Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This comic marks the second year of Randall Munroe's wife's battle with cancer, and appears to depict actual events from those two years.
Keeping with tradition, we will refer to Randall's character as Cueball and his wife's as Megan.
- Panel 1: Megan receives a diagnosis over the phone as Cueball sits by her side supportively.
- Panel 2: Megan undergoing IV (intravenous) chemotherapy. Because of the hair loss that results from chemotherapy, many patients opt to shave their heads when they undergo chemotherapy. Her hair grows back over the course of the following panels.
- Panel 3: The two of them spending time alone together.
- Panel 4: The couple are waiting for the results of a scan. A phone sits on the middle of the table while they wait for it to ring.
- Panel 5: More chemotherapy. The couple are playing Scrabble, in which players use letter tiles to spell words in a cross-word style. Megan uses the fact that she has cancer as leverage to get Cueball to ignore the fact that the word she has played (zarg) is not a real word.
- Panel 6: Someone suggests they come for a visit next year, but all they can think about are the words "next year", indicating that they know the future is very much in doubt.
- Panel 7: They get married.
- Panel 8: The couple watching humpback whales.
- Panel 9: Cueball is paraphrasing a line from the song "Still Alive" (video) from the video game Portal ("I'm doing science and I'm still alive").
- Panel 11: Cueball and Megan have dinner to celebrate the fact that she has made it two years since her biopsy.
The title text is referring to a possible side-effect of chemotherapy drugs, the inability to concentrate.
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée sitting on a bed. She's on the phone with a nurse (shown in inset), who is looking at a clipboard.]
- Nurse: [illegible]
- Randall's fiancée: Oh God
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée sitting at their laptops. Randall's fiancée is hooked up to an IV pump and her head is shaved.]
- IV pump: ...BEEEP...BEEEP...BEEEP...
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée rowing a canoe in a lake/mountain setting. Randall's fiancée is wearing a beanie.]
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée sitting at a table staring at a phone. A clock is mounted behind them. Her head is stubbly.]
- Randall's fiancée: How long can it take to read a scan!?
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée playing scrabble. Randall's fiancée is again hooked up to an IV pump. She has longer stubbles.]
- Randall: "Zarg" isn't a word.
- Randall's fiancée: But Caaancer.
- Randall: ...Ok, fine.
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée talking to a friend. A large thought bubble is above their heads. She's wearing a beanie.]
- Friend: So next year you should come visit us up in the mountain - [cut off by thought bubble]
- Randall and Randall's fiancée: "Next year"
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée getting married. He's wearing a bow-tie; she a white dress. A heart is above their heads. Randall's wife's hair is growing back a little.]
- [Randall and Randall's wife standing on the coast, watching a whale jump out of the water. She's wearing a beanie.]
- [Randall standing behind Randall's wife, who is sitting at a desk using a laptop. Her hair has grown back a little more.]
- Randall: Hey-
- Randall: You're doing science,
- Randall: And you're still alive.
- Randall's wife: Yeah!
- [Randall and Randall's wife sitting under a tree.]
- Randall: It's really only been two years?
- Randall's wife: They were big years.
- [Randall and Randall's wife at a fancy restaurant being served. Her hair has grown back more.]
- Waiter: Happy... Anniversary?
- Randall's wife: Biopsy-versary!
- Waiter: ...eww.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
There are no words to convey how awesome you guys are. Thank you.
Also, great Portal reference.
184.108.40.206 07:30, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
Flip cancer. Lost my mother-in-law to it and now my dad is undergoing chemo for stage IV lung cancer.
- Seconded. This strip hits close to home, even years after the fact. And given that of my parents and grandparents only one grandmother was not yet diagnosed with any type of cancer, both frequentist and Bayesian statisticians probably agree I should be cautious myself. 220.127.116.11 20:01, 30 November 2012 (UTC) madd
Did anyone else think the second to last panel was a couple who were sitting close to ground zero of a nuclear bomb? It took several glances to finally see a tree instead of a mushroom cloud. Sayno2quat (talk) 15:35, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
- When I first saw that panel from my peripheral vision, I also thought it was a mushroom cloud.CityZen (talk) 17:46, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
- Now that you mention it - on my monitor, before scrolling, I only swa the upper half of what looked indeed like a mushroom cloud. 18.104.22.168 19:45, 30 November 2012 (UTC) madd
- Agreed; the mushroom cloud was my first impression, too. And I hazard the guess that it was intentional: it's an apt metaphor of how your world seems to explode... -- IronyChef (talk) 14:02, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
The language of referring to Randall's girlfriend as "wife" before they were married is awkward.CityZen (talk) 17:47, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
- Ok, "partner" is slightly less awkward, but I think using "Cueball/Megan" instead of "Randall/Randall's partner" would be most consistent.CityZen (talk) 21:17, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
- +1 on s/Randall/Cueball/g (and s/(girlfriend|partner|wife)/Megan/gi) with an explanation that the comic very likely depicts real-world events in Randall's and (real-world) Megan's life. Though it might be tributary to make the inferential leap, I think would be entirely "unscientific" to do so (which is so unRandall...) It also reinforces the notion that this happens to many, many more couples: Randall and Megan are not unique in what they are experiencing, though Randall does an excellent job of illustrating just what they're going through. (And yes, I could just go and change it myself, but wanted to discuss beforehand.) -- IronyChef (talk) 14:02, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
- Wikis lack democracy. Somebody puts their foot down, and that's that. In any case, I think if someone is going to insist that these characters can only represent Randall and his wife Megan, it's odd and slightly disrespectful to never use her proper name.CityZen (talk) 01:29, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
- Crying out about social injustice is the adult version of screaming "Ouch!" when a parent grabs a child's arm to get their attention. Democracy is not do-what-you-want-to. Democracy is having a discussion and then acting upon the results of that discussion. There have been many discussions about having Randall in comics. The result was that whenever Randall decides to place himself in a comic, that we should honor that. So, instead of using a generic character he put himself and his wife into the comic. So, we honor that. We do not know the name of his wife, Randall is a very private person, we respect his privacy and only go by the information he gives out, and we don't make wild speculations, this is why we don't refer to her by (any) name; it's the most respectful thing we can do.
- To prevent vigilante edit warring I've locked the page. Now, if you think that the site should not recognize when Randall specifically puts himself in comics, then there is a reason to bring this discussion back to the table. lcarsos_a (talk) 05:45, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
- So why is this comic different from 881, 931, 933, and 996? There was consistency until 1141. Consistency is what's wanted in a Wiki.CityZen (talk) 05:39, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
- I believe those other comic is rather general, where this particular one has enough set of facts that specific to Randall's case. That said, I agree with you that consistency is good, having the character called Cueball and Megan and explicitly said that those represent Randall and his wife probably better. Arifsaha (talk) 16:48, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
- My two cents: As Arifsaha said, those other comics are general. Each is one scene demonstrating one situation or discussion, so Cueball/Megan could be any couple going through cancer treatments. In this case, quantity does matter in determining the significance of "evidence that this is Randall". There are so many scenes here that it's clear a very specific and personal story is being shared.
- Also, the title text usually is from Randall's perspective (obviously there are exceptions, but when the text is realistic, it's a safe assumption). Here it says "she", not "my wife", indicating that the person being referenced has already been introduced (i.e. is in the comic). Further linking the Randall text with the characters is the fact that it directly references the panel 5 scene, rather than: "related ideas that are not in the comic" (933/996), simple objective explanation (931), or a reference to a previous strip (881). So unless you want to argue that the title text is intended to be Cueball addressing the readers and not Randall, it seems like this is all about Randall & his wife. - jerodast (talk) 16:06, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
- As CityZen said above, consistency is good. It is not that we don't want to recognize Randall in the comic, but we probably want to recognize it in the way where we said that in this comic Cueball and Megan represent Randall and his wife. I imagine it is possible that a reader see other comic and start questioning why the characters were called Cueball and Megan in the other comic but called Randall and his wife in this comic. I believe it will be easier to simply consistently label the character Cueball and Megan, then explicitly and clearly said and explain that in this particular comic, Cueball and Megan represent Randall and his wife. Arifsaha (talk) 16:48, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
- Cueball and Megan do not represent Randall and his wife. Cueball and Megan are the everyman/woman (and usually not even that but the geekiest kind of every(wo)man). Now, if Randall were building a story arc that spanned 1000 comics I would believe that this was Cueball and Megan, in character, standing in for Randall's real life experience. But the fact is, Randall clearly marks when he intentionally has multiple comics that build directly upon each other, see Category:Comic series. If xkcd were a story driven web comic we'd have to point out that Cueball and Megan have been married several times, as well as been flirtatious with other characters, had children both in and out of wedlock. It's much more easily explained that this comic is Randall and his wife merely drawn "in the style of". Ignoring an unusually personal comic for the sake of consistent character naming seems absurd to me. lcarsos_a (talk) 17:50, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
- Also there is an established precedent for Randall's appearance in comics - he appears as an unadorned stick figure in all of them, despite clearly being Randall. Just because he looks like Cueball doesn't mean we need to call Randall "Cueball but really he's Randall this time". If anything that's even more confusing. Randall and Cueball both appear in (different) comics, and they're drawn the same. I'm sure people can handle that. - jerodast (talk) 16:06, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
Panel 3 is possible reference/inspiration for comic 1024: Error Code--Shine (talk) 18:56, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
- Given what we know from Randall's past two years, I would rather infer that comic 1024 was inspired by one of these activities as seen in panels 3 and 8. 22.214.171.124 19:43, 30 November 2012 (UTC) madd
- I was leaning towards the trip in panel 3 inspiring comic 1024 rather than referencing it as well. Shine (talk) 20:50, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
Sooo... Because the clipboard-holding character in the first panel is a woman, we assume she's a nurse instead of a doctor?
- Seriously the clipboard-holding character is much more likely to be a doctor than a nurse if they are communicating actual results of medical tests.--126.96.36.199 03:58, 6 December 2012 (UTC)Anonymous
- I agree, although, Randall went out of his way to draw a garment on her that has short sleeves, unlike a lab coat. However, doctors wear scrubs too. I'm changing it. - jerodast (talk) 15:22, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
Hey I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask questions, but I don't really get why the waiter says eww at the end? Thanks in advance! Love this site! -- 188.8.131.52 (talk) 12:29, 6 December 2012 (UTC) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- The waiter says "eww" at the end because, instead of celebrating a wedding anniversary (or similar) which is what he is expecting, the couple are celebrating a "biopsy-versary". It's the contrast between the mental image of what happens in a biopsy with the emotions of what is normally expected when celebrating an anniversary (eg wedding anniversary as opposed to cutting-a-hole-in-you anniversary).184.108.40.206 03:38, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
- It's the equivalent of "yuck" and similar expressions of moderate gross-out. 220.127.116.11 09:34, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Can we get a Cancer series tag on some of these comics? There have been a lot of them, after all. --Jimmy C (talk) 14:10, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
- Down at the bottom, there's a section that lists the categories this page is in. The Cancer category has been there since this page was created. Also, please add comments in chronological order. lcarsos_a (talk) 14:19, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
Since my mother has just made her 27th biopsy-versary, my sympathies, prayers and best hopes are with anyone who has won someone from, lost someone to, is fighting or is fighting with someone, any form of Cancer.
Which is, pretty much everyone; is this forum, with Randall in particular.
Paulo Sedrez 18.104.22.168 20:35, 7 January 2013 (UTC)
the first few frames got me... ;_; 22.214.171.124 03:03, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
I do not know if this is a Scary Thought, but, in IV machines, a long beep repeating itself (for example, the 2nd panel here) means that either the IV machine had finished its infusion or there in an occlusion (which means that the flow from the bag to the vein was cut off somehow, a problem that can be inflicted by simply moving the tube in a way that bends or even folds the tube). If an occlusion occurs, a nurse would need to fix the problem (in my example case: re-'straighten' the tube) and very painfully push the fluid into the vein until the gap caused the occlusion disappears into the vein. Greyson (talk) 20:50, 15 April 2013 (UTC)
I would assume panel 8 depicts their honeymoon since it follows directly after the wedding panel. -j 126.96.36.199 14:18, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
- Yeah. I added it.–St.nerol (talk) 23:45, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
It's been four years since I first read this comic. I still tear up a little each time I get to the "still alive" panel. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Is it just me, or does Randall appear to be performing a biopsy on his dinner in panel 11? Anonymous 03:57, 14 December 2017 (UTC)