If you read all of this before commenting I will be sssssooooo happy!
So, I came across this short comic called New Atheist in the Park written by Backwoods Boom Town Production.
You can read it real quick, it is only three pages.
Page One: [link]
Page Two: [link]
Page Three: [link]
Well, what to say about it? What the fuck is there to say about it other than the obvious. It is obviously written by a Christian, it obviously doesn't like Atheists, and whoever wrote it obviously only has ever met Atheists from the back waters of Reddit. Most importantly though, it is obviously a very good example of how not to make a opinionated web comic.
It fails in its presentation by setting up a straw man.
"A straw man, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally, is a type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and to refute it, without ever having actually refuted the original position."
Keep in mind that I am not saying that there is no argument to be made or that the argument is an empty criticism. I'm only saying it is presented badly.
So I am going to make a list on the best ways to set up a straw man using this comic.1) Use of Anthropomorphism.
Using characters with animal like features is a handy tool for instantly expressing the nature of a character. If you see a fox character, what do foxes make you think of? Cunning, agility, intelligence and maybe even good looks. If you see a rat character, what does that make you think of? Maybe disease, dirty, or sinister?
So the animals in the comic are a Christian Deer and an Atheist Possum. What would someone likely know about deers? They're graceful, beautiful and they're strong looking animals. They also live together in a peaceful herd and they're not aggressive animals. Now what would someone likely know about possums? One, they're ugly...hands down. They're also rodent looking, they're more solitary and they do that weird playing dead thing.
In the first panel of this comic, even if all the texts where taken out, we instantly know the nature of these characters by their animal features. While anthropomorphism can be very useful and interesting well telling stories, I think it should be avoid when making argumentative comics. It is too easy to represent your opponent grossly and unfairly. If your goal is to engage your opponent in conversation about your argument, then representing them grossly will either likely turn them away from your argument or they'll be too distracted by the gross representation when they do talk to you thus your argument is overlooked.
Unless your goal is to speak to your own audience, people who already agree with you, then I would avoid anthropomorphism. Worst thing, anthropomorphizing your characters may show that you judge people by their group and not after meeting them. A nasty human atheist character is just one guy who can't possibly represent the entire group. It is less likely to come across that your a judging the entire group and more than you dislike this one type of person. A nasty atheist anthro possum character is more likely to come across as a stereotype about the entire group and an assumption that all members are like their stereotype. To give an idea, if we knew more about the setting of this comic, what other animal characters would there be? The anthropomorphism would make sense if we meet a Christian Deer and a Atheist Deer. It would show that the anthropomorphism is just a reflection of that individual character. Though what if all the atheists in this setting were possums and all the christians were deer? What would that say about how the writer views an entire group with individuals the writer could have never possibility have all met?2) You didn't notice it, but your brain did
The Christian Deer is well groomed, wearing tidy clothing, and is in shape. The Possum Atheist has an unkept beard and long hair, wearing very bum looking clothing, and is fat. By drinking a soda on the spot, it suggests he is fat because he is lazy and doesn't eat right.
Also, look at the wording connected to the Possum Atheist. His shirt says," Ask me about your God and I'll tell you why he doesn't exist." The public display of those words shows that this character is confrontational to an obsessive and pathetic point. It also shows that the author may not understand why most atheists are so. If someone asked me, "Why do you think God doesn't exist?" my answer would be, "Because you can't show me that he does." Without getting too far into this topic, unless a person is making a claim about what God can do, I don't have reasons for not believing in God other than the people who say he is real haven't given proof. The person who makes the claim is the person who has to provide the evidence for that claim. The wording on the shirt suggests that author thinks that it is possible to disprove a negative and that atheists think so too.
Now look at the wording on the soda the Possum Atheist is drinking. It says "Popular Gulp." It is just my hunch, but I think that is meant to reflect what I have often heard from Christians that atheism is just popular and fun and these things in general are temptations to Christians. Christians have to resist doing something sinful even if everyone is doing it and it seems fun to them. I dunno, I just hear that a lot so when I saw "Popular Gulp" that is what I thought. If that was the intention of the writer, then again, it shows that the writer doesn't really understand their opponent and just wants to make assumptions about their choice of lifestyle.
My suggestion to avoid these unnecessary cues is to just not put them there. We don't need the extra wording on the Possum Atheist to realize that he is an asshole. We learn that he is in the next two panels. Other than that, just keep the clothing in mind. What do you think about a person when you see this or that type of clothing is all.
We unavoidably make assumptions about people based on what they are wearing and how they look when we first meet them. That itself isn't wrong as it is impossible to force your brain to not see in generalizations. The problem is when someone persists in those generalizations even when proven wrong and thus it becomes stereotyping. 3) Putting words to mouth
Avoidably you have to write what your opponent is saying. This is likely the trickiest part because it is so easy to write your opponent's views in bumper sticker phrases just to make your side-of-the-story character seem smart.
Everything the Possum Atheist says is an example but here are my favorites
- "Sweet and Holy Mother of Dawkins!" No.
- *After seeing a bible* "Hey Christian! Why are you wasting your life..." Noooo...
- "If you were a normal, intelligent person..." Why?
- "Your 'Jesus' is DEAD!" Hahaaa..what?
- "Stop living in fear of a fictional hell and read a science book!" Read a science book about earth's mantle.
Now for stupid obvious contradictions and exaggerations to make your opponent appear hopeless and easy to handle.
- "Your holy book is filled with contradictions!" later when asked if he read the bible, "Who has the time!"
- After confronting a random person about their bible. "We are so sick of you bible-thumpers cramming your beliefs down our throats!"
- "SEE HOW HAPPY I AM!!!!???" While shaking a deer man by the collar.
- "Religious intolerance! When will it ever end!?" Just after physically assaulting someone.
Here is where this bad writing becomes an issue. Did you notice that the Christian Deer never at anytime is allowed to speak or chooses not to? It is meant to make the Possum Atheist look bad but it actually just ends up making the side of Christian Deer look bad. It shows that the writer is too lazy to actually respond to what the opponent is saying. It doesn't matter if what the opponent is saying is stupid or offensive. If you don't even bother to give a counter argument then your opponent has a better case for their views than you do. Yea yea, the deer man was interrupted but it was the writer to made it that way therefore the writer was too lazy to actually think of why he would disagree or just doesn't know.
On that note, I would avoid stuff like this.
*opponent says something stupid or ignorant or insulting." Other character goes "WTF" or "Seriously?" or "..." or just looks horrified. Then the comic ends. You need to explain why what the opponent said was stupid or ignorant or insulting so I as the reader understand your view better. Yea, I know the Possum Atheist said a lot of stupid things, but what does the Christian Deer (and ultimately the writer) have to say? Is it, atheists are whinny bitches because I write them that way? Well, I draw all my french people with fancy mustaches so what's your point?
Write what your opponent actually says and not what you think they say. That can be difficult for anyone because, we of course, disagree with our opponent. My guideline is write what you actually hear people say and address that. Like I said earlier, don't translate your opponent's words to bumper sticker phrases. What they said the first time is good enough.
And I wouldn't always rely on your comment box to explain the comic for you. If your comic ends up elsewhere then being out of context without the comment box may make it look lazy and stupid.
Please please please also be aware that I am not trying to come up with my rules here for "proper" opinion comics. These are just my observations and thoughts. If you want to draw a kick-ass Christian punching a bacon stuffed Atheist right after the atheist insulted Christ just because it makes you laugh and it makes your Christian friends laugh please go ahead. DO IT NOW!4) Actions speak louder than me punching you in the face.
The over violent nature of the Possum Atheist is unnecessary. *shrug* Is atheists assaulting random people because of their bibles really an occurrence? No? Then don't address it.
Pretending something is happening or using dramatic exaggerations makes any writer look like an ass.
From other comics I have seen, here are other examples. Does your opponent really have red glowing eyes and foam at the mouth? Does your opponent really role around in mud? Does your opponent actually hold guns to babys' heads? Does your opponent actually choke people?
No? Then don't draw them that way. If, again, you are only drawing for the people who already agree with you, then fine, you're catering to your own audience. (Even if crudely in my opinion.) Though if you're trying to engage the people who disagree with you then it will be hard to take your views and your discussion skills seriously.5) Examples
For those who saw me make a journal entry about this, I found out that this person is actually on DVart. The account is deactivated so I don't mind posting it here.
+ Her opponent made a clear statement. I'm sure there are many atheists who like anime.
+ She disagreed with her opponent and gave examples.
It doesn't matter that her argument was ill-informed and offensive, she still presented her argument decently.
- Her opponent is grossly misrepresented with the "God does not exist. Satan Rocks!" which will distract from her argument.
- The "Fuck you" from the atheist is not needed and may suggest that she just dislikes atheists and not that she actually thinks anime is religious. She just wants people she dislikes to not enjoy the things she does, basically.
This is my old comic.
- Reduce my opponent's argument to a bumper sticker phrase. Again, it doesn't matter if the argument is stupid, it is still not as simple as I made it.
- Gross representation of my opponent. I could blame it on my drawing skills at the time but I still could have tried better than going with one eye.
- I never actually refute what my opponent is saying but rather just make an off joke about her beliefs which is off topic to the question of "why were large numbers of birds dying?"
The comic made me laugh and I decided to doodle the two characters as friends as somewhat of a friendly and meaningless protest to the comic's message. Also to be honest, it gave me the idea to try to draw Antro characters. Turned out to be difficult!
I imagined that these character are actually working together on a comedy. Sometimes actors are really good friends in real life but when they have to act the scene might call for hostility. I often see actors joking about "having to stab their friend on stage" or something along those lines so I suppose the drawing here is these characters are joking off stage about the hostility.