Anyone else here reading Questionable Content?
For those that are: is anyone else having major issues with today's comic, and the feel of this little arc in general?
For those who aren't, allow me to explain.
The two characters at the center of this arc are Dale and Marigold, both of whom are geeky characters. However, despite their shared interests, the two are not friends. The reason for this is somewhat long and complicated, but it started when the pair discovered they played on opposing sides in WoW. Marigold developed an instant dislike for Dale because of this, which is both rather childish and silly. However, what Dale did in response to this was to organize groups in-game just to aggro her—not an especially adult way to handle it, either.
Because of the way time flows in this particular comic, it's hard to say for exactly how long in-universe that this has been going on for. I'd hazard a guess of at least a few months, though. During this time, whenever the two ran into each other, Marigold would hiss at Dale and try and run away, and Dale would be creepy, making not-quite-veiled threats at her character and just generally trying to unsettle her further.
Now, I do have to give some credit to the author, Jeph Jacques, in that he didn't fall into the cliche of having Dale's actions incite any sort of attraction for him in Marigold. Marigold has been rather resolute in her dislike of Dale, and it's completely understandable why. He's been nothing but a creep and a jerk toward her since day one.
Recently, however, some characters have decided that the two should settle their differences and become friends. Leading this charge is Momo, Marigold's AnthroPC—essentially an AI in a humanoid robot body. She's been trying to arrange "accidental" meetings between the two, in the hope that they will start talking to one another and discover their commonalities. Marigold is vehemently opposed to this, however—she doesn't trust Dale in the slightest. Dale, for his part, seems to be neutral. So far, no progress has been made, much to Momo's consternation.
Up until now, however, Dale hasn't been a viewpoint character, while Marigold has. The current arc changes this, putting Dale front and center. Dale has a pair of AR glasses (think Google Glass), and he winds up being a Beta tester for a new feature—a virtual AI companion. Through conversations with his companion, May, we find out that he actually has a crush on Marigold, and that he pretty much knows he's screwed things up in that respect. He just has no real idea how to talk to women. But, y'know, he's totally a nice guy, because he works a bunch of different jobs to support himself and his mom, and all the other characters he's interacted with say he is.
And this is about where I started having issues with this whole storyline.
Now, Dale isn't a "Nice Guy" in the typical sense. He certainly isn't expecting to get anywhere with Marigold based on his past behavior. When he sees her address on the ticket for the pizza he has to deliver, he is actively dreading going over there. The raging sense of entitlement that is part and parcel with Nice Guy Syndrome is nowhere to be found.
There is something unsettling, however, in the lengths this arc has been going to to paint Dale as being misunderstood and socially inept, while not giving any sort of real motivation behind his previous behavior. There's a big difference between being socially awkward/clumsy and being intentionally creepy/threatening towards someone. The former's forgivable, the latter is not okay, and trying to paint the latter as the former doesn't really work.
Back to the story. It progresses as follows: Momo invites Dale into her and Marigold's apartment to share the pizza; Marigold reacts poorly to Dale's presence and orders him to leave; Momo and May hatch a plan to lock Marigold and Dale in Marigold's bedroom until the two "fuck or kill each other". Last thing we see in today's strip, Dale has entered Marigold's room with the intention of apologizing for his previous behavior and calling a truce. I posted my reaction to this on Twitter as such:
Yeah. This is problematic for more than a few reasons.
First is the above. Going into someone's room uninvited after they've kicked you out of their house is just really creepy behavior. Granted, Dale let the AIs talk him into doing it, but that really isn't a very good excuse.
The big one for me, however, is how basically everyone is shitting all over Marigold's wishes, because they think it's ultimately for her own good. Now, Marigold is a very flawed character, particularly when it comes to her social skills (or lack thereof). But this doesn't mean that she isn't capable of making her own decisions regarding who she chooses to associate with and when. She's a twentysomething woman, not a child, and so gets a say in what happens with her life.
But you wouldn't know this to look at how the other characters treat her, and it's not just this group that acts condescendingly towards her—quite a few of the rest of her social group do as well. They mock her choice of activities, they sometimes prey on her naivete for their own amusement, they dismiss her feelings...and for a girl with as major self-esteem issues as Marigold has, these aren't small things.
It's possible that I'm reading too far into things. Marigold is the character in QC I identify most with, as we're so similar it's startling (even our names are eerily similar). Maybe I'm projecting.
All I know is, if a guy who'd treated me poorly showed up unannounced at my place, then not only refused to leave after I told him to but entered my personal sanctum, I would rightly freak out and maybe call the police.
Because, seriously, NO. NOT OKAY.
EDIT 8/14: The resolution to the above is now up. All I have to say is: