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October 2nd, 2003
01:21 am
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Forget "CSI" -- now we're in trouble
Today's Sluggy Freelance takes a gratuitous jab at furry fandom.

My only real reaction, personally, is this: I'm kind of surprised Pete Abrams needs to dig for the cheap laugh. He's better than that.

It doesn't get to me on any personal level that yet another Internet population has just been introduced to furry with the "spooky fat slobs" meme; we've already been dealing with it as long as there's been a fandom to mock and an Internet to mock it on. It's just getting tiresome. It's like seeing a man swish across the set of a sitcom and say something with a lisp and having the laugh track automatically cue up.

How long does it take before the same damn joke finally stops being funny? Drag out a three-year-old "all your base" reference and you won't be able to provoke anything beyond a roll of the eyes from half your audience -- yet the obsessed-furry-slob stereotype, which has been surfacing occasionally for at least a decade now, somehow gets a pass.

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From:starlights
Date:October 2nd, 2003 04:23 am (UTC)

Wuh...?

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I'm not sure I follow. I found the comic to be quite funny. Pete even went to Bill Holbrook to make sure that this wasn't out of line. It says so right under the comic. Bill is a furry, so I think that Pete WAS trying to make sure no one was too offended. Besides, you have to be able to laugh at yourself sometimes.

And only one of the guys in that group of people is a chubby weird looking guy. The other two are extremely lanky looking fellows, who actually look like they're more from a Jay and Silent Bob movie than anything else.

I do understand where you're coming from, believe me. But there is a difference between a simple joke (or even some moron who IS trying to be offensive) on little web comics, and commercializing something on PUBLIC TV, IN DETAIL, with a show that is full of lies, half-truths, and misconceptions.

That's my opinion, anyway. Everyone is entitled to their own.
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From:queenofstripes
Date:October 2nd, 2003 05:09 am (UTC)

Re: Wuh...?

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Yeah, this is going to send the people who know me looking for the alien plant pods in my closet, but... I was kinda fine with this one. I'm not going to insist anybody else be comfortable with it, but it passed my own standards. I saw the "accent" as being on the "not that there's anything wrong with it" -- the appearance of the standard geeky, disheveled fans chasing the "real furry" around seemed to be pretty much pro forma, to set up the admittedly somewhat weak joke of mollifying these presumed hordes of angry furries. My impression is that he's just grasping for something "wacky" to happen to his transformed character, and this is the first joke that lent itself. A little cheesy, to say the least, but I'm not assuming hostility. I might compose an ultra-polite letter to Pete to ask him what the train of thought leading up to the strip was, just to be sure...
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From:starlights
Date:October 2nd, 2003 05:29 am (UTC)

Re: Wuh...?

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Well, it probably wouldn't hurt to ask him NICELY what he was thinking, although I believe it is pretty obvious, since he tries very hard to note that he was not being offensive, by going to Bill Holbrook.

I actually wrote up a rather long post on my journal, that deals with this subject, and goes into the history of furry jokes in online comics. My overall opinions are there, so feel free to read it if you are interested.
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From:baxil
Date:October 2nd, 2003 06:49 am (UTC)

Re: Wuh...?

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Just to be clear, I didn't find it to be anything more malicious than merely "wacky". My complaint is not that it was written with ill intent -- my complain is that it is, as you also say, "weak."

All lame jokes about CSI (and TEH DEATH OF FURRY!!!1!) aside ... The analogy to stereotypically gay men on a sitcom is a good one, and I'm sticking with it. It doesn't imply malice; it may not even imply ignorance -- hell, some of those characters are designed by gay writers just looking for an easy way to get a rise out of the audience! -- but it is a pretty valueless joke, and it's frustrating to see the negative stereotype vectored for what is even admitted within the strip itself to be a lame joke.

We can argue about whether Abrams is trying to be self-referential and whether his audience is supposed to "get" that he's deliberately poking fun at something he himself enjoys -- and I'd be interested to hear his perspective on it. But right now, knowing only what I know, it doesn't pass my smell test.

I'm not outraged, and I'm not asking anyone to be offended. I just think he could have done better, and it would be a shame if this did end up leaving a negative impression on some of his (non-furry) readers when a less gratuitous joke wouldn't have had that effect.

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From:baxil
Date:October 2nd, 2003 06:56 am (UTC)

Re: Wuh...?

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Maybe I'm missing the line you're citing, but under the strip I see "Thanks to Bill Holbrook of Kevin and Kell for permission on this one!" Since the character in Panel 2 is, AFAIK, directly one of Holbrook's characters, it was my understanding that the disclaimer referred to the use of the character. I do not know whether the joke itself was discussed.

I expect that the way the joke played out is due in large part to that conversation, yes -- Presumably (no matter what his opinion of furry is) Abrams respects Holbrook, and would have felt to put in Panel 3 to make it clear he wasn't trying to be malicious.

That having been said, let me reiterate that I'm not objecting because I think Abrams was being malicious. I was objecting because I think it was a lazy, gratuitous joke, and it's frustrating to see that thrown in gratuitously, where it's not even meant to be a punchline but just a random dig along the way.

See my response to queenofstripes.

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From:baxil
Date:October 2nd, 2003 06:59 am (UTC)

CSI vs. Sluggy

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And, just so it's clear -- the "CSI vs. Sluggy" angle was intended as a sort of ";-p" ironic ha-ha-not-laughing intentional overdramatization ... um ... thingy.

See, this is the thing about the Net; context is difficult. The context of the original joke frustrated me. The context of my response is causing people to draw conclusions I didn't intend. CSI, of course, is the far worse sin if it's anything like what you've reported they're going to do.

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From:starlights
Date:October 2nd, 2003 07:04 am (UTC)

Re: CSI vs. Sluggy

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I know. But, I'm like, REALLY EXCITED! I just think it's more positive than anything. You just have to look at it the right way.

See my reply to charles' post for more info. :)
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From:charles
Date:October 2nd, 2003 05:39 am (UTC)
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Aside from the obvious, I didn't recognise the guys in panel two as furries, I just recognised them as nerds. They are the same stock characters that get pulled out whenever a cartoonist needs computer programmers, or Trekkies, or Dungeons and Dragons players. They even do so in nerd-friendly strips like Sluggy or Userfriendly or Dilbert.

As much as we dislike stereotypes, they get used a lot in comics because they're a compact visual language, and when you've only got a few panels to work with, that's necessary.

I can't help thinking the real joke was in panel 3, not 2. Has Pete ever had to apologise for making fun of anyone before?
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From:starlights
Date:October 2nd, 2003 07:01 am (UTC)
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CORRECT!!

Please read my journal for my second post on this issue!

I feel that this comic could not be BETTER for furry! It makes us look like every other fandom! Like Trekkies, or X-Philes, or Otakus. Isn't that what we always wanted? To be treated equally? Well we just got it! And it feels good!! ^.^

All I can say is that this was awesome. I can't really do anything but PRAISE Mr. Abrams for this piece of fine work.

And that, as they say, is that. :)
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From:baxil
Date:October 2nd, 2003 07:05 am (UTC)
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But ... well ... there's a qualitative difference between, say, when "Dilbert" parodies nerds by stereotyping an office engineer, and when "Beetle Bailey" parodies nerds by having Lt. Gizmo ramble on in buzzwords that "sound technical" to the average reader but mean nothing to actual geeks.


I'm not saying that "Sluggy" handling furries is the latter, but it doesn't entirely feel like the former to me. I've got to get to sleep, but I can try to expand on this later, and address your other points.

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From:ngarewyrd
Date:October 2nd, 2003 06:57 am (UTC)
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Personally, I got the feeling that Pete Abrams was poking fun at the Fanboys who seem to populate Furryconventions and chatrooms..

but then, That's just my interperetatation (yes, like banananana, I don't know when to stop on some words) of the whole affiar
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From:bluewingedcat
Date:October 2nd, 2003 08:04 am (UTC)
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At least you didn't sit down and battle the entire lj community of a comic over furry when the entire fandom was presented as people who like to dress up in fursuits and yiff.

Just got done with that one, won, and boy was it a head ache.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:October 2nd, 2003 12:06 pm (UTC)
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At least it wasn't as bad as Penny Arcade's "We hate animals who are also people". And it definitely wasn't as bad as PvP's "Fur Is Bad - Do not support their art".

It was, at worst, kinda lame. But then Sluggy Freelance's humor is always kinda lame. At least it was when I got bored with it a couple of years ago.
From:tropism
Date:October 2nd, 2003 12:40 pm (UTC)
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Pete Abrams' been going downhill for a looooooong time.
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From:nolly
Date:October 2nd, 2003 12:57 pm (UTC)
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Yah. Second that. Too many rabid fans to quit, I guess. Didn't stop Gary Larson or Bill Watterson, but I think they interacted directly with their fans less.
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