WARNING: NOTHING BUT SPOILERS AHEAD
As to the characters:
The character universe of the webcomic continues to grow and develop over the course of its existence. After a lengthy period of vacillation, Faye reveals to Marten that her issues originate in some part from a tragic event of her youth, her father committing suicide
unaware that she was watching. She realizes that she simply can not be in a relationship
with Marten, releasing him from any obligation
he may feel toward her and all but pushing him into a relationship with an aggressively willing
Dora -- and so does that pair very quickly delve into an apparently very normal kissy-kissy baby-talk in front of others, overtly sexual relationship. Punctuated, naturally, by occasional spats, but always recovering and becoming stronger therefrom, until Dora's insecurities about Marten's feelings toward Faye finally compel her to break it off entirely.
Faye, in the meantime, eventually screws up the combination
, and drunkenness
she needs to start screwing around -- on a purely "friends with benefits
" level -- with Dora's happy-go-lucky brother Sven. He, in turn, breaks his trend of loving
and leaving svelte blondes in entering this venture.
While some characters have disappeared from view -- Ellen dumping Steve to take a semester-at-sea and Raven eventually leaving to go back to college for (suprise!!) PhD studies -- many more new characters are introduced. Marten loses his crappy job only to gain, with a minimum of effort, a new job working in a library for Tai, a small but energy-filled sexually adventurous lesbian
, who as well authors pornographic fanfic
. When Marten and Faye move to a larger apartment (at almost the same rent), they meet upstairs neighbor Hannelore
-- born to a disconsonant pair of millionaire genius
es and raised on a space station
, she is a tightly packed bundle of neuroses
which compels her to recoil from physical human contact, constantly clean her apartment (and others), and obsessively count things. Some of these are helpfully worked out once the group of main characters adopt her as their friend. A chance review of the insulting style of service in Dora's coffee shop brings crowds of people eager for the abuse
, leading Dora to hire uptight blonde Penelope, who eventually falls for Sven's poet-pal Wil. Accident-prone (and possibly cursed) Cosette stumbles into a relationship with Steve, bringing her within the circle; after Raven's departure, Hannelore and Cosette end up joining Dora's employ in her coffee shop. Marigold, a shy and geeky gamer girl introduced as the flatmate of Angus, whose story is pivotal in the development of Angus as a character. For Angus strives to be kind in rejection of her clumsy advances as his relationship with Faye grows.
with Sven ends when Faye learns of Sven having bedded another woman, perhaps an incongruous crime in light of the declared noncommittal aspect of their relationship, but revealing a subtler subtext of mutual desire, one laid bare as Faye moves on and eventually begins dating Angus, one of her most regular abuse-absorbing customers. Sven, by comparison, is unable to maintain his playboy attitude, ignoring the advances of the type of girl with whom he would normally frolic. He ultimately confesses to Hannelore (while on a "pretend" date with her to help her feel normal) that he misses Faye's curvaceous body, though it may be more than physicality for which he pines.
As to the culture:
Aside from the music
preferences which highlight the culture
of the characters, a few other things become apparent. First, this is a culture infused with unquestioning sex
. As an example, when Marten's father shows up, male lover in hand, to reveal their intent to marry, this is received by the group with warm and supportive congratulations. (Note: this is the only
instance in the strip thus far where it is contemplated that two characters in a relationship might solidify this relationship in marriage
). Similarly, Tai is completely accepted into the social scene with no qualms as to her lesbianism, and open flirtation
with other girls in the strip (including those who are straight and already in relationships). But Tai is also held out as something of an anomaly, initially having been decidedly "polyamorous," but later feeling that monogamy would be her preference. She is naetheless surely the most openly promiscuous
character of the cast, detailing exploits that would exceed even Sven's history of rotating relationship
s and Raven's single-spaced little black book filled with male conquest
s. At one point, Tai drags a somewhat mortified Marten along with her for a bonding moment
: he stands by and watches as she gets her clit
pierced. Then they go to Dora's coffee shop, so she can show it to Dora (prompting Marten to note his awkwardness as his girlfriend is cooing over his boss's clitoris).
But putting the question of sexual orientation
alone aside, and even ignoring the multiplicity of sex partners experienced by some, it is unquestioned, as well, that virtually all of the characters are sexual beings. They are either sexually involved, or seeking to enter into sexual involvement, and not shy to talk about their desires. Certain of the female characters in particular are especially sexually aggressive and responsible for the sexual pursuit of their male counterparts -- Dora with Marten, Faye with Sven, Cosette with Steve, and Marigold in her abortive attempt to stir romance with Angus; in all of these cases the female partner took the initiative in seeking intimacy with the male. Of the two least sexual characters, Hannelore is depicted as abnormal in her entire bundle of anxieties (generally recoiling from the idea of physical contact with persons of either gender), though it is strongly implied that she masturbates to pictures of firemen, and later (upon discovering how sweaty firemen are in real life) to veterinarians. Marigold desires sexual contact, but her social awkwardness has prevented her (so far) from obtaining it. Not a one of these characters appear ever to contemplate marriage, though all seem to value monogamy (even the ones like Sven and Tai who initially reject that ideal).
Because of the forwardness of female sexuality on display, and the suggested intense desirability of the male characters, these men are able to be -- and, veritably, are overwhelmingly, laid back and nonaggressive. Only Angus ever seems to engage in the pursuit of intimacy with an initially uninterested partner. There is a strong implication that the men central to the strip are atypical, given the war stories Dora and Faye relate regarding their rejections of the typical barrage of male customer efforts to hit on them. But Marten, Angus, Steve and eventually even Sven, are depicted as actually chivalrous and respectful of their female counterparts (though Sven is initially introduced in an effort rope Marten into helping him "sneak out" on a recently dumped ex). Of them, only Sven is shown to be even potentially "unfaithful," and that only within the confines of a seemingly "open" relationship. Sven's early interactions with Faye are (contrary to Dora's expectations) entirely gentlemanly, and it is only at Faye's instigation that they begin a sexual relationship. Sven's "pretend" date with Hannelore is similarly respectful, and leads to no seduction effort on Sven's part. Only the robotic PintSize, of all "male" characters, seems to model anything resembling misogynistic male disrespect (although it is unclear if this is gender-based, given his disrespect of most everyone), one of the multitude of character flaws safely instilled the person of a mechanical man.
It is a truism
s write their aspirational best selves into the most noble of their characters, and this may well be at play in this webcomic. For here, the leading male character, Marten approaches an ideal. He waits in patience
for the girl of his interest
until it is made clear that this relationship will never form; he therefrom immediately accedes to a relationship with a willing woman (with the approval of his previous interest), and is at all points afterwards ideal in that relationship. He is helpful to her in every way he might be, takes her to the places she wishes to go, provides for her as much as he can the things she wishes for, and understands and anticipates her needs. When they fight, it is most often due to misunderstanding and overreaction on Dora's part, dealt with by Marten with as fair a patience as might be imagined.
In truth, virtually all of the drama between characters in the strip follows a similar pattern -- bad reaction to a misunderstanding yields, oft quite quickly, in the face of patience and apology and forgiveness. And so is the strip, perhaps, an aspiration toward the perfection of the generation is expressed, wherein love is free
and strife is easily resolved by open minds and open hearts.