Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bigfoot by Pascal Girard

Bigfoot, a graphic novel by Canadian comics artist Pascal Girard,* follows teenage character Jimmy as he deals with his newfound infamousness after a video of him disco dancing in his bedroom goes viral on YouTube. The book starts slightly after the video goes up, and Jimmy’s introduction to the reader in the first few pages is mostly through the comments of the people he walks by in his city. An old lady in a convenience store: “OH! I KNOW! You’re the guy who dances on the Internet! I saw you on TV!” A few people on the street: “Heey! Disco Jimmy! Let’s see a move!” Girls at his school: “Wanna give us a little lesson? Woo hoo!” There are even t-shirts for sale at the store that show Jimmy striking a pose, and several characters are illustrated wearing the shirt. For most of the book, Jimmy’s facial expressions represent resentment and annoyance, and although there are a few happy moments for him in Bigfoot, he has a fairly grim expression on his face throughout the story.

The beginning of the book also finds Jimmy taking Saturday morning drawing lessons after he overhears the girl he’s crushing on, Jolene, telling a friend that she is taking that same class. It also becomes apparent that he took a dancing class that Jolene had registered for as well, and practicing for the dance class lead to him filming the video that went viral. His Uncle Pierre is a staple in his life, and when he comes to Jimmy with video evidence that he has spotted Bigfoot near his cabin, Jimmy changes his uncle’s life in the same way his friend changed his: he posts the video on YouTube. Although most of the book takes place in the city, Jimmy’s friends convince him to take them out to his uncle’s cabin, to see if they can find Bigfoot for themselves.

I really enjoyed reading Bigfoot, mostly for the everyday look at the lives of a group of teenagers that it provided. There are so many small moments that I think would really resonate with teenage readers, or at least they resonated with my memory of being a teenager.
I was also interested in the title of the book, and how it brings the narrative together, while also not really defining what the story is all about. At first I was expecting the search for Bigfoot to take up more of the storyline than it eventually did, but by the halfway point of the book I started to understand that Bigfoot is just a distraction from the straightforward everydayness of the novel, and he becomes just as elusive as everything else is for Jimmy. Bigfoot is the occasion to tie elements of the book together – Jimmy's relationship with his uncle, the idea of the viral video, the excuse to have an unchaperoned weekend at the cabin – but as a figure, he doesn't really make a solid appearance in the book. He is just a hopeful moment in a teenager's experience of the world, where there is a potential for something to change or alter Jimmy's mostly mundane and unchanging life.

As well, the use of color in Bigfoot really played into teenage experience. There is a lot of beige, brown, and grey (more neutral colors) that are then punctuated by bursts of color. Jimmy's clothing choices are made more meaningful with color – he chooses a grey hoodie or a pale blue shirt while the people around him wear colorful or printed t-shirts. The frames that used red to highlight Jimmy's anger or frustration became more effective because they stood out so starkly from the rest of the frames. I thought it was emblematic of Girard's artistic style, and was effective to show off Jimmy's teenage world. 

Finally, Jimmy’s dance is included in the front and back covers of the book. It seems like an interesting choice to use the covers of the book to depict the dance, instead of showing it represented (even on a YouTube freeze frame) in the pages of the book itself. I felt like Girard was asking readers to really see this as a physical book, one that had to be read, quite literally, from cover to cover. It didn't just communicate the narrative events, but it also operated as an object that had multiple parts that were necessary to getting the full story. Although it's easy to skip the front and back inside covers and not feel like there is much missing, it seems like Girard's reproduction of every step of the dance is time and labor intensive, and I think it is worth thinking about its inclusion in its entirety instead of as a YouTube freeze frame. I don't know if Girard did this for the aesthetics of the inside covers, or if he wanted the book to be read as an object, from back to front in every sense, or for some other reason (or if it really doesn't mean anything at all!). 

* The book was translated to English from the French version, Jimmy et le Bigfoot.

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