Welp, next week I was going to run a piece about how Clarence is the sleeper hit animation to watch, but in light of recent head-spinning events, let me just say this: sexual assault–don’t do it, Clarence–most definitely watch it, and don’t feel bad about watching it.
For those asleep at the Tumblr dashboard last night, here’s a very fast overview:
1. Skyler Page, past storyboard artist for Adventure Time and credited creator of the animated series Clarence, has been accused of sexually assaulting Adventure Time storyboard revisionist Emily Partridge, and comments from associates and co-workers imply past transgressions as well. The official wording only goes so far as to say it was a ‘sexual assault’, and Partridge would kindly like for people to stop mentally painting ‘RAPE’ in broad strokes all over the details.
2. Page is the credited creator of Clarence, I stress, CLARENCE, NOT Adventure Time, as some people mistakenly believe, though he was a storyboard artist for episodes like “Davey.” There’ve been some sleazy accusations of the victim bringing the issue to light in order to, I don’t know, off the competition? Whatever the case, it simply isn’t true.
3. For the proof-mongers out there: aside from Partridge’s accusations, close personal friends of Page have corroborated with stories of his increasingly erratic behavior and severe bipolar disorder symptoms, an issue which complicates the situation considerably. These are not further indictments, nor are they a defense of his actions in any way; they are the voices of concerned friends and those who wish to publicize Page’s mental illness as an integral consideration in judging the events, and also to bring up the issue of mental health and its stigmatization, both in the US and specifically in the corporate world. Adventure Time production coordinator Emily Quinn described her frustration with Cartoon Network executives who brushed Page’s condition aside: “They just assumed that since he was out of the hospital, that it meant he was ‘cured.’ I was LIVID. No mental illness magically gets ‘cured.’ But because there is such a stigma around mental disorders, nobody higher up knew how to deal with it.”
4. Though no official word has yet been given, it seems Page has been fired from Cartoon Network according to Megan Nicole Dong, story artist at DreamWorks Animation with connections to the Cartoon Network Staff.
5. Cartoon Network will continue to air Clarence and produce future seasons, and this is possible because …
6. Apparently, Page does very little for the show beyond voice-acting for the titular character. Clarence head of story Patrick Harpin released a statement on his tumblr to voice support for Partridge, condemn Page’s actions, and clarify:
. . . the reason you like Clarence, in spite of it’s creator, is because the “creator” had very little to do with the show. Despite what it says in the credits, Skyler never wrote a single episode of Clarence. It was created by the writers (me and Spencer Rothbell) and the talented board artists (people like Charlie Gavin, Derek & Diana). We took Skyler’s idea of “a fat dumb kid” and made a character out of it. Skyler mostly “kept the couch from floating away”, and read whatever lines we gave him. There’s been enough victims of Skyler Page, don’t punish the talented crew that actually raised Clarence.
All in all, it’s a complex incident for a number of reasons, not least of which are considerations of how much accountability we can demand from mental illness patients, and Page undoubtedly seems ill–I strongly urge you to read the links in point 3. Though disturbing, it has been hailed by many as positive step towards sexual harrassment awareness thanks to Cartoon Network’s swift dismissal of Page (though their toleration and ‘hands-off’ approach to his illness is still quite worrying) and the wave of support for Partridge in voicing her situation, both from fans and a number of professionals in the animation industry.
That being said, kindly continue to support Clarence. There’s still a very large and talented staff working behind the show, and a boycott would be an undue blow against a blameless crew of talented folks.
Seriously, Clarence fulfills a very specific role in Cartoon Network’s current lineup: while Adventure Time is on the outer limits of consciousness and internal drama, and Steven Universe is protecting the Earth from extradimensional threats, and Regular Show‘s Mordecai and Rigby are flitting off to the VHS Dimension or Purgatory for Fries That Got Too Soggy, Clarence is literally just about a kid, being a kid, in a neighborhood with kids, and yet the writers somehow make that shtick feel fresh.
It follows in the footsteps of Recess, Ed Edd and Eddy, and Hey Arnold in presenting real-world childhood experiences as complex dramas, and it’s also funny as hell. Clarence is the lovable chubby kid that Steven Universe strives to be–he’s the hippo-faced weirdo in class, decidedly disgusting, idiotic, naive, albeit good-hearted, and gets by on the sheer force of believing in fun. Plus, his body shape is literally the most hilariously misshapen thing I’ve seen since Mike Judge modeled Bobby Hill’s head after a potato. Sumo is the frog-voiced kid, of the sort that snorts eraser shavings and swallow household pests if you’re willing to give him your tater tots. He’s as fringe as outsider characters go, and often careens off into his own bizarre subplot, which is pretty much how he thinks and rolls 24/7. And Jeff is the square-headed straightlace that can’t bear to be touched, and acts as Clarence’s direct foil in his fear of the unorthodox and unpredictable, but not in an annoying way; he reminds me of Adventure Time‘s Abracadaniel in his milkfacedness, and his neuroses often render him as delightfully twisted as his playmates.
The humor is as refreshingly contemporary as Cartoon Network’s other flagship titles, but like cult classic kids’ shows in the vein of Spongebob Squarepants, it follows its own logic and draws you into its own idiosyncratic, comedic world. Expect the memes to come a’pouring down your Tumblr feeds in no time, and again, don’t let a great show become tarnished for the actions of one disturbed individual.