I have a few friends that share Catana comics on Facebook. If you don't know what these are, they are comic strips about what it's like to have a heterosexual millennial relationship in today's world, only drawn with "Pac-Man"-esque faces. When my friend James asked me if I liked them, I realized with a strange sudden-ness that I did not. Of course, he was baffled. "Why not? They are so cute? Are they too saccharin for you?"
I had to think about it. No, they are not too sweet. I think the reason I didn't like them was that the presumption is that this is how a healthy modern relationship is supposed to be, yet the woman element (in particular) is infantilized. In other words, if you step back from it and look at the comic aware of your bias, I think you can see that nearly every panel has the woman acting like an adolescent child. We see it as "cute" and "saccharin" because of the nature of childhood. Of course, we don't actually know what any of these people would look like in a real world because it's a comic book. It's really a perfect storm, because it creates a "Mary Sue" element similar to what the author did in the Twilight
books by giving us a protagonist that was so plain anyone could step into the role. In other words, Any one person can immediately step into the "pants" of these characters and assume "hey this is me." That's actually kind of brilliant from a pure marketing "let's make a goose that lays golden eggs" standpoint. So kudos to the author of these strips.
And make no mistake, Catana comics are popular and are only getting more so day after day. I find this phenomenon to be weird, and because I have a curious mind, I want to ask questions. It makes me psychoanalyze the audience of these comics for purely academic reasons. In other words, I'm not trying to be judgmental. People are free to express their love in any way they wish to in my book
. But those who might be delighted by these comic strips could possibly fall into a few camps, and I'd like to discuss those in depth below.
The first camp
is the atypical straight guy (lone wolf alpha male) that only likes women, period. Here's a person that might love the idea of having a partner who is childish and struggles to put on clothes, who struggles to make choices, who is short, easily confused, and reliant on him to act as the adult in the relationship. These kinds of guys are probably going to love reading Catana comics, because it reinforces a kind of worldview that they find comfortable.
The second camp
is the straight woman who secretly desires a level of codependency, which is where the man is not only a lover and boyfriend but takes on several of the responsibilities normally associated with a "daddy." It's actually kind of fascinating, especially in today's world which is filled with all kinds of headwinds from searches for equality to society-wide anxieties
that arise from a myriad of issues.
The third camp
are going to consist of people who are no longer children but look back at their adolescent years through a lens of relationship envy--envy because it felt cozy because both partners were (effectively) children and didn't worry about bills or any responsibilities. In fact, there are no responsibilities at all in Catana comics. That real-world stuff exists beyond its borders. It's a place where only physical interaction (in the same way that children poke and prod at the world) matters. They only needed to figure out how to tolerate each other's farts and burps and laugh about that the way that children laugh at things.
The fourth (and final) camp
belongs to people who suffer from (diagnosable?) chronic anxiety. These comics are like comfort food, indulging an idealized version of a childhood fantasy. It's the ultimate "I want to retreat to my pillow fort now and suck my thumb" expression combined with a desire to be taken care of by someone else.
I think that Catana comics are a perfect product for the times in which we live. The world feels like it is getting worse, unless you are part of the #MAGA crowd (at which point then the world probably feels great). I have many Trump-ian friends, and I don't understand...I don't understand any of it...but whatever. Maybe I wasn't meant to understand, and that isn't the point of this post. My brain just doesn't work that way. But for those who aren't part of that crowd, the world feels hotter and more miserable, more dangerous, more filled with hatred, brimming with intolerance, and with undercurrents that hint at the coming of some truly lasting evils that, to be fair, have always plagued mankind but in this circumstance it just feels different
. Into all of this drops a comic strip which promises a return to childhood innocence, where one partner is enough to protect the obviously weaker one, and nothing else dares to intrude upon their idealistic existence. I get why they are popular. However, the reason behind that popularity is why I don't like them. In the end, I wish there were fewer adults in our country who desired an escape into childhood no matter how terrifying the real world has become.