1006: Sloppier Than Fiction

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Sloppier Than Fiction
Roger Ebert once called you directionless and unwatchable.
Title text: Roger Ebert once called you directionless and unwatchable.


In this strip, Goatee Guy claims that "if they made my life into a movie, no one would believe it", suggesting that he thinks his experiences are so unlikely and interesting that they'd be considered too exaggerated for fiction.

Cueball agrees that no one would believe the movie, but claims that it's due to "the poorly written dialogue and unlikeable main character", turning the claim into a put-down of Goatee Guy. This response has two main aspects: that the events Goatee Guy is describing aren't especially well-told, and that Goatee Guy himself is personally unpleasant (in addition to not be especially articulate, or conveying a rambling anecdote as meaningful as he believes them to be).

From what little we hear of Goatee Guy's story, both of those assumptions seem to be justified. The crux of his story is that his ex-girlfriend had once dated an acquaintance of his, which is not a particularly uncommon or interesting event. Absent a more interesting twist (or at least some interesting storytelling), it constitutes a mild coincidence, not something particularly noteworthy, let along implausible.

And the little we know about Goatee Guy helps explain why Cueball finds him unlikeable. He did something that he claims "technically wasn't cheating", which implies that he was unfaithful, and tried to justify himself with a loophole. Then he went around telling the story to others, apparently blaming his ex, rather than himself, and repeats Bret characterizing her as "crazy". All of these things make him sound boorish, rude, self-centered, and misogynistic.

The title is a play on the old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction." In this case, the title implies that Goatee Guy's story isn't stranger than fiction, but is a sloppy enough story that it wouldn't qualify as good fiction.

In the title text, Roger Ebert was a famous American movie critic, who could be quite caustic when reviewing a movie he disliked. "Directionless" and "unwatchable", along with Cueball's initial complaints of "poorly-written dialogue and unlikeable main character," are common criticisms of bad movies, but have entirely different and much more personally cutting connotations when applied to a human being.


[A douchebag with a goatee and a bad haircut talks to Cueball while holding a drink.]
Goatee Guy: Even though it technically wasn't cheating, she dumped me anyway! So I tell Bret, and he's like "She sounds just like my crazy ex." And I was like, "dude, what was her name?" and it was the same girl.
Goatee Guy: I swear, if they made my life into a movie, no one would believe it.
Cueball: Yeah, though mostly because of the poorly-written dialogue and unlikeable main character.

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To me this is the lesson that sometimes we miss the most obvious thing: If you felt like you needed to do something that WASN'T technically cheating, perhaps what you shared WASN'T technically love. So if it was not love our beerded (at least I think it's a beer in his cup) friend lost, what was it? - e-inspired 15:21, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

The positive strings attached to that quasi-love? --Quicksilver (talk) 06:47, 17 August 2013 (UTC)

" Oh and FYI, if anyone ever says "It wasn't technically cheating"... it was cheating. " -> This is only true for the more orthodox kinds of relationships. 02:07, 29 January 2014 (UTC) Agreed. 19:40, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

The point they're trying to make - and the joke in the comic - is that if you ever have to justify something as "technically not cheating", you've overstepped a boundary, regardless of how orthodox your relationship is. More to the point, if your partner is upset by something you did, telling them it was technically ok isn't going to get you anywhere. The joke is that goatee guy did something that hurt his girlfriend's feelings, then summarily dismissed her opinion when she tried to talk about it. 21:19, 28 January 2016 (UTC)

The "not technically cheating" bit in my eyes simply makes it very clear that Goatee Guy is indeed an "unlikeable character". Ugh. Right with you on this one, Cueball! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Honestly, is nobody going to give Goatee Guy the benefit of the doubt? We know next to nothing about what actually happened. (talk) 19:44, October 24, 2017‎ (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

As a man with a goatee, I object to Randall's depictions of our demographic in this and other comics. 21:30, 28 May 2020 (UTC)

As a person who has dated men with goatees, I'm fine with it. 00:48, 6 December 2020 (UTC)