Thursday, March 17, 2011
Sonichu Episode 12.5 Critical Review: No. No. No. No. No.
Damn it, Chris, you can't even make this sympathetic
This is the single most unsettling chapter of Sonichu. It's not the most disturbing, the most grotesque, or even the most pathetic. In terms of story quality, it's probably the best thing Christian Weston Chandler has written. It's the only Sonichu story where Chandler actually conveys real, heartfelt sadness. Instead of obsessing over his latest 'sweetheart', or railing against people who've slighted him, Chandler is mourning the passing of his dog Patti. He's deeply sad that a creature who loved him unconditionally is gone from his life, a creature who treated him with the caring and respect that nobody else had ever given him.
The bizarre, disturbing way in which he deals with this real loss is what makes Sonichu 12.5 so unpleasant to read.
A bizarre mix of photography and drawings (which highlights the crude, scribbly nature of Chandler's drawings a thousandfold), the comic opens with Patti the dog mourning her aging and wishing for the opportunity to talk, so she could finally tell Chris-Chan how much she loves him. The next morning, she wakes up and finds herself an anthropomorphic creature with green markings on her head, able to talk. Chris-Chan (who is represented by his photographed real self) greets her and gives her a "makeover" of a green mini-skirt and jewelry, and takes her to a place where she can run free and happy for eternity. They take a shortcut through Chris-Chan's room, about which Patti notes the need for a woman's touch.
Chris-Chan agrees, as will anyone else who sees the room. It's cluttered wall to wall with Transformers, video games, anime DVDs, and Legos. Patti's comment that the room needs a woman's touch ignores the fact that Chandler could clean the room himself, donate or even sell off a lot of the children's toys he bought with taxpayer money, and create a space that isn't a candidate for an episode of Hoarders. But that's how Chandler thinks about his Love Quest; self-improvement comes after he finds the woman willing to put up with him, not before.
But this wretched hive of scum and arrested development gives way to an even worse place, as Patti is taken CWCVille and offered a seat in the mayor's office. Here we meet Alison Amber, Chris-Chan's secretary. She's similar to Pepper Potts, in that she does all the administrative work while her boss plays superhero-- or in Chris-Chan's case, beats up people who slighted him and ogles women clearly not interested. Also, Alison has an (ugh, he says) boyfriend, so she won't have any sexual tension with Chris-Chan. All she'll do is keep CWCVille running in his stead, which includes offering sanctuary to Patti (now Patti-Chan, as she has the deus ex machina powers and vaguely Japanese-sounding names common to the Sonichus).
Yes, Chandler is keeping his dog's spirit alive as a furry playmate in his imaginary utopia. He cannot accept that she's dead, so he's brought her likeness into CWCVille, his home away from reality. And his retreat from the rest of the world continues, as the only being who ever truly loved him has emigrated to his imaginary space.
Some people have commented that by bringing Patti into CWCVille, Chris-Chan is preventing her from passing on to the afterlife and keeping her in a state of purgatory (or hell, given how it's CWCVille). The sad part is that I can understand Chandler's motivations, and even sympathize with them. I've lost beloved dogs too, and it took me a long time to get over their passing. The death of Terra, the Kapit family's Australian Shepherd, still hurts when I think about it. But dogs don't live forever, and as hard as it is to accept the loss, it happened, and all that's left to do is move on. I can even see Chandler's logic, how giving Patti a new conceptual home would give her peace and allow him to move on.
But CWCVille isn't a space of moving on. It's a hideous Neverland Ranch free from the discomforts of adulthood, progress, and experience. It's a place where arguments are represented by turning the opposite side into a cackling supervillain, children's toys are imbued with WMD levels of power, and even the notion of mortality is optional. Instead of growing from his trauma, Chris-Chan has magically hand-waved the problem into obscurity, so that as long as he retreats from reality, he and Patti can live happily ever after.
Which would be benignly tragic is Chandler just stayed in his imaginary world. But he wants to share CWCVille and Sonichu with the Internet, and become rich and famous off of his Frankensteinian mash-ups of other characters. So CWCVille floats around Chandler as a badly-drawn balloon attached by umbilical cord, and every time he retreats to it in light of his real-world failures, it contorts (or more precisely, distorts) to accommodate the needs of a man-boy refusing to move forward in stronger and stronger fashion.
Even Christian Weston Chandler's real, heartfelt tragedies are undermined by the rest of his bizarre life.