Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Complexity of Faith in Dumbing of Age

A couple of us here at Lady Geek Girl & Friends are fans of David Willis’s webcomic Dumbing of Age, a story about college freshmen trying to figure out life. We love it not just because of the great plots and characters, but because of the sensitive, realistic way it addresses real issues that people have to confront in real life, but that often don’t get much representation in mass media. Dom previously wrote about the phenomenon of racism within a mixed-race family in the comic. Today, my focus is going to be on the religious journey of Joyce, the comic’s main character.

I love Joyce to death. While the comic is full of characters I love, some of whom arguably are more interesting than Joyce (for instance, one character dresses up as a superhero and fights petty crime!), the more the comic goes along, the more I’ve come to appreciate her. She is kind, sweet, adorably naïve, unflappably cheerful, and fiercely loyal to the ones she loves. She also grew up in a sheltered, fundamentalist Christian household. Going from that to the huge, diverse, and largely liberal Indiana University was bound to cause some culture shock. But while this clash is sometimes funny, Willis has never portrayed her as a strawman (strawwoman?) parody of a Christian. It is one of the most sensitive, heartfelt stories of religious struggle that I’ve ever encountered in geek media. I feel as if I have a personal stake in the outcome of her journey because I’ve struggled with similar issues. Details—and spoilers—below.

Dumbing-of-Age-header Continue reading

Not Dismissing Problems in Dumbing of Age

racism not cartoon villainy dumbing of age“I’ve never seen this happen, so it isn’t a real issue,” is a line spoken way too often in geek culture. Unfortunately, with more and more types of people being recognized as consumers, more hate has reared its head. Geek culture has been progressing and has become more accepting than before of the increasing audience, but this hasn’t always been quick or easy. The previously mentioned line is at the heart of this slow process.

With more groups present, however, more experiences are available to the group mindset. Having members of various ethnic groups, genders, and sexualities provides more experiences than a single person can have on their own. However, it is not impossible for someone to speak on an experience they haven’t personally lived, as long as it’s handled with care.

David Willis, probably best known for his Shortpacked! strip about false equivalence, has been doing a pretty decent job with this. Another comic of his, Dumbing of Age, is a “slice-of-life” comic set at Indiana University chronicling the lives of many of his characters from other works, re-imagined as college kids. It’s like a reboot that exists parallel to the normal universe. In this comic, he explores issues like dating, struggling with one’s own religion, various college struggles, sexuality, parental issues, and race. For example, during the past year, he introduced a transgender character, an action which was met with much praise.

Spoilers for Dumbing of Age ahead. Continue reading

New ‘Shortpacked’ Arc Hits Close to Home

I’ve been noticing a trend not only on my Tumblr dash, but in the general consensus of the net and its denizens on what the hot topic issue to discuss this season is: sexism! But when is it not sexism, honestly? At least this time there’s a figurehead for our discussions: Tony Harris. Harris, a comic author that has worked for both Marvel and DC, recently has come out saying a whole slew of offensive things that boil down to “hey girls, you can’t actually like nerdy things because you’re a Fake-y McFakerson and I’m on to you and your tricky lying skank ways.”

Okay, it was better thought out than that (barely), but it brings up a point that we’ve already brought up here once, and will probably do so again: is it possible to be a fake nerd or geek?

More importantly though, does it even matter?  Let’s, for the sake of argument, say that yes, there are fake nerds and geeks that want in this super special club of fandoms and feels and whatever else there is. Who’s going to care or notice? For one, if they’re attending cons, they’re essentially giving money to support other nerds and geeks. If they’re watching shows, they’re adding viewership ratings that may help keep the show on the air. Literally, the only problem I can see with this is that the lack of knowledge they may have on your fandom of choice may be slightly annoying. If that’s the case, either teach them and help them understand—who knows, you may make a nerd/geek of them yet!—or ignore them and go on your way. It’s. Not. That. Hard.

But, I’ve completely veered from what I wanted to bring to light for today. This morning, I checked out the webcomic Shortpacked (which we’ve already praised for one of author David Willis’s previous strips) and was completely sick to my stomach, but in a good way, I’m hoping. It seems as though in his latest arc he’s going to tackle this new, unapologetically geeky girl generation through the eyes of Lucy, the newest addition to the Shortpacked line-up and also an unapologetically geeky chick, and her being harassed by someone that looks freakishly like Mr. Harris. Although it’s only on its first page, it’s already uncomfortably hitting close to home. I’m interested to see where he takes it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope it ended in a cosmic dick punch.