I have a content warning before going into Karen Moy and June Bridgman’s Mary Worth today. It features pet death, and handles it with spectacular incompetence. If you don’t want to read that, I don’t blame you. You might skip the whole thing. Around about January 2019 I should have another plot recap. I trust this storyline will be done before that point.
In non-warn-worthy content, I have comic strips based on mathematical topics discussed over here. I also have a fun series describing mathematical terms, which you might enjoy. Last week included mathematical jokes. And monkeys at typewriters.
6 August – 28 October 2018
The running story last time was about Tommy and Brandy’s relationship. Brandy’s father was alcoholic, and used drugs. Tommy’s been addicted to alcohol and painkillers. He’s quit for a year now, and hopes to stay clean. But he’s afraid when Brandy finds out about his past she’ll dump him.
Everybody Tommy knows gives him the same advice. So he takes it. He tells her about his painkiller addiction. That he’s not used anything in over a year. That he has a support group he feels confident in. That he’s found both God and Mary Worth. And she’s okay with that. She loves him, and trusts him. They stick together. So that’s sweet.
There’s a week of Mary and Iris talking about how happy everything is and how great Mary is. And that leads to the current storyline. And this one, as I warn, includes pet death treated badly. So here’s one last chance to ditch if you need to.
There are many ways to make a great soap opera comic. I wouldn’t dare try to categorize them all. But I can tell you one way to win my heart: have a character be way too passionate for the scene. Mary and Toby’s absurd love of cruise ships set that storyline off to great effect. The singer Esme’s passionate love for Indiana’s most Derek-named man matched and even exceeded it. An outrageous emotional response may not make for realism. But it makes for fun stories. This story has several moments in which people display incongruous emotional reactions to things. They’re moments of wonder and joy in a story that takes a dark turn, has some sensitive moments, and then smashes into incredible wrongness.
The story began the 27th of August with a Chartersone Pool Party. And with Mary Worth’s muffins. And her Salmon Snacks. Pool party, muffins, and salmon-based alleged food items. It was a buffet of the things Mary Worth‘s ironic readers want. The guest star at the party, and this story, is Saul Wynter, and his dog Bella. Mary tries to ply them both with muffins. Bella’s “in guard dog mode”, growling. So is Wynter. Toby wants nothing to do with either. Mary refuses to give up on him. I admire her example in this regard.
Then comes tragedy. The plot’s barely started when Bella dies. And Toby spends a week not understanding how it is that Bella could have meant so much to Wynter. Mary has to explain to Toby, nominally an adult, that people can become attached to their pets. I’m still smarting from two rabbits and a dozen goldfish who died unexpectedly in the past year. But Toby not understanding how the hew-mons might care for a chihuahua that’s been dead for a whole day or more? That’s great. For a while I was loving this story.
A couple days later Mary brings some salmon spread appetizers to Wynter. He’s sad, yes. But he’s also grateful to Mary for visiting, and he brings her into his apartment. He’s got quite a few pictures of Bella. He buried Bella with some of her favorite things, and kept the rest. Mary asks if he’d like company going to the pet cemetery, and he accepts. And there he opens up. He married someone he didn’t really love. Family pressure. And his actual love died apart from him. Bella was his consolation and comfort. And he doesn’t know what he’ll do now. He goes into seclusion, and he’s not seen for several weeks.
Mary sees a crisis. Perhaps there is. But it’s not supported by what’s been on-screen. What we’ve seen is that Saul Wynter lost the dog who’d been his companion and comfort for 17 years. And he’s been sad and reclusive for weeks. “Months”, says Mary, on the 9th of October. But the thing is … that’s pretty normal. It could be trouble, yes. But all that we’re shown is that Wynter was sad. And he wasn’t socializing with the Charterstone crowd that he didn’t have much to do with before his dog died. This hasn’t made the case that emergency intervention is necessary.
That isn’t going to stop Mary. She goes to him with a story. She says she needs her tires replaced, and fears being talked into unnecessary services. She needs Wynter’s help, as a former car-repair-shop owner, to spot and avoid tricks. He concedes it’s not like Mary’s boyfriend Jeff can help. Mary talks up, during the drive, how important it is to stay open to love. And at this point I was cranky. Grief is a duty we owe our loves. Where does Mary Worth get off saying, that’s it, time for the replacement doggo?
Mary diverts from the car-tire story to go to the Animal Shelter. She claims she’s dropping off a donation but, you know, why not look around and see if there’s some nice dog or cat there? Wynter, who earlier had to hide from people walking their own dogs, wants nothing of this. I don’t blame him. But Mary keeps the pressure on, insisting that they could do some dog some good. Mary drags Wynters through the shelter over his clear protests made in front of staff. It offers some great moments of hilarious body language. But, still.
So now you know why I’m so angry at this storyline. Not only me, either. Comics Kingdom has added a thing where people can note their reaction to strips. A typical response (for the 20th of October); 5 ‘upvotes’, 1 ‘Funny’, 4 ‘Sad’, 71 ‘Angry’. Let me compare to another strip that’s in a plot readers view skeptically, to be recapped in two weeks. Rex Morgan, M.D. that same day got 4 ‘upvotes’, 1 ‘funny’, 4 ‘surprised’, 5 ‘angry’, and 3 ‘sad’. And one of those upvotes was me casting a vote because you can’t see the totals until after you’ve voted. That Rex Morgan, M.D. strip drew 50 comments. That Mary Worth was at 241. There’s whole years I don’t get 241 comments.
Moy and Brigman attempt to reconcile with an audience on the brink of open rebellion. They introduce a dog so obviously needy (“we suspect she was abused … she’s been with us for almost a year and still hasn’t opened up”) that Wynter can’t help picking her up. And he’s so needy that the dog can’t help opening up. She’s available for adoption. This should be heartwarming. If you ignore the deceit. And the arrogance of setting a schedule for someone else’s grief.
Anyway, that’s about where we stand. I don’t know how many victory laps Mary will run for pushing a man to adopt an animal.
Dubiously Sourced Quotes of Mary Worth Sunday Panels!
- “Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.” — Bruce Wilkinson, 5 August 2018.
- “Love is when you give someone else the power to destroy you, and you trust them not to.” — E Lockhart, 12 August 2018.
- “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde, 19 August 2018.
- “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” — Carl Jung, 26 August 2018.
- “Be friendly to everyone. Those who deserve it the least need it the most.” — Bo Bennett, 2 September 2018.
- “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” — Dalai Lama, 9 September 2018.
- “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” — Agnes Sligh Turnbull, 16 September 2018.
- “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” — Norman Cousins, 23 September 2018.
- “Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.” — Bruce Wilkinson, 30 September 2018.
- “Anything that triggers good memories can’t be all bad.” — Adam West, 7 October 2018.
- “A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” — Arnold H Glasgow, 14 October 2018.
- “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” — Andy Rooney, 21 October 2018.
- “The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.” — George Eliot, 28 October 2018.
So how’s that whole Rat Must Die project coming along? Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, gets some time next week. We’ll see who’s dead and who isn’t. (Spoiler: I’m pretty sure the Ghost Who Walks isn’t dead.)