The Meaning of Lila …. offensive or ridiculous?

My highly confidential informant found the offending strip.  It is called “The Meaning of Lila” and it is a silly little attempt to translate “Will and Grace” onto the funny pages.  The challenges of extrapolating the gay guy/girlfriend routine are many and Lila makes the classic mistake of assuming she's “in” the group.  Yes, Lila drops the H-bomb.  Right in front of Blondie, Hagar the Horrible and those cute little critters from Mutts. 

Here's the strip ..

 

The problem here is the classic heterosexual mistake of assuming that you are so gay-friendly, we won't mind if you use terms that are typically offensive. Like fag, dyke and homo.  Those are pretty much “insider” terms which belong to us.  Lila is obviously gay-friendly because her best friend, Boyd, is gay.  Boyd was outed in mid-May.  So it took less than a month for the writers to leapfrog from veiled references to full frontal fag haggisms.  My goodness …

Maybe I spend too much time with homo-flinger John McIntire, but this doesn't bother me nearly as much as the inherent vacuousness of the whole strip — I read back a few weeks online and it is just … sad.  There's none of the warmth and humor that permeated Will and Grace, which was equally vacuous in its own way.  In color.  With Jack. And Karen.

Lila, however, presumes too much when it used the word homo.  It presumed that readers are thoroughly invested in a gay comic strip character (uh-huh) and that Lila's character had proven her gay street cred enough to warrant using the term (???). 

Does the fact that so few people noticed mean that society is indifferent to the gay guy/girlfriend dynamic, that it is still acceptable to drop the term homo in everyday conversation or that very few people actually read this strip?

You decide.

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  • As the writer of “Lila” and a gay man, I'm completely dumbfounded by your comments. My straight and gay friends and I are completely comfortable both celebrating and mocking each other and will use terms like “homo” and “hetero,” “queer” and “breeder” in the spirit of collegial and humorous banter.
    I can say it hasn't been easy to get newspapers to accept a gay character in their comic pages and appreciate the few that have welcomed me. They are truly risking offending more conservative readers with my topics. I've had to deal with a lot of homophobia in the past four years writing “Lila,” including people referring to Boyd as a pedophile, Lila as anti-Christian, and me as a writer promoting a sinful lifestyle. Your comments represent the first time I was ever criticized for offending my own people.
    You may have noticed that there really aren't any gay characters on the comics pages except for some side characters in non-recurring stories. These, I might add, were written by heterosexuals. Boyd represents the first substantial gay character written by a gay writer on mainstream comics pages.
    The comic has, indeed, been compared to “Will & Grace” for Lila and Boyd's relationship and “Sex & the City” for its more racy gags around women's issues and single life, but I feel that “Lila” is more real in that she doesn't represent a super successful NY columnist or interior designer. Both Lila and Boyd are customer service representatives who are trying to find their way, but who definitely are comfortable with themselves. Lila doesn't feel the need to live up to expectations of career women who want it all and Boyd isn't defensive or proactive about his sexuality. They are two young people from Cleveland trying to carve out their small life in the world.
    I'm sorry and disappointed that you find the strip either offensive or ridiculous. But I don't think you can understand Lila or Boyd or their relationship by reading a couple of week's worth of strips. Without the luxury of television scripts, camera angles, and talented actors to endear you to the character, I would respectfully ask that you spend some time with the strip before posting your criticisms.
    Sincerely,
    John

  • John,
    While I'm glad you and your friends share a collegial banterish relationship, you are not friends with everyone who reads your strip. To assume that each of those persons would be “in on the joke” and aware that you are a gay man is unreasonable. I can say for sure that here in Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette, the term “homo” isn't embraced with the flair and fun it would find in our weekly alternative paper, The City Paper, or the gay newspaper, particularly when the source is unknown.
    If I am the first LGBTQ person who ever pointed out to you that the term “homo” – from the lips of a heterosexual character might be offensive — wow! You've gotten off easy. Again, to be fair, I did not know you were gay. It doesn't make any difference. I don't think it serves the LGBTQ community to put the term homo onto the lips of a heterosexual character in a mainstream newspaper. That's my opinion, lesbian and all.
    To my suprise, I find myself reading Lila on a daily basis. So I'll take your challenge and see if she grows on me. I applaud your introduction of a gay character into the funny pages and good for you if you can make it work long term.
    Thanks for writing.

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