Tuesday, November 4, 2008


At long last, the interminable Mary Worth plot involving Toby's epic battle with phishers is over, and a new storyline has reared its ugly head. Mary is visiting her old friend Frank, whom we have never seen before and who has presumably been created specifically so that Mary can meddle in the life of an old friend, even though until this point, we didn't think she had any. Frank used to be a skater, but he has retired and passed on the mantle to his daughter Lynn. As has been apparent for a couple of weeks now, Frank spends much of his time yelling at Lynn and telling her that she needs to work harder if she wants to win whatever competition she happens to be preparing for at the moment. It has been clear since something like the second day of the storyline that Mary is going to have to open a can of whoopass on Frank.

What strikes me about this strip is that everything is absolutely soaked in drama all the freaking time. Every word and action may as well have a full orchestra swelling madly behind it; every character is either choked with anger or trembling on the verge of tears; every situation holds the potential for Terrible Tragedy to Strike.* The utter seriousness of every single aspect of the comic tends to obscure the fact that these people live small, mean little lives and don't have the brains God gave a pot of rhododendrons. Good Lord, Lynn. Is that a tear on your cheek? Why don't you just rise up in fury and clock your dad in his smug little face? It would save the rest of us about four and a half months of whining.

Another problem is that all the female characters except Mary look exactly the same. Lynn is the doppelganger of both Vera and Toby; she could also be Dawn with a bad dye-job. For crying out loud! There is more than one type of female face! The characters in Peanuts are easier to tell apart, and they have dots for eyes and squiggles for noses!**

Unlike in the last storyline, Father does certainly not know best here.*** However, the medieval angle is still present: Father may not know best, but he does seem to have complete control over his daughter's life. This comic is radical for the Middle Ages: a work that delves into the heartbreak of a girl forced into a situation over which she has no control. "Skating" is clearly a stand-in for "marriage"; the author is cleverly disguising a critique of marriage as an inane tale of a skating competition. Lynn's dilemma is moving and eloquently expressed in the context of the fourteenth century; only when removed to the twenty-first, when a father with complete control over his daughter would probably be put on display in a museum, does it become jarring.

This comic is wasted on our century. How I long to find a time machine and send it back to where it belongs.

P.S.: A friend has given me a neglected old bike, so I am once again provided with a means of transportation. I think I shall now go and buy a truly expensive lock.

*And every sperm is sacred, or so one would suppose.
**I am angry at the world and want to use a lot of exclamation marks everywhere!
***Oh, okay...Ian isn't Toby's father...but he damned well acts like it.

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