Scandinavia and the World


URL: http://satwcomic.com
Creator/s: "humon"
Run: 6/09-current
Schedule: Most Wednesdays
Section/s: Strips 254-295

Website: The layout's as simple as it gets, with abundant white space around the strips and some basic navigation buttons. A template from one of the free webcomic hosting sites offers more personality than can be seen here. The special features are decent, though, with a forum, Wiki, and store, and the archives are easy to use since it shows thumbnails for every page.

Writing: Having just finished reviewing the Swedish webcomic What Birds Know, this popular Scandinavian gag comic caught my attention with its unusual title. In the style of political cartoons, figures are used to represent different nationalities and draw attention to various cultural differences.

All of the comic's gags fall into one of three categories. The most prevalent one's the referential humor (1, 2, 3), where a joke's delivery relies heavily on the reader's familiarity with the subject matter. This kind of humor's generally overused and poorly executed in webcomics, but the creator takes it a step further by referring to obscure events and stereotypes, making the gags difficult to impossible to understand without reading the accompanying commentary. The second type of comic, which is the rarest, is when characters are shown in goofy poses and costumes (1, 2, 3). These strips are more like miscellaneous illustrations than comics, and their existence is particularly problematic in context of the webcomic's lack of humor. The final group of comics are those that make fun of the United States, which make up a third of the recent strips (1, 2, 3). These comics portray America as an obnoxious, oversized manchild who's repeatedly humiliated and portrayed in a condescending manner. Since the America-bashing comics offer only minor variations of the same joke, they're the worst gags in the webcomic and get tedious quickly.

The strips making fun of the United States and other countries are clearly intended to be playful and humorous, but the pervasive negativity and lack of intelligent commentary prevent this approach from being effective. Throughout the comic, the Scandinavian protagonists are shown as being reasonable, modern, and likable (1, 2, 3), while the other countries are shown as being backwards, stupid, and abrasive. In addition, the webcomic trivializes Jewish and Muslim orthodoxy, portrays Muslims as thieves, and the only strip I saw that includes a black person has a white character dress up in blackface. Also, America is colored as having dark skin, which further establishes its inferiority to the white Europeans. So, instead of showing Scandinavians as being normal people that the reader can relate to, the creator inadvertently makes them seem arrogant and racist. The comic's also hypocritical in the way it berates Americans for being dismissive of other cultures, while the comic constantly portrays non-Scandinavian cultures in a negative way.

Art: It reminds me of VG Cats, which relies heavily on goofy facial expressions for its humor. While the facial expressions here are pretty good, the amount of detail's much worse than in VG Cats, as the colors are flat, there aren't any backgrounds, and the characters are usually drawn waist-up and without arms. The occasional objects that show up are poorly drawn, and the creator frequently copy-pastes figures. But despite the quick, doodly nature of the artwork, the webcomic's been updating less than once a week so far this year.

As underwhelming as the artwork is, it's not because the creator can't do any better. The comic's store has several posters with shaded, full-body artwork that have backgrounds and look better than anything in the actual webcomic. And the creator's DeviantArt site has plenty of artwork in a variety of styles that are much better than anything in the webcomic. It's clear that the art seen in this comic represents the bare minimum the creator's capable of, with barely any improvement being noticeable in the four-plus years it's been updating.

Overall: Scandinavia and the World is a lazy, uncreative endeavor that has zero potential for improvement. It could've been somewhat decent if was created as a positive portrayal of Scandinavia, but the strips are so fixated on insulting minorities and people in other countries that it comes off as being mean-spirited and distasteful.

1.5/5

23 comments :

  1. Someone did a parody of SATW on SmackJeeves:
    http://www.smackjeeves.com/comicprofile.php?id=135756

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did some research on "humon" after I wrote the review and found out about the parody comic as well as a few different webcomics she makes. It didn't initially occur to me that she'd be kind of infamous. Because of this, I'm gonna be doing more preparation for reviews from now on. Thanks for sharing the link, though, so that people reading the review can check out the parody if they're curious.

      Delete
  2. It seems like SATW is only funny from a European perspective. Especially those pages, where the more irrational side of the oh-so rational and sensible scandinavian countries is brought to light. From all I know, the author is Danish, which makes the effort of noticing those kinks even more impressive, because behaviour you're growing up with usually tends to appear normal however weird it may be.
    It is always clear, that SATW is meant to poke fun at something and not to insult someone. Looking at the forum entries, (almost) everyone seems to get that.
    For the record: I'm german-dutch and I can enjoy both the characterizations of Germany (uniforms and techno music) and the Netherlands (drugs, cheese and flowers).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say that the creator's an incompetent writer who relies on offensive, derogatory humor. If she was merely "poking fun" at things, this underwhelming webcomic wouldn't have nearly as large of an audience as it does.

      Delete
    2. Excuse me while i'm European, this comic is shitty all the same.

      Delete
    3. A lot of webcomics from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean "poke fun at things," and some do it better than others. Scandinavia and the World does it very poorly.

      Delete
    4. It's interesting to see how other people view this. Now I happen to be Danish, and I do indeed get most of her jokes without needing the explanation she gives.
      Though I feel I have to make it clear that this is very Danish humor. Other nationalities, especially Americans it seems, have a hard time seeing the fun in our jokes.
      I suppose it's somewhat like British humor, in the way that it's silly and can easily been misunderstood as being offensive.
      This isn't the first time we've had problems on the international scene where people misunderstand our humor so to say. Some years back we had the "The Muhammad cartoons controversy" where a Danish newspaper made caricatures of Muhammad, which obviously made a lot of Muslims very angry.
      Danes like to make fun of everything and everyone. We're laid back people in many ways. We can handle people making fun of us, but not everyone else can handle or humor.
      I believe most Europeans grow up in cultures where when you need someone to make fun of, the first you turn to is either other people in your country, a neighboring country (all Danes have something with Swedes, it's a thing), or the US. We aren't saying all Americans are fat, stupid, oblivious etc, but a lot seem to be to us. In the same way Danes seem to others to be drunk, racist, lazy and rude.
      The mentality is: If you can't handle the joke, ignore it, or try to understand why it's funny to the person who made it. -Sorta thing.
      I hope this helped explain why at least most Scandinavians find these comics fun.

      Delete
  3. I don't recognise SatW from your review. It's true that the artwork is minimal and such, but you seem to misunderstand pretty much every point the comic makes.

    Yes, quite often the joke or point of the comic only comes across if one reads the accompanying note - if you wish to critise the comic for demanding that, that may be a fair point. But your various examples of racist or prejudiced attitudes seem misunderstood.

    For instance, the one you claim describe muslims as thieves. First of all, muslims is never mentioned anywhere, only Middle Eastern. I realise people of Middle Eastern descent are often muslim, but you're making an assumption that speaks against the quality of your review. In any case, the accompanying note informs the reader that Middle Eastern immigrants aren't the reason cake is gone from the hospitals, it was a question of funding. It points out that people who make the kind of assumption you highlight "muslims are thieves" are wrong in that assumption.

    Concerning the black character and blackface; again, the purpose of the comic is to illustrate how ridiculous it is (that white people in the Netherlands put on blackface to play the role, rather than letting actual black people do it). If you can't understand the obvious sarcasm in that, how are you qualified to do webcomic reviews?

    Another example: America is not supposed to be black in skin colour. Yes, I freely admit there is plenty of stereotyping (that seems to be the entire purpose of the comic), and the comic attaches a lot of negative stereotypes to America, perhaps unfairly. But clearly the avatar of America is meant to be tanned with bleached hair - an example of the stereotype. If you want to criticise the avatar of America, that's what should be criticised (that Americans are portrayed as sun-tanned, bleach-haired airheads). However wrong the stereotype may be, it's not racist in nature - another obvious fact you overlook.

    Also, I am unsure how many comics you have actually read. Do you only read a certain selection as basis of your review? I understand it may not always be feasible to read every strip for a comic review, if the comic has thousands of them. Here there is only 300 though; if you had read them all, it would be clear that numerous of them satirise Scandinavian culture and portray how ignorant Scandinavians can be.
    This one makes fun of Danes' fear of wildlife and nature: http://satwcomic.com/too-big-for-denmark

    This one makes fun of Scandinavians being ignorant of Japanese customs:
    http://satwcomic.com/japanese-custom

    This one makes fun of some of the horrible dishes found in traditional Scandinavian cuisine:
    http://satwcomic.com/nordics-like-fish

    This one makes fun of Denmark being awful at winter olympics:
    http://satwcomic.com/winter-olympics

    Your review doesn't seem balanced at all. It seems rather you latch onto anything you can interpret as negatively as possible, regardless of how accurate it may be. You can argue that the whole purpose of the SatW comic is bad, or that the humour is non-existent and so on; but the actual arguments you present in your review seem by and large to be wrong. I don't know if it's because you don't actually understand the comics when they are sarcastic or satirical, or because you willfully want your review to give as negative a statement as possible; either way, I would not give your review even 1 donut out of 5.

    Daniel / daniel_ol@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand Scandinavia and the World perfectly fine. The creator posts racist, anti-American strips, and then racist, anti-American Europeans flock to the site and praise her for it, which encourages her to make more racist, anti-American strips. It isn't complicated, and I don't find your arguments that the strip isn't racist to be particularly compelling.

      Regarding America, I wrote that he has dark skin, not that he's black. Also, as clearly stated at the top of the review, I read Strips 254-295. I've already argued my case, and you seem content to dismiss my judgment as malicious or oblivious rather than actually consider what I wrote.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, that wasn't much of a counter argument. The other anon offered specific examples to provide context. You're only responding with another assertion of your initial claim.

      Delete
    3. It's not a counter-argument, it's a dismissal of a dumb comment.

      Delete
    4. Well, I'm glad you admit there's no counter-argument to all my specific examples. This is the weakest defence of an initial argument I've ever seen. Not to mention what kind of reviewer can't summon up a proper reply when weak points in their review is called out, with specific examples? Seems this website and your reviews are indeed the waste of time I suspected. Goodbye.

      Daniel

      Delete
    5. Agreed completely. It takes a huge amount of disingenuity and/or bias to read a comic MOCKING a EUROPEAN extremist party claim that "foreigners are such thieves they even steal cake from hospitals until we stopped providing it"--a comic that almost incidentally exposes that claim as a lie because the author happens to have been involved in providing cake at hospitals, so knows the program was ended because of budget cuts--yet come away from all that thinking, "this comic maligns Muslims as being thieves and LAUGHS about it." My native US takes a lot of gentle ribbing at SatW but 1) SO DOES EVERYONE and 2) we have earned our fair share.

      It is telling that a Russian chimed in to dispute the reviewers libel, because Russia comes off FAR worse than the US in SatW, yet even (most of) its citizens can take jokes that are fairly tame and NEVER mean spirited. The comic is certainly not some kind of "Nordic Nationalism," as the review heavily implies; far from getting a free pass, European countries get their fair share of teasing too. The most harshly portrayed is Nazi Germany, even though Germany is about as close as one can get to being a Nordic Country without ACTUALLY being one. Yet Nazi Germany is so "negatively" portrayed (and rightly so, even in a light-hearted comic) that on one occasion the distinct character of modern Germany had his eyes turned to the Blue Screen of Death at the mere sight of him.

      This is not a "review" nor even critique: It is reflexive defensiveness likely born of a guilty conscience. Too many of my countrymen imprinted on the old saying, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," while too few remember the other old saying that "an empty wagon makes a lot of noise."

      Anyway, this is not what I googled, and I cannot get my click back, so will just be on my way.... ;)

      Delete
    6. I only read strips 254-295, so I can't comment on the others.

      As for having a guilty conscience, I'm not going to respond to that because it's too much like a personal attack.

      For the rest of your comment, I don't think the comic's funny, and no explanation of why some groups are being teased or why some countries are picked on more than others is gonna make the comic seem any funnier or more entertaining. If the comic actually had decent jokes, then the stereotyping and social commentary would be a lot more tolerable.

      Delete
  4. Dear Daniel, I think you were trying to discuss logically and reasonably with a person who is just interested in screaming "Racist! It's racist!" because his American pride is injured and because he is too ignorant to understand sarcasm. It's very funny how he perfectly represents the example of an American airhead :)) I work with Americans and I know a lot of intelligent, decent people there who value good humor, but in this case... No point in talking to somebody who is too dumb to argue with.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just randomly came across this trying to find a specific comic from the series. As an American, I find this review insulting on a number of levels, and the reviewer's response to logical, (generally) polite criticism even more-so. The comic is about laughing at ourselves, our stereotypes, and, oftentimes, at our differences. The reviewer attempts to tear this core principle down and essentially calls the comic names, and for what?

    "...but the pervasive negativity and lack of intelligent commentary..."

    There is no pervasive negativity. There is a person laughing at negative (or positive) stereotypes. Further, the comment regarding "lack of intelligent commentary" is both pointless and unnecessary. The goal of the comic is not to be considered for MENSA membership. The goal of the comic is to laugh, and the fact that the reviewer cannot differentiate between sarcasm and, apparently, any other tone of speech essentially negates the entire review in its entirety. Simply because one individual does not find a comic hilarious or incredibly witty does not mean it is so.

    The ENTIRE COMIC is about subjectivity in how we see ourselves and others, and laughing about what we see. The fact that the reviewer chooses to ignore this point and then go out of their way to petulantly attack any criticism offered of their arrogant, dismissive, flawed viewpoint completely invalidates the entire review's substance and message.

    This review is nothing more than arrogant hypocrisy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good humor requires effort, and the gags in this webcomic are very lazy. The anti-America strips in particular are just the same lame joke recycled over and over. This webcomic's fans have much lower standards for humor than I do.

      Delete
    2. So does criticism and you failed.

      Delete
    3. Wow, that's such a clever remark. I don't even know what to say.

      Delete
  6. Sorry, but seems you just do not have a sense of humor. From my european perspective it seems really fun. Do not try to look more sensitive than you really are - it is not 'anti-american'. It is a joke, nothing more, joke on stereotypes. I am Russian - she depicts us in not a pleasant way, but it is funny, I got it - that how people oftenly see us. The same for America. You look weird when you say ooooooh it's anti-American oooh so huuurting......c'mon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I trashed her other jokes too, not just the ones about Americans.

      Delete