1016: Valentine Dilemma

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Valentine Dilemma
The worst resolution to the Valentine Prisoner's Dilemma when YOU decide not to give your partner a present but your PARTNER decides to testify against you in the armed robbery case.
Title text: The worst resolution to the Valentine Prisoner's Dilemma when YOU decide not to give your partner a present but your PARTNER decides to testify against you in the armed robbery case.


Both Megan and Cueball are agonizing over what to get each other for Valentine's Day. Both of them seem to have a similar mindset towards the holiday: that it's arbitrary, imposes a set of demands and expectations, and is used by corporations to mandate consumerism. At the same time, both are aware that rituals and social expectations are important to other people, and so are torn between their distaste at following contrived rules and their concerns about being inconsiderate.

In the 6th frame, Megan worries that Cueball might get her something and be hurt if she didn't reciprocate, explictly referencing the prisoner's dilemma. This dilemma is a classic thought experiment in game theory, in which two accused criminals are given the opportunity to testify against one another, but not allowed to communicate. The offer is set up so that the best total outcome for both prisoners is if neither testifies. But each individual prisoner, not knowing what the other will choose, may personally benefit from turning on the other (or give away this advantage if they, alone, choose not to). In a similar way, Megan and Cueball might both be most satisfied if neither buys a gift, but neither wants to take the risk of looking inconsiderate (and apparently aren't open to communicating about it).

The ultimate resolution is that neither gets the other a conventional gift. Cueball buys Easter candy (candy is a common Valentine's day gift, but the Easter theme makes it less cliche) and a jar of hammers, which clearly isn't an expected romantic gift. Megan panicked and, even more inexplicably, staples her hand to her face. There's something sweet in the fact that they're both equally befuddled by this social ritual, but they recognize that they've been badly overthinking what should be a fairly simple interaction.

The title text combines the two dilemma scenarios in an absurd juxtaposition, with the reader ("you") choosing with one person choosing not to get a gift (from the Valentine's Dilemma) and the other choosing to testify in a criminal case (from the prisoner's dilemma).

The Prisoner's Dilemma has been referenced before, in 696: Strip Games.


[Cueball standing with hand on chin.]
Cueball: Flowers seem so... trite. Something homemade? Easy to look halfhearted.
[A frame-less panel of Megan sitting at a computer, also with hand on chin.]
Megan: Valentine's day is a corporate construct.
Megan: But hard to opt out of.
Megan: I don't want to be a corporate tool or an inconsiderate jerk.
[Cueball pacing.]
Cueball: How do I fight cliché? I could get her a gift on a different day.
Cueball: But what am I proving?
[Megan leaning back with stapler in hand.]
Megan: It's such a contrived ritual. But maybe rituals are necessary social glue.
[Zoomed in on Cueball panicking.]
Cueball: Forty presents. No, none! No, give her five items and then steal two from her.
Cueball: OK, breathe. Keep it together.
[Zoomed in on Megan sweating, still holding the stapler.]
Megan: And what if he gets me something and I don't reciprocate?
Megan: Prisoners dilemma!
[Cueball and Megan talking. Cueball is holding a basket and a jar of hammers. Megan's hand is stapled to her face.]
Cueball: I got you Easter candy and a jar of hammers.
Megan: I panicked and stapled my hand to my face.
Cueball: We overthought this.
Megan: Yes.

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It really depends on how good the hammers are. Good, solid machined hammers are enough to win any girl's heart. Davidy22[talk] 13:07, 18 February 2013 (UTC)

The hammer is my penis. 18:41, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
Well that's no good, is it? Made by unskilled labour. Homegrown is not a desirable attribute here. Xilotha (talk) 20:22, 18 August 2019 (UTC)

In frame 4, is Megan holding a laptop or the stapler? Looks more like a stapler... Sabik (talk) 08:34, 10 February 2014 (UTC)

Given that she appears to be gripping it as though it was a narrow object, and in the next frame mentions that she stapled her hand to her face, I'd say it's quite likely that it is a stapler.Pennpenn (talk) 03:42, 26 February 2014 (UTC)