Died in a Blogging Accident has lived up to its name and died... in a blogging accident. That is to say it has concluded. You can still re-live the magic by clicking here to start at chapter 1. For genuine criticism of XKCD, please click the top link to the right (XKCD Isn't Funny).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Comic 973: Return of the "Straw Man" Tag

Prolific "sucks less" contributor SinbadEV left this guest post in my inbox. That's good, because I sure as heck didn't want to review 973.

Title: MTV Generation; alt-text: If you identified with the kids from The Breakfast Club when it came out, you're now much closer to the age of Principal Vernon.

So I have recently been running this blog where I post edits of XKCD comics in a "xkcd sucks less" kinda way. I like a lot of XKCD comics and, while I often feel they could be improved or feel the need to to draw attention to a flaw, I usually see a silver lining.

But this comic is just painful. The only way I can see to make it not suck, right now, would be to erase all of the text...

... which for me at least, oddly enough, makes the comic hilarious. I'll grant this might be due to my knowledge of the original.

In order to really understand what's wrong with this comic we first need to find the joke. In case you missed it in the midden heap of terribleness I'll do this for you:

"You are so old that the 'kids these days' you resent are now parents."

I may have stretched a little there but I'm sure I can be forgiven given the material I was working with.

What makes me the most mad here is that I don't know of anyone who has referred to anyone as being part of the "MTV Generation" in the last fifteen years. If people from the MTV Generation are now in their 40s then people who talked about the MTV Generation as being a thing are at least in their 50s and people who talked about them derisively are in their 60s or early 70s. Maybe the stick figure wearing the hat is 65, I suppose... maybe we can call him "Old Man Hat Guy" and the joke is that "Old People Don't Keep Up With Pop Psychology". Even assuming that Randall meant this, it would have been a lot better to say "You ARE the MTV Generation, Dad". This all leads to the final conclusion that the execution of the joke hinges on "MTV Generation" being something people still say... and it just isn't.

Even if the joke had been worth telling and he had come up with a way for it not to hinge on a strawman, the execution is still painful. I'm not talking about the stick figures here. I'm talking about the script.

"See, That's the problem with the MTV Generation - No attention span."
"You know, that phrase referred to the 12-19 demographic that formed the core MTV audience in the mid-1980s."
"Uh huh? So?"
"That generation's now in their 40s."
"That can't be right."
"Face it: Your problem with the MTV Generation is their kids."

Who talks like that? Maybe if in panel two she was holding a phone so it was clear she was quoting Wikipedia or something. Here's the script with the joke as bad as it was presented but just the dialog improved.

"See, that's the problem with the MTV Generation. No Attention Span."
"That phrase refers to teens who grew up in the 80's."
"They're in their 40s now."
"That can't be..."
"Face it. The problem with the MTV Generation is their kids."

See? The problem with this comic is Everything!

Then the alt-text makes it worse by pointing out that "You are 'the man' you once resented" which is the opposite of what the comic seems to be saying.

Also, who the heck talks in colons and hyphens? What does a colon sound like?


  1. Colons and hyphens sound like pauses. Just like full stops/periods and commas.

  2. Also the person correcting the straw man is, of course, a woman. Has Randy ever actually HAD the straw man be female?

  3. Yeah, there was a short period where the blond ponytail girl got beaten down a few times. I think juggling so many hairstyles got too confusing for him so he gave it up.

  4. Again, I'll point out comic 945 as a comic with a female strawman. It still sucked though.

  5. I mostly agree with the review, except for the colons and hyphens comment. People write speech with colons and hyphens all the time; they convey pauses with a slightly different nuance from a comma, period, or a semicolon. I don't understand that complaint at all.

    In your "improvement," the first and last lines read a lot more stubby and disjointed for me when you substitute periods for the colon and hyphen.

  6. Thanks for your input Anonymous from Nov 6, 200 11:19PM! Sometimes I project my personal biases on others and assume the majority of people I talk to agree with me.

    I tend to use ellipses where Randall has used a hyphen and the colon annoys me because it seems pretentious. I'll grant that excluding them without further altering the text to make up for their lack does make the affected phrases less fluid.

  7. I forgot that I also thought that the dual meaning of "What does a colon sound like?" was, in itself, funny.

  8. feel bad about 3-in-a-row posting on a blog I wrote but... "have" to link to my "real" edit:

  9. This gonna turn into the old xkcdsucks where every post is one comic behind?

  10. Yeah, Gamer. If you're going to do this, pull your fucking finger out and do it right, you lazy asshole.

  11. I have to disagree with your punctuation comments, Sinbad. First of all, Randall used a dash, not a hyphen, in the first sentence. He also used it incorrectly, as a dash indicates a disconnected part of the sentence, which this isn't. A semi-colon or colon would've been more correct. Using a full stop as you did is also a bit questionable, though less so than the dash I think. Using an ellipsis makes no sense in this context.

    And the colon is correct in the last sentence, as the two bits are connected. And as a nitpick to your transcript: you don't use a capital letter after a colon, which wasn't an issue in the strip itself since that was all-caps anyway.

  12. I use ellipses inappropriately all the time then... it's just how I roll.