Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Minis: Lauren Barnett's Bernadette

Bernadette (Tinto Press) is one of Lauren Barnett's longer stories and is a fine example of how she creates humor with animals that think like people. Barnett's best known for single-panel gags starring birds, jokes about stripper problems, and other absurd but off-beat ideas. (I'm not sure that there will ever be a better title for a comic than I'm A Horse, Bitch.) There is a deliberately crude quality to her comics that adds to the overall effect, especially when she uses watercolors to punctuate her humor. 

Bernadette features the titular cat complaining about its nemeses, household plants. She hates the way they look, they smell, and they taste. They are always in her way, and she's always happy to knock them over whenever possible. Then a new plant appears to replace one she wrecked, and she's inexplicably drawn to it. She starts talking to it and even dreaming about it. 

The dreams are the funniest part of the comic, as Bernadette dreams of driving a sportscar, only to be stopped by a plant. Later, she dreams that she and the plant were laughing and lounging poolside as well as playing on a see-saw. Finally, the cat gets another cat in the house, and they dream about playing cards together. Despite all of the silliness, I like how Barnett gets at the idea that even the most solipsistic of creatures needs others in her life, and her subconscious makes this very clear in her dreams. Even if Bernadette was unwilling or unable to articulate this concept, it was obvious that she had needs she didn't understand. Barnett's expressive use of watercolors amplifies all of these points.

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