex in his comics kind of a lot and it's getting awkward and it's never particularly funny or significant or anything, just weird to see poorly-rendered intercourse by someone who, for no apparent reason, is keeping to stick figures, and now it's on the brain of XKCD readers," is really not that much of a stupid thing to say.

    POSSIBLE POSITIVE NOTE: At least the blood spatter SORT OF looks like the graph of the Mandelbrot set, so the alt text isn't completely retarded for once? Wait, no, I'm falling into the classic trap of "Hey, a math reference I recognize!"

    I wonder why the crime scene is cordoned off with the velvet ropes you see more at theaters and swanky clubs, and not the classic yellow-and-black tape. Could it be that Randall is forcing himself to draw increasingly visually complex scenes while sticking to a deliberately (and, as far as I can tell, at this point arbitrarily) sparse style, and the conflict is resulting in shit?

  8. Look out, time for more Weird People In Daily Circumstances!

  9. This is the first one I;ve liked in a long-ass while

  10. "They've all got bigger instruments - I bet they make more money"

    I must confess, I don't entirely understand. Is she so miffed at the mysteries of orchestral music that she grades instruments' respective worth by their size? Apparently fucking so.

    Or is the joke that they're both bored? Because that, of course, is /hilarious/.

  11. It occurs to me that the chief impetus for creating this particular comic must have been the opportunity to reverse the expected gender roles.

  12. *to the tune of the Westminster chimes*

    Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb...
    Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb...

  13. Cuddlefish PrimeMay 22, 2009 at 11:01 PM


    On the contrary, it seems to me Randall will take ANY excuse to feature non-traditional gender roles AT ALL TIMES, however awkward or anvilicious* it might be. Yes Randall, we all acknowledge that women can be uber-smart scientists and sarcastic programmers; you are not, by any means, blowing our minds by constantly reminding us.

    *My name is Cuddlefish, and I am a TV Tropes addict. :|

  14. Clearly he kindof is, or you wouldn't keep noticing it. The point at which the gender role has been deconstructed is the point at which it stops being something you even deign to comment on.

  15. Cuddlefish PrimeMay 22, 2009 at 11:49 PM

    >>Clearly he kindof is

    Sorry, no. The reason we keep commenting on it is that it seems like Randall is constantly and ungracefully trying to shoehorn in some kind of girl-power message where it's not needed, and that's annoying. It has nothing to do with the reader's views on gender roles, and everything to do with Randall's ham-fisted preaching.

    It's like... I think Jehova's Witnesses are annoying, but it's NOT because I'm particularly shocked by their message. You know?

  16. Another instance of Randall's ineptness? The "larger" instruments punchline was sucktastic, but the one in the alt-text was actually marginally better! If he could have figured out a way to use that concept instead, this comic's suckiness would have been reduced at least somewhat.

    Randall had better material and he STILL shoehorned the crap in there.

  17. I was unaware that there was a sex stereotype in the United States of women being more into classical music.

    This information may come in useful. I'm not sure when, but it may.

  18. Hm, I didn't like this comic too much. While I like most of the comics you maim with pathetic explanations that seem to miss the point completely, this one barely gave me a chuckle.

  19. The only people who think women are markedly more into classical music are people who don't know many women.

  20. Yeah, but it's a stereotype in the US that women are more 'cultured' than men. Of course, there are other stereotypes that are the exact opposite.

  21. That's because stereotypes are largely fiction. I don't mind jokes that play on them, although some people make the mistake of thinking that the stereotype they are personally familiar with is widely held by the entire world.

  22. Everyone should be familiar with "Stereotypes" by Blur; it's a great song. If that had been on "Parklife", it might have won the Mercury Prize after all.


  23. I actually liked this one. I didn't think it was laugh out loud, but I find webcomics (and regular comics) usually aren't. And come on, Philip. Way to play up the stereotypes.
    (tv tropes ftw!)

  24. Haha this girl is ignorant to classical music!
    I'm really wondering just where the hell he was going with this. When you make such a long elaborate setup you would at least expect there to be some kind of circumstancial pun or something, in this one there is just nothing.

    The only thing resembling an actual punchline is in the alt-text:
    "I mean with a little remixing, some of this could be kinda good!"

    Not funny no, but at least it is an attempt.

    I don't see why it's a problem that the ignorant person is a girl, and I'm pretty sure someone would have made the same complaint if the roles were switched around.

    First time poster here, long time reader. This blog rules! =) (so does TV tropes)

  25. @Asco
    t's notable because Randall always makes sure his comics are gender neutral. Always girls and boys.

    Though I think comics like this are gender neutral because they're presumably based on some real life conversation between Randall and Megan. Too bad he can't actually take that and add some sort of joke.

  26. Igloo: Huh? How was I playing up stereotypes? I was just pointing out that this comic subverts them, and criticizing Randall for having nothing else interesting to show us (and besides, he's done the "geek-girl power!" thing so many times before)

    Reverse the genders in this comic, and it's easy to imagine it being a crappy sitcom episode where the sophisticated wife tries to culture her boorish husband.

    Think of Family Guy, the Simpsons, etc...

  27. Re: The second panel

    I looked hard. I /knew/ it wasn't sex, but it sure looked like it. And when I looked and looked, I had to look extra hard. For a moment I thought that Randall had just been lazy because I couldn't tell where the girl's legs were and I thought they were just missing.

    But then I realized they were scrunched up mixing with her arms to push against the door...

    Carl, your point about stick people is valid. It's not that stick people don't make a viable medium for a comic, but as you said, they are so poor when you're doing to do intricate action because lines are so hard to make out when they're all together like that.

  28. I don't think I'd be telling a woman with enormous claws (see panel 1) much of anything, let alone that she should change her musical preferences.

  29. Cuddlefish PrimeMay 24, 2009 at 3:34 PM

    Uh, I'm pretty sure that's just the fabric of the carpet she's hanging on to.

  30. That was the joke, Cuddlefish'.

    (Not much cop, but hey, they're anonymous, what do you expect?)

  31. Oh, Ann Apolis, why are you so intelligent? If only I (who am Cuddlefish Prime, obviously, as it says above this posting) was as intelligent as you are. If that was possible - I, Cuddlefish Prime, am only human, after all!

  32. Cuddlefish PrimeMay 24, 2009 at 6:45 PM

    Well, golly.

  33. "Golly." It's almost as if you read the latest XKCD. Which is yet another "OH HAHAHAHA LOOK IT'S A NERD PUT IN A REAL WORLD SITUATION" comic. Pretty please look at it everyone, Randall worked ever so hard randomly looking up a profession that a fucktard, who can somehow do maths, would find challenging.

    Next comic: Mathematician tries to be an artist, he's a great fan of Escher but what he makes doesn't come out anything like it. That's not the plot of the next comic I WAS TALKING ABOUT XKCD ITSELF.

  34. I would just like to comment that while I like the latest comic, Pep Rally, the punctation in the last panel annoys me to no end. "Why are we doing this, rally, again?" I don't understand why rally is enclosed in commas. Of course, I'm sure you'll find more to criticize but I felt like if I posted this criticism it would balance my other posts a little.

  35. The Pep Rally one wasn't too bad (that is, it didn't fill me with blindness-inducing rage) until I read the alt text, that is.

  36. I didn't HATE Pep Rally, I just... didn't get it. It passed me by. I never really go to pep rallies, because I'm completely uninterested in my school's sports. I'm surprised Randall isn't like that, too.

  37. Pep Rally reeks of Randall being all "man I don't get sports and why people enjoy them vicariously AND YOU SHOULD FEEL TERRIBLE FOR IT."

  38. What's a pep rally?

  39. What's a pep rally?

    ^^probably what Randall was thinking the day he penned the comic

  40. No, seriously. What's a pep rally?

  41. KFJ -

    Kan't Find the Joke

  42. >Sorry, no. The reason we keep commenting on it is that it seems like Randall is constantly and ungracefully trying to shoehorn in some girl-power message where it's not needed<

    By doing....what, exactly? There's nothing that comic that says "HEY LOOK A FEMALE CHARACTER IN A WEIRD PLACE". So what's drawing your attention to it? Is it just the act of featuring female characters in places and roles you wouldn't expect them?

    That expectation is a product of gender roles. If you (or society in general) were over gender roles, you wouldn't *notice* it. You're noticing it. In fact, it sticks out to you as deliberate and annoying. That says that the role still exists, and that you still think in terms of it.

    Which means that sort of comment-free, focus-free reversal is entirely needed, and you're completely wrong.

  43. nothing *in* that comic. Stupid typos.

  44. Perhaps it is because stick figures, as a basic drawing, are basically genderless. So a simple comic like this one (or any comic that doesn't require specific genders) could just have to stick figures and leave the gender issue out - but Randy goes to the effort of making one character clearly female for no reason other than having a balanced comic.

  45. Do you honestly see the basic drawing as genderless?

    By the convention of the comic, I tend to see them as male. I'll wager most other people do too.

    Which is problematic in its own right, I'll admit, but there's not much to be done for it.

  46. I think that if he drew comics like this one with two basic stick figures, no one would say "why is he only drawing men? that is so sexist and unrealistic"

  47. Don't fall for his trap! He's playing the 'it is sexist unless there is an equal number of females as males' card, which is patently false. Or something very similar and equally false.

    The future of sexual dynamics does not lie in very consciously choosing people for comics, events, etc. because they are female. That's pretty much the least helpful thing you can do. Nor does it lie in the direction of "you would never notice it if it wasn't for gender roles."

    In conclusion, this latest cuddlefish is an idiot.

  48. Rob: It's so cute how y'all invented a word for people who don't agree with you all the time. Marvelously second grade.

    Anyway, whatever you think is the "future of sexual dynamics", we're not there yet. Maybe in some far off future we'll be so nonsexist and utopian and enlightened that we'll just *naturally* have an equal balance of men and women because men aren't "default", women are half the fucking population, and their presence should be a non-issue, completely unremarkable.

    But that's not us yet. So maybe this was deliberate, I honestly have no idea. But if it was, it's a good kind of deliberate, because the only way we're ever going to *get* to that level of unremarkability is by including women in roles that aren't traditionally "feminine" until that response (the one you are having) goes away.

    Unless you thought it was magically going to happen one day? And until that sudden and miraculous cosmic shift to gender equality, we should only write stories about doodly doods doing dood things (and chick stories about babies and kitchens for the chicks, but who cares about them) so as not to offend your delicate sensibilities (which aren't sexist at all, we promise)?

    Carl: You might be right. If no comic in the entire run had mentioned gender or had characters that were identifiable as either gender, it's *possible* that no one would've ever assigned a gender to any of them.

    I personally doubt it severely, but it's possible.

    But regardless of whether you think that's true, it doesn't really matter because it's already been done. Numerous times. Ship has sailed.

  49. If you weren't a dumbass you would understand what Cuddlefish means. Here's a hint: it doesn't mean what you think it means.

    You are, like most idiots, looking at it the wrong way. You aren't going to hand-wave it away. You don't change society by sitting around going 'I need to make sure half the people in this X are girls.' Now, you, being an idiot, are not likely to comprehend the basic mechanics necessary for social change--but here is a fun fact for you to chew on in the meanwhile: the Token Black Man in 80's-90's media? Is not a helpful archetype. You can always tell. No matter how many times you repeat a contrived thing, it doesn't become any less contrived--usually it just gets increasingly annoying.

    As anyone who knows how to create a good story will tell you, details matter. You do not simply create a character by randomly assigning traits such as gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.--these things inform how that character acts and is perceived. Now, it is entirely your prerogative if you want to say that this is a problem--it's a free country, you are free to be completely wrong. I just hope you're aware that your self-righteous rage towards these horrible injustices are really doing more harm than good for the cause you are pretending to advocate.

    (I think my favorite part about talking with White Knight cuddlefish such as yourself is that you are always calling me a misogynist, because I happen to think that you are an idiot fuck who is doing damage to a social movement I care about.)

    Anyway yeah, die in a fire.

  50. Hahah, okay, let's pretend that tokenism is problematic for the reason you say it's problematic (I agree that it *is*, but I think you're way off base as to *why*).

    And I'll even sincerely agree that taking a character who behaves and has the exact life experiences of a man and turning it female is extremely bad writing. Any time you assign a characteristic to a character without thinking about how it informs their personality and choices is going to be bad writing (though I flagrantly disagree with the idea that this should block minority characters from roles where you don't expect to see them, or from exhibiting nonstereotypical personality traits. Which is what you seem to imply.)

    So let's grant all that.

    Can you point to where in this comic....or *any* xkcd comic....there's enough depth of character to say that this character (or any other female character) doesn't behave believably female? She's a one-off character that appears for three panels. Unless you want to say that no girl despises symphony or likes techno, you really can't object to this on the basis that this characterization isn't informed enough by its femaleness. Because it doesn't run long enough to be informed by *anything*. It's not a deep comic.

    When the characters are this shallow, you really *do* get to assign gender, race, sexual orientation etcetera completely arbitrarily because they're all just window dressing. They're not important to the joke. Assuming a number of characters whose genders are *completely* unimportant to the setting and execution of the joke, it would seem pretty sexist to always default to male.

    Even if a bunch of self-important folks elsewhere on the internet want to make a fuss about every time you *don't*.

    Anyway, just to maintain the tone of the conversation, pretend I also spent some time calling you names.

  51. Man you know I can't just pretend you are calling me names. I mean, I can imagine some insults but it's the ones that really happen that are the best! Like this one time I got called a "misogynist cunt." I would never have come up with that on my own! I didn't think those two words would ever go together under any circumstances--imagine my surprise! It was such a beautiful incongruous moment of furious White Knightery. I will cherish it for years and years. Tell my grandkids about it. You are depriving me of potentially endless laughs here, sir, and that I do not forgive.

    The reason I generally find Randy's constant use of females a little annoying is that it's pretty much invariably male/female. Male/male is uncommon, but does happen, and female/female is one I can't really think of any examples of. Even ignoring the tone and creepy romantic subtext it usually has: it seems to be the default assumption in Munroe-world that, unless either Mr. Hat or Mr. Beret is involved, whenever two people are gathered, one of them is female and the other is male. If you add a third person, this person is usually male, but you have to have the token female.

    And while the characters aren't generally deep enough to behave unrealistically, it still informs the audience's expectations and makes it read differently. Gender remixing is fun and enlightening.

    (Incidentally, 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' by Poe, can be read with the narrator as female. It is interesting.)