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'9 Chickweed Lane': Some readers not laughing

Cw120903

"I'm concerned about one of the comics in today's paper, '9 Chickweed Lane,' and the depiction of a male lying between a woman's legs. They were both dressed, but I think it's inappropriate for a comic strip that children could be reading."

Cw120904

"The '9 Chickweed Lane' strip today is porn!! What's up with your standards that you allow visual sexual situations on the Comics page? My granddaughter reads this section, and it is unsuitable today."

Cw120905

"I don't consider myself a prude, but I think this cartoon is very inappropriate for a family newspaper. I'm quite surprised. I've never felt compelled to call about a cartoon in The Times."

... So went a handful of calls and emails this week regarding the story line in "9 Chickweed Lane.

The story continued from last week, when the bespectacled Amos clambered onto the stage at the finale of dancer Edda's performance. He sprawled across her in Saturday's strip, and asked, "Is this a bad time?" The story picked up Monday, with the two, as one reader complained, "in the missionary position."

Assistant Managing Editor Alice Short, who oversees the features sections including the Comics page, said she didn't think the strip meant to be racy.

"I'm not sure how this current story line will end, but it started a couple of weeks ago," Short said. "It's pretty clear that the musician wants to propose to the ballerina. I see it as a story about love, and I don't believe anything untoward was intended."

John Glynn, vice president and editorial director of Universal Uclick, which distributes "9 Chickweed Lane," said the syndicate had received no other complaints.

The Times does not normally remove or replace comic strips based on story line -- though editors did do that in March with a "Doonesbury" series that took on Texas' abortion law. For that week, "Doonesbury" was moved to the Op-Ed page and "Doonesbury" reruns were published on the Comics page.The decision drew more than 100 calls and emails

Comics may be part of the "funny pages," but they're serious business to readers.  

-- Deirdre Edgar

Images, from top: "9 Chickweed Lane" from Sept. 3, Sept. 4 and Sept. 5. Credit: Universal Uclick

 
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Comments (22)

Anybody who has followed this strip daily for a long time would agree with Ms. Short who said it's about love. Where were all these prudes when Edda lost her virginity to Amos about a year ago? If you think this scandalizes your kids, maybe this indicates some of you should have "the talk" with them. I see more suggestive scenes on TV in prime time. We really are becoming a nation of hypocrites.

Chickweed has consistently been one of the worst comics I've ever seen. It's pretentious, it's an outlet for the author's messed-up fantasies, the dialogue is so aggressively archaic that nobody has ever talked like that in history, even when some of the words were in common use. This whole storyline has been especially poorly written and dragged out.

I wouldn't mind seeing this comic yanked from the paper and replaced with something worthwhile.

Personally, I'm more upset about how we even ended up with Amos between Edda's legs in front of a wide audience both in-universe and out. It's not the idea that they're in a sexual position (and it probably is meant to be thought of as such, judging from the jokes the characters themselves made), but it's the plot that led to this being half a year of every character being completely irrational. Highlights include:

- Edda ditching her boyfriend and her jobs to fly out to Vienna and talk about her pregnancy with her relatives, all without ever actually verifying the pregnancy by "anointing the stick" (yes that is an actual phrase in the comic that's used at least twice).

- Seth, who is very tall and bulky, yelling at, intimidating, and manhandling the relatively petite Edda first when he thinks that she's considering abortion and later when she admits she never verified her pregnancy. Seriously, he slings her over his shoulder to force her to go verify her pregnancy.

- Amos preparing to propose to Edda, then pocketing the ring when she tells him she's not pregnant after all, which leaves the implication that he just wanted to "do the right thing" instead of marry her because he wanted to. They also get straight back to having presumably unprotected sex after the pregnancy scare.

- Edda finding the ring and, instead of confronting Amos about it, running away every time she so much as catches a glimpse of him. She spends all her time sulking around in her pajamas and revealing to Seth (a man she knows is gay) that she's always loved him and would like to have sex with him, even though he admits he would only be faking it if they did.

- Amos deciding out of the blue that maybe he never really loved Edda. He calls out his crush from back when he was in school, just to realize suddenly that oops he really does love Edda after all. He ditches this poor woman without warning to go find Edda.

This is the culmination of all that: A man fumbling around in his pants pocket while lying between his girlfriend's legs in front of an audience that just wanted to see a ballet. It'd be one thing if we were supposed to hate these characters for being impulsive and having no regard for each other, but we're not. Maybe it IS a bit much to complain solely about the positioning, because frankly the storytelling abilities of the author are bad enough on their own.

While I think people in general are too sensitive about depictions of sexual situations in media and don't find that particular aspect of 9 Chickweed Lane offensive, the comic remains some of the most pretentious tripe I've ever seen in a newspaper. The author lacks any semblance of storytelling ability and artistic talent, and seems to write the dialogue with the help of a thesarus under the misguided belief that using "big" words makes him seem intelligent. It doesn't; it makes him seem like a pretentious jerk.

To be fair, the syndicate hasn't gotten any other complaints because they completely disabled being able to comment on 9 chickweed lane due to the sheer number of complaints they were getting at the time.

I'm greatly offended by "9 Chickweed Lane," because it's a terrible comic. The characters look like they're based off four or five templates (Nebbish Guy, 18-65 Year Old Woman, Gigantic Athlete/Dancer (male), etc). You can't tell the difference between the 22-year old main character and her mother, except by their hair. The backgrounds are drab swirls and voids, indoors or out.

The writing is atrocious: the characters have the exact same voice. That voice is an unappealing blend of ten-dollar words, pretension airs, and hamfisted references to "classic," "sophisticated" movies and music. They are unappealing people I don't care about. Brooke McEldowney has apparently never heard the phrase, "Brevity is the soul of wit;" instead, he crowds out the artwork with word balloons. He could drop about a third of his dialogue without losing any meaning or impact. In fact, there would be more impact if he edited down his dialogue, because the message wouldn't be buried under so many needless words.

His storylines are atrocious, and rely on incomprehensible motives, idiot plots, and unbelievable characters. McEldowney shows that he has no idea how women, or really humans in general, react to pressures and fears. Case in point: the current story starts with Edda suspecting she's pregnant. Her immediate response is to wander around New York City in a daze until she's at her mother's house in the country. Her mother's immediate reaction is to fly to Vienna, to visit Edda's grandmother. The grandmother's immediate reaction is to go bang her second husband. Edda's boyfriend's reaction to the news is to embrace her, which is very sweet, until you realize that Edda hasn't taken a pregnancy test or called a doctor FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH. What human being, in this day and age, wouldn't think of taking/suggesting a pregnancy test? An idiot, that's who. The entire "Edda's pregnant" storyline is a picture-perfect example of what Ebert called an "Idiot Plot," because only an idiot would act that way.

Sex itself doesn't bother me, but McEldowney inserts as many references and innuendoes as he can, in the most hamfisted ways possible. It's one thing to discuss, reference, and portray sex in a thoughtful, tasteful, purposeful, humorous manner. McEldowney cannot, despite what he may believe about himself. There's no reason why Amos should be still on top of Edda, her legs splayed and him between them, except McEldowney probably enjoys hitting people over the head with the image of Edda and Amos having sex. It is not thoughtful, tasteful, purposeful, or humorous; it's another one-handed scribble meant to satisfy McEldowney's ego and fetishes.

I write in response to the "prudes" worried about the scenes in 9 chickweed lane. While I understand their worry, they are failing to take the entire situation in proper context. The situation and the positions have been part of comedy for years now. Usually, this situation is caused by a fall or a throw, as in this case. Had this been a movie, or a live action the entire situation would have lasted maybe a minute or two.
I feel the readers maybe offended that it seems like it is taking so long and thus, their worry about a sexual situation. Please tell them it's good clean slapstick and to park their brooms.

Apparently the people complaining do not own televisions, where things much more 'provocative' than this appear dozens -- if not hundreds -- of times a day. The comic pages have always contained strips designed for children and for adults. When I was growing up, I didn't understand anything about Lil Abner, where Abner pursued calender girl Daisy Mae for more than 40 years.

Children probably wouldn't even notice anything odd about this strip, or if they know enough to be reminded of the facts of life, they might have some fun with their friends about it. Adults freaking out about the strip would have more impact on what children might think of this than the strip itself.

Just because a comic is there doesn't mean you have to read it, look at it, like it, or even be particularly bothered about it. There are many things in our society people to be upset about, things that really will have influence on children in the years to come, and things such as this don't even make the bottom of the list.

The question is -- what, really, is objectionable about this graphic? What is bad about something that alludes to human sexuality? What is objectionable is in the eyes of the beholders, not the innocent eyes of children.

Oh grow up America! Your kids know more than you give them credit for!

One of the best written comic strips ever. Witty, articulate (sorry you people out there with a 9th grade education that don't understand those big old words), topical and extremely intelligent. Great art as well. To much thinking and figuring out the cultural references for many I suppose.

Some people really need to get a life. If you don't like a comic, don't read it. There are plenty in the paper I don't like, so I skip them. I don't demand that they be removed because I personally don't like them. I happen to like Chickweed Lane, I look forward to reading it, and I look forward to the "ten dollar words" that are sometimes used. I've even looked some of them up so I can be sure of the meaning and I intend to use them!

I agree with the others, kids today see much worse on television and even in the school hallways and buses! Small kids won't understand or care, if they question it, then talk to them about the birds and the bees. Your kids won't make a big deal out of it unless you do.

I personally did NOT find this offensive, as Amos was thrown into that position. Now I understand how, if you don't read with regularity, find it offensive. I think it's one of the most well written comics for the thinking man, or woman. It doesn't have talking dogs, or dumb down the English language by intentionally misspelling words. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Bloom County, Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, but I love a comic that grows with you too. I even bought the Grandmas stint with the USO... It was a brilliant glimpse into an era fraught with death and destruction. A side story if you will. I applaud Brooke's vision and artwork. To the naysayers, don't read it.

9 Chickweed Lane is - and has always been - one of the best and most intelligent, witty, charming and upscale graphic mini-novels ever written. Undoubtedly, high school dropouts and societal misfits intertwined in the World Wide Web would find its style offensive and incomprehensible - alas, fine Parisian cuisine, Vienna waltzes and charm of really good word smithing are decidedly not for everybody. As for concerned homemakers of either gender, with dull personal lives or even complete absence of relations - please, ladies and gentlemen, get out of your chairs, go pick a Pilates course or at least learn to cook, put on a dress or a fancy suit instead of that drab something without form or substance you are wearing right now, and start noticing real people around you - you may end up in a better position than the comic strip characters, and reap many real benefits from your own participation in life.

Wow,

To those who are so concerned about this strip being "incomprehensible", using "ten dollar words" or other such silly complaints.

Perhaps you might want to pull yourselves away from the RNC or Monday Night Football once in a while and crack open a book (or maybe finish that English 101 class at your local community college)

If the strip is "over your head" or "too smart" for you then by all means, don't read it.

The between the legs bit was slapstick comedy, and yes it was also innuendo, which this strip (and his other strip Pibgorn) is filled with. So what? As many have pointed out, you can see far worse on prime time television.

Get a life people...

WOW... I find it hilarious that people are complaining about the characters being "completely irrational." Hellllloooooo? ... it's a comic strip, not real life.. it's entertainment! Plus, if you were to use that litmus test on other comics, how many would there be left to read? No Far Side... it had talking animals. No Garfield either for the same reason. No Blondie as nobody eats a sandwich that's two feet tall. Heaven forbid if these people also let there kids watch Disney movies like Cars, Winnie the Pooh, or Shrek. Forget about all those Batman and James Bond movies too as they just are based in reality.

Regarding Brooke McEldowney's use of "big words", I, for one, am appreciative of it. Yes, sometimes I have to look up the meaning of a word or google the snipet of music written on the page, but how is expanding one's level of knowledge/vocabulary ever a bad thing? While I don't have a daughter, I would let her read it as it portrays women as intelligent and independent thinkers who are proud of their abilities.

As others have said, it's a beautiful story about the Love... whether its the turmoil of young love in Amos and Edda, the passion of Juliette and Elliot's marriage, or the special place in one's heart of that first love in Edna and Peter. I also love it because it's not afraid to address many of today's social issues in a entertaining way. It has touched on divorce, gays, pre-marital sex, religion, etc.

We do live in a free country so those that don't liek the comic are free to have that opinion and free not to read it. For those that wish to censor it, be careful because the next thing that gets censored could be something that you're passionate about.

The cartoonist likes to troll his readers. He doesn't allow comments on his strips, which shows that he is thin-skinned, but delights in presenting obviously sexual situations and then disavowing any double entendres and insulting his critics, sometimes right in the strip. His awkwardly shoehorned sesquipedalianisms are usually unnecessary and unconvincing.

The sad thing is, this was a creative strip. I didn't believe it myself until friends pointed me to specific sequences in the archives. It seems to have deteriorated as I watched. It's sad to see creative new strips pushed aside in favor of anything that's been around for a while — the space could be better used.

Lisa: The strip is not "too smart" for anybody. It is a very, very dumb strip that dresses itself in what it thinks to be the trappings of "smartness" in order to lord it over people who don't walk around with a thesaurus in their head. A "smart" strip would have storylines that didn't consistently involve characters acting like blithering idiots and dropping their entire motivations to run off on some tangent any time acting in a way that's consistent with their character would resolve a plot too soon for the author's taste (because Lord knows that a brief, sane resolution is anathema.)

I enjoy classical music and language play as much as anybody, but what I see in 9 Chickweed Lane isn't any kind of celebration of either; it's deliberate stuffy obscurantism intended to baffle people who don't meet McEldowney's specific "you must be at least this cultured to read" checklist so that he can then mock them for being (in his own terms) "beefwits." I think that culture connoseiurs and beer-swilling football schmoes alike can see that that's just being a twit.

As to the innuendo, the only thing that surprises me is that more people haven't written in to complain about this on a regular basis. Ham-handed schoolboy innuendo and its accompanying twittering about just how clever the strip is to get away with *such naughtiness!* is a regular feature of the strip, and the only particularly remarkable thing about this bit is that Brooke has eschewed (there's your ten-dollar "smart" word) his normal roundabout imagery and gone straight for drawing a couple in a sex position. One gets the feeling that he still thinks the dirty cartoons he used to draw to piss off the nuns at his old school are the height of wit. It's more pathetic than offensive, in my opinion (particularly compared to the atrocities of stupidity and self-centered narcissism the plot perpetuates on a regular basis,) but if people want to say that it doesn't belong in the paper, I'm certainly not going to disagree.

White people problems.

Oh, and one other thing: it's not "about love." Love does not exist in the 9 Chickweed Lane universe (or at least, I've certainly never seen it displayed if it does.) There is, however, an unrelated concept that goes by that name in this strip; it's a kind of sexual dominance game, where Amos is in thrall to Edda because...hell if I know, and therefore no matter how coldly she ignores him, or how she takes off running from him any time the subject of anything like commitment comes up, or how blatantly she throws herself at her gay roommate, he always comes crawling back to her. That's what this is about: Amos is under her heel, and hopes that by putting a ring on her finger he will gain some small measure of control and rise slightly in the two-person pecking order of their relationship. If that's love, I'm a zebra.

The women in this strip are not portrayed as intelligent or as independent thinkers. They are portrayed as flighty creatures, completely incapable of managing their own lives. For example, Edda misses her period. She flits around and ends up flying to Vienna to consult with her grandmother. She is fired from her job as a consequence. She has to be lectured by her Magic Gay Roommate and literally carried to the drug store before she thinks to get a pregnancy test.

Women in 9CL are pure eye candy. We are expected to roll our eyes and laugh at their immaturity and inability to think clearly, because, after all, they are just silly girls. The whole "Amos proposes to Edda while lying between her legs" came about because Edda sprinted off "like a gazelle" every time she saw him walk up to her with a ring in his pocket. So she had to be held down and forced to stay and listen to him.

PORN???????????Not even close! This comic has been pretty suggestive for quite some time.
"White peoples problems." HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Isn't it curious?

Detractors of the strip state an argument based on the text provided by the cartoonist, provide specific examples to back up their argument, and generally do not attack those who do like the strip.

The handful of fans of the strip who have posted, on the other hand, rely on an admixture of ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments, failing to respond to the criticism posited by detractors in any way other than hollow generalizations.

::shrug:: Make of it what you will.


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