Trying to review the new Image Comics series Snotgirl is a bit tricky because, frankly, I’m not sure how much a reader like me is even supposed to like it, given that it’s clearly aimed at a younger — and decidedly more female — readership. All in all, this is a good thing, given that books aimed at a 30-and 40-something male readership are absolutely saturating the market, whereas titles squarely aimed at women in their 20s are depressingly few and far between — the problem with this book, though, is that it seems to be trying more than a little bit too hard to connect with its intended demographic and it ends up feeling like it’s pandering, rather than speaking, to its hoped-for audience.
The creation of writer Bryan Lee O’Malley (of Scott Pilgrim fame) and artist/webcomics sensation Leslie Hung, Snotgirl follows the so-far-quite-dull exploits of one Lottie Person, an L.A. (I think, at any rate)-based fashion blogger with severe allergies, perhaps even more severe anxiety, and green hair. This debut installment introduces us to Lottie, her largely vacuous circle of shallow “friends” (who are also all fashion bloggers), and a new wannabe-addition to her social circle who’s too perfect and stylish for words (and has also just started a fashion blog herself). None of ’em do much beyond text each other constantly and silently compare every single aspect of each other’s appearance, resulting in an overall portrayal of young women that’s as offensive as it is overly-generalized, but that’s sort of endemic of the main problem that’s festering away at this series’ core — ya see, it comes off as a story written by an older guy who’s read a little bit about what his “target market” is into, and how they act, but doesn’t have the first fucking clue about what they’re actually like.
For one thing, you can probably count on two hands the number of people in the entire country who are managing to earn a living as fashion bloggers. Sure, style blogs are a dime a dozen (as are — gulp! — movie and comic review blogs), but it’s largely a voluntary enterprise for most involved with it, and the idea that there is a veritable army of young women (in just one city alone!) who are making enough money at it to pay the bills is at least as ludicrous as the idea that being bitten by a radioactive insect will give you super-powers rather than kill you. And ya know what? Even the few actual, paid fashion bloggers that are out there probably don’t celebrate their “blogiversaries,” much less even know when they are, but if you’re getting your ideas about the (again, largely unpaid) “blog economy” from Snotgirl, you’d think it was the most important day of the year for all of them.
Next up, we’ve gotta take a closer look at this whole texting thing. Yes, younger folks tend to text each other pretty frequently, but they don’t do it all the goddamn time like the characters in this comic do, nor do they still use the abbrvtd txt lngothtwnt by thwysde when “smart” phones came along and you no longer had to type the frigging number keys to write out words anymore. Yeah, they still say shit like “LOL” and “WTF,” but by and large text messages are written in semi-coherent form these days. And I’m sorry, but no one sends a text to their friend sitting in a coffee shop from right outside that same shop’s window to tell them that they won’t be coming in. People — even young people — still actually do talk to each other once in awhile.
Once O’Malley starts delving into the murky depths of Lottie’s personal insecurities things take a turn for the (slightly) more interesting, but by that point his “forced-contemporary” narrative style has already succeeded in completely alienating anyone (young or old) who might still be paying attention, and just to underscore the point he’s already accidentally made, he manages to more or less squander any chance of reviving your interest on a more permanent basis by wrapping the issue up with a cliffhanger that by all rights should be surprising but is detailed in a manner so ambiguous and bereft of coherence that you couldn’t even be bothered to care about it if the preceding 20-or-so pages had been any good. In short, this is a horribly-written comic that treats its subjects more like exotic germs being examined under a microscope than actual, flesh-and-blood people, and is every bit as condescending toward the “millenials” of today as REALITY BITES was toward the “Generation X”ers of 20 years ago.
All of which, of course, does an incredible disservice to the artwork of Leslie Hung, which well and truly does have an air of genuine youthful authenticity and energy to it as one panel flows freely and seamlessly into the next in a quick-but-not-rushed, almost dreamlike fashion. Yeah, it’s all a bit “cartoony,” but that’s okay in my book under most circumstances (these included) if the end result has freshness and vitality to it, which this most certainly does. It’s nowhere near enough to elevate the proceedings in Snotgirl #1 above the level of profound and borderline-offensive over-simplification, though, and all in all it doesn’t seem like O’Malley — who’s known, perhaps ironically, for having a pretty solid handle on “youth culture” –understands the reality of young women’s lives any more than your crotchety old uncle who’s constantly spouting his “let me tell you what’s wrong with kids these days” nonsense.
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