(From Questionable Content. Click for full-sized interrupted escape.)
In the news post for this comic, Jeph Jacques indicates that this is “something [he’s] wanted to do for years and I really, really want to do a good job of it”, noting that the idea of “inclusion” is one that comes up a lot in QC and so including a character of this sort is important for completeness’ sake, and reassuring us that “I have given it a lot of thought and done a lot of research, so hopefully I won’t screw up.”
If so, this is not a very good start.
Let’s be honest, you could quite literally swap in any word in the second panel and have exactly the same comic, maybe a better one. It comes off as just a buzzword, as some random, arbitrary group, delivered matter-of-factly and out of nowhere, not as a term with an actual meaning. For someone who professes to be so for “inclusion”, it comes off as a decidedly fake form of inclusion, of slapping a label on a character so you can boast about how “inclusive” you are, like a committee-designed character on a kids’ TV show.
What makes this worse is that Jeph is doing this to an established character, albeit one that’s only been in the cast for a few months, leaving me wondering whether Jeph designed her this way from the start. I can understand the notion that members of some group can be “just like everyone else” whose membership in that group doesn’t have to be all-consuming, but in this particular case – as much as this might betray my own biases, prejudices, and stereotypes – it’s hard for me to imagine how it wouldn’t have come up a lot sooner. And while she hasn’t been around for very long, I’d be hard-pressed to find a worse character to do this to than Claire, part of whose character has become “the opposite-sex mirror to Clinton” (though none of the Smif students would work very well).
Add it all up, and this comic doesn’t seem to make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense in itself, where it drops something without seeming to have any context for its implications, and it doesn’t make sense in terms of the framework it asks us to accept. It begs for further elaboration, yet it seemingly plays out in a way that precludes said elaboration by being seemingly ignorant to the need for it. Were it not for the date, I might think it was an April Fool’s joke. If Jeph Jacques really wants to seriously take on this issue, he’s really put himself behind the eight-ball right out of the gate.