Review of Tear Along the Dotted Line (2021)
Seen in 2022.
A middle-aged cartoonist and his two best friends travel across Italy to see a woman who, back when they knew her, wanted to work with children. Their lives have not turned out according to plan.
The cartoonist, Michele Rech, is an indie stereotype: His strips are autobiographical, they frequently involve a giant anthropomorphic armadillo representing Rech’s bad conscience, they have that lo-fi aesthetic of ’70s underground comics upgraded only with modern tools, and the writer-artist calls himself by a silly nickname: “Zerocalcare”, taken from a commercial advertising the absence of limestone in a product. In the series, the main voice actor speaks ugly Roman Italian at high speed with the trivial masochism of Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000).
The stereotype is dull, but Tear Along the Dotted Line is otherwise an improvement on BoJack Horseman (2014). It’s not about celebrities or the problems of luxury. Like BoJack, it is about narcissism and self-loathing, described in dense and humorous scripts with some amusing intertext, such as the meeting of Dante and Beatrice in the Divine Comedy (1320). The conclusion is weaker, but everything else is stronger. Thankfully, Tear does not have BoJack’s ironic, Disney-like worldbuilding where society includes non-humans. Instead, it is clear that the few animals on the show represent human characters and characteristics in the author’s life; it’s indie-stereotype anthropomorphism, inoffensively misdirected.