I Dream of a Jeanie Bottle
|Original review author:||Shan|
|Webcomic name:||I Dream of Jeanie Bottle|
|Author:||Darren CD Rudd|
|Start Date:||February 18, 2009|
|Genre:||Genderbender "comedy", Fetish|
|Defining Flaw:||Lead character is an irredeemable psychopath who engenders the opposite of sympathy for their predicament.|
Lead character is a man named Jean seen holding a bottle not unlike that from the TV show I Dream of Jeannie in panel one of page one. Panel two is a puff of smoke. Panel three finds Jean turned into an approximation of a genie like the one played by Barbara Eden in the TV show, right down to the costume and is usually referred to as Jeanie from that point onward.
I think I've already said that I read Exiern and gave them money enough times already and that I'm not inherently opposed to the whole gender bending concept in fiction. So I'll leave it at that. I think I also made a lot of caveats about how I hate being critical of anyone's work in the Murry and Lewy review unless certain lines have been crossed. Well, both a line has been crossed and I've tasted blood now, so I'm already feeling less bad about myself for doing this.
Well, it's quite simple really. Barbara Eden's genie from the TV show may have been ignorant and naive from being trapped in that bottle and not being exposed to the modern world. However, this isn't the same as being stupid and she most definitely wasn't. A lot of her blunders were usually accidents, they typically weren't mean or malicious. Even when she did something on purpose (and could be considered less than benign), things eventually got sorted out and fixed either by her coming to her senses or the people around her talking her down in the voice of reason. Also, over time on the TV show, she was clearly learning more about the modern world and how to interact with people in general, so it's certainly not like she was staying ignorant either.
In this comic, Jeanie is crude, rude, lewd and the opposite of being eagerly helpful like Barbara Eden's genie. Not a deal breaker in itself and could potentially have been interesting and even entertaining as a contrast to the TV version (but it isn't). It also doesn't help that as the comic progresses, it seems more and more likely that Jeanie, on top of being a deeply awful individual, is a deeply stupid individual and getting more so as time passes. At best, it's more annoying than anything else.
Where this starts heading towards the cliff is where this comic's Jeanie has no second thoughts in frequently inflicting the same gender swaps on other men through malicious glee and even worse, at least one case of completely forgetting to easily reverse something she did without a second thought, just to avoid some slight perceived discomfort which was easily avoidable by looking away, not because the victim of this had done anything at all to deserve ... well anything at all. They literally were an innocent bystander. However as will be demonstrated below, that wasn't even the worst of it as will be shown by what sent this right off the edge of aforementioned cliff. You'll know it when you see it, it's impossible to miss because it's just that awful.
Story and Plot
In terms of pronouns, I'm just going to use female ones for the so far permanently transformed characters as it's just easier to know who's being referred to. Jean, now as Jeanie (with one 'n') is certainly no Barbara Eden. I guess some potential interest in a character who's a contrast to the Jeannie from television in that this one's a sarcastic and frequently bad tempered character with quite a foul mouth (OK, that aspect's somewhat less interesting for starters) and does retaliate to her dopey best friend Neil Anton (no prizes for guess who he ... or for that matter anyone with a similar sounding name to the TV show is an analogue to) into a woman periodically before teleporting him into embarrassing places after he does something particularly insensitive towards his friend (like sporting an inappropriate boner due to his transformed best friend *sigh*) but at least he changes him back.
One of the rules established early on is than even though Jeanie can turn other people into both male and female forms, she's only able to change herself into different females for some reason (something the original Jeannie from TV didn't have as a restriction, even if she rarely exercised that side of it).
The problem is that the premise of this comic seemed to be that you have a character in a predicament that came about by accident and you'd think the idea is that the character is one you can have sympathy towards for their quest back to their real self.
This is where the wheels start to fall off:
After being given the job to substitute for the regular genie for a nerd named Melvin for reasons too tedious to explain (and a stupid nerd at that who hasn't grasped the concept of repeats and recorded media, so all of the disadvantages with none of the benefits of being smart after graduating and founding a tech company), this is where Jeanie starts showing a pattern of behaviour that reveals a full blown psychopath.
Here's the start of the downwards spiral when Jeanie can't even stand idiot boy Melvin staring at her (OK, she has a bit of a point here) to practice how to look at girls because he doesn't know any other, she turns his friend Red (real name Clarence) into a girl so (as Jeanie reasons with her dubious logic - and for "dubious", read "stupid") he can practice staring at 'her' instead. The thing about trying to have some sympathy for a character is that it tends to go out the window when they're freely dishing out with no thought or regard to other people. At least Red gets changed back, right?
Where things take a turn for the really weird is where Red's parents don't react as you'd expect in that they seem delighted in that they can now get her into an exclusive girl's school she didn't qualify for before (for obvious reasons), use her in an advertising campaign for some computer game or other (!) and they've renamed her Tiffany (?!). Seems to be a lot of those gender bent characters with that name about (that makes at least 3 that I know of).
All of the above seems to be a whole lot of wrong, as much as when The Wotch: Cheer did it. I'm seriously starting to wonder (and fear) that there's some kind of fetish subculture that's sprung up around this idea about parents finding their sons suddenly and without explanation turned into daughters one day and actually being happy with this given the number of times it seems to crop up in even my limited adventures so far through the world of webcomics. You'd think the more natural reaction would be to freak out or at the very least act slightly put out.
The weirdness continues and even more so since it's one of the ongoing plots in a spin-off called The Melvin Chronicles, which I think has earned itself a spot here by default just by being spawned from this. It has a large component of nerds at school and their role playing gaming group including their actual games. In other words, a special place in hell if you have to watch even more interactions between this lot play out than we do here.
Still, things finally sail off the edge of the world with this. After ending up on a Greek Fishing Boat (once again, not really worth going into why we're here), this guy wishes for and gets to be both the Captain and rich. He really should have quit while he was still ahead.
OK, subverting the trope of a wish, especially one like this is a time-honored one in this type of fiction. Very funny, now you're going to change him back though, right?
At this point, words fail me. Instead of raging at great length about the sordid nature of this page set much time later than the previous, I'll let the people behind this atrocity speak for themselves. The background to the following question from the comment section was referring to an earlier strip where Jeanie tries to get who she thinks is the girl of idiot boy Melvin's dreams to fall for him, something this girl definitely had no interest in (can't blame her to be honest). The spell rebounded on Jeanie and separated her from her body, which went into some sort of autonomous mode while Jeanie was left in some sort of ethereal invisible state at least initially. Apparently the reason was that was the side effect of trying to subvert a human's free will. However, somehow this situation is different.
"I thought there were consequences for Jeannie trying to use genie powers to mess with people’s minds? Shouldn’t there be the same consequences for her power doing that even if not under conscious control?"
"Jean isn’t imposing her will on or controlling the free will of the Greek fisherman.The Greek Captain (since we don’t have a name for her yet) is being controlled by biology. Now I’m not saying all women’s mind goes to mush when they meet men, but she’s been turned into a women with a extreme susceptiblity [sic] to her hormones in this regaurd [sic]. Same with the little girl. She has her male mind, but the emotions, maturity and desires of a little girl (hence the bunny doll and pony cartoons)."
Yes, let's deconstruct this. Jeanie turns the Greek Captain not just into a woman but one that has to apparently have sex with every single man she meets, not due to any magic but those pesky female hormones. Supposedly this will go on until she meets one she wants to marry and have children and then this compulsion will stop. Maybe. If we want to be strictly accurate, I guess that should mean she should be having sex right on the spot with any and every man she meets even in public which would leave her unable to leave the house in any practical sense. Can anyone pass me the sick bucket?
Luckily, they spare us that much at least, it's a hole in their particularly warped logic I'm willing to let pass for now, at least in the interests of stopping me going blind from having to see it play out in reviewing this abomination. Also, that's not how female hormones work as evidenced by the numbers of women worldwide who seem to not be enslaved by their biology to act like that. Just to preempt anyone ever telling me they find someone who fits that criteria, let me say bravo you *golf clap*. Suffice to say it'll be a really, really small percentage and not indicative of anywhere near most women. Also, it's not funny even before you start to consider the implications.
Furthermore, even though it is true there's some women in that situation, it's often due to some very serious medical pathology very serious illnesses, going down that path as an explanation would be more problematic than the whole situation is already as a lot of those causes are life threatening if not terminal. Even then they're not as overpowering as what this character has been inflicted with so basically it's in the realm of fictional biology) and if magic is involved, it's contradicting the extensive story arc which showed why free will couldn't be subverted like that, with great cost to the genie attempting it. All things considered, this really was a narrative path better left untrod. Well too late now unfortunately.
Adding to this train wreck, the 8 year old girl was one of the Greek Captain's crew mates who not surprisingly after seeing what happened to his new Captain of up to two minutes (and just crew mate prior to that) took the not unreasonable view from the outset that the genie bottle was dangerous and should have been left alone from the beginning. In fact, just earlier he'd advised his colleague not to fool around with it because this sort of thing could be dangerous. To be honest, maybe he should have been captain instead, he showed much more foresight than anyone else involved in this fiasco - definitely more than anyone on the creative team, that's for sure. He then tried to throw it overboard after what happened to the new captain and instead of making him just drop the bottle, or use magic to catch the bottle or any number of other possibilities, Jeanie turned him into an 8 year old girl instead. This character hadn't even done anything wrong by any stretch of the imagination.
The sudden swap between the two characters here is explained later on in reference to something else which I'll elaborate on below but if we follow the logic train here, now that the two have been swapped into each other's current bodies, if the one now has the interest in cartoons, well then the other would take the attributes of ... well yes. Is it just me or is all this, especially when combined with the dubious hair splitting of the author's logic kind of horrible? Towards men, towards women, towards ... well like everyone? This is where I think the Downfall bomb went right off.
I mean, let's put all these pieces together (these horrible, horrible pieces). Two adult men and presumably heterosexual based on the odds are turned into one adult female and one pre-pubescent one (really still not sure why she has to go back to school as she's already done it but really that's low down on the list of what's wrong with all of this). Apparently the Greek Captain adopted his crew mate according to a Q + A with the character (more on that below). You have to wonder, didn't they at least have relatives and friends (though it might explain some of the Captain's predicament if he at least did not)? As we've said unlike all the other men turned women, the Greek Captain is now compelled to have sex with any men she meets; though it seems to be represented as just a lot of men. It's not the magic because of the rules about free will and it shouldn't be the hormones because science. Maybe it's a metaphor for the emasculation of Greece in the financial crisis due to a lifetime of poor decisions and then being fucked over by every single other country in the EU. Yes, let's go with that, it could hardly make things more awful here now could it? Once again I have to ask myself, why is there a following for this sort of thing? Even Rule 34 would be giving this some serious side eye.
Meanwhile, in between these two strips, a Homeland Security agent was just doing his job and thought it was odd that someone with no record of their existence whatsoever was discussing sensitive technological information at a conference (Neil turned into his now alter ego Natalie yet again because reasons). Not surprisingly this attracts government attention. Jeanie at this point could have done anything to distract them but decided to go with this. You'd think if anything, this would attract even more attention since the actual information about where 'Natalie' is from hasn't gone anywhere.
Stop it. Please just stop.
Considering that it's revealed in one of those oh so cute sections where the readers get to ask the characters questions that Agent Anderson has a family, this seems even more awful. Obviously I know it's just fiction but I just felt really bad about the whole thing for the character, especially over the malicious pointlessness of it all and the fact obvious to anyone from even before doing it (hence an excellent reason to have never done it in the first place) that it was going to have the opposite effect. You couldn't have Streisand Effect-ed something more short of turning them into the actual Barbra Streisand. In the same Q + A, Jeanie also says she still wants to be turned back into a man. Not helping your case here. However, I guess it does fit with the motif of how deeply moronic Jeanie is. On the other hand, in a flashback as Jean, he did reveal that he wanted to bang Barbara Eden so perhaps he deserved everything he gets.
If there's somehow any readers at this point (you know where you are, right?) still not convinced, how about this then?
Oh boy. The downfall of this strip is literally something from the actual Downfall (excellent movie by the way, go see that instead). They literally Godwinned themselves. Now this was brought up in the forums as to how did they then lose World War II. Well, to save you reading this, though it's not specifically addressed, there are other genies and witches with similar levels of power in this world for starters and also head genies like Lord Guano (yes, afraid so) who can shut a lesser genie down on the spot. Maybe that's what happened? Yes, let's go with that then.
(Though something about the Soviet Red Army having their own genie attack squadron has it's own appeal. Certainly more than this anyway.)
There's a lot of sameface that cuts across both this strip and his other one, Sailor Sun. The characters could be swapped between the two (and given the meta nature of Sailor Sun, probably already have if I ever read it all, which seems increasingly likely for a future review).
If it weren't for some very blatantly and deliberately distinct aspects on the characters (eg: very differing hair colours and styles), it would be very hard to tell a lot of them apart.
Size proportions seem odd here, adults seem to tower above the young teens in this comic, like literal giants, as seen here when Jeanie goes from being disguised as one of the teachers in the first panel to back with the group of kids she's been stuck with as part of her genie training in the third. Other times, the adults don't seem to come across as that large on their own.
Overall, the art is better than when it started though.
I think enough has been said already but one additional plotline drives home the point. In order to throw Jeanie's girlfriend Belle Lows off the track (with a name like that, you know they're going to succeed if you know anything at all about the TV show), Jeanie makes best friend Neil Anton (obvious Anthony Nelson expy) look like him, Jeanie is already passing herself off as Jean's relative from the Middle East. This unavoidably leads to Neil (disguised as Jean) and Belle having sex (surprise surprise /s) and Jeanie becoming enraged (literal flames on the sides of my face thank you Clue) about Neil having sex with her girlfriend (well, it's still technically true, isn't it?).
Actually, while we're here. I would recommend reading one part of this comic from strip 283 to 299 just to see the bizarre places it can go. Starting here with the aforementioned flame-out at strip 283, first Jeanie dumps Neil in Rodge's lobby both having been turned into Natalie and in lingerie. Neil theorizes that in order to get back at him sleeping with Jeanie's girlfriend Belle (which he was unable to avoid, believe me he tried real hard) while Neil was disguised as Jean to cover the fact Jean had been turned into Jeanie (with me so far?), Jeanie might be trying to get back at Neil by getting him in the form of Natalie to sleep with Rodge (it makes more sense in picture form ... I think?). Somehow Rodge is totally down with this idea despite the fact he's going to be facing Neil returned to his usual self at the office eventually and probably sooner rather than later. Face it Rodge, you're a freak. Fortunately for all of us, Neil as Natalie shoots this idea down straight away.
If you keep reading, you'll see Jeanie obsess over this for a while but then after hearing from Belle that it's the best she's ever had with Jean, as we know it was actually Neil (even more surprised /s) and then come up with the brilliant solution of then trying to trick Neil after changing him back into having sex with her to find out what his sex time secrets are (wait what?). Given that she still has Jean's male brain and persona at her core, the rationale behind this seems dubious at best.
More jokes follow about how Neil's workmate Rodge Heeny (obvious Roger Healey expy and we're really not trying very hard here are we?) despite being threatened with actual sacking can't pay the slightest attention to Neil trying to teach him the science he needs to know because he's fixated on all the women that have been passing through Neil's life since this genie business began (never mind one of those he saw was Neil himself involuntarily changed by his other idiot friend). However after Jeanie turns him into "Natalie", then Rodge actually pays attention and retains it all (the situation was so bad that Neil had to ask Jeanie to temporarily turn him into Natalie just to keep Rodge's attention on being taught what he needed to know to keep his job). Ridiculous I know and about as forward thinking as it sounds. At least the character of Roger Healey from the TV show despite all his bumbling took an interest in being an astronaut and was good at his job. He at least mostly kept his stupidity and ineptitude to outside working hours.
Well, apart from the inanities described above, the plot now seems to be drifting from one arbitrary adventure to another. The one where they seemingly crossed over with Bewitched for no good reason was passable I guess but now they're currently in the middle of the Dukes of Hazzard, where consumption of some moonshine was clumsily inserted into the plot to get them to Hazzard County (apparently it gave Jeanie random spell casting hiccups, hence the body swap between the two Greeks in the strip above, if the hiccups don't stop Jeanie will burn through her magic and she'll die like a certain genie mentioned above to much derision) and they're now going to be inserted into the adventures between the characters from that TV show doing what they always do. Currently tedious and derivative. It could get better but I don't care to wait and find out.
Some analysis of what we've already seen and discussed above is illustrative though including the reader reaction to it. In the whole Bewitched arc, the expected comical follies take place when genie Jeanie mistakes witch Samantha (yes they pretty much lifted names too) for another genie sent to spy on her while Samantha thinks Jeanie is another witch sent by her mother Endora (like I said ...) to spy on her. This leads to the expected misunderstanding and a magical duel while the two men in the situation (Neil and Samantha's husband Derick) awkwardly engage in some chit chat before putting two and two together and then rushing to break up the fight.
So of course Jeanie wants to know how long they were ogling the two of them fighting before putting a stop to it and this happens. Which hardly seems fair as they weren't really watching in the first place instead preferring to guy talk and drink coffee instead of watch the fight (and even when they were they were really far away) and that they acted as soon as they realized what was going on. Also, they could have been ogling their respective accompanying magic users even without the fight anyway. Then there's what Jeanie does to get the moonshine in the current arc at the time of writing. Mind you, at least being a massive hypocrite is consistent with the character I suppose. Well, at least they weren't turned into women and forced to re-enact lesbian porn so lucky them I guess (... or were they? Who knows with this thing.)
It helps to explain a lot of these weird narrative directions by putting it down to Jeanie's great and ever deepening stupidity, we've already discussed the Greek Captain (who in at least one respect has lost more than Odysseus) and the logic fail there regarding her newly acquired hormonal makeup, strange how none of the other men turned women in this story seem to be affected with the same nymphomaniacal tendencies, isn't it? No, the attempted parsing of the specifics of the Greek Captain's particular wish doesn't cut it as to why she's an exception either. Though it does paint a very horrific picture though.
We've also covered the tragedy of Agent Anderson whose only crime seems to be doing their job as intended and now with the above example as well. However, once it gets into the realm of befuddling your audience as well because you don't seem to be following the rules you yourself set up (as evidenced by some comments in the comments section by perplexed readers who've pointed out these seeming contradictions and elicited inadequate explanations at best), you have to start wondering if it's just serial bad writing. Obligatory mention of too many basic spelling errors overall for my liking. Even the few strips reproduced here are riddled with some very basic mistakes.
So how do we see this all ending? Well, in the history of the original TV show the actual makers were dead set against having Barbara Eden's Jeannie marry Anthony Nelson's astronaut. As one person involved put it, they just didn't think the audience would react well to having in the back of their mind that they would be at some point making the beast with two backs (actual paraphrase of a quote). So, given that in this strip that Belle has already leaped to the wrong conclusion that Jeanie has a thing for Neil and er ... Jeanie actually trying to screw Neil for the most ridiculous of reasons; though to be fair I wouldn't put it past these people thinking of an even more ridiculous reason one day ... I wouldn't bet against it coming to pass here one day, especially as the other comic from this creative team, Sailor Sun has its gender bent characters ending up doing a lot of this including time travelling alternate versions of the same one. We'll be looking at that in more depth in its own review when the time comes. I bet you all can't wait.
I don't know anything about this author but I think his comment trying to explain how female hormones are affecting the Greek Captain says enough. Too much actually. Learning this is part of 910cmx explains a lot really. The April Fools Joke which said the comic and Sailor Sun had been cancelled unexpectedly had the commenters wearily checking their watches and waiting for the inevitable retraction; a not insignificant number hinted after the reveal that they might leave and never come back if this extremely stale joke ever got pulled again.
Basically a comic with a horrible attitude to women, sex and women having sex.
- The Melvin Chronicles A spinoff comic featuring the character of Melvin.
- Sailor Sun An unrelated "teen angst" webcomic by this author.