I should mention, before we go any further, that Treading Ground, the comic I’m writing about here and who has a strip portrayed above, is often Not Safe For Work for more reasons than language. So, if you go through the archives, you should be properly prepared for what you may encounter.
By the same token, I’m going to discuss subjects like age of consent laws and the like, and it may be just enough of a Thing for some folks that I’m just going to mention that here and then throw in a cut tag. Yadda yadda yadda don’t click if you don’t want to read.
This is an interesting moment for the strip. The core conflict of the comic was the relationship status of the two main characters, Nate, who is just into the age of majority, and Rose, who is slightly under it. They were into each other from the beginning, and Rose is promiscuous by nature, but Nate wouldn’t go “too far” with her, as the kids might say… or at least might have said in 1952, which is apparently when my euphemisms date back to. He had a significant concern about being arrested and thrown in prison, you see, for Statutory Rape. Which, you know, is not a bad thing to be worried about. I am entirely down with not having sex with underaged people.
(It is also worth noting that Rose’s only parent — her mother — was entirely okay with the relationship. But then, she’s also not Mother of the Year material herself.)
They had tension, they tried to simply wait, it all came to a head, they broke up, the two went off and had inadvisable liaisons with entirely the wrong people, at one point there was jello wrestling not involving either of them, and then there was a scene of a girl pouring fresh pork loin juice on her neck. I don’t believe I’ve ever typed that phrase before.
And, in and around all of this, they discovered that in the state that they’re in (North Carolina, apparently) has an age of consent of 16. They thought it was 18, because (as they explained in a different strip) they got all their information from watching television shows, television shows are produced in California, and in California the age of consent is 18. (In fact, California’s age of consent laws are considerably stricter than… well, almost any other state’s laws. Most states have certain ‘close in age’ exemptions as well, whereas California does not. In fact, two 17 year olds who are caught engaged in sexual activity can both go to jail in California. California: Not As Liberal As You Think.) They call this skewed perception So Calization, which I think is a cute term.
Annnnnyhow. Having discovered there is no legal impediment to their relationship, today they have decided to give it another shot. Which is really what I wanted to write about today. Not so much because of sex — if anything, the sexual aspect skeeves me out. (I realize a 4 year difference in age isn’t a major deal and the legalities aren’t a problem as mentioned above, but this is one of those things I just don’t like, y’know?) But because in the end Treading Ground’s central conflict was this romantic/sexual tension, and it’s apparently about to… well, stop being tense.
Which means we have hit the Romantic Comedy Tension Resolution Point for the comic. Which is why I put a “Lexicon” tag on the post.
The Romantic Comedy Tension Resolution Point is that magical moment when the driving “will they/won’t they” sexual and romantic tension between characters explodes. The Ur-Example of this has to be Moonlighting, where we had David and Maddie engaged in banter and teasing and clear tension until a season finale where it all just exploded into all the sex. And, as anyone who was watching Moonlighting at the time can tell you, 94.6% of the point of the show disappeared immediately afterward.
That’s the thing. When your central conflict is that tension, releasing it is the sort of thing you do at the end of a story. If you release it before then, you give the audience every reason to consider your story over. Moonlighting intended to keep going, and in fact did keep going, but no one cared. They’d had the sex. They were done. Finito. Bruce Willis was free to lose his hair in action movies.
Now, there’s lots of signs that Treading Ground is in fact nearing completion. Subplots are resolving. There’s plenty of evidence that things are wrapping up. Nick Wright’s even got a higher profile gig already, having had the review website he and Leo Thompson produce — That Sci Fi Guy — join the Reviewasnarkapedopolis That Guy with the Glasses website. And in a recent question/answer gig over on Formspring, Nick Wright answered the question “what will you do when you end the comic” with “start another one.” I assume that was for a reason.
If so, t’were best done quickly. I enjoy Treading Ground, despite the occasional squicky subject matter, but it’s a rare person (like, say, Jeph Jacques) who can hit a Romantic Comedy Tension Resolution Point and still have people care about his comic past the denouement. If Wright is indeed ending his comic, it’s going out strong and I look forward to his next one.
Though I’d appreciate it if next time maybe he sticks to characters above voting age. I know, I’m an old man. Indulge me.
Edit: I forgot to put in a content link earlier, which is a bad, bad thing for me to forget. It’s been fixed. For the record, the strip in question is here.