Oh, Davey. Stop watching that rubbish.

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We're both sick. I came down with a cousin of Eric's bug a couple of days after he was struck down, although a lesser one, and have wanted to do very little other than sleep and take drugs.

(Nyquil and Nurofen Plus. You people. With your insinuations that you haven't even made yet.)

This is the kind of mood which lands me in orgies of TBN-watching. See, we don't have cable anymore, and terrestrial analogue television is seven kinds of dire. I can't seem to justify the cost of a freeview box or other one-time decoder mechanism just to have access to The Daily Show reruns one day out of sync -- if it's good, everyone will tell me via LiveJournal, fourteen and a half times, each, and I'll go find the clip on the Comedy Central site. One wonders why we pay for a TV license if we're not going to have cable, really.

Anyhow. TBN -- Trinity Broadcasting Network, an American-based Christian channel which broadcasts everywhere these days, streams their content in Windows Media and RealVideo formats. For free. (By way of comparison, if I'd wanted to watch the UK's GOD Channel on cable, I'd have had to pay an extra fiver a month. Which, as I recall, is about the same as one would pay to get one of the porn channels.) Some would argue that you get what you pay for, but this stuff is like trashy comfort crack to me. I'm happy to curl up with my hot water bottle, orange juice, and eMac to watch this while recuperating.


I get asked, every so often, what appeal I find in trashy Christian media. (No one inquires about my amusement at trashy Pagan media, but there's not quite so much of that.) I'm not a Christian in any recognizable sense of the word. Even if I was one, I wouldn't find myself represented in its television shows, or in most of its books or music. I only barely found myself represented in the various fringes or countercultures there when I did qualify, and even then, the conditions were so strong as to nullify any identification.

When I snark Chick tracts, which only really represent the extremes of one stripe, I get the same question again and again: how can you talk about this stuff? I got similar reactions from friends and acquaintances when I was reading through the core Left Behind series, then comparing it against Salem Kirban's 666/1000 duology. This is dreadful. You don't agree with it. It's fueled by hatred, anger, and disdain for others. It's not even well-crafted. You bitch about it. Why give it your time? Why legitimize it by doing so?

Well, I'd give even odds that most of the people who ask me this sort of question have their own comfort trash media -- sitcoms, reality shows, soap operas, tabloid news, blockbuster explosion movies, whatever. I bet they keep with them for the trainwreck appeal, even if they find some aspect or another reprehensible. Maybe the female characters are sexist twaddle; maybe no technical research has been carried out; maybe it makes a mockery of a given profession or culture. Most of them probably bitch about the downturns of their favourite shows, too. If they don't have a television show they feel this way about, perhaps it's a comic series. They couldn't keep from reading Peach Girl or Happy Mania; they're totally buying Infinite Crisis; their Sluggy bookmark remains stubbornly inert. Someday, they'll find the Best Fetish-or-Orientation-Specific Literary Erotic Collection $ANNUM anthology or My Life in Ponderous Alt.Comix Format tome which isn't full of dismal, pretentious twaddle, really, they will, but for now it's all so bizarrely compelling...

Everyone's got something that they keep on staring at, even though it's dire. Everyone's got a trainwreck. Trainwrecks don't have legitimacy; they just exist. The more you rubberneck at them, the less horror they contain.

There are other reasons. I'll get into those some other time, perhaps, if anyone cares. Maybe. Right now, the trainwreck is the salient factor.


On Saturdays, TBN runs children's programming. Most of it is utterly forgettable. Find here a template for innumerable low-budget programs: the characters are ensconsed in a rural, possibly Old Western, village. The community centres consist of a general store, a diner, and possibly some sort of hardware-related shop. There is a barn. For no apparent reason, many of your fellow villagers -- human and animal alike -- are puppets; if your village had been advanced enough to pull in any sort of television signal, you would realize that they had been modeled after early episodes of Sesame Street, but were not quite so convincing. The puppets all talk, regardless of species, but you don't think much of it. Most of them make inane, Scripture-related puns, laughing maniacally all the while.

There are actual humans in your midst, most of them curiously bloated adults, and almost all of them male. For no apparent reason, they have not mastered -- or ever heard -- very basic words, like "forgiveness" or "wisdom" or "respect", so you have to spend a considerable amount of time explaining these tenets of faith to them. Curiously, they all fail to know the same concepts at once; given that you're all of the same religion, you all presumably obtained the same education, and you happen to know this stuff, this makes no sense. You think nothing of it.

Sometimes, you all sing songs together. On cue. You blame the puppets.

(If you are considering making this show: please don't. No one will remember what you did, you won't win any significant number of converts, and you'll constantly get referred to as Gospel Bill. Trust me on this. Even I barely remember Circle Square, and I got up early to watch it last week.)

In recent years, this sort of show has tended to involve goofy CGI animals and a lot more dancing around. Less sittin' around, more Romper Room. Evangelism to giant alien bugs and their robots. Crayons. It doesn't help. It's a mercy they also show reruns of Davey and Goliath, really.

There's also Frank Peretti's show, Mr. Henry's Wild and Wacky World. The formula there is nothing special. Mr. Henry's a sort of renaissance geek who hangs out in his house all day, muttering absently about devices and burbling about the day's subject. Sometimes, he shows the kids somewhat witty dramatizations of the New Testament. It's a polished show, though, and Peretti's shockingly well suited for this sort of job. He's dynamic, amusing, and nerdishly charismatic. He's fun to watch as he bounces around his lab, even if you want to go away when he plays his banjo. He doesn't push too hard or get too ridiculously exuberant. He doesn't condescend. I'm no fan of his writing at all, but I think he missed his calling somewhere down the line. He really should have been up north, on the CBC, becoming a beloved kids' show host for the post-Mr. Dressup generation.

This is not to say that nothing stands out as a colossal bogglement. The classic Japanese-American time travel cartoons are still around, for example, although only The Flying House is on at the moment. (You can get Superbook on DVD, though. If it scares you, send the discs to me.) Two kids and their robot travel back in time, wander through Biblical events, then get very confused and upset when they can't actually make any alterations. Last week, the kids were devastated that they couldn't get Jesus freed instead of Barrabas. You know, because it's only going to invalidate their entire belief system and alter the course of Western history beyond all telling if they can change how the Gospels turn out. It's a very odd thing to show on this sort of network. That's not even getting into how the professor/inventor at the Flying House is obviously Lupin the 3rd in exile, far from any barber.

(Today, Davey, Sally, and Goliath found a time machine in some old guy's cabin. They just watched different versions of themselves throughout time. No interference. Sure, the biblical David looked a lot like the contemporary one, but no one was trying to extract him from the embrace of Bathsheba.)

I've also been gobsmacked by Kids' Ten Commandments (K10C). If you saw The Prince of Egypt, you know from this formula (and I'm surprised that they don't appear to be related projects): teach the kids scripture using Disney-style songs and animation! In this case, the ten commandments are played out through little incidents amongst the Hebrews who followed Moses out of Egypt. And their talking animals.

Their. Talking. Animals.

One of whom has Jodi Benson's voice, I might add. Benson's a lamb. And a single mom, and an adulteress, but not all at the same time.

(When Goliath talks, it's pretty laid back. Not unlike the sorts of things we pretend that pets say to us. He doesn't concern himself with the affairs of the village, or concoct cockamamie schemes to retrieve the adulteress's brooch. He toils not, and neither does he spin. Much.)

They're pretty much going through the gamut of Potentially Recognizable Voice Actors Who Are Between Jobs, incidentally. The pseudo-Ashman/Menken score, the rotoscoped swing dancing, and the excessively fluid body language would all have dripped right off of me if it hadn't been for the voice cast, or Susan Blu's direction. Maurice LaMarche? Rene Auberjonois? John Schneider? And how did they not only manage to get Tim Curry, but steer around the obvious?

And, while we're on steer, did I mention the talking animals? Like, not the miraculous Balaam sort of ass, but farm animals and a bearded rat? There are conspiracies against anthropomorphic mice. There's a cocky, self-assured calf who gets asked to model for the golden calf idol. There's a balding camel. Achewood, this isn't, although the balding camel did make me pine for Cornelius Bear. I can't decide what's more sacrilegious: post-Eden talking animals (who, admittedly, aren't trying too hard to talk to the people) gossiping about Moses, or time-traveling kids trying to mess with the course of Scriptural events.

Actually, no, neither of these things. It's the rotoscoped swing dancing.

I mean, people. Dance about if you must. Sing your theological lessons if you must. But there comes a point where even the most banal Western village is preferable, and that point is where Tim Curry's angular character is smoothly dipping some vacuous harlot in front of the golden calf.

(I could get into Bibleman, but that's for another time. When I've seen more Bibleman. If there's one thing we feel strongly about at Websnark, it's that we should have lots of data to hand when we go off about superheroes.)

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I think you're spot on about Frank Peretti, and that missed-calling-somewhere. Interviewed him back in the day and he is a born storyteller -- full of gestures and energy and hyperbolic description and genuine good-natured charm. He's a cut-up who enjoys people and used to tell ghost stories to youth group kids around the fire for fun.

Even his so-so writing was, by his own admission then, an attempt to create a rollicking adventure about a couple of elemental Christian concepts -- namely the importance of prayer. Like many things, though, it was turned into a theology of its own. A few years later, his publishing house moved into expansive new digs and it was generally referred to as "The House That Frank Built."

But I digress.

(In other news, the latest GPF thread reads like something from TBN. How did this happen?)

Jeff,
While I have not read GPF in some time (did click back to see the last three strips), my guess is that Jeff Darlington has becomed more open and serous in his faith in the last year or two. What you see presented before you is his attempt to share his joy of knowing God with you.

Not only this, but Darlington is showing you what makes him sad, where is anger is and what he finds joy in. What GPF has become is less of a comic strip and more a window into his world veiw.

Darlington is try to show his readers that what most of them think is North is what he calls South. From where he is, people have been reading the map up-side-down and in doing so are heading towards a cliff just over the horizen at speed so fast that if they do not slow down now the only place they'll end up is the bottom of a ravine.

I am not commenting how well he draws or his story telling, mind you, but just give you an idea of where Jeff Darlington's or anyother evangelical is coming from. Beleive it or not, these people pester you because they truely care about. I'll even hassard to guess MOST do not want anything from you.

That said, stay away from people who try to hand you a track and a offering plate at the sametime.

The problem with the 'world view' sort of comics, I find, is when you disagree with the creator. It becomes a lot harder to find things you like in the story. It's hard to avoid that, but the best stories in my view reflect the questions that life throws up at one, rather than the answers the author has already found.

I mean, contrast this GPF storyline with most of Queen of Wands' relationship stories. In QoW, the storylines deal with people not knowing what the right decisions are and making mistakes, and growing from them. In the GPF storyline, we're only going to see that Ki made the right decision all along. It's not going to change much.

While I have not read GPF in some time (did click back to see the last three strips), my guess is that Jeff Darlington has becomed more open and serous in his faith in the last year or two. What you see presented before you is his attempt to share his joy of knowing God with you.
Oh dear. BC warning bells are going off in my head. If Eric hadn't already done a YHMAYLM...

My friend used to watch kid's shows on TBN all the time. She thought they were hysterical. I watched my share of VeggieTales back when I was a hardcore Catholic (though even then I thought the non-theological Silly Songs with Larry were far superior to the Biblical main offerings), but could never summon the proper dosage of irony required to watch what Wednesday so accurately calls trashy Christian media.

Tim Curry is the essential bad guy voice. Many a crappy animated feature (Ferngully and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas leap immediately to mind) has been greatly improved by his presence. Given my fondness for Potentially Recognizable Voice Actors Who Are Between Jobs, I should probably check that show out.

Oh dear, I just went off on about three tangents at once, didn't I?

Veggitales is still a shining beacon of awesomeness. I have the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything and that Bunny song stuck in my head right now, _simultaneously_.

And it makes me happy.

Barbara Manatee/you are the one for me

Although, I have to say, I found Circle Square Ranch oddly compelling.

In the GPF storyline, we're only going to see that Ki made the right decision all along. It's not going to change much.

Never really got into GPF (probably read only one or two days of it beforehand) and I only read the last week or so because it got mentioned here. However a quick glance at today's episode suggests to me that it might be going in a different direction than you suggest.

As an aside: I get similarly annoyed when it comes to the occassional comments on "animal world's" moral superiority over "human world" in Kevin and Kell. The characters solve half their problems by arranging people to get killed and eaten, this is not a tactic I want to see reflected in humanity!

Er... Jeff does ONE storyline that features a Christian doctor and suddenly he's, what, Johnny Hart in disguise? Give me a break. I guess he forgot that if you don't write comics about pagans or wiccans they revoke your webcomic license... whoever they are...

Er... Jeff does ONE storyline that features a Christian doctor and suddenly he's, what, Johnny Hart in disguise? Give me a break.

I do recall a newspost shortly before the doctor-and-Trudy story in which Jeff announced that he was going to allow his values to become the foundation of his stories to a greater degree from now on than he had in the past.

I've cut-and-pasted my feelings on Hart here once before.

As a "free-thinker" and a deist* writing a webcomic about characters who are icons of Christianity in classic medieval works whose modern interpretations have taken a ninety-degree turn in the hands of such as Biaget and Brown, I sometimes wonder what the hell I think I'm doing and whether I'm actually accomplishing it. So far I think the best I can do is find in these characters the bits I identify with, even if I don't agree with them, that are nevertheless true to themselves; and I think I'm accomplishing that.

*According to General Stark's definition.

And, for what it's worth, I was just saying that the direction GPF appears to be going in is that Ki sleeping with Sam will lead to all sorts of trouble. What that trouble is doesn't concern me - it's the setup. Ki clearly isn't able to say, 'well, one can make mistakes even if one holds off having sex', as this is a flashback sequence and we know how it ends, sorta.

There's no reason why this storyline couldn't be interesting - if it turns out, on telling the story, that Ki may have misinterpreted things as a student, that's great! It injects some conflict into the relationship, and it gives Ki a chance to grow as a character. Even if Ki had wavered, and decided that sex before marriage wasn't as problematic as she'd thought, and only then introduce the mistake, that works too, as it makes it a story and turns it into a question by acknowledging there's another answer. But I honestly can't see where Jeff can take this story now so that sleeping with Sam doesn't turn out to be a bad idea, and thus vindication of holding off until marriage.

The last YHMaYLM bar lapses on 16 November. I assure you that there will be content.

Eek.

Okay. I'm sorry I brought up GPF, honest. Honest! :) I understand the reasons that a believing Christian would present their belief in a comic. Heck, I'm a Christian who's workin on a three-year story arc for a graphic novel that does some of those same things.

My cringing at Darlington's latest story arc isn't because he's advocating something I find baffling -- I'm a proponent of abstinence. It's not becuse he's exploring the damage that can be done when someone sacrifices their principles to please someone in a relationship -- that's something I know firsthand.

It's that Darlington is presenting it in such a way that switches GPF into soap-opera-seriousness for another three weeks, and also manages to convey the 'damaged goods' theory of sexuality that's common in the North American Church. There are other factors too -- the ham-fisted 'Saints n' Sinners, Good n' Evil' approach he tends to take is one. I worked in the Christian publishing industry for a number of years, and that sort of shallow flannelgraph characterization is one of its biggest failings. Authors who can transcend it stand out from the rest.

Er... Jeff does ONE storyline that features a Christian doctor and suddenly he's, what, Johnny Hart in disguise? Give me a break. I guess he forgot that if you don't write comics about pagans or wiccans they revoke your webcomic license... whoever they are...


It's the same people who revoke your licesne if you write a cartoon show without making the main character's best friends be a psuedo-goth girl. (even if she looks more punk than goth.)

:)

Ah, TBN. Where late night shows typically are about trying to squeeze every current political event into current biblical apacalyptic thinking.

The worst of the worst for me is The Donut Man which I'm convinced the main guy is the basis for Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. He even sounds and looks like the guy. And they have a doughnut as a puppet. Dude. What really freaks me out about these shows are when they try to sing some of the songs. It is doubly worse than the Barney songs with the kids trying to act so much like they wanted to be here.
The strictly Catholic children's shows aren't much better. There's Knights of St. Michael which is for a older group of kids have skits on various bibilical what-if situations that are so exaggeratedly unbelievable, it's laughable.

They even have an animated cartoon, well, I can't call it a series, really, just four different episodes that tries to get children to learn about the Rosary from a cherub. (And if you're wondering what the Rosary is, it's a method of meditation and prayer that stems repeating various common prayers that the peasants knew because they didn't understand a word that the pastor was saying during Mass, he spoke it in Latin.)

I think these shows might remotely work if the child in question is from 2-6. After six years old, children quickly become so remarkably sophisticated in their watching habits. After that age, the really good children's shows are much more subtle on the education part and rely heavily more on the humor, which none of the TBN or Catholic shows (which for the USA is EWTN) have at any level.

In fact, I was talking to someone who was wanting to work in television broadcasting writing various shows, and she was telling me that the biggest problem with children's shows is that many of them are too verbal and not visual enough. She explained to me that they've done studies where until about the age of ten, children understand more through visual means instead of audio means (sight instead of sound). And a lot of the shows that are successful more visually stimulating. And that's why Veggietales works and The Flying House doesn't. (Kind of explains Boobah, doesn't it?)

Willy Aames 4 Evar!

What means 'flannelgraph'?

Also, VeggieTales! I've never seen an episode, but the Silly Songs video was our savior (no pun intended) at my high school when I and my friends (who happened to be non-Christian, alcohol-consuming, recreational drug-using lesbians) needed an escape at 2 in the morning from our insane studying lives. So we would be breaking about ten rules to all pile into a single dorm room after in-room hours had started, turn on the illegal TV, pop in Silly Songs and idiotically sing along. When we first started, we skipped all the religious songs to sing our favorites, but as time went by we started adding more and more and just singing 'em anyway.
Naturally, we referred to ourselves as the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.

(Note for clarity: there is no reason other than their coincidence in my friends that would link drinking, drug-using and lesbianism. I mentioned them that way because they're all traits my friends had that one might suspect would disqualify them from VeggiTales target audiencehood. I did not consider myself morally superior to them because I was not all of the above--heck, if it weren't for those friends I might never have figured out I'm not straight!)

Tim Curry is everywhere. YOU CANNOT ESCAPE HIM. His being is able to permeate every aspect of our culture. He's in video games, for cryin' out loud.

There was once a short-lived sitcom starring Annie Potts as a hotelier and Tim Curry as an unemployed actor whose existence was wholly justified by the one scene I saw in which Tim Curry and John Ritter fenced with umbrellas. For all I know the remainder of the half-dozen aired episodes was just as worthy but, even if it were the purest drivel, the world is a better place for the bit I did see.

Okay, I'm looking at the TBN's website (particularly its web store page, interestingly entitled "Gold, Frankincense, & Myrrh") and I don't know what is more disturbing: Selling a Wink Martindale religious autobiography (and that he once hosted a children's show. That had to be scary), or John Tesh has released TWO religous albums. What's next, Yanni's version of Jesus Christ, Superstar?

And isn't proclaiming that TBN is the "world's largest religious network" sort of like being the big fish in a fairly small pond?

I don't know, it sure does seem like there are an awful lot of them on my cable system lately. In fact, I swear there's a new one every other month. I ran across one of them at about 2-4 in the morning when they were in the middle of running one of those "OMG IT'S AN ABORTED FETUS THAT IS GROSS MEANING YOU SHOULD BE PRO-LIFE OR WHATEVER GUYS LOL!" That was fun.

Dude, look at Tim Curry's IMDb listing. Lyndon's right, he really is everywhere. And his voice work is ALWAYS for evil characters. I love it. With all the work he's done for Disney, I'm terribly disappointed that they didn't find a role for him in Kingdom Hearts. I mean, Tim Curry voicing Sephiroth? That would have been the peak of awesome.

And I'm so glad to see that I'm not the only one who loves Veggietales Silly Songs.

This is dreadful. You don't agree with it. It's fueled by hatred, anger, and disdain for others. It's not even well-crafted. You bitch about it. Why give it your time? Why legitimize it by doing so?

Mocking something for being terrible doesn't exactly legitimize it, except in the way that, say, Plan 9 From Outer Space has been "legitimized".

I always thought it just legitimized it as something fun to mock.

The Snarkoleptics Livejournal community is probably a better place for the GPF discussion, since... well, Weds and I can't participate in that over here. (Until next month, anyhow.)

And I know Weds wants in on that conversation. ;)

I'm still kicking myself for buying the Silly Song countdown disc just before the complete collection came out. *sigh*

Cebu.

The Snarkoleptics Livejournal community is probably a better place for the GPF discussion, since... well, Weds and I can't participate in that over here.

Can you write there if you're not an LJer? Can you read there if you're not an LJer? Link?

"Er... Jeff does ONE storyline that features a Christian doctor and suddenly he's, what, Johnny Hart in disguise? Give me a break. I guess he forgot that if you don't write comics about pagans or wiccans they revoke your webcomic license... whoever they are..."

Okay, let's say this without violating any rules. : I think that you have decidedly misinterpreted what people have said and misrepresented their intent in your rebuttle. You've done a disservice to their argument as well as to yourself for not recognizing the possible legitimacy of what they really meant. GPF's change has some serious flaws: 1) it's something of a "on a very special Blossom" event, and 2) it's trying to draw on emotional investment in characters that no longer have any. Both of which are interesting points I will try to expand upon once Eric provides a link to this Livejournal thing that he forgets we don't all already know about.

On to Wednesday's point (if this one can be said to have one). There is certainly something to be said for trainwrecks. The people that produce these seem to be of the mindset that, "It's 'Christian', and therefore a good use of my time and resources." without ever analyzing whether their product was a worthwhile contribution to either Christianity or to television.
I remember an episode of the (rather Christian friendly) show "King of the Hill" where Hank tells a bunch of 'Christian musicians', "You haven't made Rock&Roll more Christian, all you've done is made Rock&Roll suck." or something to that effect (maybe quotes are innapropriate for paraphrasing, but eh).

Anyway, poor John Schneider. Driving that General Lee around really stopped you from having a good career, didn't it?

For everyone mystified about the location of the LJ community: http://www.livejournal.com/community/snarkoleptics/

I'm just a little bit concerned about how this conversation presents to the outside world. I'd hate for people to get the impression that we're merely GPF-bashers over here.

Wistful dreamer, the quote of mine you're using is specifically referring to the phrase "BC warning bells are going off in my head." And taking into consideration the common criticisms of BC in the context of religion, I don't think I'm misrepresenting anything.

I find it really funny that someone brought up GPF in a post about trainwreck appeal, as that's the only appeal I find in it anymore. I'm half-expecting to see a new "You Had Me..." essay on GPF on 11/17/05.

I tend to get into some video games for their trash appeal. For example, I loved Sprung. It's a dating sim for the Nintendo DS, and all the characters are shallow idiots. And it's utterly addicting. Maybe it stems from when the Native American told the male character to, and I quote "find the panties in [his] heart."

I also own Buffy: the Vampire Slayer for the Game Boy Color for similar reasons (and I never watched the show, either).

In some ways, I bet it's easier to get trash enjoyment out of Christian-themed entertainment when you aren't Christian. I am one, and my thought when going through these is invariably "my God, this is an embarrassment to my religion." The only one that can go so far over the top to still make it funny to me is, of course, Jack Chick. If I didn't identify, on some level, with the target audience, I probably would find it much better.

And that King of the Hill quote is one of the best I've seen.

I'm half-expecting to see a new "You Had Me..." essay on GPF on 11/17/05.

God, I hope not. There's a difference between 'okay, year's over, still don't like it, let's move on' and 'okay, year's over, let's put the boot in again'.

You may be beginning to notice a theme. I get deathly concerned about cycles of criticism, where everyone jumps in and says much the same things, laying into something they don't much like. I guess that's what the YHM essays are for in the first place - to vent one's spleen, get it out of one's system, and then move on, instead of naysaying everything a creator does.

I get deathly concerned about cycles of criticism

This seems an odd sort of thing to lose sleep over.

In the specific case, GPF is handling sensitive material in a high-profile fashion. It is arguably doing so in an ineffective fashion. If several people are voicing their displeasure with how this is taking place, perhaps it simply means that Mr. Darlington is doing something very, very wrong.

Or perhaps it simply means that some people don't like how he's doing it, since he has plenty of fans involved in the storyline who discuss it on his forum.

The problem with comments on any forum or blog -- including this one -- is that it's easy to create the illusion that the majority of people agree with you as long as the majority of people (or even a vocal minority of people) in your specific virtual location agree with you.

Websnark is a cool place because Eric and Wednesday write interesting and thought provoking things, interspersed with episodes of silliness and whimsy. It's also a cool place because the comments are generally well-thought out and equally thought-provoking. It remains, however, a small subset of a much larger community, and isn't really a good sampling of the webcomics community "as a whole" -- whatever that means, since I'm not convinced the "webcomics community" can be described as a single entity.

You may be beginning to notice a theme. I get deathly concerned about cycles of criticism, where everyone jumps in and says much the same things, laying into something they don't much like.

I agree, and in support of your concerns I'd like to point out that my own comment on GPF above wasn't an expression of opinion; I only pointed out that Jeff had warned us this would happen and if we kept reading but don't like it we haven't got talking room. My opinion of GPF ought to be correctly inferrable from the fact that I continue to read it. In fact, in light of Monday's installment I have some commentary and speculation that may inspire me to discover whether non-LJers can post in the Snarkoleptic community...

Paul: an LJ account is free. There's no reason not to start one. It's not like you haven't already told Six Apart some of your contact information, after all. :)

Chris: I'm beyond unconvinced. I think the whole "webcomics community" concept is utterly fallacious. At most, we have clusters of fans who intersect every so often, or *maybe* a few separate communities who have the medium of webcomics as a common ground. Efforts to treat it as a unified group strike me as narrow-viewed (deliberately blinkered or otherwise; I can never say). Not that it's an uncommon phenomenon for any sort of widespread special-interest group, of course.

Paul, from both your posts here and your webcomic, I really like you and respect you. But nothing can set me off quite like saying anything to the effect of "you have no right to complain if..." You always have a right to complain and I like exercizing that right repeatedly. I won't force anyone to read what I say, or agree with what I say. But to say that somebody has no right to complain, for any reason, isn't fair to anyone.

That, and people seem awful quick to assume my reasons for having complaints with GPF. It has nothing to do with Darlington making his moral views more blatant in the comic. It has everything to do with the fact that he's been writing terribly for a while, hitting a new nadir with this current arc. I agree with his basic stance and even held to it myself - but the writing and the stripping of anything likeable from the characters is getting to me. I'm basically coasting until the next plot arc in GPF - if that reads like this one does (too drawn out and a failure in both comedy and drama), I'm dropping the comic.

As for Merus' concerns - I really hate even the suggestion that I'm a sheep in regards to such things. Especially criticism. Given how frequently I take heat for my opinions elsewhere because they diverge obviously from the popular sentiment, I don't think it's fair at all to complain about cycles of criticism. Especially when complaining about criticism contributes to said cycle.

Now, can we get back to discussing how much fun it can be to watch bad entertainment, like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and anything that features Joe Buck (sports commentator for Fox, for those not interested in pro athletics)?

I think we agree on that. I'm willing to accept the existence of a "webcomics community" as perhaps a small subset of "people who read webcomics," but a lot of comics draw their audiences from other communities who see the webcomic as an extension of *that* part of their lives.

I'd say that's especially true for tech comics (whether it be a gaming comic like Penny Arcade or a geek culture comic like User Friendly and GPF and Joy of Tech or a tech/political comic like mine)... but I only say that because that's the world I'm most familiar with, not because I necessarily think it's more true there than anywhere else.

This is so not fair to poor Wednesday. We've bumped her topic completely off-topic, which of course we do all the time, but we've bumped it to a subject she can't talk about here. Maybe we should, after all, stop talking about GPF here and start talking about it on Snarkoleptics?

As for guilty pleasures.. hm...I get a strange kick out of watching bad infomercials at 2:00 AM when I can't sleep. They're terribly amusing, somehow, in that "I can't believe the acting can be that bad" kind of way. Besides, they're great to use for background sound for putting those finishing touches on a piece.

[N]othing can set me off quite like saying anything to the effect of "you have no right to complain if..." You always have a right to complain.

I'm not sure I agree that the right to complain is so blanket. I really think that, e.g., one who knows that a given entertainment outlet was going to adopt themes one found distasteful and who continues to take it in anyway, and who then complains of the experience to others, is performing an affront to oneself and the others. It's a needless and avoidable generation of negativity, when there's plenty of needful and unavoidable negativity. I'm not talking about, "I didn't like the change so I stopped reading it;" I'm talking about, "I've been reading it ever since the change eight months ago and it still sucks!" It's pointlessly, willfully counterproductive. I suppose there's a right to subject oneself to it, but others? I don't see that.

Paul, the right to complain is blanket because if it isn't, then someone's voice is silenced simply because of someone else's bias. You might not have any respect for that person's opinion. You might want to spend five pages of 6-point font, single spaced, explaining why it's the worst opinion ever. But that person has every right to have their opinion and to make it heard.

Whether or not their opinion in that instance is fair or justified is another question completely. But they always have the right.

Of course, the funny part is that my issue with GPF isn't related to the themes at all, but how ham-handedly they're expressed. Even with his clumsy writing of late, Darlington still has his moments (I enjoyed quite a few during the Trent v. Fred trial storyline). Those moments are just coming further and further apart.

As for Lark's guilty pleasure... I actually know quite a few people who do the same. I've actually wondered, given how few people I know buy from those but how many are entertained by them, if they air infomercials just to humor insomniacs.

Though I have a hard time calling them guilty pleasures. Given my utter lack of guilt while enjoying them. "Perverse pleasures" seems more correct to me, as everyone I've talked to invariably says they enjoy them in a perverse sort of way.

Maybe, but there seems to be a wide ranging knee-jerk reaction of webcomic artists or their defenders to want to be immune to criticism, and they tend to use defenses that can be reduced to, "well, you don't have to read it." or, "It's my strip, I'll do what I like."
I don't remember author names so I'll use the strip names instead. The author of PvP wanted to be immune to criticism of his comic mocking Sesame Street from anyone that didn't have their own comic strip. The author of Something Positive routinely mocks those who have issues with his strip. Penny Arcade actually went the other way and mocked the movie "Jersey Girl" after the creators said that the movie, "wasn't for critics." The only time I think saw authors legimately decry unwarrented criticism was when the "MITDO*" saturday strips for Sluggy Freelance were routinely lambasted for altering the continuity of the strip.

I just don't feel that one should create art without accepting (and learning from) criticism. The only product you create that you should expect to be immune to criticism is one you make exclusively for yourself. I have paintings that I've never shared with anyone squirelled away in my bedroom. Any art that I put forth to the public in any form (for free, for a fee, as a subgenre that you might not have interest in) is up for criticism. If you don't like what I'm doing or where I'm going, you have every right to say so. Even if I'm making a concious choice to go in a specific direction and you don't like that direction, I expect you to say, "I don't like the direction you are going in." You can also say, "The direction is a hard one to do well, and I don't think you are pulling it off." which is what I think people are saying about GPF.

In recent years, this sort of show has tended to involve goofy CGI animals and a lot more dancing around.



Once in a rare while I stop over at the Christian channels--when there's absolutely *nothing* on and I'm too lazy/tired/whatever to read a book or listen tot he radio. I must say that I'm regularly surprised by the skill of the animators, be the shows traditional cartoons or claymation or something in between. Not that I'm all too enthused about watching Biblical kids shows (though I'm with you on Davey & Goliath), but some of the more historical programmes are quite well done. I thoroughly enjoy the research and realism that goes into he set designs and costuming for those shows.

Paul, the right to complain is blanket because if it isn't, then someone's voice is silenced simply because of someone else's bias. You might not have any respect for that person's opinion. You might want to spend five pages of 6-point font, single spaced, explaining why it's the worst opinion ever. But that person has every right to have their opinion and to make it heard.

Yet rights can be abused. Certainly my hypothetical case doesn't fall under the exclusions to free speech provided in the First Amendment, but I maintain nvertheless that it's an abuse, and that abuses ought not be committed. Of course such a minor abuse is subject to proportionately minor sanctions on the part of others, such as ignoring one. But an abuse of a right still falls outside that right. Because it's not the opinion being objected to, it's the behavior.

"Wistful dreamer, the quote of mine you're using is specifically referring to the phrase "BC warning bells are going off in my head." And taking into consideration the common criticisms of BC in the context of religion, I don't think I'm misrepresenting anything."

Again, I have to disagree. "The common criticisms of BC" is not an good defense. There are multiple complaints about BC. The one I interpretted from the earlier post was that GPF, like BC, had gone from being lighthearted comedy to a "issue" comic (and not about Christian doctors at all). If that was the intent of the original writer, your comments about Wiccans and Pagans was completely unwarranted.

Paul: an LJ account is free. There's no reason not to start one. :)

But ... but then my friends on LJ would expect me to start blogging. I have two websites already.

First off, I don't think that stating an opinion in such a fashion is an abuse. It doesn't interfere with anyone else's rights or property, nor does it advocate doing so, so it isn't abuse.

But even putting that aside, if the opinion is so odious to you, then the proper response is to use your own rights to counter it. If the opinion is so wrong-headed and faulty, it should be easy to deconstruct and shown fallacious. You might think I'm naive and with a slavish devotion to the First Amendment's free expression clause. You might think I'm a journalist who clings too heavily to the bromide, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." You might think I'm blinded by a libertarian ideal in regards to speech.

However you think of me, I believe that if your only method to counter a point is to attempt, in any way, to repress it, you've already lost.

Again, I have to disagree. "The common criticisms of BC" is not an good defense. There are multiple complaints about BC.

Are there really? Because I'll be honest, I keep running into the same one over and over again, which is that Hart likes to use it to regularly advertise his faith, often in a manner that comes across as crass to people of other faiths -- a particular example that comes to mind is the strip where a Menorah gets snuffed out and turns into a cross.

The one I interpretted from the earlier post was that GPF, like BC, had gone from being lighthearted comedy to a "issue" comic (and not about Christian doctors at all). If that was the intent of the original writer, your comments about Wiccans and Pagans was completely unwarranted.

I didn't make any comments ABOUT Wiccans and Pagans. The specific comment I made was

"I guess he forgot that if you don't write comics about pagans or wiccans they revoke your webcomic license... whoever they are..."

... which is admittedly somewhat arch, but it focuses on when people get criticized for being pushy, not on the validity of belief systems. If you thought I was taking a dig at them, well, I wasn't... I was taking a dig at an apparent double-standard that they seem to benefit from.

Maybe, but there seems to be a wide ranging knee-jerk reaction of webcomic artists or their defenders to want to be immune to criticism, and they tend to use defenses that can be reduced to, "well, you don't have to read it." or, "It's my strip, I'll do what I like."

Well... when it comes down to it, it is my strip, and I can do what I like, right? I'm not obligated to create content you like, nor am I obligated to agree with you when you think something isn't done well. The other side of that coin is that I have no right to expect you to like what I'm doing just because I like what I'm doing.

THAT said, just because you don't like something doesn't mean you should feel free from being challenged about that when you say it. Any time someone expresses an opinion in public they're running the risk that someone else is going to disagree with them, say so, and challenge the grounds for the belief... and the challenger, in turn, is running the risk of the same thing happening in return.

In other words, nothing is safe from criticism -- unless, as you say, you keep it to yourself. I find comparing GPF to BC suspect, you find my reasons for that suspicion just as suspect... so far, I haven't been convinced I'm wrong, just as I suspect you won't be convinced I'm right.

We could probably squeeze a five-issue epic back-and-forth battle out of that, if we really tried. I'm sure it would provide MINUTES of entertainment for the... er... "webcomic community"...

You watch too much Christian shows Wednesday YOU WATCH TOO MUCH CHRISTIAN SHOWS

At a guess?

Artists/authors/essayists put forth a fair amount of effort into their product. I'd guess that many, if not most, really appreciate criticism into which an equal amount of thought has been put.

They probably do not appreciate quite so much the useless criticism - unsupported or unexamined opinions, I suppose, is a better way to put it. Especially when it's negative. "I hate your comic" doesn't help the author grow or self-examine at all, unless it is accompanied by a statement of *why.* And, in forums and whatnot, it's not very interesting or enlightening to read, for the same reason. (That's one of the reasons Websnark is so cool - people are most excellent about supporting their opinions.)

At another guess, I'd say there's more of the second sort than the first. I don't blame the authors and forum-goers for wishing for Magic Internet Filters that lets the constructive criticism through while removing 'ur comix is teh suxx0r' comments.

'Well, one can make mistakes even if one holds off having sex.'

Too true, too true.

[I]f the opinion is so odious to you, then the proper response is to use your own rights to counter it. If the opinion is so wrong-headed and faulty, it should be easy to deconstruct and shown fallacious. You might think I'm naive and with a slavish devotion to the First Amendment's free expression clause. You might think I'm a journalist who clings too heavily to the bromide, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." You might think I'm blinded by a libertarian ideal in regards to speech.

However you think of me, I believe that if your only method to counter a point is to attempt, in any way, to repress it, you've already lost.

But - I say again - it's not the opinion I object to. Nor am I seeking to repress anything, except by appropriate sanction with such options as you and I have each described above. I don't think that there's anything wrong with, e.g., deciding Star Trek: Enterprise was crap in September 2001. I do think that subsequently watching it for four years, just so one can reiterate perjoratively and at length every week how crap it is, constitutes not just making oneself miserable but attempted imposition of that misery on others and is deserving of all appropriate sanction.

(In case it's not obvious, perhaps I should state that I do distinguish between the behavior I'm discussing with 32_footsteps and such trainwreck criticism as the present snark. There's a difference between complaint and criticism, and what Wednesday and Eric write is criticism.)

See, the thing is, I don't think that forcing yourself through four years of Enterprise and complaining about it each week is worthy of sanction. And yes, this is partly because I'm a critic.

Here's the thing I think many people tend to forget in such situations - it's an awful lot of fun to complain. I like doing it alot myself (yeah, I know, it's no surprise to anyone here). It can be a thrill to go on a tear about how bad something is. There have been times when I get more fun out of complaining something is bad than just going through something that's good. And if that means sitting through every episode of Enterprise through its four-year run and complaining after each and every episode, more power to whoever is doing it.

So in many cases, it's not making yourself miserable, except in a masochistic sort of way (namely, you want to be miserable so you put yourself through it).

Moreover, nobody is imposing anything on anyone. Nobody is forcing you to read someone's weekly complaints about Enterprise. The only imposition, actually, is the idea that they should have some sort of sanction for doing what they want to do that doesn't hurt anyone.

I'm going to use myself as an example. When I come onto Websnark, nobody imposes upon me to read any given comment thread - there are quite a few snarks I skip entirely. Eric and Wednesday have every right to write what they want to write, even if one of them did decide to have a weekly complaint about something in particular and kept up said weekly complaint for 5 years or so. And they shouldn't feel like they'll be sanctioned in any way for doing so.

Great. Have fun! What you describe isn't what I'm talking about. When it's enjoyment it's not the behavior I mean. You don't do what I'm talking about, no one here does.

Okay, let's just go back to what I said that started this. What the idiom hasn't got talking room means is that the subject is practicing a hypocrisy. Now, while some judgment of the subject by the speaker is implied, no action against, or wish to act against, the subject is express or implied. I resent the type of hypocritical behavior I was describing, and that's the extent of the meaning of the idiom and I said no more than that by using it.

I, for one, would like to apologize for having mentioned GPF in the first place. I am truly and genuinely penitient.

I stopped in to catch up on it, read the latest storyline, shook my head, and then headed over to WebSnark to read the latest. I was struck by the similarity of the latest storyline to most of the Youth Group abstinence rallies I grew up on, and tossed out the offhanded comment.

I don't want Eric or Wednesday to suffer flamewars for my snarkiness. GPF's long-term arc, and the way Darlington has handled complex and thought-provoking subjects, deserves some analysis and good writing. My comment was not. :)

What impresses me is that, although there are clearly some strongly-felt opinions here, a flamewar hasn't broken out. Oh, sure, I know, Eric and/or Wednesday would squash it. But we all know that forum mods try to squash flamewars as quickly as they can, too, with extremely limited success.

But you guys are actually, dare I say, debating! Not-quite-arguing, without saying "you suck!" or "you're stupid!" or "your mommy dresses you in pink, sissyman!(with no insult intended to guys who like pink, said comment was listed for potential humor factor)"

That's ... extraordinary.

Dude, look at Tim Curry's IMDb listing. Lyndon's right, he really is everywhere. And his voice work is ALWAYS for evil characters.

Except in Gabriel Knight. And innumerable Wild Thornberrys productions. And The Net. And Sacrifice. And...

But ... but then my friends on LJ would expect me to start blogging.

There are ways of avoiding that.

Okay, I totally took that idiom to mean something along the lines of saying that they didn't have the right to say that.

But even still, I know I don't participate in the manner you described. Still, I feel its their right. It might be stupid, and we can try to convince them otherwise, but let them do what they do.

As for debating - well, I imagine it helps that I really do like talking to Paul alot. And I thrive on debate, and he's giving me exactly what I want in that regard. Whether or not Paul has a high opinion of me afterwards, well, that's another topic entirely.

"Are there really? Because I'll be honest, I keep running into the same one over and over again, which is that Hart likes to use it to regularly advertise his faith, often in a manner that comes across as crass to people of other faiths -- a particular example that comes to mind is the strip where a Menorah gets snuffed out and turns into a cross."

Frankly, yes. I'm sure a lot of very vocal people are complaining about BC being "too Christian" or "too Christian at the expense of others." those are plausible criticisms that I expect people to make. Other quite reasonable criticisms of BC involve how Hart has changed the strip to start showing his faith (alot of people liked cavewomen smashing snakes with clubs instead of sermons), that he is simply too hamhanded in his attempts (like your example), or that he has turned his strip into an issue of the week kind of "on a very special Blossom" (see wikipedia Re: jumping the shark). I just don't feel that referencing BC implies an overly christian approach as opposed to many other things that BC represents.

Yes, I do feel your "Pagans and Wiccans" comments were "somewhat arch". I see you as thinking there is a natural hostility towards Christians and I see in your comments a hostility towards non-Christians. We may both be reading too much into things (we could be both wrong, or both right, or maybe there is some distinction between the two that no one has brought up). I just feel that you jumped to the conclusion that GPF was being criticized for its' "pro-Christian" stance without sufficient reason to back up that impression. As you said, we are both left with our own opinions and scant evidence. We can either debate, attempting to convice those around us, or not, aknowledging that they are a microcosm of the "webcomics community" and not worth the effort attempting to influence.

I just don't see the importance of this distinction. My main point was that people shouldn't feel immune to criticism. I think we both agreed on that. Whether people on this board like GPF is not my concern. WHY they do or don't like GPF (particularly pertaining to any Christian ethics concerns) is well past my area of concern.

I'm sure we had a grand point here, but I think we lost it among assumptions about other people's motives.

Okay, I totally took that idiom to mean something along the lines of saying that they didn't have the right to say that.

But even still, I know I don't participate in the manner you described. Still, I feel its their right. It might be stupid, and we can try to convince them otherwise, but let them do what they do.

As for debating - well, I imagine it helps that I really do like talking to Paul alot. And I thrive on debate, and he's giving me exactly what I want in that regard. Whether or not Paul has a high opinion of me afterwards, well, that's another topic entirely.

Naw, we're good. I think the root of our disagreement is as much that we're defining our terms differently as that we have grounds for disagreement. For instance, I'm probably defining sanction more broadly than you, because I'm in SOC 101 this semester and it's a technical term there.

As for debate, I think we've reached a meeting of minds where we understand each other. I wasn't trying to persuade you of anything (well, maybe I was, a little), but I was trying to make sure my position was clear and make sure I understood yours.

Well, see, I've come to the conclusion that debates are all about saying what you think, letting the other guy say what he thinks, and then letting the audience draw its own conclusions. I can't remember ever seeing a debate where one speaker blinked, paused, and said "you know what? never mind what I said. He's sooooo much more right than me."

I find it really funny that someone brought up GPF in a post about trainwreck appeal, as that's the only appeal I find in it anymore. I'm half-expecting to see a new "You Had Me..." essay on GPF on 11/17/05.

Not from me. It hasn't been able to re-"get" me. It's not fair to claim that once again it had me, but it lost me, when it hasn't gotten me back.

However, it's worth noting I'm not the only writer on this website.

And it's equally worth noting that Wednesday does still read the strip in question.

Just, you know, for the record.

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