The Guild: Clara One-Shot Review SPOILERS thru S5E7

September 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the previous Guild one-shots, we have seen that each character came to The Game for their own reasons, but usually some combination of less-than-ideal personal circumstances and a surplus of creative energy in search of an outlet. Codex was depressed, in an unsatisfying work situation (which transitioned from creative underemployment as a violinist to unemployment as she got immersed in The Game), and friendless. Vork was caring for his grandfather full-time until the man’s death, and, as gaming was a lifelong, passionate interest for him, Vork found solace and later, distraction from grief in The Game. Tink, we now know, was hiding from her family, unable to tell them about her decision to pursue costume design rather than medicine at college, and so she found in The Game an opportunity to expand her play with costumes and graphics to a controlled virtual social world. Bladezz, too, sought privacy in The Game, as well as distraction from his parents’ divorce.

Although it is actually Tink who is most known for being mysterious, it is Clara, who is unique in using her real name for her avatar, who is the most immune from the kind of psychoanalytic interpretation of character available to the reader in the cases of Codex and Bladezz. We have access, after all, in the comics as well as the series to exactly what Codex’s therapist thinks is going on underneath her defense mechanisms and escapist fantasies. And Bladezz, if only because of his age and thus vulnerability to school psychology standards of normalcy, is trapped in a conventional narrative of resenting his parents’ divorce, and the ways in which it’s inappropriately confused his psychosexual development.

Clara, however, defies such empathetic explanation — we know plenty of facts about her bad behavior, but we’re hard-pressed to locate the problem. We know, for example, that she neglects her young children (although it’s hard to know how seriously to take any in-story instantiation of this, as the initially characteristic satirical tone of the webseries took time to soften). We know that she likes to drink a lot, romanticizes the superficiality and hedonism of a certain slice of State University culture, and that she can be petty and crass. Indeed, on the first page of the comic, she is the only guild member who laughs at Bladezz’s high school humor, although she is the second-oldest member of the guild.

We are offered a glimpse into Clara’s childhood in the comic, via a box of memories or “mimentos” that she tasked by her martyr husband with finally unpacking, ten months after they’ve moved in. Her childhood story is compelling, but even more compelling to me was the backstory of her marriage, and George/Wiggly’s less-than-savory former self, a serious and surprising reversal of the “doofy dad” pharmaceutical rep we’ve come to know on the web. What we learn about Clara raises questions, while what we learn about George answers questions, albeit different ones than one might have thought to be asking.

For example, why does this guy stay with his wife, when she seems to do anything possible to avoid “family time” with him and their children? Because she gave him a whole lot of chances in the past, it turns out, and he owes her just as many now. Their love for one another, as well as for their children, seems clear to me in the comic and the more recent seasons, and in fact, has come to serve as something of an anchor for the guild at large (see Clara singing Zaboo to sleep at the Megagame-O-Ramacon last week).

Clara’s story, however, opens only more questions. Is it true, for starters? Is the time-frame reasonable? In some ways, I’m reminded of Barney Stinson’s fantasies about his childhood, or similar plots, in which a character latches on to a mythology of their own childhood, because, for some reason, it works as an emotional anchor for them. How this one works for Clara, however, I don’t know — it certainly confirms that she is independent and adventurous by nature, rather than rejected by the dominant culture, but that doesn’t quite have the explanatory power of, say, Codex’s “I hate people!” What does seem clear is that, whether or not Clara’s grandfather was an important government official who, for the safety of national secrets, abandoned her for a month in Paris, she did grow up in a manly environment where she was left to her own devices. Her future was set when, through a cousin, she met George, who was at the time just out of “juvie,” and unaware that he was going on a date with an 18-year-old. Clara fell for him because he seemed “magical,” and like he “spread joy wherever he goes!” which makes sense, because, again assuming some personality characteristics to be innate, Clara is defined as a happy, pleasure-seeking person. As she says, “I just like to have fun…I’m so good at it!”

I’m still not sure what to make of this comic, although once again, I have to say that I love the way this medium works to expand The Guild storyworld. These characters are hidden to us behind so many fascinating layers of complex self-presentation (including some self-delusion), that every new clue seems to generate a new possible shape of the story as it will continue to unfold. This season, for example, we’ve seen Clara trying to make friends with the steampunk people, partly because she is easily bored, and partly because she is still looking for a language through which to make satisfactory sense of her own experience. Everyone in the guild is misunderstood in various ways, but Clara in particular seems to long for friendship, especially female companionship, through which she could explore those parts of herself that have not been absorbed into her marriage.

I’m super excited, of course, for the Zaboo comic in December. I’m sad, however, to see that they’re calling it the last of the comics — I want a Buffy Season Eight for The Guild. DO IT, FELICIA!

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