I wrote a version of this as a comment on the Son of Stuck Funky blog, the web’s premiere source for remembering things about Funky Winkerbean, but you know? I’m still bothered so I’m going to write more.
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean opened this week with Crazy Harry bringing over a bunch of tapes of Lisa Moore. Lisa Moore died, reader time, in 2008. It was a big story, where she responded to the news her breast cancer had returned by recording videotape messages for her daughter and then dying. The dying may seem like an extreme reaction. It seemed the best way to escape her husband, Les Moore, the most insufferable person on the comics page. It hasn’t worked, as Les Moore wrote a book about her dying and turned it into a graphic novel and an annual fun-run and a failed made-for-TV movie and a completed made-for-theaters movie and the whole of his personality except for being snide to acquaintances.
A couple years back Les Moore loaned the suspiciously many videotapes to Crazy Harry for digitization. And today, years after finishing the project and I thought returning the tapes, he came over with a bunch of the Lisa Moore tapes. What’s got me angry is a line that I might have ignored if I had more patience with the comic strip.
Why does Crazy Harry explain that “Donna said I had to get rid of my VHS tapes”? Yes, yes, I know, because she was tired of them cluttering up the basement or whatever. But Tom Batiuk decided that Harry’s wife was tired of the clutter. Why? What does that explanation do that, oh, “I was organizing my VHS tapes and noticed I still had some” would not? Or “your father asked about a couple of these tapes, which are more precious to him than are his daughter, his current wife Not-Lisa, or the Academy Award won by the woman who played Lisa in the movie about Lisa’s Death”?
Because it fits a pattern and it’s a subtly annoying one. It’s the same role that most all the male characters have been through, where their mother made them get rid of their comic books. Or their wife made them get rid of their superhero stuff. The current era of Funky Winkerbean sees a lot of characters passively accepting the indignities of life, yes, as see Lisa Moore’s whole acceptance of death. Why is it the only time a women in this strip take an active role, it’s the off-screen decision that the man in her life has to give up a hobby?
The one time I can think of when the woman didn’t make the off-screen decision to make one of the player-characters give up a hobby was a story a couple weeks ago. Funky Winkerbean’s wife decided they were going to go to a estate-planning seminar. That’s a reasonable and grown-up thing to do, yes. It’s also something she forced him to do, and he was a total Les Moore about the experience. (The Son of Stuck Funky folks, who have an uncanny ability to find old plots, also found where Funky and Mrs Funk went to an estate planner five years ago. I’m tolerant of comic strips repeating themselves — it’s baked into the genre — but I do want the new iteration to at least be pleasant.)
Why can’t Crazy Harry decide he’s got too many hobbies and VHS tape collecting isn’t bringing him joy anymore? Why can’t Crazy Harry notice he’s got stuff he doesn’t need and doesn’t want? Why does Donna have to be the heavy? Also, why did Lisa Moore have more hours of screen time than Regis Philbin did? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.