helltothenaw asked: Have you read the latest Dumbing of Age strips? I find the current story to be rather cringe worthy on many levels. What's your take on this whole David/Joyce "development"?
who’s…David…? You mean Ethan?
I think it’s pretty clear what Ethan and Joyce are doing is unhealthy.
kay let’s look at how the storyline has gone
1. Joyce is a heavily repressed girl raised in a fundamentalist Christian family. She has communicated to Dorothy that she is afraid of her own sexuality thanks to her upbringing. Also she went through almost being sexually assaulted (which, I’m iffy on how that happened, the whole “well of course as soon as the naive christian girl tries a party she’ll get assaulted bc she’s a EASY TARGET” is a bit “…”. but it’s obviously still in progress aftermath and there’s no doubt this is 100% about Joyce, Joyce’s recovery and Joyce’s development and story, which puts it above a lot of sexual assault narratives) (And she got to fight back and then she was saved from the assault by her awesome lady friend so i mean points for that, no dudes paining for her or saving her at all, so a lot of awful tropes WERE dodged)
2. She’s currently dating Ethan, a gay kid who had a really awful coming-out experience and is now dating Joyce and lying about his sexuality in an attempt to be “normal”. She did not know he was gay.
3. Amber was Ethan’s best friend and she had a crush on him- when he confessed to her he was gay, she went through the coming out experience with him and supported him, even though she was shocked by it all. It was a stressful experience for her, and she pulled away from him as a result and hasn’t been hanging around him much
4. When Amber finds out he’s dating Joyce, she gets angry, but she avoids outing Ethan in public. Instead, she takes him outside. He points out it was good thing she didn’t out him, and she’s like “you’re already OUT though and now you’re stringing this girl along what the hell”. He explains what he’s going though, that coming out ruined his life and is now why his friend, HER, is now not hanging out with him. She feels bad and apologizes. But she reminds him he HAS to be honest with Joyce, this is not fair to her at all.
5. Ethan tells Joyce he’s gay, apologizing and explaining that he just wanted to ignore his sexuality because he’s afraid of it and he just wants to be happy- and coming out made him miserable. He tells her he understands if she wants to leave him.
6. Joyce- who is terrified of her sexuality, who is terrified of having a boyfriend who would sexually assault her- now knows there’s no risk of Ethan assaulting her, but she can still have the “boyfriend” society tells her she has to have- and what’s more, she has found someone just as afraid of sexuality as she is, someone she understands. crying, she tells Ethan she won’t leave him and he is perfect. The alt text to the comic reads “hoo boy”.
Is all of this complicated and fucked up? Yes. is it well written and obviously SUPPOSED to be complicated and fucked up. Hell yes. I think it’s obvious what both Ethan and Joyce are doing is unhealthy and wrong and going to be terrible for them. The person writing is aware that these characters are unhealthy stupid teenagers dealing with issues that are consuming them. And I think it’s realistic, compelling thoughtful writing.
It helps knowing Willis was raised a fundamentalist christian and therefore understands Joyce’s point of view to an extent- and he’s not a woman, but his comics have showed he’s very aware of feminist and LGB issues- Joyce had flat out said she was afraid of her sexuality, and Dorothy responded by she’s afraid of people slut-shaming her as well and using that as an excuse to deny her opportunities. Dorothy said “yeah, I’m afraid of sex too, because I know because I’m female people are gonna be waiting to judge me whatever I do, and I’m aiming to be president so I can’t lose any of the public’s so-called respect.” I think that’s an example of how Willis actually puts a lot of thought into the social issues behind his characters and how he’s presenting him.
I mean, it would be one thing if Willis only had gay people being angsty and fucked up. But everyone in Dumbing of Age is pretty fucked up. Meanwhile, over in Shortpacked!, that version of Ethan is gay too, but also had a pretty idyllic coming-out experience- everyone knew he was gay before he did everyone accepted it immediately. He’s been in several relationships and doing well. Not to mention the other gay and lesbian characters.There were definitely problematic spots (especially early in shortpacked!). but mostly willis is a good writer who puts a lot of thought into his characters, often writes them as really fucked-up. The directions he takes them are rarely safe, and I think he’s pretty aware and thinks of the implications of what he writes and that’s why I enjoy following his webcomic.
I dunno man, I’m enjoying it and I think a lot of shit is gonna go down and I think he knows what he’s doing with it- it’s SUPPOSED to be cringe-worthy, and it’s gonna be a fucking trainwreck, but I think probably also an interesting, thought provoking read.