Pretensions, or: quirkiness as ‘slumming it’

by Tom Ingram

This comic was brought to my attention recently, and I felt some things needed to be said. It’s not new, I know, but I claimed to be eclectic, not topical. I am not a regular reader of Virus Comix, and have no particular opinion on them as a whole. The comic is clipped out of order below, for smoothness of commentary, but the panels are not strongly ordered anyway. —TMI

There are people who compulsively talk to themselves and would like to stop, but can’t.

There are people who bring cameras into what is clearly either classical music or live theatre. We do not call these people true fans. We call them assholes.

There are people who want desperately to smile and look nonthreatening but don’t know how, and default to looking like China Mieville taking public transit.

There are people who hurt their friends and vaguely know what they did wrong but not why it’s wrong or how to avoid it in the future, and now feel like the robot on the cover of News of the World.

There are people whose tastes are 100% vanilla and unoriginal and they’re OK with that because some things just work.

There are people who wonder if their inability to connect to another human being in even the most basic way is a result of something they did, something that was done to them, or some inextricable flaw of their nature.

I like to think that my readers are smart enough that this one does not need elaboration.

There are people who are really, honestly interested in what you’re saying but simply don’t know how to react in a way that doesn’t seem forced and fake, and know that this kind of self-indulgent recursion is the exact opposite of “showing an interest” but don’t know what to do about it and the whole sordid mess makes them feel small and insignificant and scared so when they see a friend coming they turn and leg it in the other direction.

There are people who think and feel a lot of things. You are not one of them.

It’s funny how “quirkiness” always seems to manifest itself in the same way. Almost as if it’s drawn from a social template every bit as stock as the template for normalcy. Lonely dissent, the saying goes, feels not like going to school in black, but like going to school in a clown suit. It’s not a pretty thing to begin with, and not all lonely dissent is the principled kind. Not all lonely dissent is the voluntary kind.

This comic is not so offensive in itself, but it embodies a far-reaching trend that has always bothered me. Everyone loves to describe themselves as “weird” and “crazy”, but this is nothing more than a kind of intellectual “slumming it”. It’s an attempt to piggyback on the pain and suffering of others to get a little bit of that sweet outre chic without having things thrown at you.

If you want to know what normal looks like, read this comic. There is a psychological need to be seen as unusual and therefore unique and interesting. That’s normal. You want to be different, which is exactly why you’re not.