Arts & Culture, Personal

Revisiting Nickelodeon’s “As Told by Ginger”

I was raised by the glow of the television, and cartoons on Nickelodeon were my favorite. Recently the theme song for “As Told by Ginger” (as sung by Macy Gray) came to mind:

“Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side
And I paid a visit
(Well, it’s possible I missed it)
It seemed different,
Yet exactly the same
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
‘Til further notice,
I’m in-between
From where I’m standing,
My grass is green
Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side.”

In my mind Macy Gray has never conformed to gender expectations for women singer-songwriters. And I always appreciated how her voice set the tone for a cartoon show about preteen girls in middle school. The show premiered in 2000 just as I was entering middle school and ended in 2009, the year I graduated from high school.

While I remembered liking As Told by Ginger because the protagonist Ginger is a writer, I did not remember how well the show itself was written. I am not surprised that creator Emily Kapnek went on to create Suburgatory, a short-lived but cutting satire of suburbia seen from the perspective of a teenage girl. Kapnek also contributed to episodes of Parks and Recreation as a consulting producer.

After re-watching, I am impressed by the complexity of each episode’s plot. While the story always centers around Ginger, her friends, her brother and her mother also play significant roles.

In the second episode, Ginger invites her school’s popular girl over for dinner while her younger brother invites the fantastically grotesque older woman he met at a nursing home. “Carl and Maude” was the cartoon’s homage to the movie Harold and Maude. If you’ve been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt you may recognize Carol Kane‘s voice in this episode.

Characters on As Told by Ginger are well-developed and believable as real people while conforming to established archetypes: the mean girl: Miranda, the popular girl: Courtney, the gross younger brother: Carl.

Miranda’s insecurity drives her malice, while Courtney is a popular girl looking for true connection. And Carl articulates his passion for the bizarre with Poe-like eloquence.

With lessons about self-confidence, family dynamics and friendship, I would recommend this cartoon to any preteen girl. I know it helped me get through middle school!

 

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Books

Book Review: Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier

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In a flurry of excitement about San Francisco’s public libraries, I checked out a criminal number of graphic novels.

To quote Julian Smith, “I’m at the library where they call me a crook. I never even pay for my library books. I take them from the shelves and if anyone looks, I say, ‘I’m reading a book man, I’m reading a book!'”

If you don’t understand this reference, watch this video now:

 

I finally got around to reading Paul Hornschemeier’s Life with Mr. Dangerous today in my favorite reading nook. I was actually interrupted, but I didn’t mind as much as Julian Smith did.

The first thing I will say about Hornschemeier, is that his drawing style seems to be heavily influenced by Daniel Clowes. I could be completely wrong about that though. Hornschemeier is skilled at weaving different cartooning styles into his narrative, although I think his pages that delve into the surreal are stronger than his representations of daily life.

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I loved this page about Amy’s relationship to her sweet tooth

The book gets its title from a cartoon show that the main character Amy is infatuated with. Unfortunately, the cartoon does not make much sense in my view, but perhaps that’s the point. With amnesia curing manure plot devices and catchy sayings like “My, but you’re fecund!” that may be hard to believe.

The dialogue was sometimes too wordy or sparse for my liking. At one point, Amy thinks to herself, “…Sigh… Barren, sweating, and twelve minutes late. What’s not to like?” This kind of forced exposition takes me right out of the story. What does Amy’s fertility have to do with going to dinner with her mother?

 

Hornschemeier’s biography for this book says a lot about his style of writing:

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“Paul Hornschemeier was born in 1977 [. . .] He currently lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife. As he writes this about himself, a discarded Christmas tree rests on its side, waiting by the curb outside his window, to be picked up as trash, breeding simultaneous and oft-coupled pangs of nostalgia and depression. Then a dog walks by.”

I’m still cringing. Sorry Paul.

During a major turning point in the story, I was forced to skim some of the wordiest panels I have ever encountered in a graphic novel. Here’s a little taste without any spoilers, “Here you are, an invisible referee for an interspecies cage match. Your method of invisibility was explained to me by Moritz as he tamped a pipe with tobacco (that hinted of raisins and the South), but I lost the details. Something about string theory and a since discredited biography of Milton Berle [. . .]”

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Is it just me, or is this a lot of text?

As complex as these sentences may be, the story itself ended up being fairly bland and straight forward. There were certain themes that were well thought out and explored in the story, including ageism in the workplace and mother-daughter relationships, but Amy’s overarching trials in love were not among them in my book.

Perhaps Hornschemeier will speak more deeply to you if you work in retail and actively seek out manic pixie dream girls/guys?

 

 

 

 

 

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