Penny was a touchy subject with me. And skin, that's touchy for everybody.
As Duane continues to pine for Penny from a distance, Aggie notices Penny snobbishly turning down a nerd's request for a date and tears into her in the school hallway for her treatment of boys. Aggie is, above all, furious over what she assumes was Penny's deliberate brush-off of Duane (in a previous arc
), "because he's Black!" As everyone within earshot recoils in shock at this accusation, Aggie hesitates momentarily but abruptly launches into a barely-coherent tirade accusing Penny of being "worse than Hitler!"
Unlike Penny's and Aggie's previous arguments, this one has serious repercussions. Both girls are sent to Principal Giuliani, who lets them off this time because they're the school's top PPSAT scorers, but warns them that another disruption will entail cleaning the school after hours. As other students, despite Sara's and Michelle's attempts at damage control, ponder whether Penny is in fact racist, a contrite Aggie tries to assure Penny that Aggie only made herself look bad (and indeed, many students now think she's gone insane). Penny calls her on her naivete, pointing out that her reputation too has suffered damage. Aggie then encounters Duane, who's angry with her for making his race more of an issue than Penny ever had, and for lying to him about being Penny's friend. "You're not mine either," he says.
Penny soon has her own awkward hallway encounter with Duane, and on an impulse asks him to tutor her in English composition at his place. Duane is skeptical of her motivation but eventually agrees. Penny flirts with Duane throughout the tutorial, prompting him finally to ask whether she's only doing this to be "P.C." She replies that Aggie's rage on his behalf intrigued her into getting to know him, and points out that all this time he could've just asked her out directly. She encourages him to do so the following week. The overjoyed Duane makes up with Aggie, recognizing that she'd only been trying to help. "Let's not fight again. That's just gay," he tells her, leaving Aggie wondering whether he's homophobic.
- After School Cleaning Duty: What Giuliani warns will be Penny's and Aggie's punishment if they cause another disruption.
- Angrish: Aggie's tirade accusing Penny of racism.
BECAUSE HE'S BLACK! BECAUSE YOU'D NEVER BE SEEN WITH A BLACK MAN! YOU'RE TOO GOOD FOR HIM TOO GOOD FOR ANYONE WITH YOUR BLONDE LITTLE BLONDE YOU'RE WORSE THAN HITLER!
- Blondes are Evil: Implied in Aggie's rant.
- Dumbass Has a Point: A meta-example: On the comic's forum, a reader claimed that this arc wasn't so much an examination of racial issues as it was about Aggie making a fool of herself. T Campbell responded that while Aggie was wrong about Penny being out-and-out racist, her words had a grain of truth in that, prior to this arc, Duane simply hadn't registered as a dating option for Penny, and that her subsequent interest in him was as much about disproving Aggie's accusation as it was about broadening her horizons.
- Elephant in the Living Room: Conveniently labelled.
- Godwin's Law: Played straight with Aggie's rant.
- Here We Go Again: Aggie, having begun by jumping to conclusions about Penny's attitude toward Black people, ends up doing the same thing regarding Duane's view of gay people. However, the comic never followed up on her suspicion, nor its validity. Years later, Campbell confirmed that Duane's use of the word "gay" here was merely in the teenage slang sense of "stupid."
- Hopeless Suitor: Subverted for the time being as Penny directly encourages Duane to ask her out.
- Imagine Spot: Several, including the Earth swallowing Aggie following her outburst, and the news media treating her tirade as a story of national importance.
- Jive Turkey / Soul Brotha: Duane deliberately, and bitterly, speaks to Aggie this way following her outburst, in order to drive home the point that she, not Penny, is the one making his ethnicity an issue.
- Mistaken for Racist: Penny, not only by Aggie but also by a number of other students as a result of Aggie's accusation.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Penny uses this to flirt with Duane.
- Personal Raincloud: Aggie gets one when the realization that she's hurt Penny's reputation as well as her own, and ruined Duane's chances with her, hits home.
- Rebus Bubble: Three of these, meaning respectively: "Penny hates Black people," "Aggie is crazy," and "Duane is homophobic."
- Sadist Teacher: Principal Giuliani. After warning Penny and Aggie of the draconian punishment—detention spent cleaning the entire school by themselves—in store for them the next time they cause a disruption, he smiles at their horrified reaction and thinks, "I love this job."
- Shipper on Deck: Note how dejected Sara seems at this new low in relations between the title characters.
- Soap Box Sadie: Nowhere is Aggie more strident in defence of her principles than in this arc. Realizing she's gone too far, she tones down this trait of hers considerably, at least in public, from here on in.
- Tuckerization: Campbell named Principal Giuliani after the former mayor of New York.
- Unrequited Love: Lampshaded by Duane when fantasizing about romancing Penny in a rocket ship: "If you're gonna dream a hopeless dream...go all out." Subverted at arc's end when Penny, though not in love with Duane as such, invites him to ask her out and they'll see what develops.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The following exchange between Penny and Duane.
Penny: You could've asked, Duane.
Duane: ...You shoot guys down!
Penny: Not everybody gets the job, boy! That doesn't mean you don't fill out an application! Ask me to hang next week. Be cool. Be smooth. You might be surprised.