I’ve been reading Penny and Aggie for a million years; it’s a fun and interesting highschool-drama sort of story, with popular Penny and activist Aggie constantly competing with each other, at least until recently, as social-climber Karen’s tactics to take down the opposition have gotten more and more out-of-line. (Please note, this post, unlike the one on Red String, is a critique, not a review, meaning it will contain spoilers.)
I’m going to gush on a more personal level for this one, but I want to note that it’s not because I think the strip is superior to Red String. (In some ways, and especially early on in both strips, Red String has the more complex narrative, as it extends beyond high school politics.) However, a part of what makes Red String so effective at what it does is the Japanese setting, which is perfect to the story, but which I can only relate to in general terms. Penny and Aggie, on the other hand, is basically my life.
I probably read the comic for at least a year until the first hint of possible lesbianism came up (I found the comic long after it had become well-established– I spent days going through the archives!). One of Penny’s friends, Sara, was really fond of the theory that Penny and Aggie fought all the time because they were secretly in love with each other. As soon as Sara suggested it, I knew it was impossible (because lesbians don’t show up in non-lesbian-themed media, and certainly not as the main characters!) but also secretly adopted it as my personal interpretation, since there was juuuust enough wiggle room to pretend (like with Xena and Gabrielle.)
Except then, it was made irrelevent! Because there was a real lesbian! It was Sara all along! Somehow it came out of nowhere and was perfectly foreshadowed months in advance. It explains why she was convinced Penny and Aggie were interested in each other (projection!), why she overreacted to Lisa’s nose-kiss (more projection!), why she was always particularly frustrated with Michelle’s man-craziness (the opposite of projection!)
And then, once she came out to herself, it was utter perfection. It was exactly what coming out felt like in high school, including accidentally offending everyone around you with your rampant self-absorption. And then she sort of settled into it, and didn’t talk about being gay too often any more, except when it became relevant. Which is also exactly what coming out was like for me. At first it really did feel like I was trying to adopt a new identity, one that felt totally right but also totally unfamiliar, but then it became normal and comfortable again, and I was so much happier but also not all that different.
And then there’s Daphne, too, who is also me! She’s been quietly lesbian for a long time, and helps Sara out with the coming-out process, and she is sick of being single, and sick of getting her hopes up again and again over girls who are either completely straight, or “bi at parties,” but certainly not interested in a relationship. I love Daphne.
And when Daphne and Sara talk, especially about being gay? It’s the best ever! I think I’ve had this conversation from both sides (just a note, it sucks either way), but even in smaller actions it just rings so true that I just want to read it again and again.
The writer, T. Campbell, has included lesbian characters in several other works, which is nothing but good news, because he is seriously good at it. Very few lesbian stories have made me as happy as Sara’s. So, thanks!
(Check out my other “lesbian love in webcomics” posts here!)