Ruby Nation

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sonichu Episode 3 Critical Review: Eternal President of the Republic of CWCVille

Witness the Work for your Self

Sonichu Episode 3 is an interesting transitional episode, marking the point where Sonichu stops being a children's adventure story and starts becoming the final stand for Christian Weston Chandler's besieged youth. On the one hand, it has a very clear good vs. evil plot, with the villainous Naitsirch ( Christian spelled backwards ) trying to kidnap Pokemon-- a standard plot for the show that contains half of Sonichu's conceptual DNA. On the other hand, it is the full introduction of the stage upon which Sonichu is set-- CWCVille, the city where Chris-Chan is mayor, and holds his office in the shopping mall.

Fan works regarding Sonichu often treat CWCVille as a totalitarian state, dominated by the promotion of its dictator's ego. Later issues of Sonichu will justify this, but for now CWCVille is a haven where Chris-Chan is treated with respect-- he's a benevolent authority figure who has the townsfolk's respect, even if the townsfolk are mostly mutant hedgehogs. But this is also the debut for Chris-Chan's major character arc-- his " love quest ". Chris-Chan is absolutely obsessed with finding a girlfriend, and treats the search for a relationship as a Herculean ordeal. Ironically, at this point he can't find a mate, even within a fictional world of his own creation. But his " son " Sonichu is there to give Chris-Chan words of encouragement. Even though Sonichu's thought balloons show that he doesn't really believe Chris-Chan will be successful, he still admires his creator's courage for continually trying.

At this point, Chris-Chan knows he is not the hero who gets the girl, but the sad sack nice guy who can't get past the " friend zone ". He uses the comic as a means of coping with this problem, by having the hero to whom he aspires validating him. Even though Sonichu calls Chris-Chan " father ", he's more of a good big brother figure here; Chris-Chan watches how Sonichu and Rosechu interact, and he sees the kind of relationship he thinks he should have. It's similar to a sick child seeing an actor dressed as their favorite cartoon character as part of a Make-a-Wish event, and having the actor tell the kid how important they are. Except that Chris-Chan is A.) a grown man and B.) has no serious illnesses.

Sonichu's relationship with Rosechu is another important development here, showcasing what Chandler believes a man-woman relationship should be. Rosechu exhibits every female gender stereotype in existence-- she wears pink, she shops to the point of running up a massive credit card debt, she has Sonichu lug her purchases around like a pack mule, and she's completely useless in an actual fight. This is a common phenomenon in boys' adventure stories, where we are told that the female is just as tough as the guys, but she never actually proves it ( at risk of upstaging the men ). Believe me when I say that the hypocrisy here is NOT an isolated incident for Sonichu; most of the perverse appeal of Sonichu comes from Chandler's extremely twisted conception of " women's rights ". The hypocrisy of trying to telling us that the main heroine is effective while showing her as helpless without her man is just the beginning.

But the story here is still a story that, hypothetically, could be taken as a straight adventure comic. Granted, it would be an adventure comic well below professional standards, due to the unique storytelling methods chandler employs. Chandler makes countless amateur mistakes; he uses Comic Sans MS as a font, his pages are infected with white space, and his panel borders are crudely drawn by hand. This isn't even beginning to describe the many errors present with his anatomy, perspective, reference material, and basic consistency. But since I'm analyzing Sonichu as a postmodern artistic statement for the sake of this academic exercise, I think it serves the story. The childish, Crayola-colored visuals accentuate the fact that CWCVille is an adult-free Neverland, and they make the instances where more mature issues slip in even more jarring.

1 comment:

  1. A few comments worth making:

    -If Chandler is using his work to cope with some of the issues in his own life, what does that say about guys like you and me who do some of the same things in our own work? A lot of what I write has personal meaning to me, just as Ruby's World has a lot of personal meaning for you.

    Then again, we don't turn people we know in real life into enemies that suffer assorted grisly fates, nor do we loiter in malls carrying handmade signs while trying to attract/harass female customers...

    -By "heroine", you mean a character who's actively expected to contribute to the action, as opposed to just a member of the supporting cast, right? We don't typically expect to see Mary Jane defeating the villains, and usually the onus is on Spider-Man to be the one to save the day. When Mary Jane doesn't contribute to the action, it isn't as big a deal.

    And yes, I know Mary Jane genuinely *does* help save the day on multiple occasions, but that's more a subversion of the whole damsel-in-distress trope and something we don't typically expect, rather than expecting Mary Jane to be constantly risking her neck alongside Peter every issue.

    E. Wilson's comments on Mary Jane becoming "The Girlfriend" in different media adaptations illustrate another problem with the One True Pairing phenomenon, namely that the audience automatically associates two characters as always getting together. Right away, we know (or at least expect) that Mary Jane will eventually become Peter's One True Love, that Gwen will either die or move on to someone else to free Peter up for MJ.

    That's where Brian Michael Bendis actually has a clever subversion in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. Mary Jane eventually breaks it off with Peter, and they never get back together. Gwen is the one who finally wins Peter's heart.

    -There are, admittedly, some female stereotypes that I actually use for the main love interest of one of my own characters, namely her love of shopping, her using her Henpecked Boyfriend as the pack mule who carries her purchases, and her obsessive love for shoes. In my defense, I mostly use this for comedic purposes, and it's rarely the main focus of the narrative.

    How far can you carry these kinds of stereotypes without damaging the character or your narrative?

    -As for Emma Frost, I'll just say one thing: Drawing your main female character on the front cover posing in her underwear in a rose garden does not make me more inclined to buy your book. It makes me embarassed to be a comic fan. I can appreciate fanservice as much as the next guy, but I have my limits.

    -The funny thing about Pepe Le Pew is that he actually got a taste of his own medicine on several occasions when the black female cat started chasing him. This usually occurred when he got his white stripe covered by black paint (reversing the usual plot of the black cat getting white paint on her back), or when the cat's nose gets clogged and she loses her sense of smell.