thoughtsThe Least Rayne Can Do.

I'd like to take a moment, if I may, to talk about the Least I Could Do comic posted on September 30th, 2009. For those who aren't familiar with Least I Could Do, I'll repost the comic here:

The Tao of Rayne

Now, I'm not sure what "creative grammar", exactly, is being used here - (The archaic use of "shan't" instead of the modern equivalent "won't"? The half-hearted half-rhyming? The use of multiple contractions, without which the sentence would read "You can not, and you will not."?) - but the central message is clear: Rayne can not (and thus will not) secure willing coitus from today's target without the use of obscure verbal trickery.

Rayne, it has been shown, normally has no need of grammar, creative or otherwise. Over LICD's six year run, he has consistently had no shortage of willing and attractive sexual partners, regardless of his buffoonery. Indeed, the very first LICD ever posted features Rayne celebrating his fiftieth such conquest. There's a condom on the banner image, for crying out loud! It's as close to a comic about sex as you can get without it actually being porn.

(As a side note, I'd like to point out that based on what few surveys I could find on the subject, the average number of lifetime sexual partners for heterosexual men seems to be about seven. Furthermore, when the log book makes a reappearance 4 months later, it's up to 100, meaning that Rayne averages nearly a woman every other day, and that, if this rate is consistent, he only became sexually active 4 months before the comic debuted.)

Virtually the entire run of Least I Could Do is a tribute to Rayne's charmed lifestyle, not merely in the bedroom, but in all aspects of his life. He engages in bizarre (and often destructive) hijinks without having to deal with the consequences. His friends not only tolerate his disruption of their lives, but love him for it. He wrote down a pack of flagrant lies on his resumé, walked into a major corporation, immediately landed a top position, and has never been found out and fired or sued. His frequent and vivid hallucinations are almost all pleasant ego-affirming wish-fulfillment.

And, indeed, that's what LICD is: wish-fulfillment. This has been reiterated by countless other webcomic critics more talented than I, but it bears repeating: Rayne is the textbook definition of a Mary Sue.

That is, of course, what makes today's offering so odd. Note the woman's body language, here - hands in her lap, knees together, eyes looking away from our hero - she quite obviously doesn't want to be here. Lar is a talented artist, and I refuse to believe that this is unintentional. The nameless female is not seduced yet, and she's expressing her reluctance both visually and verbally. In fact, she doesn't seem like Rayne's usual quarry - her clothing is rather conservative, her hairstyle is bland, she has no jewelry, and her face is not especially attractive. The only thing she has going for her, from a sexual point of view, is her partially exposed mammary glands (I'd guess a C-cup), displayed as they are in a typical workday brassiere, peeking out from the collared, long-sleeve shirt she has yet to fully remove.

Given its appearance in other recent strips, I can determine that this is Rayne's bedroom (who else would frame Ronald McDonald's footwear?), and they are on his bed. It may seem odd that a woman would come into a man's bedroom and lie down on his bed with him while still fully clothed, then declare that she ought to leave, but our nameless eyecandy is certainly within her rights to do so.

But then Rayne, with his meaty hand firmly around her shoulder, counters with this gem: "You oughta, but you can't, thus you shan't.", to which she can only respond with a bemused "...Okay.", a hesitant acquiescence that almost merits a question mark at the end. Let's be clear, here. Rayne is saying, for some reason, that she can't leave. Presumably, one hopes, she cannot leave because she is ensnared by his charisma (as opposed to his strength or intelligence), but this is not shown. All we know is that when confronted with the fact that she is incapable of going home, she accepts her fate, and thus Rayne is able to "close the deal", presumably while she's lying on her back and thinking of England.

I should point out, at this juncture, that Least I Could Do is usually not this creepy.

And, indeed, I don't think that Rayne Summers is a rapist, nor would I accuse his creators of the kind of misogyny or misanthropy that this particular panel would imply. LICD wouldn't be on my daily trawl list if that were the case. It's a fine and amusing comic, suitable for most adult audiences, and certainly Ryan Sohmer knows his stuff. It may be guilty of perpetuating the same promiscuous, vacuous, hedonistic culture that gives rise to things like Tucker Max, but unlike Tucker Max it has redeeming qualities.

I choose to believe, therefore, that it is Rayne's charisma - and, more importantly, his faith in his own charisma - to which he refers when he informs his lady friend that she is incapable of leaving. This is, I believe, why Rayne gets what he wants out of life, why he possesses the requisite good fortune to be a Mary Sue. He has charisma.

We all know people like this, people whose force of personality allows them to get away with murder. They can make any claim, insist on any preferential treatment, sidestep any argument, and do it all with an apparently unshakeable confidence that yes, what they're doing is right and proper and good. Some derive their charisma from a good poker face, some derive it from legitimate authority, some derive it from good looks, and still others get their charisma from some unknown and unknowable internal mechanism.

Thus, when Rayne informs someone that they cannot leave, he needs no locks or chains. All he needs is a smile and one overused anecdote. Granted, that anecdote concerns a time when he attempted to commission a woman to perform an act of bestiality, but he can get away with that, just like he can get away with using the yin-yang as his personal emblem despite not being able to differentiate between China and Japan, let alone having even a rudimentary conception of Taoism. Rayne's charisma is so potent that he can not only cruise through life on the merit of a facial expression, but he can apparently compel people to do things they know they ought not to do.

That's the word his date used, here: "ought". It's an odd choice. Most native English speakers would use the more common word "should", the two are synonyms. It's unclear, from context, whether she refers to a moral or ethical imperative, or simply a strategic assessment of the situation, but it implies, at least, that the superego is involved. She has some other priority here, some goal or directive that she betrays by remaining present. She cannot address that priority, however. She can't leave.

Rayne knows she ought to leave, she's just told him she ought to leave, and he hasn't contested that fact. He acknowledges, in his creative grammar, that she ought to go home. And, presumably, as he also uses the word ought - or "oughta", anyway - he acknowledges that her goals are his - he accepts whatever moral, ethical, or strategic mental framework she utilizes, and agrees with her assessment. Yes, my dear, yes. You ought to go home. You should leave. It is right and proper and good that you should vamoose.

But she can't. And, if Rayne truly acknowledges the moral burden here, that means that there are only two explanations for his behaviour in keeping her here.

The first possibility is that Rayne knows the correct course of action, and intentionally doesn't take it. This, of course, is the true definition of sin - to walk into a mistake with your eyes open, knowing what the right thing to do is and eschewing it. This seems likely, given Rayne's blatantly sociopathic and amoral tendencies, the way he uses friends and strangers alike as amusing puppets in his own personal playhouse.

The second possibility, however, is that he, too, is trapped. Just as she lacks the ability go home, he lacks the ability to let her go home, and he knows it. She is held in place by his irresistable charisma, and he is held in place by his irresistable urges. He is just as powerless as his prey, locked into a morally, ethically, and strategically inadvisable downward spiral toward a pleasurable but ultimately empty fate, a closed Faustian deal of his own making.

And he can't and shan't go home. He is home.

First in SetPrevious in SetNext in SetCurrent in Set