A Genuine Ultimatum, Part 3: For Better or For Worse

“Oh. Oh no,” I can hear you saying. “Please – just shut up about For Better or For Worse!”

I understand your concern – over the past several years, it has become an honored tradition online to mock and bemoan the state of FBoFW. And while the chatter has mostly subsided as the strip entered its strange new state of timelessness, though it still comes under assault by the usual suspects. I can’t deny the same holds true for me – every day it updates, and every day I shake my head at its attempts to merge the old comics and the new.

Only… I’m still reading.

Why is that? I’ll admit – I haven’t enjoyed the comic in ages. Partly due to the direction the comic has gone, and the unsatisfying final fate of certain characters. Partly because each time I saw mockery made of it, it became that much harder to actually judge the content of the work for myself – and by now, at this point, I simply can’t recognize the elements that once made it one of the best strips in the newspaper.

But it has remained on my reading list.

Sure, I can claim the usual difficulty I have setting a comic aside. The momentum I mentioned in previous installments, the fact that it is easier to go on reading rather than changing a routine.

But there is more to it than that – it lets one hold on to the disappointment, the righteous anger at being let down by the strip. It lets one reaffirm their decision to hate the comic, to criticize it. It lets one point out every new flaw, poorly executed joke, or terrible storyline – and prove, over and over again, just how far a comic has fallen.

There’s a certain dark pleasure in that – but a pointless one. I can understand reading a comic that has fallen on dark times in the hope of it one day returning to former glories – but this sort of indulgence is the opposite. This is all about reading a comic to see how bad it can get. And once you’ve entered that sort of outlook, it becomes irrelevant whether the comic is truly degrading – it is in the reader’s mind, and that is all that matters.

There are a lot of reasons to read a comic, or partake of any form of entertainment. Most revolve around enjoying oneself, finding jokes to laugh at or a powerful story to appreciate. There are even a variety of reasons to enjoy bad entertainment, such as trying to define exactly where things went wrong and thus improve one’s own understanding of the artform, or even to simply indulge in a mockery of the flaws with one’s friends.

I’m thinking that reading a comic for the sole purpose of nursing one’s grievances with the author, and allowing one’s disappointment to continue to simmer, is right near the bottom of the list.

It is a far better choice to simply let things go – and today, with For Better of For Worse, that’s what I plan to do.

2 responses

  1. Oddly enough, I still kind of like it. The art is probably still the best in the funny papers, they manage to have a gag of the day along with telling an ongoing story. It has better momentum, pacing, and general quality then some webcomics that I really like, like Arthur King of TIme and Space. Although, to be fair, I couldn’t care less about Michael and his brood, I don’t buy the kids remotely as, well, kids. I read it for April and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth is still good to read on the few occasions when she’s not in the presence of the mustache. Anyway, I probably didn’t read at all for a decade before 2005, so I can’t be terribly dissappointed by how it’s gone downhill from stuff I never I read. The punchlines are still good, pretty often. And I like the potential for meta humor that comes from the back-in-time format, like with Sunday’s strip.

  2. Oh, I can easily imagine still liking it. I think a large part of it, at least for me, is encountering the elements that have changed in the last five years, and having that discolor my perception of the strip as a whole.

    But even if it is no longer the best, it can still be better than most strips in the paper – but that’s harder to accept for those let down by it. Which is why I think people need to either accept the change, or just let it go.

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