People are up in arms over a gay character in the comic strip "For Better Or For Worse."
September 6, 2001 11:50 AM   Subscribe

People are up in arms over a gay character in the comic strip "For Better Or For Worse." It's okay to have sex and violence splashed everywhere, but people are taking offense at having a gay character in a comic strip? What the hell? (Story originally referenced in Jim Romensko's Media News.)
posted by metrocake (41 comments total)
Yes, but it is equally irritating to see people come over all tolerant and cool , auto-patting their stooping backs just because their tofu stays down when a "gay character" pops up.
Having "gay characters" is such a cop-out, anyway. When will we have a comic with a fully-fledged character - who could be evil, reactionary or anything else people can be - who just happens to be gay?
(I bet one already exists - any suggestions?)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:17 PM on September 6, 2001

Why is it always the painfully boring comic strips that have exicitng, earth-shattering issues?

People were really excited when "Luann" had her period in the comics page. I don't really care one way or the other. I support having gay characters and menstruation in my comics (not necessarily at the same time)...but can we make the comics funny fer chrissakes? For Better, For Worse is not a laugh riot...and kind of resembles Rex Morgan MD. I don't really see why pressing issues of the day have to be debated in a comic strip.

What we need more of is Robotman and Ernie, stuff like that. Maybe Overboard. The comics should be "comic" IMHO.

That said, I think Jeffy from the Family Circus has been a flaming queen for years, and that never bothered anyone, right?
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:22 PM on September 6, 2001

Kafkaesque, your comment (Why is it always the painfully boring comic strips that have exicitng, earth-shattering issues?) reminds me of when Ellen DeGeneres came out on her ABC show, Ellen, which was painfully boring to me.
posted by msacheson at 12:29 PM on September 6, 2001

The comics should be "comic" IMHO.

Amen to that.
posted by spinning jennie at 12:35 PM on September 6, 2001

plato wrote about homosexuality, why cant a stupid comic strip?

another thing that bugs me is the whole biblical translations and edits of the new testament, for example: around the 16th century the word that had translated into masturbation, was retranslated into meaning homosexuality. i think the word was "malakos."
so for the most part, i guess what im saying is that, the new testament prior to the 16th century didnt have any gay-bashing.

i cant read hebrew, so i could be wrong...

aside all that, i think the comic sucks. and i think the people who are protesting the token gay-guy are complete morons.

(hey, this is my first comment. someone flame me)
posted by socialdrone at 12:38 PM on September 6, 2001

Hell, he's been out for 8 years, give the (fictional) guy a break!
posted by djfiander at 12:39 PM on September 6, 2001

Exactly, msacheson. I support it in theory, but jeez. Go ahead and be gay, just don't make me watch your crappy TV show. Urkel could be gayer than RuPaul, I still wouldn't watch his show to see it.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2001

Check Doonesbury. Mark, one of the central characters outed himself some number of years ago. It's been a major theme.
posted by dong_resin at 12:46 PM on September 6, 2001

malakos is greek, not hebrew

Do your damn research before you make such comments.

There, a nice, calm flame.

posted by Dagobert at 12:47 PM on September 6, 2001

Well, for what it's worth:
I love "For Better or for Worse". Why, I'm not sure. I've been reading almost daily for over 10 years I think (since high school at least). It's more of a Soap Opera kind of thing, I got into it through my Mom, who liked it - never was really a rabid fan, but after a few years, the characters become so familiar that I was just hooked. I rarely (if ever) laugh out loud at it, but it can be moving from time to time (especially if you're invested in the characters).

On a daily basis, I find Dilbert more funny, Boondocks more honest, and Doonesbury more appealing, but I've put in a lot more time with "FBoFW".

As far as Lawrence being gay - it seems to be generally a non-issue to fans. For those who have an issue - good, what better way to point out an irrational reactionary than to see them attacking a "comic strip".
posted by kokogiak at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2001

(apologies for my "bad use" of "quote marks" in the previous post. Ugh.)
posted by kokogiak at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2001

Hey Miguel!

>will we have a comic with a fully-fledged character - who >could be evil, reactionary or anything else people can be - >who just happens to be gay?


>(I bet one already exists - any suggestions?)

You bet! (Well sorta, I don't think he qualifies as "gay", but more of an extreme hedonist...)

I'm warning you, the following comic character may prove to be offensive to any and all human beings.... But it could suck you into the archives, and lose you for hours...
posted by jkaczor at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2001

And poor United Media is getting lots of exposure for their strip.

I read the article, and it seems to me the people at UM suggested the story to raise awareness of the comic.

It's the same old story: free publicity by hosting a fabricated scandal event. I'm sure copies of the paper are being faxed to every right-wing anti-gay group in the nation at this very moment.
posted by perplexed at 1:02 PM on September 6, 2001

Well, if we're letting Space Moose into the discussion, we may as well unleash the entire cast of Jerkcity while we're at it...
posted by darukaru at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2001

OK, Jason: thanks. You've lost me.
And welcome to MeFi from us old-timers!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:33 PM on September 6, 2001

i haven't read the comics page since Bloom County and Outland left.
posted by tolkhan at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2001

So you missed Calvin and Hobbes. I'm sorry.
posted by jragon at 1:51 PM on September 6, 2001

Wow, too bad the Metafilter crew isn't always around to give artists and writers advice on exactly how to make their characters gay correctly.

Comics have as much a right to debate the issues of the day as anything else does. In fact, some of the most subversive and radical opinions have been sneaked under the cultural radar in newspaper comics. And from the looks of the comments on this story, it seems that's because the people who are intelligent enough to debate the "issues" are too smart for the comics page. Or, at least the comics they have now. (Cuz, you know, all the good ones are gone.)

The reason I like FBoFW is because the characters are at least remotely similar to actual people, dealing with actual problems. Not everybody has the luxury of "just happening to be" gay from day one, and not every mother-in-law likes gay people. The strip might not be the most hilarious, but at least it's not the same damn thing every day.

Or maybe I'm just glad it doesn't have anachronistic golf courses all over the place. (see: basically every other comic.)
posted by kevspace at 2:31 PM on September 6, 2001

"Wow, too bad the Metafilter crew isn't always around to give artists and writers advice on exactly how to make their characters gay correctly."

Why so bitter?
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:39 PM on September 6, 2001

"Having "gay characters" is such a cop-out, anyway. When will we have a comic with a fully-fledged character - who could be evil, reactionary or anything else people can be - who just happens to be gay?"

Bear in mind that this strip has been running for fifty million years -- as someone commented above, it really is like a slice-of-life soap opera. Having said that, Lawrence was always a character; after the strip ran for some years (and the main characters reached adulthood) he came out. Since then, the fact that he was gay hasn't really been brought up much -- just like the "just happens to be gay" character you'd like to see.

Even so, the take on what's happning now isn't so much that everyone's running around screaming "he's gay!" -- the mother-in-law portrayed in the strip has been having issues with *everything* to do with planning this wedding. This simply is the latest one; it's less about Lawrence and his sexual orientation and more about her problems with it, and with his inclusion in the wedding party. Which is why, frankly, I was (and am) so surprised that some readers/editors are having problems with it and asking for "alternate versions."

The other comic strips I like are Stone Soup, Foxtrot, Dilbert (on occasion), and Robotman. :) I also like comic books -- Gloomcookie, Milk & Cheese, Dork!, Action Girl, Artbabe, Blue Monday, Charm School, Lucifer, and Sandman/Dreaming. No golf courses here... (Support your local comic book store today. This has been a public service announcement from Roe.)
posted by metrocake at 2:54 PM on September 6, 2001

I guess what I really want to say about For Better For Worse is: Why did the goddamned dog have to die!?!

There I am reading my funnies as usual, and then all of a sudden I'm almost bawling. This is tied to the vague sense of foreboding I feel whenever I watch a movie that has a dog in it. At least 50% of the time, the dog is gonna buy it. This is guaranteed to turn even a tower of virile masculinity like myself into a blubbering mess. To this day I have a hard time even looking at the cover of Where the Red Fern Grows.

*sniff, sniff*

posted by Kafkaesque at 3:09 PM on September 6, 2001

The comics should be "comic" IMHO.

my favorite comics are not always funny. sometimes funny but sometimes damn bitter, sometimes poignant, sometimes sarcastic. i think we just need a more inclusive term than "comics". because a lot of "comics" are not about the three-panel punchline anymore.
posted by mjane at 3:32 PM on September 6, 2001

Oh, I *know* -- and, while he was old, he didn't just die...he died while saving April from the river.
posted by metrocake at 3:32 PM on September 6, 2001

it was, indeed, a bit over-the-top.
posted by bluishorange at 3:48 PM on September 6, 2001

anyone else find the 'moral right' incredibly predictable and utterly boring as hell? they are the gods of small matters and other peoples business. why don't we ARM them and see what fun comes of that!

no, no wait. they've been armed for years. well then, let's DISARM them and give the arms to the dolphins! hell, if a dolphin aint got an arm, then I AINT INTERESTED IN FEELING SORRY FOR 'EM DAMMIT.

posted by eatdonuts at 4:08 PM on September 6, 2001

"Because I spent two years being shot as in Europe, that's why you turned out to be a radical gay disc jockey?"

This is the line from today's Doonesbury. I haven't heard much fuss about this, and that's a pretty bold line, I think.

But the fact remains is that there are many, many people out their who are still concerned with the 'homosexual agenda' and they would rather live in their sheltered world than be exposed to what exists in real life. In 99+% counties in America, same sex couples live. They'd rather just ignore that, spout on about how they feel its wrong because an ages-old book told them so. So alternate material is provided to assist in keeping these people in their sheltered world, because otherwise they might cancel the subscription.

Then they will go out on the Internet, find things worse than they could have ever imagined, call their legislature and complain that their sheltered lives are not being protected.
posted by benjh at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2001

posted by jcterminal at 5:16 PM on September 6, 2001

i cant read greek either...

damn straight, calvin and hobbes rule
posted by socialdrone at 5:22 PM on September 6, 2001

I rather like For Better or For Worse--but mainly because I've been reading it, off and on, for the last 15 years or so.

My current favorite strip is Liberty Meadows, which is beautifully drawn, has engaging storylines, and is funny as all get out. Oh, and there are literary allusions every once in a while, too (useful for feeding the inner English major).
posted by eilatan at 5:40 PM on September 6, 2001

like some of the other people in here, i've invested a notable amount of time into For Better of Worse (though i've seriously enjoyed it for the past year or two.). actually, i read nearly ALL the comics in my sunday newspaper, with the exception of Mary Worth. My favorites, and oens I actually look forward to reading are Zits (Not just because I'm from Cincinnati and have to represent my "hood".), Mutts, and For Better or Worse. Though I wouldn't use the soap opera analogy, I still empathize a lot more with the characters more so than most other strips... maybe because it isn't always meant to hit you with a punchline by the end of the joke. comics don't have to be comic. anyone remember the heart-breaking (and staggering of course) issue of The Incredible Hulk devoted to his friend who had AIDS?
posted by lotsofno at 5:40 PM on September 6, 2001

FBoFW is great! Maybe it's not a gag-a-day strip, but every day does have something funny about it -- generally with one of the characters having a reaction to something that just happened or that was said. Very realistic in that sense, and the realism is heightened by one of the boldest artistic choices on the comics page -- everything happens, more or less, in real time. People age year after year. Heck, characters die. Michael goes off and has his college and post-collegiate adventures, then Elizabeth gets that age and goes off and has her very own, different adventure, and you're thinking "When did she grow up?"

Another strip doing something almost as groundbreaking is Funky Winkerbean. Its high-school characters all eventually grew up and became adults, some of them teaching at the same school. It's dealt with subjects as touchy as suicide, adultery, and alcoholism. Then there are long stretches where it's just light-hearted slice-of-life gags. But the characters feel like old friends, and it's never forced.
posted by dhartung at 6:20 PM on September 6, 2001

Aside (re 'malakos'): if you're in Greece and wish to enrage a man displaying excessive machismo, mutter "Malaka". Pretty much the equivalent of "wanker". Used to use it in a joshing kinda way all the time with friends, but can also be employed to annoy and confuse calvinists people who bother you.

Unintentional side benefit of knowing the word : makes the old Vancouver TV commercials for Malacca Rattan : "Malacca for the money, rattan to go!" awfully amusing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:06 PM on September 6, 2001

Could someone tell us poor Americans what "Malacca Rattan" is? That one definitely didn't make it to New York... :)
posted by metrocake at 9:58 PM on September 6, 2001

Rattan furniture place, metrocake. Totally unrelated, and thus the humour factor, with the white-top-hatted commercial guy intoning their slogan in a baritone voice...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:10 PM on September 6, 2001

: a la Homer Simpson :


Actually, that *is* pretty damned funny!
posted by metrocake at 10:39 PM on September 6, 2001

I haven`t seen For Better or For Worse in awhile, but it`s covered a lost of issues of everyday life. I just wish there were some way that the small-town editors could run the strip without having half their subscribers and advertisers lower the boom.

On a side note, I am distressed to see that Michael is getting married. My mom is an avid reader of FBoFW and, as Michael is theoretically about my age, she often compares him to me. So now she takes reports of my having a girlfriend much more seriously...
posted by chiheisen at 12:48 AM on September 7, 2001

The strip doesn't look very entertaining frankly. But that's not always the point. I'm sorry but it's not easy growing up gay, and the statistics bear it out - gay teenagers are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight ones and two to three times more likely to succeed. THey are also over-represented in the homeless community. I've met people who were disowned by their families, stabbed by their parents, beaten up going down the street and almost every single gay person in the world has had to lie about what they are for a time in their lives.

Frankly, I not only understand the sense of obligation of a gay creator feeling the need to try and stop teenagers killing themselves, but I am frankly amazed that otherwise liberal people are still prepared to roll their eyes and say 'we just don't want to hear about it anymore'. You can find it boring, you can sigh to yourself, you can wander off and read something else if you want to, but really...
posted by barbelith at 5:31 AM on September 7, 2001

The Most Recent Strip
That's pretty funny there.
posted by benjh at 7:12 AM on September 7, 2001

"What can I say? She likes the malakas!"

--Anthony Michael Hall in William Shakespeare's Weird Science
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:05 AM on September 7, 2001

I've always been under the impression that the storylines that make up FBoW are representative of Johnston's life and family. Her family has been involved in the life of a good friend of her oldest son who had a lot of troubles with his own family and other prejudiced people after coming out. Her oldest son has recently wed. And the family dog, who was named Farley, (but not a sheepdog, if I recall correctly) did drown, though not while trying to save the life of Johnston's own change of life baby daughter. Art imitates life; so do comic strips.
posted by Dreama at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2001

First of all, I stopped reading comics when I was about 12 or 13. Second, too much is being made of a FICTIONAL charecter (a la Dan Quale & Murphy Brown.) Finally, for the record, the funniest, most intelligent comic strip, ever, is THE FAR SIDE (it's the only site I could find!).

The Wizard of Id was good too.
posted by Rastafari at 10:11 AM on September 7, 2001

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