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Wednesday: [w] Taken by surprise

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From For Better or For Worse.

Lynn Johnston nails it.

I nitpick comics, literature, films and television which incorporate any form of sexual assault. Telefilms, fine art, even black humour. To some extent, it's a distancing mechanism. While the vile practice can make for a dramatic moment, it's exceptionally difficult to convey without sliding into melodrama or exploitation. Many don't bother to try; some make a halfhearted stab, but aren't competent to follow through. After a fashion, the shell gets pretty thick. Rather than having one's night ruined by a series of unpleasant reminders, one can simply lean back, sneer, and declare, "Please. That's about as convincing as the plotholes that you could drive a truck through. What's their inspiration? Day of the Woman?"

In other words, "That's not what it's like."

Today? That's what it's like.

I spent a couple of minutes trying to find the flaws. "Liz must not have hit him very hard if he's still going without so much as a flinch. Wasn't her fist closed?" Since when have we seen Liz punch people before? "The prior stalking is a little oversimplified." But we know the constraints of the form, the way people in FBorFW communicate, and we so know what gaps to fill in. Putting aside a slight awkwardness in the rhythm, this is elegantly minimalistic -- we don't have to be told what else is going on, and we arguably shouldn't be. "The offscreen rescuer wouldn't have had the presence of mind to contribute the superheroesque comeback." Rubbish. It's an obvious retort, and it's cathartic.

No. Johnston gets it. She nails it. Assaults take various forms, of course, but there's a particular strain of jump and banter which she has down. Ignore the dialogue, if you need to; the body language conveys everything that it needs to. His arms.

That's exactly it.

Perhaps you might not want to read the strip today. I'm... I'm going outside for a while.

Posted by Wednesday Burns-White at August 11, 2005 10:34 AM

Comments

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 11, 2005 11:51 AM

Wow.

Comment from: Tangent posted at August 11, 2005 12:33 PM

At first (from the thumbnail) I thought it was Liz getting choked. Took me a moment to realize it was the bastard stalker.

Now the question is: is this her dad finally catching the SOB? Or is this the stalker (and Liz's) boss, catching him going after her. *evil chuckle*

Either way, good form, ol' chap!

Rob

Comment from: coldcut posted at August 11, 2005 1:03 PM

Sometimes it's best not to expose the actual act of evil in its full banality. Nothing quite drives that point home like the Enron energy tapes that got released a few months back:

http://www.thomasleavitt.org/enrontapes/index.php?cat=3

(not endorsing the blog, it just had the best transcripts I could find on a quick google.)

I don't read FBorW, but going back through the archives, the whole thing seems a little sudden. Maybe this works with a little more build up.

Comment from: scrubbo posted at August 11, 2005 1:29 PM

Obviously it's going to be Anthony saving the day.

It's stuff like this that makes me read FBOFW. Lynn has always been good at putting life into her comic. She's great at making you feel like you're seeing part of an actual life, not just a comic.

Comment from: Rothul posted at August 11, 2005 1:31 PM

I get the Cleveland Plain Dealer... In there, For Better or For Worse is right beside Funky Winkerbean... I can't help but compare the two...

I mean, in recent years, both strips have traded a good deal of "funny" for a good deal of "story"...

So why does FBorW work, when FW just... doesn't?

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 11, 2005 1:39 PM

I'm usually more of a fan of edgier, sharper, more political and yes, generally crueler comics, but I've always been a fan of For Better or For Worse. It's proof that gentle, slice-of-life humor strips don't have to suck... they're just a lot more difficult to do well. And Lynn Johnston does her strip very well.

I can't believe how depressed I got the day she killed off Farley, by the way...

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 11, 2005 2:03 PM

I've been mulling over this strip since this morning myself, though on a different vein.

I was thinking that Elizabeth should have kneed him in the groin - she can probably put in more force, and to a more sensitive area. Moreover, she probably wouldn't need saving in that case (or at least would have been less likely to need it).

However, as justified as it would have been, could such a comic have even run in newspapers? Never mind that said action is recommended for women trying to fend off someone in this situation: would that be considered "over the line"? Could a newspaper comic show a woman fight off a would-be rapist by attacking him in the crotch?

I'm not saying this comic is bad by any stretch. But I think it exposes some of the limits of the form, and casts a bad light on them.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 11, 2005 2:10 PM

At first (from the thumbnail) I thought it was Liz getting choked. Took me a moment to realize it was the bastard stalker.

I too. That is, I too thought it was a close-up of Liz, who had somehow pulled a reverse on the bastard and was the speaker in the last panel, somehow, despite still being in front of him. Even though the party behind the bastard has a darker shirt. And this was looking at the strip in situ on its site, not just the thumbnail. I didn't realize it was someone else offscreen nailing the bastard till I read the second half of Weds' post, three hours later (I started the post, got interrupted by work, and had to go take my history final and eat lunch). If an old, professional hand like Johnston can do something that's this unclear to more than one reader, I won't feel so bad the next time I'm afraid I've done it.

I was thinking that Elizabeth should have kneed him in the groin - she can probably put in more force, and to a more sensitive area. Moreover, she probably wouldn't need saving in that case (or at least would have been less likely to need it).

I liked it better when I thought it was Liz turning the tables on him.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 11, 2005 2:26 PM

I don't think it would have been as effective had Liz gone for the groin. That's the kind of thing which tends to occur to one if one's had it ingrained through prior training, I think. (Then again, I tend to keep up with FBorFW in fits and starts, I admit; does Liz have a model mugging class or something in her history?)

And, in that vein, that kind of presence of mind and precision is the kind of thing the reader *wants* to see a sympathetic character pull off. That's not why I found this strip effective.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 11, 2005 2:29 PM

On the other hand -- taking a different perspective -- it's not realistic to assume that every person who dismisses a potential threat suddenly has the wherewithal to deal with the threat when it arises. A few strips back her father urges her to contact the police, and she brushes it off with a "he's never done anything dangerous, he's just creepy" kind of response. She wasn't taking the threat seriously.

It's not necessarily as much of a threat, or close call, or lessons learned kind of experience if she can suddenly turn the tables on him. And unless you've specifically taken a self defense class or have a natural talent for fighting (neither of which really fits with Elizabeth's character over the years, not that I can remember) then the creep has a significant weight and strength advantage over her.

Anyway, I think it was set up this way so that Liz will take future steps to ensure she won't *have* to rely on a white knight, if she should ever be in such a situation again... an evolution into a more self-reliant character.

Or maybe tomorrow Lynn Johnston will prove me wrong, the creep will break free, and an unrestrained Elizabeth will rain down vengeance upon him...

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 11, 2005 2:31 PM

Previous post was in reference to Paul's post, not Wednesdays -- who managed to convey the same idea while using fewer words. Curse her economy! *shakes fist*

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 11, 2005 2:39 PM

It may have seemed more satisfying for Liz to turn the tables on her attacker, but it wouldn't have been realistic. It's not in Liz's nature to do that - she doesn't hurt people. She gives them the benefit of the doubt, and in at least one previous case has let people hurt her by doing so (Eric).

The attacker also has a good 3-4 inches and 50 lbs on Liz, she's fenced in behind the counter, and she very probably hasn't even considered any sort of self defense training. I don't know that kneeing him in the groin would even occur to her initially, and by the time it does, she's really lost her opening.

The knee to the groin is predictable, once you've actually started fighting with an attacker. It's fairly easily blocked, and it puts you temporarily one on foot, making it easier for an attacker to push you to the ground.

The rescuer isn't Lawrence (shirt is the wrong color and type). It could be Anthony, but I doubt it, he seems too thoroughly henpecked to visit an old girlfriend while his wife is at work. I'd put good odds on it being either her dad, or take a gamble on it being the pilot she met on the bus (his name escapes me).

Comment from: Ms Saint posted at August 11, 2005 2:46 PM

There's another problem that would have arisen if she had kneed him in the groin: comedy.

Man Getting Kneed In The Groinis really cliche, so far as comedy goes. The best example I can think of is the Simpsons episode where the winning movie in a contest, or something, is "Man Getting Hit In Groin with a Football."

It's not that getting groined is necessarily funny (or even regularly funny), it's just that we all expect that it's supposed to be funny.

With how serious this subject is and how -difficult- it is to discuss it tastefully, having a man get kneed in the groin would be near impossible to pull off. How could one convey the facial expressions without bringing up mental images of every poorly-made comedy in history?

This is all pretty tangential to the strip, but, oh well.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 11, 2005 2:53 PM

Nobody has actually answered my question, which I'll get back to in a moment.

First, it's never made clear whether or not Liz has had any training on how to deal with attackers. I'm just running on the assumption that Elizabeth knew based on how my mom instructed my sister on such things when the latter was 10 or so, as we're not talking about some arcane secret of the human body here. It doesn't take an aptitude for fighting or training therein to know this - if anything, said technique is invaluable because neither is necessary.

Moreover, the strip doesn't quite work for me because it relies a bit much on the damsel in distress trope. While she might not be a fighter by any stretch, I always felt from the comic that Elizabeth was the most capable of the three children at being on her own. Now, suddenly, she needs help from an outside source (I'm personally expecting her father, but see a few other likely saviors). That undermines the character a bit for me.

But that's actually a bit tangental. Put aside how the comic works one way or another. Could Johnston, writing primarily for newspapers, have done a comic where the heroine knees a guy in the crotch to avert a sexual assault? It seems to me that she couldn't, regardless of whether or not it makes more sense. As solid as the strip is overall, I think it illustrated why so many artists look at web publishing over the syndicates.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 11, 2005 3:08 PM

Nobody has actually answered my question [...] Could Johnston, writing primarily for newspapers, have done a comic where the heroine knees a guy in the crotch to avert a sexual assault? It seems to me that she couldn't, regardless of whether or not it makes more sense.

I don't really have an answer. I'd guess there are existing editorial policies covering this issue at the syndicate or individual newspaper level, and I don't know what they are. And though Ms Saint has a point, I think as long as you refrained from bugged out eyes the sequence wouldn't be that difficult to play for drama instead of comedy; which however could make it more likely to run afoul of editorial standards.

Moreover, the strip doesn't quite work for me because it relies a bit much on the damsel in distress trope.

That's why I liked it better when I thought Liz was getting herself out of it. But I bow to the arguments of those who know the character better than I do.

Comment from: Allen Shull posted at August 11, 2005 3:15 PM

Thanks. The past two weeks of FBoFW comic has had me on high alert

Comment from: Matt Blackwell posted at August 11, 2005 3:17 PM

Just a brief side note here:

I've read elsewhere on the net that the folks behind FBofW (or more accurately, the lawyers behind the syndicate behind the folks behind FBofW) are of the "issue a C&D letter first and ask questions later" variety when it comes to people reposting Johnston's work. You may want to link to the comic instead.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 11, 2005 3:32 PM

I don't have any specific opinion as to your question, 32, but I think the "damsel in distress" bit is intentional. Elizabeth *is* a very independent character, but she's not Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All of the characters in the strip tend to get into situations where they need help from other people -- story-wise, it's always more satisfying to see the protagonist pull himself or herself out of the jam, but that runs contrary to one of the biggest themes in her comic, a theme that is pretty much shouted out in the title of the comic ("For Better or For Worse" being part of the traditional marriage vow, and is used in the context of sharing ones life through good and bad times).

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at August 11, 2005 4:01 PM

Also, the characterization is typically good. Liz, unlike the stereotypical woman, is not very good at reading other adults, and never has been. This has put her in bad situations before, and it will again. Yes, it is certainly convenient for plots like this one, but it's also an established part of the character. She is ordinarily the most independent of the siblings, but she's also the most confident, and thus the most likely to get in over her head.

I can't say this surprises me, though. Johnston tends to push the limits of the medium she's working in - in this case, syndicated newspaper comics. I remember when she had Michael's friend Lawrence come out of the closet. To me, it was no big deal. Being born in the early 1980s, I was quite used to the idea of openly gay people. (Though I've also known a lot of people in my generation who weren't, and very probably still aren't) My parents and grandparents, on the other hand, found it scandalous. Completely aside from the subject matter, newspaper comics just didn't do that.

As for Funky Winkerbean... I think it could dim in comparison because it tries to deal with a cast that's simply too large for the style of strip. Sure, GB Trudeau manages a larger cast quite admirably, but Doonesbury hasn't really been a slice-of-life strip in the same sense for the better part of a decade. FW doesn't seem to be able to decide whether it wants to be slice of life or sociopolitical commentary.

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 11, 2005 4:23 PM

My mom is totally not liking this storyline. She's been griping ever since they killed Farley. Heck, she would have griped about the "Lawrence comes out" storyline had it run in our paper. She doesn't like it when things get dramatic, like when characters that used to be comic relief nearly die in a car crash.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 11, 2005 4:26 PM

Well, I know the strip is about the bonds of family, and how they connect everyone in the best and worst of times (and, in fact, they're at their best when situations are at their worst). However, I think that this could have been done without Liz being effectively helpless. In fact, it may have been more powerful if she had managed to at least hold off the attacker until she could get other help, and then have her deal with her family and friends about how helpless she felt. Even as her actions proved otherwise. That would have made the sequence fit better with both the character and the theme of the comic to me.

There's also something I've been noting of late in regards to comics. It seems like many of the more established comics are getting more serious in tone - FBoFW has been for a while, Doonesbury (especially with the current storyline about B.D.), Dilbert (where the jokes are less about stupidity and more about malevolence), Mallard Fillmore (and the Bludgeon of Conservativism - pat. pending), and more (Funky Winkerbean isn't carried around here, so I can't comment on that). Seems like many of the big names are going into huge Cerberus Syndrome scenarios, and I wonder if it has any effect on new comics trying to break in (recent additions in my paper include Stone Soup, Heart In The City, and Red And Rover). The Boondocks is the last new syndicated comic I remember where they were willing to take on the heady stuff, and that debuted in 1999 (or maybe '98).

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 11, 2005 4:27 PM

I think the punch was significantly more realistic than a knee-to-groin would have been, in this situation. We're not seeing Liz fight, effectively. We're seeing Liz panic. That's how we went from Liz facing/punching him to facing away/being groped and grappled by him. She was trying to get away without putting any thought into it.

And I'm just as happy someone else is going to save her, rather than she save herself. (I doubt even Lynn Johnston, as Leet as she is, could pull off having the attack succeed and get it past newspaper editorial boards.) As others have said, Liz has dismissed the threat when it became clear it was a threat. To have her turn the tables on her attacker now would make her right to dismiss the threat -- she in fact was able to handle it, with no police needed.

Johnston has shown us plenty of examples of strong women, women in leadership positions, and women taking charge of bad situations before. It's all right for Liz to actually be in danger, and it's okay for someone to rescue her.

That being said, I'm hoping it's not Anthony who saves her. That dynamic is being handled subtly enough, that we don't need him actively saving her from rape thrown into it. Lawrence would be fine with me.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 11, 2005 4:33 PM

I've read elsewhere on the net that the folks behind FBofW (or more accurately, the lawyers behind the syndicate behind the folks behind FBofW) are of the "issue a C&D letter first and ask questions later" variety when it comes to people reposting Johnston's work. You may want to link to the comic instead.

You'll notice, however, we didn't repost it. We thumbnailed it. It's substantially smaller and used explicitly for review and critique. It can't be used to compete with legitimate sales, because if someone blew the thumbnail back up to full size, it would distort it.

Between the significant size reduction, the credit, the link back to the original site, the clear review/critique nature of the essay and the lack of competitive nature, we're very, very solidly into fair use. A syndicate wouldn't waste the letterhead sending us a cease and desist, because we're clearly and demonstrably not in infringement.

(Yeah, I did a lot of research into this. I sort of had to.)

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at August 11, 2005 4:59 PM

My mom is totally not liking this storyline. She's been griping ever since they killed Farley. Heck, she would have griped about the "Lawrence comes out" storyline had it run in our paper. She doesn't like it when things get dramatic, like when characters that used to be comic relief nearly die in a car crash.

Don't get me started about the griping I heard about the decision with the dog.

On the other hand, I think I'm quite glad that no-one else in my (rather conservative) immediate family reads Doonesbury. I hate to imagine what their reaction would be to the recent B.D. storylines.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 11, 2005 4:59 PM

That being said, I'm hoping it's not Anthony who saves her. That dynamic is being handled subtly enough, that we don't need him actively saving her from rape thrown into it. Lawrence would be fine with me.

I think it's Dad, since he's already displayed a willingness to go after the guy. Though Dad's sort of getting on in years, come to think of it -- not sure how, ah, credible a rescue that would be...

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at August 11, 2005 5:15 PM

I think it's Dad, since he's already displayed a willingness to go after the guy. Though Dad's sort of getting on in years, come to think of it -- not sure how, ah, credible a rescue that would be...

I could see that, actually. Dad saves her, then she has to save Dad or something.

Comment from: kirabug posted at August 11, 2005 5:37 PM

However, I think that this could have been done without Liz being effectively helpless. In fact, it may have been more powerful if she had managed to at least hold off the attacker until she could get other help, and then have her deal with her family and friends about how helpless she felt.

But... that's the point.

Women are attacked every day. Almost every time it happens, we are helpless, we are panicked, we are damaged. That nightmare you have where someone's chasing you and you can't get away and every time you think you might've gotten away you didn't? That really happens.

I'm 5'2" and 170 lbs and badly out of shape and if Walter attacked me that way the only hope I'd have is the 1-hour self-defense course that my company sponsored two years ago. Thanks to it, I can tell you a few things Elizabeth did wrong - she turned her back to him, she didn't use an upward jabbing motion into his nose, she did all the same things I would've done without that training.

Here's what TV teaches us to do: knee the guy in the groin, run away with your back turned toward him, scream "Help me", which only scares other people away.

Here's what the course taught me (and my sixteen-year-old sister) to do Hand to the face, hard enough to make him let go of you, knee to the chest/groin/gut to bend him over, knee to the head until he drops and stays dropped. Lots of yelling for someone to call 911, no cursing, never let your eyes off of him.

(Oh, and if you look in panel 2, she *does* try to knee him in the groin. Attackers are *expecting* that. Whether Lynn Johnson would get published that way is totally immaterial.)

If this happened to me, am I ready? Hell no, but I'm more prepared than many of the women out there. Gentlemen - are the women in your life prepared if this happens to them? Get them in a self-defense course, even an hour-long one. It might save their lives.

More info: http://www.girlsfightback.com/html/advice.html -- worth a read. Pass it on.

I'm betting it's Lawrence because -- duh -- he's in the parking lot when all this happens. And he might have noticed some of the weirdness between those two already. And Dad might've said something to him.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 11, 2005 6:44 PM

The problem with it being Lawrence is that two strips back he's wearing a white t-shirt, and the arm in the last panel is sporting a greyish shirt, possibly a long sleeve rolled up over the elbow.

Comment from: xaandria posted at August 11, 2005 7:01 PM

Having BEEN attacked in this nature, I can say with confidence that logic goes right out the window. As someone else said, you try to GET AWAY--kicking, screaming, biting, throwing punches that, if you had a clear mind, you know wouldn't connect. Unless you've been trained to be able to overcome the horrible adrenaline rush that comes from someone actively trying to harm you, it's very difficult to keep a clear head, especially when the attacker is much bigger and stronger than you.

Are we women helpless when attacked? No; if we get the chance to make that adrenaline work FOR us, we can do some damage and get away (like I did). And the one thing I really did right was scratch the guy to all hell--they were able to get skin from my fingernails to identify the guy, who I was too panicked to be able to recognize.

Comment from: Capitan Holy Hippie posted at August 11, 2005 7:20 PM

I'm guessing that the mystery rescuer is Nick.

Comment from: quiller posted at August 11, 2005 7:47 PM

Personally, I'm happier that she is having some guy come and save her (I'm presuming it is a guy and not a buff woman). Why is this?

A while ago, I looked at the world and said to myself, there are a lot of predators in the world, and most of them are guys. Guys have the powerful muscles, the aggressiveness and the sexual motivation to be such. So what is the "good" guy to do, when his gender causes such trouble, and he will suffer from the suspicion caused by such activities. To my mind, the only response was that if I ever did get the chance, it would be my duty to be a hero.

Perhaps it is an antiquated notion, and it is not a given that an overweight computer geek can do much against a strong guy. Still, it is also funny how much of a difference weight can make in a fight (particularly when grappling) and even a minor distraction might help her get away.

In any case, this sort of thing can bring out so much fear and hatred towards men, I guess what I like about it, is that it looks like it is going to show the good guy with the bad guy. While there would be something satisfying if Liz could fight off her attacker, as a guy, the chance to be there to stop such an attack from happening is what every friend of a victim wishes most of all.

Oh, and I'm betting on her father, he was wearing a grey shirt in a previous comic and he has a reason to be keeping an eye out here. He may not be too strong anymore, but adrenaline and surprise may serve him just as well.

Comment from: Ian M posted at August 11, 2005 8:55 PM

I read the strip, then came here, knowing that a snark would be up. Yay 4 me.

I do think that what Lynn is doing, she's doing just fine. Sure, it was convince, but so was Lawrence leaving. Perhaps they where tipped off, called the cops and waited for him to harass her, only they didn't think it would go that far?

Comment from: larksilver posted at August 11, 2005 9:18 PM

Although Kirabug said it quite effectively up there, I felt I needed to add my own agreement.

I took years.. YEARS.. of Karate/Kenpo, with a Sensei who was seriously big on self-defense. Never did a class go by than we all went through the drills, particularly the women and older girls in the course. So one could say I'm far better trained at how to deal with an attacker than most.

I've been pounced twice in my life. The second time, 12 years ago, was when I was in the midst of those classes every week, and the reaction to rip his arm off my neck, flip him, and then pound the snot out of him was instinctive. Turns out, it was a friend of mine, foolin' around (stupid college kids), trying to surprise me and be funny. He didn't think it was so funny when he was flat on his back, me holding the arm he'd grabbed me with, and my outstretched fingers 2 inches from poking his eyes out before the refrain "STOP I DIDN'T MEAN ANYTHING IT'S JOE I WAS KIDDING" became clear and I pulled the move. Granted, *I* thought it was funny, once the adrenaline wore off, and once he assured me he would never "be funny" that way again. In his defense, he was a flamingly gay fella who loved physical humor and didn't have a mean spot on him, and it never occurred to him that I might take him for a serious attacker. But it was a dark parking lot, I was tired from a full day at school, and then work, and then a late performance, and wasn't all the way in my surroundings. Anyway.

The first time... well, if someone had NOT stepped in to save me, it would have been much worse than it was. As it was, I was scared as hell, and panicked. I reacted much like Liz does here, despite the fact that I thought I knew what to do. I had taken a 1-hour self-defense course at that time, too, but the reaction wasn't instinctive.

You know what I found WAS instinctive? "Be nice." "Don't hit." The first time I was pounced by a would-be attacker in my life (and this one really DID mean business), I found it hard to connect any punches, to really aggressively attack him, because girls aren't SUPPOSED to hit. I know, it's stupid.. but regardless, that's the way I was raised.

The "Damsel in distress" crap is REAL. Trite, maybe, overdone, certainly... but in real life, it's far more likely that the girl will get beat up, raped, mugged, whatever, than that she'll have the training (AND be able to overcome a lifetime of "don't hurt people") enough to be effective. Look at the statistics. As Eric said waaaaaay up there.. this is what real life looks like. This is how it happens... except that so often, there is no mysterious rescuer.

I know. I've been on both sides of that equation, and can say that had it not been for weekly sessions of self-defense, I might not have been able to flip my would-be-pouncer on his ass and be committed to ripping his eyes out. But Sensei did his job quite well... in fact, running through my head during that episode was "GET HIM DOWN. KEEP HIM DOWN. THEN GET AWAY."

Most girls don't get that. Ever. Even with a self-defense class, because a 1-hour course is not enough to overcome a lifetime of girly training. I'm no wilting willow or delicate flower. I was a girl who played football with the boys across the street, growing up. But even I didn't really want to believe that the first guy meant me HARM... until it was too late for me TO fight back. Kind of hard to fight back when you're pinned full-body by someone twice your size, and very determined.. no hands to fight with, for they're pinned beneath you, no legs to kick with.. /shudder.

I have to second what kirabug said here, too. Self-defense, if I do say so myself, should be a part of every girl's upbringing. Every. Single. One. And it should be more than a 1-hour course, or even a weekend. But.. I'm a bit biased, that way.

Comment from: T Campbell posted at August 11, 2005 9:48 PM

Mmm. Liz is convincing. The strip is convincing until the middle of panel 3, and then the dialogue just ruins it for me. I complain often that no one can really get off as many words, or as relaxed a sentence structure, as most superheroes get off while they're punching somebody, and that's what stalker-dude's got going on here. I know, it's supposed to make him look formidable. Instead, it makes him look like someone who can actually pause time.

And the macho punchline in panel 4 is such a strained attempt to conform to newspaper rules, it's just embarrassing. Especially from Lynn, who's one of the best.

And it's all so *unnecessary.* I mean, if you gotta go with this idea, change the first line to "HA! All right, I *like* things rough--" and then eliminate line 4 altogether, still leaving an unspoken punchline because he gets his wish, more effective for being purely visual.

Still not two panels for the ages, but acceptable enough to keep things moving instead of reminding me of an action movie on Encore...

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 11, 2005 10:28 PM

You'll hopefully excuse my observing that real-world would-be assailants don't have such good editors.

I mean, really. Their dialogue sucks. "HA!"? Unlikely to occur to them. They're just not that succinct. They babble.

But panel four, I'll grant you.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 11, 2005 10:31 PM

A couple of thoughts.

1. My brother's martial arts instructor is of the opinion that everyone should take self-defense training, not just women. He even goes as far as to suggest that everyone should include it into their exercise regiment.

2. I think I would feel better about this particular sexual assault morality plot is if the next day or the day after comic shows Elizabeth making sure charges are files against the creep. Too many sexual assaults/rapes end with no charges filed through a lot of guilt and undo blame by the victim on themselves.

3. Quiller, I understand how being a guy can pretty much curse you with these kinds of dangers. I was sexually assaulted when I was a child. My attacker was a cousin in the family, and she was sixteen. I've never told anyone partly because personal guilt and blame to myself. Besides, guys hurt women, not the other way around was the thinking at the time. Who'd believe a girl would rape a guy? I'm glad I went through private psychological counseling in college or else I would probably be a real mess today.

Personally, I thinks guys would be better off in being a creditable witness if such an event happens, or to be with the girl to make sure charges are filed rather than to jump in and save the girl. Heroes need to be smart too, not just brave.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 11, 2005 10:40 PM

As for the comic...

Just to keep it separate from the other points I really wanted to make.

Funky Winkerbean, I think, has done so many serious issue plots that when they try to go for straight-up comedy it seems to fall rather flat. I think this happened when it went from being static to a comic that allows its characters to age. When they did the drunk driving plot involving Funky's cousin and his girlfriend and having it end with the cousin so freaked out he essentially is no longer apart of the comic and his girlfriend to undergo an operation to amputate her right arm, I felt the comic would try to do too many serious issues and not enough comedy.

There's nothing wrong with situational comedy, as long as it is balanced, in my opinion. Funky lost its balance.

Comment from: T Campbell posted at August 12, 2005 12:04 AM

Weds, I always thought of "ha" as a third-grade retort, but we've actually got the same issue here-- the line doesn't seem babbly enough to me. The sentence structure sounds like he took two minutes to think it up while watching female wrestling the night before. And I guess that's POSSIBLE, but out of context, it doesn't really say "heat of the moment."

Which is a shame, because so many other details in this and preceding strips are right on target.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 12, 2005 1:16 AM

Attacking the groin is actually a pretty lousy tactic. It's a well-defended region, and it's not nearly as debilitating in a real fight as it is when it's unexpected.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 12, 2005 3:21 AM

Looking at it again, after reading all the comments, his line in the third panel is fine to me, but I totally think the last panel would be better if it was just the "Erk".

Comment from: unliz posted at August 12, 2005 3:30 AM

I stopped reading FBorFW several years ago, at the moment I'm waiting for it to wrap up so I can just buy a compilation and read straight through. But it's almost never disappointed when I was reading it.

I sort of agree with Quilla about this. One of the things that I've sort of had drilled into me by a lifetime of an angry mother and a lot of Lifetime TV was "Never trust men. Don't trust them. They're all evil. BEWARE!!" That, and you're completely helpless but I think that was more of the "angry mother" than the Lifetime TV. I don't know how I'd handle actually being attacked because I've never been attacked and that's one of those things you can't plan for or understand unless it's actually happened. I assume it will someday because something like 1 in 4 women will be assaulted in their lifetimes and that's not counting ones who don't report it or, probably, ones who are killed. I actually used to keep my fingernails (fake ones) really long because they were very good for attacking people with. You could literally rip off a piece of flesh if you're ready for it with a set of good nails. I'd personally aim for the throat or cheek. Something nice and fleshy and easy to grab. Probably not the best tactic, but anything to draw his attention away from attacking me is always a good thing. If given the option, I'd be inclined to try and rip his scrotum off for kicks but I doubt that'd happen.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 12, 2005 3:36 AM

Geez, Lifetime! Anyone else disturbed by the fact that if someone got off on seeing women being beaten, Lifetime would actually be the BEST source for it?

Comment from: unliz posted at August 12, 2005 3:46 AM

Yuji: Yes. Actually, I truly am. It sorta makes me sad though that it's true because by putting stuff on abuse and rape only on Lifetime (because no one else will touch it) the entire concept has become sort of coopted as a "womens issue" rather than society's issue which is what it is. So the only men who watch Lifetime are going to be perceived as weird and "not quite right." Therefore, by association any man who displays any interest in one of those "womens issues" is perverted and deranged. That pisses me off.

Comment from: Suzanne posted at August 12, 2005 5:18 AM

I was scared to read the comments on this one.

Everyone was really well behaved...and, well, not creepy.

I sort of half-way expected to be in tears or at the point of swearing off WebSnark all together based on comments.

Good job, everybody.

I think (most of) you guys get it.

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 12, 2005 7:57 AM

Damnit, it was Anthony.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 12, 2005 8:42 AM

I think this hasn't been resolved. At least, I hope this isn't the end. "Apologize" doesn't keep Howard away from Liz, after all -- he still works for Lawrence. And even if he stayed away from Liz, who's to say he won't attack some other girl. He certainly seems the type.

Johnston doesn't shy away from tragedy when it suits her purpose. I don't want something tragic to happen... I just hope the Howard plotline doesn't end with him running off and never being truly stopped.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 12, 2005 8:44 AM

Bah.

Nice fakeout in the first two panels, though -- that hair could just as easily have been John.

[This is where I go slightly more into the distancing mechanism, BTW -- the FBorFW site's monthly archive view is fantastic here. Scrolling up and down rapidly to match cowlicks was more effective for me than flipping between tabs for some reason.]

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at August 12, 2005 8:50 AM

It pretty much had to be Anthony, as far as the storyline is concerned. In my mind, there were two possible outcomes:

* Anthony is the rescuer, and this is the impetus for him figuring out that Elizabeth is better for him than ... was it Therése?

* John is the rescuer, and Howard kills him in the scuffle.

Since I don't think Lynn Johnston wants to end that particular character's arc yet...

(And, I agree, Wednesday - in fact, not only could the hair just as easily have been John's, but the poses - especially panel 3, with the anger showing in the hunched shoulders - are ones that I associate with John Patterson. So, yeah - nice fakeout.)

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 12, 2005 9:34 AM

I suppose you're right, Chris... I was just hoping it would be a fraternal can of whoop-ass. Of course, that's about as realistic as wanting Elizabeth to "go Buffy," so...

But now that it's been brought up... Anthony looks a LOT like a young John Patterson from the early days of the strip... just take away the mustache, and give him different glasses...

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 12, 2005 10:23 AM

See, I'm always bothered when people say "a person is helpless in this situation," regardless of the actual situation. Acting might be difficult, and maybe you won't be as effective as someone trained for the situation, but you can always do something. That's just my personal view, though.

As for the follow-up - I'm going to agree with Eric, the actual rescuer was probably the last thing actually needed. I would have been more comfortable if it had even been a stranger that never gave Liz their name. Given how Johnston has been less than subtle about how Liz and Anthony should be together, this was quite unnecessary.

Also, wanted to touch on something that I'm a bit surprised that nobody (including myself) brought up yet - Johnston freely admits that the Pattersons are based on her own family, and that Liz is based on her elder daughter (and in fact, pulls her name from her daughter's middle name). Just imagine scripting a story like that about your own daughter. Is she coping with something that actually happened? Is she using her comic to exorcize any fears she has about her daughter? Putting aside any consideration of the actual progression of the story and such, that's quite some discussion to mine.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 12, 2005 11:13 AM

See, I'm always bothered when people say "a person is helpless in this situation," regardless of the actual situation. Acting might be difficult, and maybe you won't be as effective as someone trained for the situation, but you can always do something. That's just my personal view, though.

Panic is a very real thing. Rationality goes out the window.

And sometimes, what you can do is survive. Because anything else you do will get you killed or maimed.

Sorry, this is a bit of a hot button for me -- there are times when something hideous happens. Sometimes, a guy with a knife takes your wallet and humiliates or injures you. Or a pack does. Or a gang.

Or sometimes, it's just a guy and a girl, and the girl is panicked and the guy is larger and stronger. And the idea that "there's always something you can do" so easily turns to "why didn't you do something?" and it's short step from there to "it's your own fault this happened."

And it's not. At all. And the implication it is can only hurt the victim badly.

As for your other point -- it's certainly within the realm of possibility that this is based on something real. Or based on Johnston's fears for her daughter. Or based on Johnston's fears on how women have to think and act in today's society just to keep themselves safe.

(There's another reason I'm hoping Anthony and Liz don't end up together, by the by. Given that Mike ended up marrying his preschool sweetheart, I really don't need to see Liz end up with a boy she went to high school and dated too. This is the twenty-first century, and while some folks end up going back to someone in their hometown, a lot more end up going out into the world.)

(Besides, I'm still pulling for Warren. Anthony had his chance. Plus, Warren flies that boss helicopter. Who needs Mary Worth for soap opera strips, anyway?)

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 12, 2005 11:29 AM

Eric said:

I think this hasn't been resolved. At least, I hope this isn't the end. [...] I just hope the Howard plotline doesn't end with him running off and never being truly stopped.

Do you watch Medium? There have been a couple of episodes in which the psychic heroine succeeds only in rescuing a predator's current victim or current prospective victim, without really being able to actually assemble a case for the prosecution. It's a little anti-climactic when it happens - Medium's an offbeat little show all around - but it resonates, because real police psychics aren't omniscient either, and because not all problems get solved all the way. I've always liked it when my heroes don't win all the time. Sometimes happily ever after isn't intended, or effective. Not that I have any insight into what Johnston's planning here, but there you are.

32_footsteps said:

Johnston freely admits that the Pattersons are based on her own family, and that Liz is based on her elder daughter (and in fact, pulls her name from her daughter's middle name). [...] Is she coping with something that actually happened?

I did wonder but I assumed that, if it were known, a bigger Johnston fan than I could and would comment.

Comment from: Phalanx posted at August 12, 2005 11:43 AM

Mmm. Liz is convincing. The strip is convincing until the middle of panel 3, and then the dialogue just ruins it for me. I complain often that no one can really get off as many words, or as relaxed a sentence structure, as most superheroes get off while they're punching somebody, and that's what stalker-dude's got going on here. I know, it's supposed to make him look formidable. Instead, it makes him look like someone who can actually pause time.

You know, as 'unrealistic' as some people might think the assailant talking to themselves is, I can vouch for the fact it does indeed happen in some cases.

I got followed on my way home about a year ago. There's nothing as freaky as hearing a guy talking to himself about what he thinks about your... physique on a lonely street at night to scare you.

Fortunately for me there was a late night Sainsburys open that I managed to duck into for help, but I just wanted to point out that although it seems like no one actually says these things in those situations, they do, actually.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 12, 2005 11:52 AM

Eric, I've nearly died twice in my life already, both times before I had even turned 18. Both times, in retrospect, I know I could have done something that would have better assured my survival. I know panic better than anyone ever should.

However, while you can point out that my point-of-view can lead to people blaming themselves, I can point out that the idea that you can't do anything in these situations can lead to people surrendering to the vicissitudes of fate. While blaming yourself for situations you don't have control over isn't healthy, neither is conceding to them.

As for my other point, yes, I already pointed out the potential sources of this storyline. That still leaves the question, though, of the artist herself. I'm not just content to look at the genesis of this story, but what it means for Johnston to write it.

Personally, I'm suspecting that this is Johnston's fear. She generally draws her comics to take place about 2-4 years behind real life, which would mean that her youngest daughter is either just about to leave or very recently left. I think Johnston is using her work to let out her anxieties about no longer being able to shield her children in any way from the dangers in the world.

Still, it has to be a bit traumatic on her, depicting her child nearly being raped. I imagine she had more than a few sleepless nights over the drafting table, working out whether or not to even do this story.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 12, 2005 11:57 AM

Seems we should have expected this: there's some foreshadowing in Liz's monthly letter on the FBorFW site. (Come September, this should be the permalink.)

Liz has no defense training. It's official.

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 12, 2005 1:31 PM

Well, I'm assuming everyone's read the conclusion by now.

We should have been expecting who her rescuer was. It feels so... set up.

I would have much preferred if it was her Dad.

le sigh.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 12, 2005 2:14 PM

Well actually, wouldn't Saturday's be the conclusion? Maybe the guy comes back in with a shotgun and kills both of them. Now THAT would be unexpected!

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 12, 2005 2:31 PM

32 - April isn't actually based on one of her children, so she can't be about to leave home IRL :-)

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 12, 2005 2:35 PM

Okay, I obviously haven't been tracking FBorFW all that well since around college (when I read the 10 year retrospective, which was part biography/part pulling back the curtain). Is April just a pastiche of children, or is she based on a different relative?

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 12, 2005 3:39 PM

Well according to this page she wanted a third child in 1991 but couldn't have one, so she made one up for the comic.

Comment from: jrleek posted at August 12, 2005 5:02 PM

Personally, I don't like the Liz-Anthony connection just because, Anthony is married, WITH A CHILD. Liz may very well be a "better match" but I'd say it's too late. Splitting up families is just a bad trend. Unless, of course, Anthony's wife get caught abusing the child or something. A story arc I guess I really wouldn't put past Lynn Johnston....

Comment from: kirabug posted at August 12, 2005 5:27 PM

I'm absolutely furious that Liz/Anthony didn't tie that bastard to a chair and call the police.

Someone mentioned Lifetime earlier. In my house, it's referred to as "The Lifetime Channel: Because being a woman isn't scary enough" and it's locked out on all the TVs.

Oh, and I just found out that my company's offering classes in both Tang Soo Do and self-defense through the company fitness center... guess what I'll be doing sometime after Labor Day.

Kudos to Lynne Johnson for getting this many people talking about something that needs talking about.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at August 12, 2005 7:34 PM

jrleek, let me ask you a question.

Suppose that you have Universe 1, wherein Anthony and (Therése?) stay together For The Child, because now that they're married and have a child, It's Too Late to do anything except muddle through their differences. Therése is still bitchy, snide, and dismissive of both Anthony and the child. Anthony is tired of it, but he can't leave because It's Too Late. So he grows distant, and irritable, and doesn't want to deal with the child because she reminds him of Therése as she is now, rather than the girl he fell in love with and married.

Now suppose that you have Universe 2, where the It's Too Late paradigm never took hold, and even though they have a child, Anthony is realizing that he and Therése are just mutually incompatible. He leaves, with a mutually-amenable custody agreement, and goes to where he's genuinely happy (a place that includes the child, when she's around), and leaves Therése to figure out where she can be genuinely happy.

Which is the better - happier, healthier situation?

I'm going to go with #2, for what it's worth.

Comment from: Pyrthas posted at August 12, 2005 10:22 PM

I was 3 when my parents got divorced. They still get along fine, and I get along with all four parents I ended up with. Did I get lucky? Yeah, probably. Obviously, not all divorces end in such a situation. Still, I cringe whenever I think about what would have happened if they had they stayed together.

This, of course, doesn't mean jack for the situation at hand, which involves different people. My point is simply that staying together for the sake of the kid is not always the right choice. (In my opinion, it's often a bad idea, but that's a different issue.)

Comment from: William_G posted at August 13, 2005 11:52 AM

This just makes me sad to know that Johnston is planning on retiring relatively soon.

No one is in her league. No one.

Comment from: jrleek posted at August 13, 2005 6:55 PM

Chris Anthony:

I'm sure you realize that's a false dichodomy? There are many other options in these cases, not the least of which is marriage counseling. Divorce should be a last resort, it is not a pancea of any kind. I have never seen a case where both people are sane, and want the marriage to succeed, and yet cannot make the marriage work. It's far more common for people to fall into the kind of thinking that produced your false dichodomy. A pox on anyone who thinks marriage is supposed to be easy.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at August 13, 2005 7:20 PM

jrleek:

Of course it's a false dichotomy. I'm illustrating two points on a spectrum. I still prefer the second illustration - its segment of the spectrum, if you prefer.

And I have been in a relationship - not a marriage, but as close as one gets without actually going before a judge - where both people were sane, and wanted the relationship to succeed, and yet couldn't make it work. Some people are mutually incompatible in ways that aren't obvious pre-marriage. "Making it work" despite the incompatibility can sometimes be vastly more damaging to all parties concerned than deciding that the incompatibilities are just too great to overcome.

If it makes you happy to look down your nose at me personally for not "making it work", because the two people closest to the situation and best capable of making the necessary decisions said that staying together was more damaging not only to both of us but to our child, that's your prerogative, of course. But do please keep in mind that some of us aren't speaking hypothetically in these discussions.

Comment from: IvoryTiger posted at August 13, 2005 7:56 PM

I'm liking this story line so far, Lynn's never been one to disappoint with these type situations as others have said.

Having said that, and this is probably the product of too many soap opera's when I was younger, I half expect the next comic to be Therese catching them hugging, getting furious with Anthony and storming outside where Howard attacks her to get back at Anthony.

Meh, it would be too trite...

Comment from: jrleek posted at August 13, 2005 8:48 PM

Chris Anthony:

I highly doubt that ANYONE in the United States can speak completely hypothetically in relation to divorce. Everyone has some direct experiance with it. However, generally people try to maintain a hypothesized facade during these kinds of discussions as a social tool, for this exact reason. Anything I say now is a direct insult to you, which is not my intention. There is no way for me to comment on your situation, because I know nothing about it. I would be very interested in a real unreconcilable difference, but this is hardly the place to discuss such things, and I doubt that you want to. So, I suppose this discussion is closed. Which, may have deen your intention.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 19, 2005 4:29 PM

Well, in the strip for the 19th Liz does announce that Anthony's marriage is dying or dead and she's going to file charges against Howard.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at August 21, 2005 4:25 PM

Coming very late to the party...

I just want to say thank you, Wednesday, for snarking this and treating it the way you did, and I also really want to thank the posters who made the "without training, and with your socialization intact, you can easily end up helpless" argument. And I actually had a physical shudder go through me while reading "Kind of hard to fight back when you're pinned full-body by someone twice your size, and very determined.. no hands to fight with, for they're pinned beneath you, no legs to kick with.." without having seen the shudder at the end of it.

And I want to say to miyaa, if he happens to see this: I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to you, I'm very very glad you've been able to get help and deal with it and I'm incredibly proud to be part of a community where you would feel comfortable sharing something like that. I can't help it--I love that this place can go all sincere and deep and (tm)Important sometimes, when it really is important, and nobody minds the seriousness or minds the critical discussion still going on during it.

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