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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It Rhymes with Goth

There's been a little chat lately in some corners of the blogospherahedron about the work of cartoonist Elena Steier, whose pictures contain elements some find racist and/or sexist [1].

But that's not what I want to talk about today. I think her work is simply not very funny [2]. I would have lost interest in her website real quick if it were not for one series of cartoons she does called The Goth Scouts. She's even given them their own website, despite them being neither funny, nor actually containing any gothic elements.

It's a typical, if considerably tamer than most, Wednesday Addams knockoff in the Evil Little Girl genre. Only without any of the usual visual attributes you might expect. There are four characters, but to all intents and purposes they are interchangeable and don't appear to have any individual character traits.

Even the name irritates me. Okay, I can see some mileage in doing a goth take on girl scouts, but if it were me, I wouldn't call it it something as unimaginative as Goth Scouts. I'd call them Crypt Scouts or Ghoul Scouts or something [3], and dress them in loligoth girl scout uniforms with extra bats and skulls, and a variety of horror-trope achievement badges. If you need to call them Goth Scouts in order for the reader to be aware that they are A) goth, and B) scouts, then you're doing something wrong.

Anyway, to get to the point, shortly after reading one of their typically unfunny cartoons I came across an episode of the syndicated Rhymes with Orange which did essentially the same joke, and I was intrigued by the comparison, so for your edification I thought I'd share.



The essence of the joke is a suggestion that the neighbours have been murdered. The Goth Scouts cartoon doesn't really process the notion much further than "Look, bones! Wouldn't it be funny if it was the neighbour?" [4]

This falls pretty flat, and undermines itself with unresolved aspects so you are left wondering why a murderer would have left the bones lying around in the garden, if the dog is a giant or it's just the perspective, and what the tiny girls and their giant dog are doing in the neighbour's garden in the first place. Perhaps I'm over-thinking this and the intention was just to suggest that the girls have morbidly over-active imaginations. Except that in other episodes they regularly interact with monsters and vampires, so that doesn't work.

The art on this strip is usually the best part of it, with some nice cartoon rendering, so this is unusually weak, with lots of irrelevant detail and the characters stiffly waving their arms at each other rather than supporting the joke in any way.



The Rhymes with Orange cartoon handles the joke a lot better, with a nice little play on words and a veiled hint of menace suggesting that the character himself has murdered the neighbour. A much better development of the notion. But what's going on with the art? It's so irrelevant to the joke that you could replace the text with a whole different gag and nobody would know.

It's worse than a generic talking heads image because there's enough going on in the picture to make you think it should be relevant in some way, but it's not.

Notes.
1. I find both.
2. People will excuse an awful lot if the jokes are genuinely funny.
3. Preferably something more imaginitive, but you get my drift.
4. Not especially, no.

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