I’ve been following Nemi on and off for several years. Technically, ever since the strip began. However, I’ve been following her more closely (mostly through her magazine and Christmas specials) for the last few years. She’s become somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me, as she is not exactly considered cool anymore, at least not in Norway. Ironically, the comic strip that embraces countercultures and “being different” is now considered to be very mainstream. Then again, that happens to a lot of properties that started out as countercultural, doesn’t it?
There are two main reasons why Nemi har warmed up to me, both as a character and as a comic. The first is that Nemi, as a character, has gotten more multi-faceted as time goes by. In the early days of the comic, Nemi was quite frankly a bitch. She had a point when she complained about people stereotyping her because of her Goth look, but then again she had no qualms about stereotyping and judging other people because she thought they looked too “straight”. In one strip that I have always found to be particularly offensive, Nemi wears a blonde wig and fancy clothes when going to a café renowned for their great cocoa. Why? Because she assumes that the clerk would call the cops on her if she entered the café wearing her usual outfit. She even has the nerve to curse the clerk (silently) based on this assumption.
Even then however, Nemi always had another side to her. She was also a creative, mischievous prankster, a movie geek, a fun drunk and a woman-child who cried during Disney cartoons. Over the years, the comic has been focusing more on these more entertaining and likable aspects of her personality. She hasn’t lost her edge, but has gotten more fun as a character, and nowadays she tends to get the better of people, not thorugh her attitude but by being clever and witty.
The other reason that I began enjoying Nemi more recently is that it’s getting less preachy. And this is tied to the bitchy side of Nemi’s personality. For a period, Nemi’s Sunday strip would typically be built up like this:A casual friend or acquaintance of Nemi’s – usually one who’s unnamed and only appears in this particular strip – has a conversation with our heroine. He or she makes a statement that Nemi thinks is wrong or at least poorly informed. Nemi starts by picking her conversation partner’s argument apart, then delivers a long speech explaining in further detail, not only why the argument is wrong, but also why people and the world in general sucks. If the strips takes place during the period when Nemi was smoking, Nemi will occasionally take a puff of the cigarette she was smoking to further illustrate that she’s a dame with an attitude who doesn’t take sh*t from anyone. In the last panel, Nemi’s friend will try and make a counter-argument that Nemi brushes off with a sarcastic remark.
Occasionally there would be a twist to these Sunday strips (in one where Nemi throws a fit over allegedly fanatical non-mokers, she gets her well-deserved humiliation in the last panel), but most of the time we were never left in any doubt that Nemi was absolutely right and that people who disagreed were idiots or jerks. Thankfully, Lise Myhre gave up on these soapbox speeches a while ago, though I don’t know if it was because she got tired of them herself or if she was getting too much negative feedback on them. On occasion, Myhre will still deliver preachy strips, but at least she’s getting more subtle and creative with them. Rather than putting the lessons she wants to teach people in Nemi’s mouth, she prefers to phrase them in the narrative nowadays. I can live with that.