Review: Gina Wynbrandt’s Someone Please Have Sex With Me
Someone Please Have Sex With Me is a collection of comics from Gina Wynbrandt, whose short comic “Big Pussy” made a big splash (oh god, oh god) in 2015, which nabbed her an Ignatz nomination for Promising New Talent. This collection is an ice cream cake coloured, semi-fictional, satiric autobiography; these are the adventures of a younger Gina Wynbrandt, but a younger Gina who fucks cats, levels buildings with the power of her orgasms, and counts Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian among her friends.
This is a gorgeous book; in particular the colouring is beautiful, its delicacy a neat counterpart to the crass goings on of the comic, and linework that does no characters any favours. Wynbrandt portrays Gina and other characters in all kinds of unflattering poses and situations, and Gina’s body is rendered with an unflinching physicality. I say unflinching because it’s not a kind portrayal, not a work that loves its characters sweetly. Rather, SPHSWM is kind of mean.
Gina is repeatedly humiliated and/or played for laughs, the source of humour being Gina herself — her body, her insecurity, her horniness, her “ugliness,” and her fantasies. Gina is, well, a loser. Desperate to lose her virginity, socially awkward, and trapped in a stalled adolescence that’s extended well into her adult years, Gina approaches the world with wild swings of optimism and self-hate. When she sets out to do something — get laid, become a magical girl, meet Justin Bieber, attempt to adult — things go surreally wrong. In order to become a magical girl she befriends a group of alley cats. They’re awful. They bully and coerce her. She ends up, some years later, arguing with her half-cat daughter on Maury. When Kim Kardashian becomes her fairy godmother, she gets a “slutty” makeover, attends the Teen Choice Awards and accidentally destroys the building with the force a spontaneous orgasm — seeing One Direction in the flesh was too much for her.
Gina is cute, sometimes, and it’s impossible to say that SPHSWM has no affection for her — her dogged pursuit of of a good orgasm reaches almost heroic levels, and her willingness to try to make friends, meet guys and just go for what she wants is admirable. But she isn’t quite a harmless, loveable misfit. She’s made of equal parts determination, self-hate, and selfishness. Even as she is used by the guys she hooks up with, she has trouble with their personhood too. She wants a cartoon boyfriend, a provider of sex and romcom ritual courting — a boyband song lyric, not an actual guy. Her obsession with teen stars is lampshaded as being self-serving and obsessive, a platform for sexual gratification that is ultimately only about her. It’s not real, this desire, except sometimes in this comic. When SPHSWM lets her get the object of desire, be it Bieber, a cat mentor, or a hookup with someone, anyone, please, it does so in the weirdest possible way — like, fine, you can have your dumb fantasy but you might not like the way it turns out. A monkey’s paw wish fulfillment, where she at least gets to get off.
Some of these comics are so funny I cried awkwardly on public transit, trying to hide both the book itself (there were kids around — look at that cover!) and my reaction to it. Others made me flinch with how deep Wynbrandt’s knife cut. Sometimes I thought, shit, could I give this comic to one of our twenty-something writers without worrying the comic would make her feel bad about herself? Hang on, is this comic making ME feel bad about myself? Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by that special toxic brew of internalized misogyny, peer pressure and unbelonging that is your teen to young adult years?
But is it this comic’s job to help me look on those years with less pain? Of course not. Is a woman making comics responsible for making all-empowering, all-body positive feel good comics? Again, no. But Gina is likeable/unlikeable the way Seinfeld or Always Sunny In Philadelphia characters are, fictionally, cartoonishly awful, but also endearingly human. In an interview with CBR, Wynbrandt said that “I try to present the worst, most unlikeable version of myself. I know I’m not a total garbage human, but I don’t need to prove what I good person I am with my comics. I’d rather people laugh at me and think I’m funny. Also, the fact that readers like this awful version of myself is somewhat validating.” It’s both a working though and a deliberate exposure of her own vulnerabilities.
My favourite story in the collection is “Manhunt,” where Gina plays an eponymous video game that lets her, once again, explore her fantasies — this time of being a rough tough international bounty hunter and femdom sex siren. The game itself is silly, unreal and objectifying (take off that shirt, Mr. Cute Lifeguard, and leave it off) and Gina’s approach to it, like everything else, is crass. The boys are disposable, as important as ripped off wrapping paper, and it’s Gina’s performance of “Gina: Bountyhunter” that is centered. It’s not celebratory or empowering (except when it IS, buster, you stay down on that floor), or nice. It’s just, like much of this book, a weird, good time.