Reviews: Zits

I lost Hagar the Horrible for THIS?

Zits is one of the worst comic strips I've ever had added to my local paper (The Sydney Morning Herald). It's boring, unattractive and worst of all, mean-spirited. The only reason the comic strip isn't a one-note gag is because there are 4 main characters and each of them is their own one-note gag. The series has only 4 jokes. The first one is that teenage boys are thick, selfish, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, short-sighted, uncaring, dirty, slovenly slackers who do nothing except leech off their parents and do dumb things and that's somehow funny... just because. The other 3 jokes are: teenage girls are shallow, ditzy, overemotional, clingy, oversensitive and vain, mothers are overreactionary, demanding, smothering neat-freaks and fathers are clueless, dopey, out of date, old-fashioned dorks. The characters are so shallow and dull that it took me WEEKS of glancing at the comic while I was doing the crossword to even find out that Jeremy and Sarah actually had names. Worst of all, it's not funny. It's not funny, it's not topical, it's not interesting. It's a waste of paper.

It's funny because it's true

Zits has the most horribly generic name you can come up with for a comic strip about adolescence. It's like they didn't even try. And yet, the strip itself does an excellent job of being relate-able to anyone who either is or was a teenager, or who is the parent or relative of one.

Jeremy is... well, he's a regular teenager, and that's all we need to know about him, because he's the perfect stand-in. He fixes simple problems his parents can't solve (like working a DVD player remote control), gets into arguments about dumb things like putting on a jacket, holds many simultaneous conversations at once on his computer and phone ("I wish Jeremy would just talk... to us!"), and is a cartoonish exaggeration of the general American teenager. Chances are you know, or were, a Jeremy.

Funny thing about that jacket comic. Weeks before it was printed, my younger brother got into a big argument about why he shouldn't wear a coat in clearly cold weather, and made a huge deal out of it. Then suddenly, Zits runs this comic about Jeremy arguing with his mom ("No-one wears coats anymore, Mom." "Well, you're gonna wear yours!") and intentionally putting the jacket on wrong many times, until the two complain to each other, "Why must you make my life so difficult?" An exaggeration? Yes, but I cut the comic out and gave it to my mom, who hung it on the refrigerator. It was funny because it was true - ridiculous arguments like that do happen in families with teenagers.

And that's pretty much the jist of what makes the comic so good. You can relate to either Jeremy or the parents, or if nothing else, the situation. And yet, it's cartoonishly exaggerated, but based in enough reality that you can see both the truth in the humor, and the humor in the real life situation it parodies.

Parents have been said to find relief in this comic, as through its many situations, it reminds them that, yes, this weird situation your kid put you through is in fact normal and commonplace. If it weren't, it wouldn't be in the comic. Teens, meanwhile, have found fun in comparing their parents to Jeremy's clueless mom and dad.

It's surprising that a humor strip is about to educate people about life and how others think, but simply by speaking truth in an approachable, funny way, Zits has managed to do just that.