Is it my imagination, or have we been seeing a run of comics that are just mean-spirited rather than attempting to be funny?

Just a small sampling…

mean lio

mean non seq

pixel

Please note that I’m not singling out any particular comics or artists here: this just seems to be an overall trend, and I’m sure there’ll be several other examples before next weekend.

19 Comments

  1. Honestly, after all Lio’s done to his father, it’s kind of nice he’s getting a bit of his own back. And Non Sequitur is…kind of run of the mill, for that strip. But yeah, lots of “being nasty is funny, right?”. I’m just not sure it’s particularly a recent thing.

  2. The humor calculus works like this… we all have thoughts of mayhem that we don’t follow up on. Strangling the person at the front of the line who didn’t remember they had coupon until it was time to pay. Running down the twit riding his skateboard in the traffic lane at 4mph. Letting the air out of the tires of the car parked across two parking spaces in the crowded parking lot. But we don’t actually do anything except think nasty thoughts in the general direction of the offender. So there is a connection when anyone suggests a creative approach to the imagined violence. Releasing the stress related to one of these suggestions causes relief, which feels like laughter, and poof, that’s like joke.

  3. James Pollock – That theory sounds great for the examples you gave. Some people find getting “revenge” on someone being inconsiderate satisfying. But the strips shown here, especially the first two, seem mean spirited for no valid reason. Filling your kid’s pool with cement and laughing after he likely busts his head open is just being a monster.

  4. As I mentioned when I submitted these two, I’m wond’rin’ if the mean-spiritedness in the comics is reflecting our social/political climate. OR, have we on CIDU just become more sensitive to it, being the gentle, kind-hearted folks that we are.

  5. At least Wiley offered up a visual pun to go along with the violence, so it’s not pure mean-spiritedness.

  6. The cement one is like one of those youTubes of people jumping into lakes that turn out to be solid ice: https://youtu.be/VBXKoZQwvDE?t=22 Since it is hard for a cartoon character to make a pool icy in a visually economic and satisfying way, QWIK CEMENT is the only sensible way of illustrating it if you want to get that gag. But then it does make the perpetrator look nasty, whereas the real ice-lake jumpers have mostly themselves to blame.

  7. “As I mentioned when I submitted these two, I’m wond’rin’ if the mean-spiritedness in the comics is reflecting our social/political climate.”

    It’s not a new development. This kind of thing has been in stand-up comedy for approximately forever. If it is a change, it’s probably just that editors are worrying about things other than what’s on the comic pages.

    ” the strips shown here, especially the first two, seem mean spirited for no valid reason”

    I think that’s the point. People sometimes have cruel impulses that have no valid reason. But they suppress them and move on. But the impulses ARE still there, so there’s some relief when you find out you aren’t the only one who has had them. For example, it’s considered OK to wish violence upon mimes, even in polite company. And it’s also occasionally to openly consider violence upon the OTHER party, when all the people in the room are of the same party.

  8. The additional issue here is that in these three comics, the victims are all children — and in two of them, the children of the adults in question.

  9. Lio is an . . . exceptional child. I think people who follow the strip were more of the “about time Dad got one over on him” mindset.

  10. @James Pollock: We do not all have thoughts of mayhem when people annoy us. I’ve never once considered slashing someone’s tires or inflicting bodily harm out of annoyance. Maybe it’s just you…?

  11. “@James Pollock: We do not all have thoughts of mayhem when people annoy us. ”

    Everyone by yr holiness does.

  12. “What is it that’s pixellated in the third one?”

    There was a debate about that, if you go back to the original appearance. Multiple theories abounded, and I don’t think anyone convinced anyone that their theory was better.

  13. The third one has a joke that it reverses the expectations that they are going so say something about how they forgive or overlook the bad behavior of the day but instead are going to … do something nasty. (But I said it before the idea of parents actively being so petty and mean is very disturbing and unpleasant.)

    The second has a in a word play on “book club for skateboarders”. However the violence seems a bit over the top and not enjoyable (even though skateboarders are annoying). Maybe if skateboarders was a more common rather than arbitrary subject of a book club I’d enjoy it more.

    Oddly enough, even though I really dislike the strip Lio, this one gave me a chuckle. Not sure why and not sure I wouldn’t be a better person if it hadn’t. I think the impression one gets that the pool was full of water in panel one and it set in the second it took Lio to jump and his annoyed but physically unhurt expression puts this safely into the realm of comic surreal absurdity. So it worked for me…. (although it probably shouldn’t have.)

  14. The pixellated squares in the third one are QR Codes. If you scan them with your phone, they bring you to a sweet poem about how angelic sleeping children are.

    (Okay, I made that up. I figured I’d try putting a touching spin on it in an attempt to soften the comic.)

  15. @James P. “People sometimes have cruel impulses that have no valid reason. But they suppress them and move on. But the impulses ARE still there, so there’s some relief when you find out you aren’t the only one who has had them. For example, it’s considered OK to wish violence upon mimes, even in polite company. And it’s also occasionally to openly consider violence upon the OTHER party, when all the people in the room are of the same party.”

    I agree with about 95% of what you’ve said in this thread about cruelty-based humour, and you put it well. However, I think the violent impulses ARE there for a reason. Mimes are annoying, especially when you’re in a hurry, or the ‘other party’ is likely involved in doing things you don’t agree with. Are these ‘valid’ reasons to wish violence upon them? Well, they’re reasons, and I think the validity would be subjective.

    I think the comics above relate to this as well. As mentioned, skateboarders can be annoying. Also, I defy any parent to tell me that they haven’t secretly wished some form of revenge upon their children for annoying the crap out of them at some point, and haven’t imagined any number of scenarios to accomplish this. That’s where the humour lies in these comics, exactly as you mentioned above, ‘there’s some relief when you find out you aren’t the only one who has had them.’ But there are valid reasons for this type of wishful thinking.

    Furthermore, the violence wished upon them is exaggerated and has no real basis in reality, adding to the humour because all you really want is for them to stop doing whatever it is that bothers you. People don’t go around humorously craving violence upon a person who has absolutely zero impact upon their lives. Who would laugh if someone at a party said, “Man, on the way here I saw this guy sitting on a park bench minding his own business and I barely noticed him at all. I wanted to punch him right in the face! Amirite?” Instead of laughing, you might want to consider upping his dosage.

    I suppose though that people do find it amusing when someone slips on the ice ungracefully, or tumbles down the stairs. But that type of laughter ends pretty quickly if the person actually hurts themselves…at least for the majority of people who aren’t sociopaths. I think that type of humour is more to do with social embarrassment that we can all relate to than violence.

    Anyway, sorry for the wall of text, folks. I’m really bored at work today.

  16. Andréa, I’m in agreement that these are not funny. I’d say it is a longtime staple of comedy, hurting someone you don’t like for laughs. I’ve heard it said that funny is when somebody doing something annoying/dangerous to get attention gets hurt or embarrassed, that’s funny. If you just hurt somebody it’s just being an a-hole.

    As James points out, there are many who think being an a-hole is funny. I don’t. I think back, for example, to when The Big Bang Theory show premiered about a thousand years ago. I found the first season funny because the characters, especially Sheldon, were shown as awkward and having trouble interacting with “normal” people. After that first season, they just made Sheldon an misanthropic a-hole who took pleasure in making other people suffer. Lost all appeal.

    I do think there is a correlation between how pent-up or repressed people feel and how much they think being a jerk is funny. Plenty of UK comedy TV shows feature horrible, nasty people as their protagonists. While there is plenty of it in USA comedies, I think I’ve seen more good-hearted sitcoms from the USA than the UK.

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