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Eric: Also, I priced chocolate fountains and they're surprisingly affordable.

Questionable Content

(From Questionable Content! Click on the thumbnail for full sized smug satisfaction!)

This is a strip from a few days ago. Life, you know. Long life. Long, long... long life.

But that's not important right now.

What is important is something cool in Questionable Content.

We're used to cool things from Questionable Content, for the record. Of all the strips in my trawls, it's pretty much the only one I start hitting "refresh" on at 11 at night, in hopes Jeph Jacques will get the next day's strip out early. (It's a pretty good bet. Most nights the new strip is up early. And that's cool. Of course, the downside is, on a day when it updates 'on time' you end up acting mentally like it's late, even though it's not late. Jacques is just consistently early. But I digress.)

But I'm talking about this strip in particular because it is really cool, and because it shows something I find is remarkable.

You see, the question of Faye coping with Marten and Dora's relationship has been one of the central conflicts in Questionable Content for quite some time. This is because, as we mentioned a long while back, the Marten/Faye relationship was the central conflict of Questionable Content.

As yet another digression, in that post I just referenced above, I made casual note of the fact that I had a hidden desire to have "Anyway You Want It" by Journey as a wedding recessional. Of course, at that point I wasn't engaged. I now am. Obviously, there is now going to need to be an active discussion. With Weds. And with Weds's friend Mara. And Mara will take your face off with the casualness of breathing and a smile if you cross her. Trust me. If you don't believe me, ask Ferrett.

On the other hand, she might think it is awesome.

But back to the point of the essay. In the earlier snark, I made mention of Questionable Content as a romantic comedy, starring two leads -- Faye and Marten. And that the resolution of their relationship would bring with it... well, here:

Questionable Content is a romantic comedy. As with 84.5% (by volume) of all romantic comedies, the tension and conflict of the strip comes from the question of the two leads hooking up, bumping uglies, doing the nasty, falling in love, ripping the bodices, taking the skin boat to tuna town, riding the baloney pony, tethering the blimp, shaking hands with Abraham Lincoln, kissing God Damn it. And so on. If the strip follows the formula (and that's not a guarantee), then in the last minutes of the picture Faye and Marten kiss, and then they walk out of the frame to a Journey song in the background.

Which, you see, is where the wedding recessional bit comes in. It is not impossible I consider my own life to be romantic comedy.

Well. Here it is, about a year and a quarter later. And what we're seeing in the referenced strip is the full on migration that Jacques has made in his comic strip, away from the formula I mentioned above.

A lot has happened in that year and a quarter. Faye finally broke down and talked about why she couldn't date Marten. Dora, once it was clear that Faye wasn't going to date Marten, made her move. Marten accepted. Faye went back home to try and begin the process of dealing with the trauma of her life. Hannalore slept on Marten's couch very often. Penelope came to work at Coffee of Doom and might or might not be Pizza Girl. Some people got smacked around. Dora's brother had wacky hijinks. Oh, and at one point a purple haired chick in a german stormtrooper helmet attacked Marten and Steve on a transforming combat vespa-robot.

I swear I would be wholly incapable of making this up. I am in awe of Jeph Jacques's ability to do so.

And, in the background of it all -- with occasional forays into the foreground -- there has been Marten and Dora's developing relationship, and the constant sense that they are walking in a minefield of Faye's emotional issues with it.

This strip comes down to a Sorkin Relationship Moment. Which is, God help me, a newly coined term for the lexicon. A Sorkin Relationship Moment is a moment where one person -- generally the unwilling object of affection in one of the defined unconsummated relationships of the show -- gets fed up and demands that the pursuer just stop it, already. This is just too much. It is uncomfortable. It is unpleasant, and it is unfair. Dana had this moment with Casey in the first season of Sports Night. Casey had this moment with Dana in the second season of Sports Night. Natalie and Jeremy passed the moment back and forth. Josh had this moment with about three different girlfriends in The West Wing, generally on the receiving end. C.J. had it with Danny Concannon. Over on Studio 60, Danny and Jordan have had a few here and there, and Matt and Harriet have had it... um... I think twice an episode. I think. I don't have numbers but it sure feels like twice an episode.

The Sorkin Relationship Moment doesn't have to be romantic. It is, however, an attempt to resolve a tense situation through direct confrontation -- shouting, in effect, stop it from one person to the next. And this is what we have here. Dora has been freaking out about stepping on Faye's insecurities and emotional landmines so severely that the net effect has been stepping on Faye's insecurities and emotional landmines. And Faye has hit the Sorkin moment. Stop it. Of course you two are having sex. There is no chance you weren't having sex. And by trying so hard to not rub my nose in it you're rubbing my nose in it.

Or, in Faye's parlance:

If you want things to be not-weird between you and Marty and I, stop actin' weird about them! Be normal!

It is a good moment, and a seminal moment, and a moment that allows for one phase of conflict to end and the next to begin. It keeps the strip fresh, and it's a funny comic to boot.

And, it has built into it two different results.

First off, I still maintain that the Faye/Marten relationship is at the emotional heart of the strip. I think that whenever Jacques ends the strip, the way these two end their dynamic will be the climactic moment of it. However, Jacques has very carefully gone off-formula. While it is not impossible that the pair will have the Journey music kiss/walk out/credits ending, it is no longer better than even odds they will. In fact, it seems to me that Dora/Marten ending up staying together is actually on the table now, and I wouldn't have given that any chance at all a year and a quarter ago. Jacques has managed to successfully transition this romantic comedy into new territory, broadening its scope and potential and making it a better story in the process.

The second result is this: the Sorkin Relationship Moment, on essentially every Sorkin show, defuses the tension but it doesn't resolve the conflict. It lets air out of the balloon before it bursts, but the balloon stays attached to the nozzle and the inflation starts over again... um... yeah. Metaphor ran out on me there.

It's just this. Faye has demanded Dora (and by proxy Marten) simply drop the weirdness and be a normal couple around Faye, since there's no way she can acclimate to their being a couple if they don't. However, this in no way means Faye has actually acclimated to their being a couple, and it in no way means this plot arc is finished.

On the other hand, it's possible that Marten ends up with Penelope, and they spawn Hannalore, who comes back in time through a process that drives her into O.C.D., and that's why she sleeps on Marten's couch -- it reminds her of home and Marten is her father, after all. On the other-other hand Dora's mentioned in the past that her hair is naturally platinum blonde, only she dyes it black, and Hannalore came back in time to ensure Marten and Faye don't end up together so she'll be born -- and don't look at me like that. It's a magical realism comic strip. Anything's possible.

Even the Journey ending.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 21, 2007 12:03 PM


Comment from: Michael D. Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 12:42 PM


You forgot the big SRM (Sorkin Relationship Moment) from The American President, when Sydney just out and out tells the president to stop it... moments before she decides to sleep with him. :)


Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 12:47 PM

I want to see the version of the strip Jeff mentioned in the newspost, in which Dora actually give off light.

(My life is a sitcom.

(Or a daily gag strip. Who'da guessed that?)

Comment from: Plaid Phantom [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 1:04 PM

I would almost like to see Martin's dance number, personally.

Comment from: Ocean's Edge [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 1:09 PM

Heh... If got away with using a Pink Floyd piece as both a processional and a recessional and make it work, I don't see any reason you can't use Journey :)

And the chocolate fountain thing? Messy but WAY fun, people loved it!

Ocean's Edge

Comment from: Danalog [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 5:09 PM

I had a chocolate fountain at my wedding, everybody loved it, it went over really well

Comment from: HydrogenGuy [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 5:41 PM

Actually, I get the feeling that however Jeph ends it, it's gonna be set to music from Journey.

And the Hanalore time-travel thing? That's frighteningly plausible. Rather Narbonesque, though.

Comment from: jjacques [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 6:08 PM

Thanks again for the kind words, Eric!

One of the things I've always wanted to do with the comic but haven't been able to (because of bandwidth and potential copyright issues) is embed a song or songs of choice to go with particular strips. Brian Carroll of Instant Classic did that with one of his comics' climaxes and it was a pretty neat effect.

Comment from: Tevorcet [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 6:17 PM

Well, there has already been one instance of the time-traveling daughter of a comic's main characters hanging out in bars and meeting her father...and we have seen Dave and Helen in the background at least once.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 6:52 PM

First off, if Paul's life is a sitcom, my life is an overwrought epic movie. Way too many dramatic reveals, and relies way too heavily on cliche. And the main character's an ass.

As for processionals... I managed to get Celes' Theme from Final Fantasy 6 incorporated into the one for my wedding. There's always a way. Though it helps if you get a friend to be in charge of the in-wedding music.

By the way, nothing is quite as neat as the entire wedding not knowing you're doing something like that until they actually hear it. Half the wedding guests turned to me when they heard it kick up.

Finally... Eric, is that the same Mara I'm thinking of? Really? She's comparatively harmless. Of course, I've had several rather homicidal friends.

Comment from: Doug Wykstra [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 12:49 AM

I love Questionable Content, but ever since Marten and Dora got together, there has been a white elephant in the room (or strip?). Anyway, this relationship ensures that people are going to get hurt. There is no way that Marten, Dora, and Faye are getting out of this unscathed, in fact, I'd put good money on all of them catching a few emotional blows before the dust settles. As a logical person, I am aware that there are ways Jaques could avoid this, however, as a storyteller, I can see that there's no real way he can, although Jaques's imagination outstrips mine as well, so he probably sees at least 37 ways to end the series that I don't. But still- consider. Marten is a perpetually indecisive guy who likes two girls, both of whom reciprocate the feeling to some degree. Faye and Dora are good friends, but still naturally competitive with each other, if the endless sass-fest at Coffee of Doom is any indication. A distant future scenario where they fight over Marten, who (surprise!) will be paralyzed with indecisiveness is not too difficult to imagine. Add in the (really not too) remote possibility that Faye and Sven hook up at some point, and it begins to look like Jaques is doing the literary equivalent of piling up huge amounts of dynamite, cackling as he twists the fuses together.

Comment from: Quintus Horatius [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 1:18 AM

Can I just say, right now, in public, that it drives me nuts when people use the nominative pronoun when it oughta be the accusative? You and Marty and me, damn it, you and Marty and me!

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 2:33 AM

I suspect that's a modern overreaction to the generations who've been rapped over the knuckles for using the accusative for the nominative, e.g., "Steve and me went to eat." Such as "between you and I" is as common usage now as the other used to be.

Comment from: Tephlon [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 6:02 AM

Comment from: Plaid Phantom [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 1:04 PM

I would almost like to see Martin's dance number, personally.

Me too! I was getting *so close* to drawing it myself....

Comment from: Aulayan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 6:28 AM

Michael Garcia actually showed the problem with the SRM.

To Sorkin, a Sorkin Relationship Moment is often a sign of the relationship about to happen. In his eyes, when someone is fed up with someones pursuing, they'll sleep with the person 5 minutes later.

I used to love Sorkin, but man, he's got some issues.

Comment from: jjacques [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 6:45 AM

"Can I just say, right now, in public, that it drives me nuts when people use the nominative pronoun when it oughta be the accusative?"

Sure, as long as I can say that it drives me nuts when fictional characters have perfect grammar at all times. ;)

Comment from: mara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 8:07 AM

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2007 6:52 PM

Finally... Eric, is that the same Mara I'm thinking of? Really? She's comparatively harmless. Of course, I've had several rather homicidal friends.

Little man, you know NOTHING OF ME.

Comment from: Matt Buchwald [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 3:15 PM

It is painful to admit this, but The Whole Faye/Marten -> Dora/Marten shift reminds me way too much of Joey/Dawson -> Joey/Pacey shift that occurred in Dawson's Creek.

Now I will go cry in the corner.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 22, 2007 7:15 PM

Well, that establishes that we are most certainly talking about the same Mara.

But wait a... "little man"? I'm over a half foot taller than you. You better have an axe and the ability to use said axe on my feet before you call me that.

And like I said, comparatively harmless. You have to be able to cause a man to piss his pants in fear at twenty paces before you rank amongst some of my friends. I run with a lunatic crowd.

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