Used with permission of Scott Hales. And Enid.

Used with permission of Scott Hales. And Enid. Courtesy of Scott Hales

In December 2013, Scott Hales finished the last chapter of his dissertation and decided he needed a break before starting on revisions. To “blow off steam” in the interim, he began creating the funny, warm-hearted comic The Garden of Enid, featuring a 15-year-old Mormon girl named Enid.

Several months later, the comic has won an Association of Mormon Letters special award for comics and built a cult following.

I love Enid, so I chased down her creator to find out more. — JKR

The comic’s tag line is “Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl.” But I don’t see Enid as weird, just real.

I think she sees herself as weird. She’s gotten a little bit more normal as the comic has progressed and has become a bit more serious in tone. But she still does some weird things, like  when she wears her fake mustache or dresses up in medieval clothing.

It’s one way of hiding. She uses  weirdness as a mask.

There’s a heartbreaking panel from a few weeks ago (3/29) where Enid finds her mom’s old scrapbook and just can’t believe that this bright, seemingly happy teenager is the same person who grew up to be a mom who is so chronically depressed that Enid had to go to foster care for two years. There’s a line where Enid says she shouldn’t have to go to her mom’s visiting teacher every time she needs a new bra. Where did you get the idea for this?

Good question. It’s not really from my own background. You know my family a little bit*, and we’re a pretty stable family unit. I come from goodly parents who have always loved each other. But I definitely always have been a people-watcher. I see that not everybody has had the background that I have. I feel that we have these situations in the church, and we don’t always acknowledge them in ways that are fair to those members.

I wanted to have Enid to come out of a difficult family situation, because it’s a way to encourage us to talk about some of the harder struggles that Mormons face, whether it’s depression or addiction or doubt. It’s a way for me to look at a kind of Mormon experience that we don’t normally recognize as a Mormon experience.

Enid vs. McConkieSometimes we see Enid arguing with her seminary teacher, who says that she thinks too much and that “The gospel is simple . . . it’s black and white.” Were you that kid in seminary?

I was that kid, asking weird questions all the time. But I had two really good seminary teachers, including my mom. My parents always encouraged me to ask questions about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon.

My second seminary teacher was extraordinarily good about feeding my appetite for uncorrelated material. It was through him that I was introduced to Mormon literature. He gave me his copy of Vardis Fisher’s Children of God to read, and introduced me to the world of Mormon scholarship.

We see Enid alone most of the time, or with adults from church. Does she have a best friend, or someone her age to confide in?

She’s pretty much a loner. There’s a Laurel in the ward who’s taken her on as a kind of project, and that doesn’t go over well with Enid. She doesn’t really mesh well with people.

She’s the only one who ever talks in the comics unless she’s interacting with a historical figure [like Joseph Smith] in an imaginary conversation. She’s always narrating and mediating what other people say. Everything she says about people, or the way she portrays people, is filtered through the mind of a 15-year-old girl. There’s no objectivity.

Enid vs. knowingI’ve noticed that Enid’s t-shirts are often indicative of what she’s feeling, or who she’s listening to or reading. (My favorite: “8 Cows. Seriously?”)

I think the t-shirts are one of the most popular things [about the series]. People love the t-shirts. It’s a way to engage with people and ideas I like.  Did you see the Flunking Sainthood t-shirt?

No way! Wow. I’m really touched.

There’s kind of quirky, gaggy stuff I’ll put on there just to be funny. There’s also one that says, “Remember the Revolution,” which is a reference to a Sunstone article by my friend James Goldberg. Some of them pay tribute to Mormon blogs, like her Modern Mormon Men t-shirt, which is a blog I write for.  I had her wear their t-shirt when they did a piece on her.

What has the overall response been to the series?

More positive than I would ever expect, from some very different kinds of Mormons. I think both active and ex-Mormons have responded well to it. Liberal and conservative Mormons have responded well to it, including some I would not expect. That makes me very happy.

The worst has been people who are disappointed that Enid is not a real person, and that I’m actually a 34-year-old man rather than a 15-year-old Mormon girl blogging comics.

Will we watch Enid grow up, or will she just stay a Mia Maid, like the Simpson kids are always the same age?

"Enid" creator Scott Hales.

“Enid” creator Scott Hales. Courtesy of Scott Hales

I think she’s going to have to age. There is a growth, from the snarky 15-year-old kid to something more. We’ll see that growth in the relationship with her mom and the other adults who are caring for her, and she will start to see their compassion. I think right now she doesn’t understand that the way they treat her is out of love.

But I don’t know if the cartoon is going to last that long, to be honest. I probably won’t be able to be as active a cartoonist as I have been the last few months. But I would like to see her out of high school. Maybe in my 70s I’ll go back to it and draw who she became in her 30s.

 

* Scott’s sister used to be in my ward.

15 Comments

  1. I’m glad that there are writers like this guy who softly awaken people to the lies of the so-called church. Even just letting people know that making fun of the church is normal will help. Thanks for putting this out there for people to see.

  2. Lynn in Europe

    The “shouting in Deseret” comic made me smile. I thought I was the only teenager who learned the Deseret alphabet from the facsimile of the primer page printed in the seminary church history textbook! I still sometimes use it when I want to write down something about what’s going on around me without having people know what I’m writing. (Writing is easy… deciphering it later on is a lot harder.)

    • Wow! Scott, I was wrong when I told you I hadn’t seen this one. I HAVE seen it, because I remember thinking how I would have been just like that if I had been Mormon as a teenager (skipping out on a dance to do something nerdy), but I did not notice her FS t-shirt. Very honored. I’m going to print this out in put it in my office.

  3. I’m so disappointed. I thought she was real. I was really rooting for this intelligent and talented young woman living in a difficult life circumstance. I still really like the comic…

  4. So glad to learn about this! It would be great to see her grow up and change. Enid’s first date…would be epic.

    Also, I hope you do a FMH shirt if you haven’t already and an Aspiring Mormon Women shirt. I think Enid could plausibly have a take on those.

  5. I really have enjoyed the world through Enid’s eyes. I be honest I was a little tiny disappointed when I found out it was written by a man, but I with a little reflection I was over it. I really don’t think Scott Hales could say the cut to the center things he does with the character if it were a young adolescent male, and he’s the author with the things to say so I’ll take it. I also think that it reaches with quirky humor subjects that otherwise very traditional faithful practicing Mormons can’t touch for whatever reason, exposes them to light in a way that the brain and heart and even faith can wrap around. Things that otherwise might be by choice be avoided, and really shouldn’t be. The pleasant dissonance in Enid’s universe is where the magic happens. The only thing I could ask more is that the mother be treated as a fuller person, rather than a charactature. I’ve known and loved as full wonderful human beings many that have suffered with both debilitating depression and sevier obesity in their lives and I would like that to be a little more compassionately portrayed. It sounds from the conversation that direction is brewing.

  6. After growing up reading books told from male protagonists, I think it’s great that a man can write from the perspective of a teenage girl. I also relate to Enid in so many ways, the fifteen year old girl who feels conflicted by the charity of her seminary teacher and young women’s president and relief society. I turned into a 30 year old woman who calls her YW president on mother’s day as well as her mom (but I still have snarky conversations about YW lesson topics in my head during our presidency meetings). Enid will be okay :)

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