Saturday, May 24, 2014

It's All About You!

Here's some Chick for a modern audience. While the last Chick Tract I reviewed, The Sissy, made reference to The Bionic Man, this tract is set very much in today's world. Or, at least, within the last ten years.

It's All About You is aimed at young people, or rather the impression Jack has of them. We meet Hannah, a self-absorbed whiner of a college student who isn't named until page 11. "Life is so unfair!" she tells her grandpa, who hangs around her college for some reason. "Nobody understands the 'inner me'." And "I didn't ask to be born, you know!" Based on these statements, Gramps deduces that she's "got it all figured out." Nevertheless, he warns her about two "someones" who have "seen things you'd rather people didn't know about," especially since "one of them has it in for you!" As you can imagine, this causes Hannah some alarm.

"He wants to steal the most valuable thing you've got," Gramps tells her.

"My iPod?" Hannah cries, demonstrating Jack Chick's deft hand at comedy while simultaneously dating this tract to the mid-2000s. If written today, it probably would have been an iPhone 5. Or a Tablet. Or a copy of The Five Demons You Meet In Hell.

Of course, Gramps is really talking about Hannah's soul. He tells her that "forces in the spirit world - angels and devils" are in "a war to see who gets" it. He lays the FEAR on nice and thick; "Satan means business" and will "do anything to destroy your soul," and "absolutely nothing is hidden from the eyes of God" because "everything you do, say or think is being recorded." Apparently God is in charge of the United States' Homeland Security! Our "sins just keep piling up" and "that blocks us from going to heaven."

Think Gramps is finished? Hell, no! He's just warming up. Among Satan's chief weapons are "STDs, drugs or booze," and "his rotten crowd" might even "make you binge and purge your meals." Huh? Where did that come from? Every now and then Jack Chick will throw in something totally random.

What are not so random are the pot-shots Jack takes at other religions. There's a picture of four "phoney 'holy men'" including an excellent caricature of the Dalai Lama and an okay rendering of former pope and pedophile-enabler/protector Ratzinger. "Religion pretends to be holy" while putting "their own followers into bondage." We see an image of a corrupt Catholic priest trying to con a grieving widow, and no bout of Chick religion-bashing would be complete without an image of a Muslim suicide bomber.

Now that Hannah has been sufficiently terrorized, Gramps tells her "the Good News" about Jesus "making the only way for us to get to heaven" by dying and shedding "His holy blood to wash away our sins." "But isn't that religion?" Hannah asks, reasonably enough, but Gramps assures her it is not. Hannah gets Saved, and says that "Jesus loves me and really understands me." And he won't steal her iPod, either!

In my review of The Sissy?, I mentioned that the character Duke was likely a stand-in for a certain type of person, namely big hairy tough guys who drive trucks. In It's All About You, Hannah would seem to be representing the youth of today - sullen, ungrateful, self-absorbed, and in dire need of Saving. As always, Jack Chick's tracts reveal more about himself than they do about God.

The art is up to Jack's usual standard. The only place where I felt his drawings were lacking were the depictions of Hannah's fingers in three 'close-up shots' (including the cover). They look more like the digits of an old crone, not a young lady. Also, from page 17 onward, Jack draws her face with more realistically-defined lips. Not sure what that's all about.

A regular feature in numerous Chick Tracts is the addition of cute, funny animals, almost always the same dog and cat. Jack will draw them into numerous panels, perhaps as a bit of levity or maybe just to fill in some empty space. They appear in 13 panels in It's All About You, while recurring deity Ol' Faceless only cameos in two.

The entire approach of It's All About You seems off-message to me, starting with that title. Jack presents Hannah as obnoxiously self-absorbed, but he does not criticize her for it. Rather, he indulges it. Hannah doesn't have to give up her self-centredness to become Saved (yes, she does say "sorry I sin and am so selfish," but talk is cheap). Like Duke in The Sissy, she is not encouraged to be a better person.

In the end, it's not all about you at all - it's about getting Saved, just like any other tract. And while this tract has only a moderate amount of offensive content (5 panels, including the previously mentioned suicide bomber and a dig at lesbians on Page 3), it should prove to be very insulting to its target audience.

And yet, isn't this true of all tracts? They all tell you that you're a sinner, and that you deserve to burn forever. They have to make you believe this, so they can sell you the Good News of Salvation. The insult, or at least the unfavourable judgment, is essential to the delivery of the Message.

But that's neither here nor there. It's All About You is a standard, unremarkable Chick tract that attempts to make ancient scripture relevant to today. It might have had a chance if another young character had preached to Hannah instead of her grandpa. Instead, we get an old guy trying to tell a young person how to live her life. Get off of Satan's lawn, whippersnapper, and onto Jesus' sidewalk! If it's one thing we know about the youth of today, it's their willingness to respect their elders and hang on their every word.

Good luck with that, Jack. You'll have an easier time stealing their iPods.

It's All About You!
Likely to Convert - 3
Artwork - 8
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 4