1120: Blurring the Line

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Blurring the Line
People into masturbatory navel-gazing have a lot to learn about masturbation.
Title text: People into masturbatory navel-gazing have a lot to learn about masturbation.


A metaphor is a comparison which may be used to emphasize, explain or embellish a point, as seen in this comic when Cueball likens himself to Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is a famous basketball player who is well known for being one of the very best (if not the best) players at the sport.

In this comic, White Hat is analyzing a movie about movies when Cueball compares White Hat's description of the movie to masturbatory navel-gazing, a comment combining two expressions used to refer to a pointless activity or effort, but also specifically self-referential activity. "Mental masturbation" and "navel gazing" are relatively common terms to dismiss work that is regarded as self-indulgent, overly introspective, and self-referential. Calling navel gazing, or introspection, "masturbatory" is a metaphor speaking of it in terms of the physical act of masturbation. The title text blurs the line between metaphor and reality by dragging both metaphors in the term "masturbatory navel-gazing" into reality and pointing out that literally staring at your navel is not going to be very effective at physical sexual self arousal, which is the goal of masturbation.

White Hat then defends the movie by saying that it is about blurring the line between metaphor and reality, commenting that Cueball doesn't understand art. To this Cueball retorts by likening his ability to meld metaphor and reality by using a metaphor comparing himself to Michael Jordan. He then proceeds to actually blur the line by throwing a basketball at White Hat. This can also be understood as another reality metaphor, passing the "conversational ball" to White Hat, or acting like Michael Jordan by playing basketball.

The last frame is also a graphic illustration of blurring the line between metaphor and reality, where a much more "real" depiction of a basketball intrudes into the colorless stick-figure world which serves as an abstraction of our shared reality.


[White Hat and Cueball are walking.]
White Hat: ...No, but see, it's a movie about movies.
Cueball: Sounds like masturbatory navel-gazing.
[Close-up of White Hat.]
White Hat: No, it's about blurring the line between metaphor and reality.
White Hat: You just don't know much about art.
Cueball: Seriously?
[White hat and Cueball are standing.]
Cueball: I know all about blurring the line between metaphor and reality. I'm the goddamn Michael Jordan of blurring the line between metaphor and reality.
[White hat standing.]
White Hat: ...Huh?
[Basketball hits White Hat in the head.]
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This comic might refer to the movie Adaptation --Mambro (talk) 10:53, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

There's a whole host of movies that white hat might be referring to. We can't know just from one theme present in the play, as there's a bajillion possible movies that it could be. Best to leave it unnamed.Davidy22 (talk) 11:54, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

I don't think he was "passing the conversational ball" so much as it was meant to be a humorous blurring of the line between metaphor and reality (he's the "Michael Jordan" of blurring the line between metaphor and reality and then he has an actual basketball). Also, what is "masturbatory naval gazing" supposed to mean? If someone could explain that portion, that would be great. Trek7553 (talk) 14:51, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

Referring to the basketball's orange color in the transcript could make a more accurate transcript. The appearance of the colored basketball in the otherwise black and white panels is a very dramatic intrusion of "more reality" into the black and white 2D panel. "More reality" since color is an important property most of us experience in our real lives. A very abstract 2D drawing of people discussing 3D movie depictions of our shared actual reality (i've never considered xkcd to reference Flatland) seems to be playing with levels of abstraction visually, in addition to the self-referential language.Rashby (talk) 07:07, 15 November 2012 (UTC)

"Masturbatory navel gazing" is a contradiction in terms, hence the cursor text.

From Merriam-Webster: Naval-gazing is useless or excessive self-contemplation. One could define a movie about movies in this way. Masturbation is self-love, and a movie about movies could be thought of as a form of self love too. --Johngardner (talk) 15:44, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
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