God Hates Bambi
|Original review author:||Griffbits|
|Webcomic name:||God Hates Bambi (Hosting site Smackjeeves has been shut down.)|
|Start Date:||August 16, 2010|
|End Date:||April 4, 2011|
|Defining Flaw:||VERY IMPORTANT OPINIONS vs. SHITTY STRAW MEN|
This piece of garbage got ripped apart on the forums, and when I went to check it out, it made my brain burn with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. It ate and ate at me until I could take no more. On the forums, Oddguy said he was thinking of doing a review, but I just can’t wait any longer. It burns too much. My apologies in advance, because this stuff is so bad that this review can really only scratch the surface in the amount of space I have.
It’s tempting to say the beginning, but that’s not really true. The first few strips are pretty much just "whatever" atheist zingers: smug, but definitely nothing to get worked up about.
This one though - the fifth strip - is where it completely derails and we see just what kind of a man Michael Brinkley really is. TED "FUCKING STRAW MAN" RYNOLDS! I have never met a single person in my entire life who has made the arguments that Ted makes in this comic, yet Michael Brinkley seems to believe that this is how the whole racist, Evangelical, right-wing, non-enlightened country thinks. Everyone but him and those who think like him. This is where I started to hate Bambi, right along with God and everyone else.
Bambi Ballass: Wait... is that name a joke? Is there some kind of clever wordplay going on there that I’m just not able to penetrate deeply enough? See what I did there? Anyway…Bambi’s the epitome of "capital-A-Atheism" that makes those of us who just plain ol’ don’t believe in God look like total douches. Brinkley’s in love with her, from her witty t-shirts (that he designed) to her too-hip-to-give-a-shit sunglasses, but most other people will find her repugnant.
Ted Rynolds: The Evangelical Christian who spends the first six months of the strip being a horrible bigot who tries to convert Bambi at every turn, until he discovers that Bambi volunteers at soup kitchens and animal shelters and picks up trash in the local park and served in Iraq and that really, atheists are just nice people and he’s been a horrible bigot. Now he’s Bambi’s presidential campaign manager. And you only think I’m joking. Also, why the hell isn’t his name Reynolds?
Michael Tillman: The agnostic cop who’s totally cool with everything and everyone and thinks Bambi’s just the cat’s pajamas and really wants to thank her for serving in Iraq on Veteran’s Day. Oh, and he really likes roller derby. I don’t really have a problem with this character except that I've got a sneaking suspicion he’s a Mary-Sue, what with his totally accepting attitude and love of roller derby and all.
Reverend Kanta: Bambi’s Hindu/Unitarian/Christian-who-doesn’t-believe-in-God/lesbian wife. She’s there to provide a foil for Ted because, although it’s never stated this succinctly (just like nothing ever is...we get it...you’re bi!), she follows Christianity as a philosophy, rather than a religion.
Brenda: The former-man/former-stripper/former-Ted’s-fuck-buddy/current-pastor of Ted’s old church. She’s a bitchy, hate-filled bigot and Brinkley’s tool for showing just how good and compassionate Bambi really is.
God: Wait... what? Oh... never mind. It turns out he’s really Bambi’s crazy-ass grandfather. Okay, that’s cool.
Story and Plot
So, something like 75% of the Google Ads I've seen on the GHB website have been for religious organizations or conservative political campaigns. Curious, since the comic’s entire raison d’etre is to attack religious organizations and conservatives. In the beginning, there wasn't really a story; just talking heads going back and forth. Ted’s an Evangelical Christian and Bambi’s an atheist. Ted’s wrong. Bambi’s right. Ted’s a douche and an idiot. Bambi’s compassionate and intelligent. Eventually, a rough beast of a story slouches towards Bethlehem to be born. Bambi decides to run for President as a third-party candidate and Ted becomes her campaign manager. At the same time, the pastor of Ted’s church is outed as a male prostitute and turns the reigns of his congregation over to the MTF-former-stripper Brenda and they’re now in cahoots to... do... something to Bambi. It all comes to a head with this. What. The. Fuck? Then Brinkley stops updating and asks if anybody wants to draw his comic for free.
Ugh. Lazy? Incompetent? I don’t know the reasons, but that's the first page of God Hates Bambi. Like it? 'Cause that’s what you’re gonna get for the next six months. Copy/paste, copy/paste, copy/paste. Each character has basically one drawing that is reused over and over, flipped horizontally as the situation dictates. Shirts change from strip to strip, whenever Brinkley comes up with a new design he wants to hock from his Zazzle store. Other than that, we’re stuck with the same crap all the time. As the strip progresses, those eye-gouging backgrounds give way to Photoshop-filtered GIS images and solid colors, which is at least an improvement in the headache department. At some point, Brinkley tries to lampshade his way out of it and says that this is all a deliberate visual metaphor because the arguments he puts forth in the comic have all been heard before and he’s trying to communicate the "ridiculousness of the continuing debates". Of course, this is only after people started calling him on the copy/paste and to this claim, I say, “No sir, you are lying.” I’m not going to argue with the fact that your arguments beat a dead horse, but if this were really the way you felt from the beginning... WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT OF THE COMIC?! When your justification for your shitty art is that it symbolizes and complements your shitty story, which is made up entirely of arguments that have already been made ad nauseum, then your rationale for creating a webcomic kind of crumbles into dust.
Now, as for the stuff that’s being copy/pasted: shaky line art, stiff and unnatural poses, and minimal shading, despite an attempt at a realistic style. And on what freaking planet would Bambi be considered hot or even remotely attractive? You’re staring at the lumpy, misshapen Js taped onto my chest, aren’t you? Even apart from Bambi being a "buttereverything", the anatomy is just plain screwy and the constant copy/paste spreads the inaccuracies throughout the entire thing, like some pig-faced inbred family.
The best drawing seen in the early days is with the characters Brenda and Tillman the cop, but those look suspiciously like a tracing and clip-art respectively and exhibit almost no stylistic consistency with Bambi and Ted whatsoever. I may be getting nitpicky with this next bit, but you’ll notice that a frequently recurring background employs various shapes, like squares and triangles, tilted on an angle. Even aside from the questionable color theory evidenced with these backgrounds, there are hellacious tangents created where the angle on the right side of those shapes hits the panel border and it effectively draws your eye to that one particular spot, where nothing of any consequence is happening. When this is used in every panel of a strip, we've got problems.
Six months in, we’re given this warning. Hand-drawn you say? See, the mind-numbingly frustrating thing is...get ready for this...Brinkley’s actually a competent artist. He’s selling an instructional book about creating graphite portraits on Amazon and the contents prove that the guy does have some ability...even if the introduction claims that an artist’s job is to use tricks and shortcuts to fool the viewer into thinking they’re looking at a perfect rendering. And here I thought an artist’s job was to evoke emotion and to make us question our preconceived notions about a variety of topics. Whatever. In any case, this hand-drawn stuff that GHB morphs into has none of the redeeming qualities of his non-comic work and is even less appealing than the early stuff, if that can be believed. Poses are even more stiff and unnatural, the lack of color makes it very hard to focus on what’s happening and character designs have suddenly become distractingly generic and bland and I don’t know who the fuck is who anymore. At least Bambi does become sort of more attractive. I guess. At least her design has some personality. But after a few strips...you guessed it...the return of copy-paste! The final blow comes on April 4, 2011, when Brinkley stops updating and throws up an ad asking for an artist because, as he reveals, it takes him as long to
vomit up copy-paste labor lovingly over an episode of GHB as it does for him to do this kind of stuff.
I call bullshit! Since I brought up his competency however, let me briefly address that. Competent. That’s the word I used. On February 3, 2011, our very own MakarovJAC put Brinkley on notice that he was under scrutiny by the BWW and commented specifically on the art. (Click on the link and scroll down to the comments) Brinkley’s fans responded pretty quickly, commenting that the art was intentionally like that and symbolic and part of a style and blah blah blah. Brinkley chimed in, thanking his fans and directing any doubters of his artistic prowess to check out his book. Fair enough. The only problem is, though, all his book really proves is that Brinkley can employ a grid to adequately copy a photograph. He claims his art is stunning and masterful and photo-realistic. Untrue. From all the evidence he’s presented, he is unable to imagine a scene for himself and bring it to execution. He is unable to imbue any sense of personality or life into his drawings. He is merely able to competently reproduce a photograph, while stripping all of the life and spontaneity out of it. That is not art. It is...again...competent draftsmanship. I’m not saying I’d be happier if this was the style he used for GHB. I’m just saying nothing I've seen from Brinkley could make me happy. His fans like it. He likes it. Fine for them. I hate it. All I’m sayin’. Shitty art done intentionally is still shitty art and shouldn't be labeled as anything but.
The really bizarre thing about this comic is that every freaking character is a Mary Sue. Bambi is a hot-ass chick (or so we’re told) with all the answers and the snappy comeback to any argument that the dumb Evangelical can throw at her. Oh...and she writes a webcomic! The Evangelical is kind of an Anti-Sue that Brinkley used to be: not really bad, but just led astray by the powerful forces of organized religion and finally coming around because of his exposure to the truth according to Bambi! The cop and Revered Kanta are basically Bambi-Lite. They share her opinions, but they’re even more tolerant and accepting. The self-righteousness drips off of every page as Brinkley recycles every Christian argument that Atheists are always claiming Christians make and proceeds to shoot it down with a well-timed quippy zinger. The thing is though, none of the zingers are really all that zingy. Or compelling. Or they rely on the other person in the argument setting them up by stating their position in a completely unnatural and unrealistic way. It seems like Brinkley really believes in the non-existence of God...he just doesn’t know how to articulate his beliefs in any original, interesting or compelling manner and it just feels more like masturbation than anything else. Masturbation’s all well and good...I just don’t want to watch guys named Michael doing it. Adding to all of this is the problem of Bambi. The whole point of the strip is that atheists are people just like anyone else (if not better!) and Bambi is a sweet, compassionate, caring human being who can teach Ted a thing or two about charity. But in reality, she’s just a snarky bitch and a criminal. Ted’s an asshole too, I’ll grant you…but that’s kind of supposed to be the point, isn't it?
Once we get out of "point/counter point" territory and the story really begins, it’s just a mess. Bambi’s running for president under the National Reality Party. She chooses Ted as her campaign manager, because he once successfully ran a write-in campaign for Ned Flanders. Seeing how great the atheistic Bambi is, Ted questions his faith and then meets God. Brenda and Pastor Ron are plotting the downfall of Bambi in some ill-defined way. The cop is trying to ensure her protection. There are threats against her life, wherein Brinkley seems to completely
ignore forget that the Tucson shooting was also just a random nutcase…but whatever. God turns out to be Bambi’s grandfather, escaped from the nursing home. And the bake sale. All of a sudden, there’s shit happening left and right and it seems like it’s all leading somewhere...maybe...but who the hell knows where? And even still, all of this is interspersed with returns to talking heads blathering at each other, so trying to follow any particular storyline is almost impossible. For a while, I didn't even realize a continuing story was developing. It just suddenly occurred to me at some point that I was reading the fifth strip that had something to do with Bambi running for president and that that might actually be something that was happening. But none of it’s ever funny...none of it’s compelling...none of it’s interesting or original...none of it really makes a whole lot of sense. It fails miserably to make any cogent atheistic arguments...it won’t win any converts and it won’t strengthen the convictions of the choir, so to speak. It just doesn't seem to have a reason to exist. And all I can tell you is that when you've got a comic wherein the first episode is a four-panel debate on the relative states of reality of God and Bambi...and the final episode (for now) is a cross burning on someone’s lawn...you've got a madman at the helm.
Sometimes, Brinkley takes a little bit of a break to throw up other things, like inspirational platitudes. Seriously, is anyone reading this and actually feeling any measure of solace? I appreciate what the guy’s trying to say, but...even just put it up as text, rather than having to stare at Bambi’s weird-ass Tom-Petty-lookin’ face for four panels! Any time the strips have a punchline that isn’t just "God’s a myth and you’re an idiot," Brinkley just spews out some decades-old pop-culture-reference-turned-meme that has no connection to anything. Unless Bill and Ted are some paragons of atheist free thought and I wasn’t aware of it. And every once in a while, when Brinkley’s feeling particularly
lazy overwhelmed, he throws up an Idiot Test or an Actual Christian Quote so we can get an extra heapin’ helpin’ of smug self-righteousness. It’s always fun to use a single, out of context quote to ridicule and make arguments against people’s entire ways of life. So fun in fact, that I’m gonna try it! Brinkley seems to really like Gandhi. He quotes him in his bio, but here’s a couple choice Gandhi quotes that I’ve always particularly liked:
And let’s not forget:
Remember, folks...millions of Indians believe this. And they vote! Let’s all quote-mine! Okay, look...I'm not trying to rag on Gandhi here. Gandhi's great and hate and prejudice definitely exist in this world. People do horrible things to each other and yes, often their twisted reasoning involves religion. But to use straw man arguments and out-of-context quotes to paint millions of people as vicious and evil at worst or just dumb and misguided at best isn't doing anything to help that situation. If there was a God, He’d hate Brinkley.
As I drew close to finishing writing this, I started looking back over it and looking through the comic again and I actually briefly decided to can the review. After reading some of the comments that Brinkley made and looking around at the website of his production company (see link below) I started to get the impression that maybe I had been wrong about the guy. In his comments, he was all insistent that Bambi and Ted just represent two polar extremes and that he himself was more in the middle and that everybody should strive to be in the middle and get along with everyone. He was very cordial with commenters on his site who were Christian and he talked quite a few times about how "some of his best friends were Christian." And I fell for it. I started thinking that maybe I had just misinterpreted GHB and the man behind it. Maybe I was being too hard on him. Then I woke up the next morning and realized something. Bambi may be "an extreme," but Brinkley loves her. He’s got her running for president! He’s turning every one of those Idiot Tests into a live action video starring a woman who bears a passing resemblance to the new incarnation of Bambi. He wants to start making new live action Bambi stuff. Remember...Bambi is a Mary Sue who always has all the answers and instant comebacks. I don’t think Brinkley’s actually in the middle at all. He’s just afraid of confrontation and wishes he could be more like Bambi! He speaks his true self through the comic, then uses the comments section to backpedal so no one gets too mad at him. Then he just blathers on about how we should all get along. He holds up his own past growing up in an Evangelical church constantly to ward off criticism and he sometimes makes comments about how he’s only attacking the hardcore and intolerant among the Evangelical community, but the thing is this: his characters exist in a vacuum. There’s Ted, Bambi, Reverend Kanta, Tillman, Pastor Ron, Brenda and I guess Bambi’s grandfather. Those are the only characters we ever see and the only evidence for the basis of Brinkley’s arguments. EVERY SINGLE ONE of these characters who believes in God is presented as either an idiot or downright evil. And all of them are bigoted...and I mean hateful, racist, ignorant, slur-throwin’ type of bigot. Then EVERY SINGLE ONE of these characters who doesn't believe in God is enlightened, "accepting" and pretty fuckin’ cool. I mean, hey…they like roller derby and tequila shots out of strippers’ belly buttons. So, yeah…you fooled me for a few hours Brinkley…but not for long. That ain’t the middle and you’re a religious hack. Never more so than when you use your running Idiot Test gag to equate mainstream Evangelical Christians to the despicable Westboro Baptist Church.
I’ve got news for you, Brinkley…just because you were a hate-filled bastard doesn’t make it true of everyone else. Look inward, brother…look inward. I dunno…outside of his comic, Brinkley seems like he’s probably an okay guy. He’s married. He likes roller derby. He’s got an independent publishing company going, a primary focus of which seems to be promoting acceptance of the LGBT community. There are several films available to watch on the website, but I honestly just don’t have the energy to do so. All fine things. I guess, more than anything, I feel kind of sorry for the guy. Bambi just sort of oozes smugness, but self-loathing at the same time. Maybe I’m reading too much into it though.
I dunno. Brinkley thinks he’s edgy and offensive. He’s not. I’m an atheist who doesn't give a shit if two dudes or two chicks want to get married. I hate being preached to or proselytized to (by Christians or Atheists) and I hate hate! I’m also a conservative who watches Fox News and has had nice things to say about Sarah Palin on more than one occasion. The world and people are a lot more complex than Brinkley seems to think. One would imagine I’m pretty close to the "middle" that Brinkley feels we should all strive for, and yet I hate this tripe. I wasn't offended once while reading it though. I just got tired. It wore me the fuck down with its smug self-righteousness, straw man bullshit and eye-raping art. Now I’m done with it.
UPDATE: Smackjeeves has been shut down, and this webcomic was wiped with it.