Spread The F Word

F Minus is the daily comic strip by Tony Carrillo
Visit www.FMIN.us for more information.
www.GoComics.com for today's comic.

Sep 7, 2007

Hate Mail: Large Font Edition

A while back I did a comic that made fun of band nerds. I got a flood of hate mail. "Your jock mentality is why music programs get no respect!" one angry band nerd wrote. Another told me they were going to try to get me censured by the American Music Educators organization of... whatever.
Here's the kicker; I was a band nerd. I played the saxophone for the school band for eight years. The idea that I have a "jock mentality" is hilarious to me (and probably to my P.E. teachers).

Over the last few years I've made cartoons that poke fun at children, models, fat people, skinny people, lawyers, doctors, rich people, hobos, artists, clowns, cheerleaders, teachers, astronauts, mothers... pretty much anything you can think of. What is amazing are the different ways these groups react to being featured in F Minus:
I make fun of band nerds and they complain. Later I do a comic about jocks, and they love it!
A comic about cheerleaders incited hate mail. When I made fun of lawyers, I got requests for framed copies for the office.

I do a LOT of comics making fun of teens and college students, and they are probably my biggest group of readers. But today's comic featured an old man...

This morning I got a few emails directing me to this blog by George Phenix. I'll wait here while you read it...

Here's something that I've noticed in about 80% of angry readers: The offended person will assign meaning to my comic that helps his/her argument, but was not actually in the comic. Mr. Phenix states, "It crosses the line and ridicules older people who might be suffering from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or dementia."
Of course, nowhere in this comic are any of those diseases mentioned. I'm not sure where he got that.

Mr. Phenix also poses the question:
"Why don't the elderly in America get respect? Because of crap like this cartoon."
I would suggest that the reason old people don't get respect is not because of cartoons like this, but because of their reaction to cartoons like this. Case in point: Mr. Phenix's blog. What if, instead of grumbling and complaining about cartoons about old people, Mr. Phoenix posted comics such as these on his blog for old folks to read and laugh at? (My grandma loves when I do comics about the elderly.)

The most revealing part of Mr. Phenix's blog is this: "I really like the dark humor in Tony Carrillo's new cartoon strip called F Minus. It's sometimes edgy, sometimes oblique and nearly always right on. But today he's gone too far."

I'm glad Mr. Phenix likes F Minus, and I don't want him to stop reading. But I think that last sentence probably should have said,
"But today he made fun of me."

It's the same thing I told my fellow band nerds. What do you do when someone is laughing at you? Laugh with them.

You may be saying, "But Tony, you're not old. How can you make comics about old people?"
Well I've got some news for you. I recently found out
that... I am aging. Apparently, it's a condition I was born with. It hasn't really affected me negatively yet, but from what I've read, age will slowly wither my body until I am an old man. And according to my doctor, this condition is fatal. So to cope with this news I've decided to confront the issue head on, and joke about it. After all, they say laughter is the best medicine. So come on old folks, heal with me!

(P.S. "Make it hurt."? What the...?)

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MIGGO said...

He should probably just stick with "Pickles" and "Family Circus" during his daily funnies reading.

George Phenix said...

I was wrong to say "make it hurt." And I'm sorry for that.

But I was mad as hell at the hurt caused by your cartoon.

I was mad when I thought of my 83-year-old friend who died recently of Alzheimer's. He would stand at his door, like the character in your cartoon, wanting out. His wife had to put child-proof locks on the door to keep him from wandering off.

I was mad when I thought of my 68-year-old friend suffering from Parkinson's who cries when the the words in his brain will not, cannot make it out of his mouth.

And I was mad when I thought of the people who take care of them, giving up large parts of their own lives to watch over loved ones.

I could give you more examples but will stop. Here's my point: when someone says a stereotype is hurtful to them, then the honest, thoughtful humorist stops.

Your cartoon was not funny. It was hurtful. And if enough of us are brave enough stand up to this kind of thoughtless abuse, it will gradually diminish.

I'm sorry, too, that you cannot understand this.

George Phenix

Tony said...

I really am sorry for all the examples you listed. I did not mean to make you recall those instances in your life. The only thing in my control is my own intent. Whatever meanings the public will apply based on their own experiences is out of my hands. As I said, this comic is not about Alzheimer's. It is supposed to be absurd, lighthearted, and meaningless, as most of my comics are. It should not be given more significance than it deserves.

Amanda said...

Right on, Tony. I am stunned by this guy's overreaction.

When I read the comic this morning, I laughed my ass off and thought about cutting it out. My great-grandfather died of Alzheimer's, and I didn't even think of him when I saw the comic.

And thanks for reminding us about that other classic F Minus, "The Last Steps."

Generic Dave said...

Do you think it's wise to fuck with the AARP? Best check yourself, before you wreck yourself!

chezwyk said...

You know, if it wasn't for Old People we wouldn't have awesome stuff like Viagra or Percocet. Show some respect or face their Wrinkly Wrath.

s.l.d. said...

Admittedly, I have an eccentric sense of humor, but I wonder if making fun of band geeks and jocks is really similar to making fun of those with a serious health condition.

An elderly person standing at a door implies that grandpa isn't quite aware and it is not a stretch to assume it is caused by a condition such as dementia.

Some people are more sensitive and empathetic than others, so the reaction to your more dark-humored comics should not come as a surprise.

Lots of comics pride themselves on being shocking and sardonic, but if anything I think Generation X overplayed this tedious and predictable schtick--this coming from someone who has been known to send links from the dark webcomic "Cyanide and Happiness" and who has spent too many nights watching "Mr. Show" and "South Park."

A senior discount is several decades away for me, but I can see how someone could lash out at yet another jab at older people. I must be becoming soft and empathetic in my "old" age or maybe the old lesson about respecting my elders has finally reared its head.

I do not know if I am truly offended or just deeply unimpressed by another rather predictible cheap shot taken at those who cannot defend themselves. While the idealistic Mr. Phenix has a bit of fire in his belly, he is nevertheless a brilliant humorist.

s.l.d. cowen

Tony said...

S.L.D., obviously old people can defend themselves, or we wouldn't be having this discussion. Again, any mention of dementia or other diseases are brought to the comic by the individual reader. It didn't occur to me when I wrote it, and it didn't occur to many of my readers.

The Middle Knox said...

Haha... Ohhh misinterpretations... Ohh the internet.
The place where anyone can feel important and that they're entitled to an opinion.

It's a lovely place.

And MY person, and of course, most important opinion :-p is that this was my favorite comic done by you lately Tony.. I love EVERY comic you do... but this one made me laugh more than the average daily F.. Sooo.. That's the word.

usmdj said...

As a jock, a band geek, a cheerleader and an alzheimer patient, I am deeply offended while I'm lmao but then I forget what I'm laughing about.

Keep up the good work and George, you need to stop taking life so seriously. Try Prozac, it helped me along with Omega-3 suppliments

Schmeffo said...

The problem is people take death too seriously. I think the reactions to it show that exact fear of it. We all are born and all die. If we can't learn to laugh somwhere along the way and accept humor in all the flaws of the world, then dying is indeed frightening concept. I think the way people react to this comic are very illuminating in how they live their life with acceptance or fear, of things out of their control.