Tuesday, July 28, 2009
When I read the first panel of this comic, I thought I was doomed.
The fact is, I've had problems with landlords before. I've toured an apartment where the floor sloped at a thirty-degree angle, and all I could think about was how fast I could sign the lease. (FYI, someone beat me to it.) So when I read that first panel, I thought I had Randall Munroe in my head. I thought he was going to say something that would really resonate--and of course, it's hard to criticize someone who can pulp your cerebellum at the first sign of dissent.
Then Randall took a right turn onto Non Sequitur Plaza.
I would never criticize a comic for being too weird, wacky, or unrealistic. Of course a real person in this situation would never say what the main character of this comic says, but several good xkcd strips have worked just this way. There's no 'joke' per se, but the situation itself is enough to provoke a smile--the strip which is self-referenced in the title-text [alt-text! --carl] is an example. However, this type of comic, done poorly, sets itself up for a harder fall.
This comic seems to indicate a belief that growth means the sacrifice of that which is not grown-up. In other words, it isn't enough to gain new tastes as you age; you have to lose old ones, too. Playing with blocks is for kids; to grow up, you have to stop (never mind architects and engineers). Thinking about imaginary characters is for undeveloped minds (forget about novelists, filmmakers, and writers of webcomics).
What's really purile about this strip, in fact, isn't those few traits which are supposed to be childish--it's the whole frame of mind which is worried and eager to prove that it is very grown up. This is a topic which xkcd has handled
much better in the past, as Randall evidently knows. That makes the current crudeness doubly disappointing: the strip which is referenced in the title-text is basically this one, but better.
"I'm pretty sure I stopped growing up in my teens." Yes, that is correct Randall. You go through the first years of life as a child, all the while accepting growing responsibility. At last, at the age of 18 or so, (earlier in many cultures) you become a full adult. With full legal rights, such as *signing the lease on a building*. This is how it is supposed to work.
"I've been faking..." Faking what? Faking growth after you've finished growing? That's like taking the trend line of your height between six and sixteen, noticing that it goes up, and deciding to wear higher and higher-heeled shoes for the rest of your life.
"..for years." Specifically, in Randall's case, for the years 20-24. I hope he wasn't expecting to see the wisdom of old age develop sometime in there. At this rate, by the time next year rolls around, he'll be senile.
I was going to say something unkind, to the effect that we wouldn't notice, but really, we would.