9 Chickweed Lane

Filed in Webcomic commentary, Webcomic reviewTags: , ,

Writers and cartoonists enjoy riling up their audiences. It is part and parcel of the writing process, as stories ultimately exist to make us think about things. However, there is a fine line between riling up readers and driving them away. If you push too far, you risk losing your audience, and the story you were trying to tell is lost. Today’s 9 Chickweed Lane has managed to cross that boundary with me, and infuriated me to the point that I don’t want to look at it again. And while 9CL is primarily a print comic with an online presence, I felt the need to speak up.

To wit: Monty, the supposed incarnation of God in the 9 Chickweed Lane universe (who looks more like a petty bureaucrat than a divine being), has decided he’s embarrassed by humanity doing stupid things in his image. So he’s going to start changing humanity to look like cockroaches, starting with the newly-conceived child of two of the characters, Diane and Francis. What is especially offensive of this act is that several years back, Diane was once a nun and Francis a Catholic priest… but they realized their love for each other was so great that they stepped away from their vows of chastity while not forsaking their faith, and got married.

The mere fact that Brooke McEldowney had a priest and a nun (who aren’t even the main characters of the comic!) break their religious vows and get married is enough to rile up people. I remember reading that story, and was quite touched by it. It was a quiet mixture of spirituality and love, and how one does not preclude the other. So to turn around and show “God” as to being so callous that he would distort one of the fundamental tenets of their faith (to go forth and be fruitful) by turning their child into a bug doesn’t just sneak across the line; it prances across the line into offensiveness and has angered me to the point I refuse to read further.

And driving me to that point ain’t easy. Driving me to that point over religion (considering I’m mostly agnostic) is even trickier. So congratulations, McEldowney, you have managed to push buttons that I didn’t even know existed. And your Kafka-esque twist has managed to drive me away from your comic. Controversy is not a replacement for decent storytelling. Social commentary should not come at the cost of telling a good tale. And while writers have long skirted the line between what is accepted and what is controversial, crossing that line takes greater care and effort than the blunt unoriginal twist you’ve thrown our way.