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June 21 2006

Whedon-Related Web Comic. Hey folks, how are you? I'm writing because I'm a big fan of this web comic called "Brickgirl & Oscar." It's usually pretty gorram funny, but today's strip has a decidedly Whedon flavor to it. I hope you enjoy it. :)

That was fun, thanks for the smile.

And I have to admit, that's an unusually clever and astute brick...

[ edited by 11thHour on 2006-06-22 20:34 ]
LOL. Love the third panel.
The third panel is my favourite third panel ever.
That was pretty funny! hehe
Hehe - clever little brick.
Okay at first I kind of felt pitty for the girl, like people sometimes do when looking at rather unfortunate looking people...but then she started talking (and so did the Brick) and I laughed a hearty laugh. Especially at the chew toy statement...I AM writing that one down.
I feel like an OCD creep about this, but the misspelling of "abrupt" bothers me. On the non-OCD level, though, it's just MEAN. It's even worse that its creator is so proud of it as to post it on the internet.
I don't understand how it is mean.
Just imagine yourself on the receiving end of the brick's thoughts/comments. People who do mean-spirited things to other people seldom realize how hurtful they are being, so they never think about the longterm consequences of their thoughtlessness. It's also very shallow (and again, mean) to poke fun at people's appearance, size, or shape.
Dude, Nebula1400, the comic strip isn't supposed to be taken seriously.

It's nowhere near as offensive as, say, The Boondocks.
"ubrupt" bothered me too.

My objective thoughts on the strip: Yes, I think it's funny. Yes, I think it's mean. There were panels that made me cringe, but there were panels that I could laugh at for a purely hilarious and snarky comment (the chew toy panel for instance).

Don't take it seriously -- it's the only way to deal with the mean things all bricks say about us.

[ edited by Browncoat on 2006-06-22 01:09 ]
Hey, the brick I talk to is kind, thoughtful and supportive. And it can spell.
I assumed it was the meaningless talking that annoyed the brick, and therefore funny. I never assumed it had anything to do with the appearance of the comic character. I guess I need to go take some of those sensitivity courses.

Doesn't humor like this pervade the whedonverse? What am I missing?
TamaraC, I think the comments pertain to a couple of the earlier strips - here and here. I tend not to find stuff like this in comic strips particularly offensive, partly because it's so often hard to tell when the supposed offensiveness is a deliberate ploy to either (a) subvert the surface meaning of the words, or (b) to get the reader's dander up for some other reason. C.f. The Boondocks, for example, which I love. Or Bloom County.

As for this strip, it seems to have just got going, so it's hard to discern the author's intent. And the initial strip seems much more sympathetic to Brickgirl - so it may be a bit premature to pass judgment just yet.
They must have heard us - it is definitely abrupt" now!
I thought it was more snarky than mean, but I don't get what's funny about it. It just seemed like snark that was meant to be funnier than it came across. *shrugs*

ETA: I went back to the website and read some of the past comics. Sheesh! I really, really agree with Nebula1400. This comic is really ridiculously mean to the Brickgirl, all based on her appearance. Not cool, IMO. There was a character like this in The Oblongs (Adult Swim), but at least she got to make some jokes herself, not just be the object of mean statements by masonry and peers. :-(

[ edited by billz on 2006-06-22 06:03 ]
Thanks, SNT. Now at least I can kinda understand. Still, I find the whole thing funny, but I guess I have a cruel and dark sense of humor.
Doesn't humor like this pervade the whedonverse? What am I missing?

The humor in the Whedonverse is a lot sharper, and while there have been insults of characters here and there, they were either (a) integral to the personality of character making the insults; (b) derived from a history with a particular character (i.e. the many barbs hurled at Spike by Buffy, Xander, etc.); or (c) never quite said in such a mean-spirited or derisive way as to insult the integrity of a character. The humor was elevated above simple insult humor. It was clever, rarely, if ever direct, and never insulted people for a physical difference or flaw. (Of course nobody on the show had any physical flaws, but that's beside the point.)
Yeah. No one ever made fun of Spike for having a chip in his brain or bleached hair. And no one ever made fun of Angel for his spiky do. And no one ever made fun of Anya's shortcomings as a compassionate creature. And no one... Well you get my point.
OK, I'm gonna get all metaphysical here...

Perhaps the brick represents inner thoughts that cannot (in this case) or should not be expressed. Maybe its about the pointlessness of talking to someone else about your troubles - you are alone in the end? Maybe its about the judgements we all make based on appearance?

I'm a pretty PC person, but if people could hear my thoughts, I would be doomed to stoning/bricking (ha!) at dawn.
So redfern, you're saying she might as well be talking to a brick wall ? ... Ahem.

I'd also consider myself fairly PC - though it doesn't extend to respecting the feelings of a drawing - but the day folk can read my mind is the day I start wearing a titanium foil cap (the tin-foil ones don't work, BTW, that's just what they want you to think ;).

The difference as I see it is that whereas this is mainly text, with Buffy we see and hear the delivery which makes it clear that the insults fall into the banter category, that they're not actually intended to cause offence for the most part (not always of course, Dark Willow was very nasty - and only slightly funny - and was clearly intending to be mean and I reckon Cordelia in, say, 'The Zeppo' among others also falls into this camp). Most groups of close friends will say things to each other as a joke that they could never say to a stranger (or maybe that's just me and mine) so I guess the question is, is the brick Brickgirl's friend ? ;-)

Though a broader question might be why isn't it OK to laugh at a cartoon character which clearly can't be hurt by the (also cartoon) brick's comments when we're regularly entertained (and sometimes amused) by violence or other acts committed against 'virtual' humans (i.e. actors playing a part in films and TV) ?
Brick wall....
Snicker, Chortle, Guffaw, etc
Thanks Saje, best way to start the day
Yesterday I read the linked strip, shrugged, and moved on. Having read the whole run, I get an idea of where its going and see it as having potential. I certainly wish the creator plenty of luck as, love it or hate it, it takes guts to do your thing and put it out there.

Saje - maybe something to do with the perceived ability of the target to defend him/her/it-self?
Yeah, sorry, I had a hearty laugh. It's a *drawing*. And the brick's obviously meant to be an a**hole. That's his character.

He's like the girl's imaginary friend--gone horribly, horribly wrong.

ETA: Hey, did anyone know the creator posted a response to this thread in her blog: response

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2006-06-22 18:18 ]
Ah, good catch pat32082. Yeah, I agree, I thought it was pretty funny. Her responses make perfect sense and I think it's a nice idea to have their relationship develop (though personally I hope the brick stays snarky).

I think you've got a point zeitgeist (for instance I reckon part of the reason we're so willing to empathise with Buffy is her apparent fragility since even at her lowest ebb - as she shows in Becoming 2 - she's still a frikkin superhero and tough as nails) but I think it should also depend on the target's capacity to be offended. Because we're only seeing the brick's thoughts, Brickgirl is completely unaware that she's being insulted so you'd have to wonder whose feelings are getting hurt (aside from the whole, y'know, being a cartoon thing and, therefore, kind of unhurtable - just look at Itchy and Scratchy ;). It's like guilt free snark, a snark-o-rama, a snark-athon, a snark-opia, ... snark-alicioius. There's snark involved.

Unlike Cordelia, however, Oscar is unlikely to fall in love with Broody McBrood or give birth to a glowing Gina Torres.

Hey, don't write yourself into a box Ms Houser, you never know what a brick's really capable of until he's, err, cemented into a corner ;).

(plus, there're way too few glowing Gina Torres' in the world if you ask me, more can only be good)
Yeah. No one ever made fun of Spike for having a chip in his brain or bleached hair. And no one ever made fun of Angel for his spiky do. And no one ever made fun of Anya's shortcomings as a compassionate creature. And no one... Well you get my point.

I acknowledged that these were done, but HOW they were done is a lot different than how this comic has panned out so far. People snarked at or about Spike all the time. It was like Xander, for instance, to come up with insults for both Spike and Angel, but at least there was a history of experiences with those characters that motivated his hostility toward them. Also, when there were insults hurled at characters, they sometimes actually ended up being sources of pain for the character. For example, when Buffy told Spike "You're beneath me," it hurt him, angering him to the point where he wanted to kill her. One of the explanations for what motivated Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to commit mass murder and suicide at Columbine High School was that they wanted to get even with others students (and teachers) who taunted them. I know of cases where taunting of high school students who were different (they may have been labeled as "gay" or "Iraqi" or whatever) that had led to those victims of "funny" pranks attempting suicide (and in one case the teen succeeded). The people torturing them all thought is was funny - all in good fun - and their victims just didn't have a sense of humor. Of course, they didn't have to pay the funeral costs.

Then it all gets back to the issue where this is just a comic, and not real life. Granted, this is true; however, it IS a reflection of how desensitized people have become about cruel treatment of others. It is glorified and considered to be humorous to ostracize someone, or to have their only shoulder to cry on be just as cruel as everyone else in the character's life.

I've read the author's blog about this, and I do hope she moves the story beyond this for that "unlikely" friendship. I don't think she is a terrible person, either. I just question the approach she chose for starting her story, because first impressions - in real life as well as in storytelling - can win you allies or ultimately be very damning.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2006-06-22 18:04 ]
Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, MASH (film especially but also series), the banter from 'Cheers', Garfield, Peanuts, Carlton being victimised in 'Fresh Prince' (yep, starting to scrape my mental barrel ;)... the list goes on.

There's always been an element of comedy that involved cruelty and humiliation. Does this mean it's cool to do it in real life ? Of course not, in the same way it's not cool to shoot people (not even baddies ;), punch people, steal cars/paintings/The Declaration of Independence or cause wanton damage to property in real life. We still make entertainment out of these things (in fact i'd hazard that's why we make entertainment out of these things).

As for desensitization, well, maybe, but when I was at school in the 70s and 80s there was bullying and taunting just as there was when my Dad was at school in the 40s and 50s so i'm not sure how much recent tragedies like Columbine have to do with desensitization (I think maybe parental/systemic neglect and easy access to the tools of mass murder have more to do with it along with, in fairness, a general feeling that violence is a satisfactory solution to problems).

Wherever people mix you're going to have in-groups and out-groups, and not everyone will be liked, IMO that's just part of having different points of view and good people and bad people in the world. Surely the aim should be to help and support kids who're isolated so that they don't feel like their only recourse is suicide (because I don't think there are many things more tragic than a child, who should have the entire world before them, dying because of petty stupidity) rather than trying to force everyone 'to sing in perfect harmony' ?

(which is not to say I wouldn't love humanity to be universally tolerant and kind, I just don't see it happening no matter how much we de-glorify cruelty)
You know, that brick reminded me of David Spade.
Perhaps the brick's "chew toy" comment comes off as mean-spirited and different than regular ol' insult humor because: a) The girl is in a vulnerable position, she's a child, she was picked on and outnumbered at school, and b) she was turning to the brick for understanding and compassion.

In the "real" world, a vulnerable and hurt child turning to a friend for help, and then getting insulted with the same taunts that were used on her at school, isn't particularly funny... could even be called cruel.


But this is a comic strip. The girl is a oddly shaped, little surreal caricature, and her best friend appears to be a snarky, uncompassionate brick.

hehe...
These are all good points. What made me see this comic as "too mean" is that this girl is already an outsider, already feels bad. As some of the posters mentioned, the snark in the Whedonverse is directed at characters whose self-esteem can absorb a few snarks, or who have a long history with the snarker. Same is true of the characters in Cheers, etc. -- usually the person getting insulted is able to brush it off, or else react with funny, blustery anger about it and defend themselves. This cartoon seems to me like kicking someone who is already down. Whether she can hear the brick or not -- we can certainly "hear" it!

Disclaimer: since I get my share of insensitive comments over my disabilities, I'm sure my "insult-o-meter" is tuned pretty high! The result is, this is just not my personal idea of "funny." :-(
To each his own, billz. I'm also disabled, and had my share of looks and comments, but I guess our tolerances are just different.

Now, call this reaching if you want, but I read the first strip, where it basically says, she's imagining this brick talking to her in her mind, because she's lonely.

So either the girl is a masochist, liking to insult herself for some horribly scarred psychological reason, or the reason she has the brick say these things that she can't hear, is because she's telling herself not to pay attention to what other people may say about her, because anyone who says that stuff isn't worth listening to.

*shrug*
I'm willing to wait and see where the author takes this. I don't want to hang her before she's done with the story (and I promise I won't hang her even when she is done). I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, since she says she is not finished with the story.
That's fair, pat32082! Definitely, there's no reason to expect all people with disabilities have a similar viewpoint or experiences any more than any other "minority" are "all alike." I also think you have an interesting take on the story, that the girl is using the brick to train herself not to pay attention. If that's where the story is going, I'd be very excited to keep reading!

Again, my initial reaction was, "cheap laughs through snaps." Don't get me wrong -- I think snaps can be great, but only when both sides are giving as well as getting, IMO. (Like this week's Last Comic Standing, when the comedians were asked to heckle each other. For the most part, it was pretty give-AND-take, so I thought those snaps were funny.) So, I'll agree with Nebula1400 again and see more of what the writer's whole idea is, and see if she's going somewhere surprising and interesting that will make me say "Oh, now I get it -- yay"!
Well I finally got a chance to read this and i have to say that for me it wasn't funny per se. It might end up interesting rather than funny but, like others, I'm not sure where she is going yet.

She is not taking pot shots at the girl since the girl has been set-up as sympathetic in earlier strips (Can one count on people having read earlier strips too completely when doing a comic? ) My first impression of the message was that everybody and everything is mean and hateful and just because they seem to be safe, they can still despise you. There is no such thing as a friend to a misfit. Yes, happy, happy thoughts.
There is a long tradition in movies and theater of the character who starts out surly and over the course of the story either has been won over by the idealistic younger hero, or revealed his (or more rarely her) all along good heart, ending with the two forming an unlikely bond. It just seems utterly clear to me that that is the format this strip is setting up. Clue - the brick is named "Oscar." As in Oscar and Felix of the Odd Couple, and Oscar the Grouch (Sesame Street). The name "Oscar" is as much a signifier of a particular type of character as the name "Buffy" was, which is why didn't call the original concept "Joan the Vampire Slayer." Just as we would have a different expectation of the brick's character if it were named "Biff" or "Ralph Kramden." The insults are setting up the brick's personality as an insensitive grouch. The funny is in the fact that a brick - an inanimate object - is shown having thoughts at all, because humor arises from normal expectations being violated. It could be funny if the brick were shown embracing the relationship with the girl, like "I've been wanting a best friend for so long" or "Wait'll you hear about MY day." But obviously that's not the type of long-term dynamic the author wants to set up.

And there's another post on the author's weblog about the Can't Stop the Serenity campaign
here if this link works.
I'm more than a little late to the party, but I finally got a login, and wanted to add my two cents. I'm the writer of said comic strip, and I was actually quite glad to see all the discussion it generated here. I want people be able to enjoy it on the level of pure snarky humor if they want to, but making people think about stuff is the long term game plan.

All the points raised here are correct, save for two. But y'all missed a bunch as well.

I've finally set up a discussion board for the comic, so anyone wanting to continue, you know, discussing... eh, you people are all smart and I have to get to work. You know what I mean.

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