Do you have that female friend that you’re hopelessly in love with that unloads all her problems on you, only to end up back in the sack with that loser ex that cheated on her with her own sister, leaving you high and dry?
Posted by Richie on April 12, 2009
The Nice Guy is an online comic strip (and a comic book…and hopefully soon to be a sitcom or major motion picture if we can sell out fast enough)…
What, you mean it isn’t already? Because I distinctly recall sitting through God knows how many sitcoms and major motion pictures about a passive-aggressive creep’s unrequited love for a woman who’s got no say in the matter; surely at least one of them was fingerprint identical to The Nice Guy, if only inadvertently? Sorry, I shouldn’t be interrupting things this early. Carry on.
…about a guy named Jeff, his friends, and the trials and tribulations of being–YOU guessed it–a nice guy.
I actually first wrote an article about The Nice Guy four years ago, back when I was attempting to run a video game website without owning, playing or being interested in video games. I was also heavily in denial about my demographic’s emotional maturity, which goes some way to explaining why I thought using a video game website to mock resentful, insecure misogynists, rather than homosexuals, was a good idea. Said article was never commented on or referred to by the site’s readers, save for one email which read, and I quote, “All your stuff is awesome, except the one about The Nice Guy“. In a moment of Biblical misunderstanding, I took this to mean that everybody else had liked it, rather than, say, hated it and were ignoring in the hopes it was an aberration rather than an omen and I’d go back to writing about Bad Dudes next week. Anyone not already familliar with the rest of this story can probably guess how it ends.
But what makes The Nice Guy special? The premise is, after all, trite as trite can be; women would rather date jerks than nice guys, ergo any single dudes out there are now licensed, if not actively encouraged, to elevate their dateless schlubbitude to a plane of righteous, narcissistic martyrdom. Like their ascetic forefathers, they have sacrificed the pleasures of the flesh in order to bring about peace and happiness on Earth, but unlike their ascetic forefathers, the sacrifice is actually your fault and they’d be totally up for it if you’d just stop being so selfish and realised what you were missing out on, you contemptuous harpy. It also means that they get to treat you like shit and it’s still your fault, because they don’t actually want to act like jerks, heavens no, but they simply must in order to make you love them.
Lest you think the latter, less comprehensively documented facet of Nice Guyness is mere hyperbole, I present Dr. Robert Glover’s self-help book No More Mr. Nice Guy: Breaking Free From The Nice Guy Syndrome. At first glance, this may seem like it’s a book designed to help self-pitying men get over themselves. The website, however, contains startling evidence to the book’s true nature. To wit:
- The book contains “edgy outrageousness”, a red flag on par with “deliciously cynical” and “hilariously un-PC” in the reactionary tedium stakes.
- Warren Farrell thinks it’s “insightful”. What’s more, he’s not just credited as “Warren Farrell, PhD”, “Warren Farrell, Psychologist and Author” or even “Warren Farrel, Worst Human Being On Earth Nominee (Non-Pope Category)”, he’s credited as “Warren Farrel, author of The Myth of Male Power“. We can reason that, of the seven books he’s published, they specifically highlighted that one because it’ll appeal to the kind of people No More Mr Nice Guy is aimed at. In this case, it’s men who think “Say, according to the cover of this book, all that extra money and respect I have is mythical. I’d better buy two”.
- It’s also praised by Michael Gurian, a dude whose oeuvre I’m unfamilliar with, but has nevertheless produced the alarmingly-titled The Wonder of Boys. After overcoming my not unreasonable fear of Googling this phrase, I found the Amazon.com extract, in which an Indian physician informs Mikey that, unlike our fucked up Western matriarchy, boys and girls in India are treated differently from birth and are the better for it. Mmm.
- Quoth the website, “A Nice Guy’s primary goal is to make others happy”. No, a Nice Guy’s primary goal is to make others like him, and a book that wanted to deal with the issue would have been honest about this. Instead, it sets up a false dichotomy between genuine niceness and actually being happy before you even own a physical copy of the thing.
What this tells us is that, while No More Mr Nice Guy might be about the ways in which self-pitying wankery are counterproductive, its agenda isn’t really an improvement. The problem with being a Nice Guy, says Glover, isn’t that being an emotionally-stunted manchild who expects women to put out if you hang around staring at them long enough is necessarily a bad thing, it’s that it’s an inefficient way of getting laid. Therefore, the logical conclusion, given that women exist solely as things for you to fuck, is to do a heel face turn and become a pickup artist jackass instead. It’s like using Medusa’s head to kill the Kraken.
The Nice Guy, on the other hand, is one of the most brutally honest things ever written about Nice Guys, all of it unintentional. It’s a comic aimed at men who feel the same way as the authors do about women, but the authors don’t seem to have taken into account that anybody else might read it, a mistake even Jack Chick is self-aware enough to avoid. It expects us to empathise with a character who, despite being idealised to the point where we’re supposed to accept “involuntary decency” as his only character flaw, cannot help but come across as a manipulative, angry, boring, self-pitying misogynist manchild. Every strip – bar those that are just extended Firefly references which is, admittedly, an awful lot of them – is based on the premise that all women are vacuous, infantile bimbos who are utterly incapable of making rational decisions, specifically the decision to fuck the main character because of that time he helped them move house. This is a comic where we’re expected to elevate the hero to virtual sainthood because, and I am in no way exaggerating, he thought about raping a woman, but then decided not to.
Just who is our hero, though? His name’s Jeff, and he’s the one in the middle, busying himself reading and respecting women. On the left is Peg, who is self-obsessed and does not respect women, and on the right is Frank, who is a creep and does not respect women. Naturally, they both get more sex than Jeff, because women are stupid and don’t know what’s good for them. Jeff is a character conceived entirely out of self-pitying myths pedalled by Nice Guys who want to pass off their manipulative behaviour as selflessness, and the two-facedness comes across again and again, even in a goddamn fictional world which works entirely according to his rules. He does things for people and asks for nothing in return, then whines about not getting anything. He says he wants more from women than sex, yet the fact he’s not getting as much as his friends is a source of endless frustration. He derides women for wasting their time “rescuing” emotionally damaged men, yet his principal love interest is an emotionally damaged woman who he believes he can rescue. He… well, check this out:
What we’re looking at here is the first ever comic, and Mike and Tim start as they mean to go on. We’re told that Jeff is a nice guy who respects women as human beings rather than sexual objects, and yet the second this woman mentions she already has a boyfriend, he stops listening entirely and her dialogue is replaced with “BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH”. In other words, if she’s not sexually available, then there’s no no point in listening to her talk, and the punchline only works (well, works in theory) if we share Jeff’s viewpoint. If a woman had made a virtually identical comic suggesting that men only listen to women if they think they’ll get laid then the anti-misandry SWAT team would be all over it, yet this was made by men in the hopes that other men would actually empathise with it. The second comic runs along similar lines; Jeff is annoyed that a group of women have welcomed him into their circle of friends but don’t view him sexually, as if this renders all interpersonal interaction with them pointless. Well, of course it does; this is exactly how Nice Guys operate, treating all encounters with women as a form of speed dating and then getting annoyed when it’s revealed that the woman getting coffee was, in fact, actually getting coffee rather than cruisin’ for an emotionally co-dependent shitstorm.
Speaking of which, the woman hugging Jeff is Becki. Becki is the dreamgirl of insecure emotional abusers everywhere, since she has no self-esteem whatsoever and “always knows she can count on Jeff when things go wrong”, thus ensuring he’s around her when her guard’s down and knows all of her weaknesses. Because he’s a shoulder to cry on. Jeff is super duper 100% in love with Becki 4 eva, apart from the whole trying-it-on-with-any-woman-who-makes-eye-contact thing, but just can’t work up the courage to tell her. He decides to stalk her instead, culminating in one of the absolute creepiest comics in any genre and any medium ever, made worse by the fact we’re supposed to identify with Jeff. This kind of thing is understandable in younger teenagers who are still reeling from hormone-shock, but in an adult, specifically an adult who’s supposed to be a well-rounded, intelligent, caring man who’s doing his best to help people, it’s… Well, it’s like this:
I think we all have a pretty good idea of how you’d treat her if you had the chance, Jeff, and I’d also like to add that if you think Becki is dating losers and you’re not telling her, you’re not so much a source of emotional support as a giant whining albatross around her neck. This is also pretty common Nice Guy behaviour; deliberately wanting a girl to make bad choices over and over so she loses self-confidence and becomes easier to manipulate, though here, as in real life, it’s presented as “I didn’t want to say anything in case I upset you”. Hilariously, Becki’s bio lists “Men who treat her with respect” under “turn offs”.
Yeah, Mike and Tim, it’s fucking hilarious that your goddamn Mary Sue perfect hero wants a “counterpoint” to not committing date rape. ‘Cause it’s just such a crushing burden going around all day not raping women that even Jeff, the nicest guy in the universe, so nice he has two angels, needs a break now and then. In his own words, he deserves a counterpoint, as if there’s some kind of rate of exchange whereby you’re allowed to treat someone else’s body as your property once for every five times you let someone cut in line in front of you. In case the fucked-upness hasn’t quite hit home yet, I’ll reiterate: This is a comic about how Jeff is so nice that, faced with a drunk woman, he considers raping her, and is annoyed that he can’t properly justify it. In a comic series where Jeff is meant to represent a man who respects women. And it’s a comedy.
The artist respects women, too.