"I am not telling a joke; you are terrible."
Every time somebody tries to explain/excuse the Kickstarter post as a joke, it just seems that much worse to me.
I’ve seen Pictures For Sad Children a couple of times and it just seems like… like that kind of forced “random” quirky humor where you put a banana on your head and call it a skinny pineapple hat, but more subdued? I don’t know. And I Googled the guy and read a couple of interviews with him that just cemented that impression. So even if some of the comics have a doleful spin, I don’t know why he’d need to publicly associate himself with depression to promote it. (Short answer: he didn’t need to, but… apparently… he chose to?)
Like, his previous update to his backers explained that the project was delayed because he got run over by a ghost train. That’s the kind of vein his humor is in. I kind of feel like the depression one is meant to be in the same vein… like, “Look at how ridiculous I’m being.”
And it would be fine if he was just filling his Kickstarter stuff with weird, random stuff if it actually was weird, random stuff to spice up the “life got complicated and things got in the way, please hang in there” updates that a lot of one-person projects inevitably suffer. If his backers find it entertaining to hear about a wacky, random imaginary encounter, hey. You do what works.
But depression… and please bear with me here because this is where I’m going to get technical… depression is not a ghost train. Depression is not a joke. Depression is not imaginary. People with depression aren’t a joke, they’re not a secret clique of artists, they’re not pretending, and they don’t just need to “solve the problems in their lives.”
So far, I think this is the best summary I’ve seen.For context:
- the original webcomic.
- The kickstarter, which was just supposed to be reprinting the comics from the site
- The first update, explaining book delays as the result of being hit by a ghost train (mentioned in the post above)
- The most recent update, titled “I’VE BEEN PRETENDING TO BE DEPRESSED FOR PROFIT AND I’M SORRY”
I’ll add that, as someone who’s been reading PFSC for several years, this is the first time I recall Campbell ever saying anything at all about whether or not he experiences depression. In fact, there’s rarely been anything said about himself.
I’ve always liked his art, which I feel often says compelling things about depression, doubt, and grief, many of which resonate strongly with me as someone who has experienced deep clinical depression. So I was hurt when I saw today’s update, which was e-mailed to me because I am a backer of the new book.
I really want it to be all okay. I think I see the glimmer of seed of irony in the sentence:
This is the most honest two creatively inclined people can be with one another, to admit to each other that emotion and perception are rides that you go on, and the actual “you” is experiencing these rides from an enjoyable perspective.
But it took me three very painful readings to find that, buried in a lot of shit. If it was meant to be irony, it failed hard. And Campbell’s cultivated public voice as an insincere cipher heightens that failure.
My personal take is that Campbell was responding to an angry Kickstarter patron who accused him of the topic of the update, and it inspired this attempt at a wry response.
And I also know very well that my argument doesn’t make anything better because despite believing it, I still feel insulted and terrible.
The thing about irony is that when you fail (and when you address irony to a wide audience you will fail, for at least a few people), you will be taken at the face value of what you said. If the face value of what you said is hurtful, you’re going to hurt people. When you calculate that risk, when the people you decide it’s okay to risk hurting are the people that society also happens to decide are risk hurting, you are a part of the societal problem of devaluing people, because of race, because of gender, because of illness, any of it.