After participating, yesterday, in a vitally important campaign to stand up to the forces of oppression in the name of free speech, the words “tough act to follow” spring to mind. After all, how does one follow the post that stands as a high point in one’s career as a desktop activist? With a post about web comics and television, naturally.
Specifically, a web comic called Garfield minus Garfield, which mines surprising pathos from images of Jon Arbuckle mostly standing around making melancholy comments to empty rooms. A brilliant piece of revisionism, it gives us a new prsim with which to view a comic many of us grew up with while forcing us to confront the brutal reality that people who talk to their pets are, in fact, just talking to themselves.
In the world of Internet comics, and of the Internet in general, there is not much room for pathos, as the Internet tends to deal best in hyperbole, absolutes and binary opposition (just take a look at the comment section of any popular website). Online, something is either “win” or “fail”. Pathos, on the other hand, requires reflection and empathy and appeals to emotions many people deliberately avoid projecting into cyberspace.
Garfield minus Garfield is unusual on the Internet, but it is also uniquely of the Internet. While other web comics such as XKCD, Cyanide and Happiness and Pictures for Sad Children could potentially exist in old media, Garfield minus Garfield couldn’t conceivably exist offline. Aside from the copyright issues, it’s just too unusual to have come into existence through traditional publishing means, especially since the book world has only recently begun to embrace the mashup with the publications of novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters.
Purists would point out that literature was embracing the pastiche long before the Internet was even around and they would be correct. A mashup, however, is not the same thing. In fact, I would argue that it is superior to a pastiche in that it contains more of the character of its sources and less authorial voice. Garfield minus Garfield, then, stands as a current, shining example of post post-modernism, although there really should be a better term for it than that.
Speaking of mashups, and to avoid me having to go back and rewrite my first paragraph, here’s another great video mashup featuring Lost, which seems to lend itself to this sort of thing.