Capturing the Uncapturable
Girard’s Bigfoot an Authentic Snapshot of Teenagehood
ALEX MANLEY — JANUARY 18, 2011
Rare is the adult who doesn’t have some tired, worn out old belief he or she still cherishes—be it UFOs, or Santa, or an all-powerful and loving God.
Bigfoot, Pascal Girard’s pitch-perfect second graphic novel, is a tale of one teen’s search for that most legendary of creatures—a girlfriend. Translated from the original French by Helge Dascher, Bigfoot tells the story of Jimmy, an average teenager living through the crumminess of small-town Quebec in the Internet era.
After his best friend Simon uploads a clip of him practicing dance moves to YouTube, Jimmy becomes an internet sensation—a sensation that rubs him entirely the wrong way, however, as he becomes simultaneously the centre of attention and the butt of jokes for seemingly everyone in his all-too-tiny town.
Jimmy’s not the only one dealing with an overdose of e-fame; after his attention-hungry uncle uploads a video purporting to offer proof of Bigfoot’s presence in the woods bordering the town, the ludicrousness of his claim and his connection to the already-notorious Jimmy causes them to become twin laughingstocks.
While his uncle lays low, waiting for the buzz to blow over, Jimmy bravely soldiers on, joining a weekly drawing class in an attempt to win over Jolène, his crush, while Simon attempts to enlist Jimmy’s aid in his constant quest to get it on.
The storylines—and Jimmy’s intensifying feelings for Jolène—all converge when the three teens head to Jimmy’s uncle’s cabin for a weekend to scope out the woods for Bigfoot.
Bigfoot’s incorporation of the 21st century into a setting and narrative that feel otherwise tried-and-true is a testament to Girard’s skill at honest, simple storytelling.
Though it’s hard not to think of it as a Québecois Napoleon Dynamite in graphic novel form, Girard’s biggest triumph in Bigfoot is not the realism of Jimmy’s rural town but the story’s investigation into being a lovelorn teenager. Perhaps a more apt comparison, then, would be to Gus van Sant’s Elephant.
Though Elephant is a movie about a school shooting, in reality, it’s a story using a school shooting as a starting point from which to quietly and honestly explore the various travails of adolescence that all teens face.
Bigfoot replaces the school shooting with the process of going viral, but uses the same methodology. Both stories employ relatively straightforward fictionalizations of real, singular events—the Columbine Massacre and the “Star Wars Kid” video, respectively—in order to get at deeper underlying issues: loneliness, insecurity, budding sexuality, and fear of failure. At this, Girard is uncannily skilled; his story rings true in a way that few films or novels about teenagers seem to manage.
Luckily for us, Bigfoot is not as hard to find as its larger, blurrier, more mythical cousin. If you get a chance, grab a couple of friends and go hunting in the woods for this thing—you won’t regret it.
This article originally appeared in The Link volume 31, Issue 19, published January 18, 2011.