- 1.25.10 - 8:30AM
- - by
- Nick Douglas
Scott Meets Family Circus -- A Comic Gets Its Comeuppance
Kids say the darnedest things. Except the kids in Bil Keane's Family Circus, who make the same five jokes every week. Scott Gairdner has come to set them straight.
In Scott Meets Family Circus (some language NSFW), Scott Gairdner is following a long tradition of bloggers who explain or parody tired comic strips. Marmaduke Explained pretends there's a lot more going on than "It's a big dog! It reminds you, the reader, of your dog!" Garfield Minus Garfield snaps us out of "It's a cat! It reminds you, the reader, of your cat!"
Scott Meets Family Circus pretends to reach only so high, but it quickly becomes so much more. This is no one-joke concept blog. This is an epic tragedy in the classical sense.
At first, Scott deconstructs Family Circus with more simplicity, coming in to correct the children on their mistakes. (It's a kid misunderstanding a concept! It reminds you, the reader, of your kids!) He specifically corrects the error and educates the children:
Soon, though, he tires of these explanations and asks the children to think through their own misconceptions. Note the folded arms indicating increased restlessness with these children, as if he already suspects they're simply performing. Note their dismay at being found out:
It takes Scott very little time to grow openly hostile to the children, deciding that their now clearly intentional cuteness (are they being rewarded with treats off-panel?) and faux curiosity about the world deserves to be punished with removed access to that world.
Now Scott has physically imposed himself upon the family. He is no longer a metaphorical voice but an active antagonist. At the same time, the family seems to accept him as a part of the Family, possibly out of pity.
When we see Scott with friends, it's only to hear him recount his issues with the children. We see him spending his evening drinking alone at the house after sucking the fun out of the party. But for a reluctant houseguest, he seems to be spending a lot of effort making himself unwanted.
Scott's reason for residence is finally revealed in a full-page episode:
Why is Scott's seduction successful? Thelma has seen what a freeloader Scott is. He's been nothing but hostile and humiliating toward her family. Maybe evolutionary theory can explain: By reducing the value of Thelma's offspring, he has embedded in her the desire to make offspring with a new mate.
Or Scott's just much better off than he let on:
Notice in that last episode how pleased Bill seems at Dolly's unusually awkward (and macabre) joke. The easily amused cuckhold has grown grotesque to Thelma, whose new-found depth is symbolized by the use of limited depth of field in the second panel, rendering the world more three-dimensional.
Scott is growing too, flashing back to a traumatic childhood moment that may explain his current obsession with upsetting childhood schema:
Despite this moment of self-revelation, Scott carries on his Macbethian scheme. Thelma openly favors him over the children, finally abandoning them for her fling. Is their mediocre choice of love suite a reflection of finance or merely the discretion that Thelma weakly attempts with a pair of shades? And are those Scott's shades from earlier? Did she put them on during a flirtatious moment in the Beamer?
The story darkens further. Scott now mocks the children in front of others; he insults their grandmother to her masculine face; he borders on physical abuse against Billy. And worse, he's gotten careless and Bill has discovered Scott and Thelma's adultery:
We later see Bill planning his revenge, or at least entertaining the fantasy. But is this resolved? Scott introduces his friend Dante, possibly an even more promising mate for the dissatisfied Thelma:
In the one (profane) episode since then, and on the series' banner and favicon, Dante has replaced Scott. And he's already at stage three of hostility, possibly from his own personality or thanks to Scott's priming.
Is Dante here to keep the cuckold Bill in check? Is he really Scott's friend, or just the most provocative new member he could foist upon the family? Will Bill exact his revenge on Scott, or has he already taken him out? In these or other cases, there is clearly room left for a towering graphic novel about the fall of the house of Circus.
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