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The double standard of verbal abuse

One of the more galling arcs I had to endure is the one in which Deanna chirpily lists all the piddly little shit that Mike does that bothers her only to whine pathetically about how he was of course going to run off with someone else because he pointed out that she was imperfect. While Lynn's target audience of thin-skinned assholes who have no problem at all stomping up and down on sitting duck antagonists while screaming about oppression when the slightest defect of theirs is mentioned approved, decent people would give Mike the advice "RUN, PSYCHO, RUN!!!!!!"

This is because as I said yesterday, the men in the strip have spent a lot of time engaged in the pursuit and capture of someone a damned sight like Elly. As we know, her reaction to John's purchase of the Overcompenastionmobile is as following:

1) I can yap about that yellow car and all the other dumb things you do for all eternity.

2) You can never bring up any stupid thing I do ever.

3) This is because you have a penis and can thus 'take' it while I'm a weak little wifey who'd just die.

4) WaaaaaaaHHHHHH!!!!!!

This is, of course, the end result of her buying into gender stereotypes about the fragile little woman who simply can't take it when it's convenient for her. When it doesn't matter (like when she's denying the children a reasonable request to save face), she's made of iron and she's fifty feet tall. When the least chance of her having to accept defeat ensues, she's made of plasticine and thinks Smurfette is an amazon woman.

The six-cylinder bludgeon

While it might look as if Elly's stupid decision to "punish" John for the "disloyal" act of being a sports car to prove to Ted that he's a 'real' man by forcing him to drive it through cold weather all winter might be the end of the discussion, we're going to have to wait a while to really see the other shoe drop. This is because when John balks at remodeling the kitchen because he thinks Elly wants to spend money foolishly on something that doesn't really need to be fixed, Jean acts as Elly's agent and brings up the penismobile to discredit him. Since he's an idiot and an infant, he moans pathetically because he doesn't realize or especially wish to admit that he's handed people a stick to beat him with. No matter how much he might talk up being careful with money, someone's gonna wave that purchase in his face.

The interesting thing is that all the male characters end up with their own incidents that they're never going to be allowed to forget. Mike has the laptop incident, Phil has the doomed camping trip and eventually, Anthony will make his own stupid mistake he isn't going to be allowed to walk away from. This allows the target audience to smirk sanctimoniously about how a real man would take it and not whine so much. What makes that tendency to stick out their tongues at defeated sitting ducks all the more noxious is that it isn't allowed to happen to them ever.
As we know, Lynn had a powerfully hard time resisting the urge to assign age-inappropriate problems and behaviours to the Mike and Lizzie of the mid-1980s in order to rebuke the much older Aaron and Katie. This is why we had the whole Peeping Mike omnishambles and it's why she had nine year old Mike tune into a skin flick only to have Elly tell him that said films are garbage because they don't tell how real relationships work. This, I should think, is another example of Elly being right for a wrong reason.

You see, a normal, healthy person would actually mean what she said when she told Mike that NC-17 rated films and Playdude magazines are the fantasy projections of minds who wish that life were really a non-stop orgy. Elly, as we all know, is neither healthy nor normal because of that whole "envying the sad, empty, windblown life of heartache Connie slogged through as a divorced single mother because she thought that it was Carnal Disneyland" thing I mentioned once. This means that she's what they call a covert pervert who's only angry because she's not invited to the fake, no-way, impossible donkey-bonking session she thinks exists outside of her cozy little bubble.

The nutmeg effect.

As you know, there used to be a one-season wonder animated series starring the Pattersons. Since Lynn seems to have had the same obsessive need to stay on message that destroyed her hopes of being a children's author, it was a lot like the strip in that we had the characters endure the same stupid crap for the same idiotic reasons. Since it is December, I should think that the Later Years segment of the Christmas episode should do as an example.

As you can see, the segment starts out in the kitchen with Elly preparing to make eggnog only to find that she's out of nutmeg. While John and Jim are vaguely sympathetic, they point out that lots of people do without it so it isn't a big deal; they do so in vain because Elly wants to make it a big deal because she keeps muttering that nothing is the same any more. After John and April put the star on the tree because Mike is on the fence about driving through a snow storm to get home from Uni, we have Elly make a big ugly fool of herself because Liz and April's playing a headache music Christmas song causes yet another fragile object Mike bought her for Christmas to get broken. Said breakage occurs because April stumbled into the tree to avoid the unpleasant phenomenon called "shouting blowhard mother making a big deal over nothing". An ugly scene between Liz and Elly transpires and Elly storms off to the kitchen after blubbering that nothing is ever the same.

After Liz and Elly go off to neutral corners, John explains what traditions are and Elly starts getting all sentimental about how Marian is no longer their to brainlessly nag her and how Mike's going to open his crap in the afternoon and that makes her sad. Jim quietly tells her that Marian is still sort of there because he and Elly still anticipate her constant stream of unsolicited advice and Mike's absence isn't the end of the world and she kind of chills when it's driven home that if she were to talk about a problem, it would go away. The problem is, of course, that learning morals is not something Elly does. Always and ever, her fear of being seen as being weak and silly makes her clam up and things fester stupidly.
The odd thing about the ice scraper incident is not that Elly looks like a big idiot standing around in a driveway being pointlessly upset because her need to show off how generous she is backfired on her. It's not that she won't admit that if she wanted the kids to park in the driveway while she parked in the garage, she should have said so instead of brainlessly assuming people read minds. It's not that she probably got pissed off at John when she caught wind of the fact that once again, he acted while she pouted and talked the kids into doing what she wanted because his doing things while she fumed made her feel like the idiot she is. The odd thing is that we could have predicted the whole damned thing decades beforehand when she was forced to shop for winter gear.

You see, next October, Liz comes in and tells Elly that her old snowsuit is too tight to wear. Elly's response is to panic because she bought the thing extra-big this year because she thought it would fit next year. Someone rational would realize that she failed to anticipate how Lizzie would grow and simply get a new one that won't rip all the hell to pieces. Elly doesn't do rational. Elly thinks that her children are deliberately growing larger than they should to make her life worse. Elly also doesn't do things to make her life easier. It would be dead easy to go to a nice consignment shop to save some cash and still get nice clothes they'd like to wear but she can't jolly well impress people that way. Doing the sane, convenient and responsible thing is what she does when she's exhausted all the stupid alternatives she uses to complicate her life. This means that she pretty much had to be a passive victim of the Housening because she would have been a big dumb obstacle to making people's lives easier.

Trivializing pursuits

Now, we know that the whole entire point of any arc in which Elly deliberately refuses to buy herself something nice in order to shame people is clearly to force us all to clutch dumpy idiot Elly to our collective bosom and cry bitter angry tears because her selfish children and husband spend money on themselves while being blinded to the fact that she too likes nice things. The problem is that we are also being asked to make them grovel pathetically for forgiveness because Elly doesn't actually tell them out loud that she likes nice things. They're supposed to know this without her having to say it and when people tell her that she has to say things to be heard, she whines that no one hears her anyway.

What she loses sight of is, of course, the fact that people are listening but don't especially want to because what she says doesn't make a damned bit of sense. From the dawn years in which she would rather save face than be a loving mother to the declining years in which she started bellowing about quitting motherhood at the first hint of disagreement, she's lived with the fear that no one takes her seriously. The problem is that people actually take her too seriously because she usually doesn't really know what's going on so can't have a valid opinion.

Mike, Dawn and the Petrol Fairy

The interesting thing about watching the Patterson children manage to bum a car from a parent is that how they pay for gas tells us how they'll handle money later on in life. About ten years from the current strip, we'll be dealing with the fact that Liz wound up paying for gas when she drove her friends around because she was too 'nice' to tell Dawn and Shawna-Marie that she felt as if they were taking advantage of her generosity. It mattered not that their idea of sharing the load meant paying for things at their destination, she really wanted to go Dutch but couldn't bring herself to actually say so. This means that present day Liz is probably eating big bills she doesn't want to pay because actively telling people that their behaviour is a bad thing if they have enough power to fight back.

Let's contrast her with her ugly brother. As we know, Mike never returned the car with a full tank because his experience was that it always magically filled up every time he got to use it. This is because the Delicate Genius doesn't understand that money he doesn't spend is really real to the person supporting his stupidity. As far as he knew, his parents were making unreasonable demands on him because they didn't believe in the Petrol Fairy. This blank-witted irresponsibility with money is, I should think, why he and Deanna were treading water until the family managed to get someone competent and male to take over his finances. While Deanna is smart enough to 'keep' her bum husband, he won't listen to her but will trust Gordon's pal....which means that the Settlepocalypse had to happen so that Anthony would want to be a bookkeeper for a moron.
About ten or so years from now, Elly uses April as a go-between to passive-aggressive John into buying her a new ride because her old beater finally gives up the ghost. While she trades up to a sports utility vehicle and John a sportier version of a station wagon, he'd floated an idea that irritated the Hell out of Elly worse than simply buying a new sports car while leaving her with said old heap: getting three cars. His idea was to get her the Mormon Assault Vehicle, himself a station wagon for hauling stuff and a sports car for when he wanted to have a bit of fun. This was a non-starter because all she saw was two adults, three cars and an open temptation for the Martian to do something stupid.

The reason that I mention this is that this is the solution to the artificial dilemma willed upon us by Lynn's having trouble dealing with great big numbers. While the Lynn of 1987 knew that she made more than Rod, she didn't know how much more so she had no idea what they could both afford; this meant that her inability to quite cope with large figures means that a stupid compromise is made in which John is stuck with a some-weather car and the certainty of conflict with Elly.

The law of unintended carsequences.

The interesting thing about the Pattersons and their relationship to motor vehicles is that for some odd reason, John and Elly make a point of making it next to impossible for their children to participate in their automotive world. What generally happened up until they managed to afford their own ride is:

1) Patterson child really needs to go somewhere.
2) Patterson child is forced to rely on the (illusory) good will of his/her mother/father to get there.
3) John and/or Elly act like surly jerks because they think having to unclench their sphincters and go somewhere they don't usually go at a time they're usually at home is some horrible sacrifice.
4) John and/or Elly bristle at the idea of letting the kids have access to transport of their own because of an exaggerated and/or mistaken belief that their children are trying to bankrupt them.

What John and Elly don't see (because they have not much in the tank brain-wise) is that their default refusal to see that their surly need to dictate how the kids get where they need to get is going to backfire on them. Mike's wanting to believe that the bus company is also going to charge the earth to get where he needs to go because adults like his dad want it that way is a symptom of John's short-sightedness. Elly's imbecile refusal to pay to fix Liz's car directly to her getting a motorbike so it too is a symptom of a Patterparent being a dimwit. Ah, well. At least they get their own back when she wants to impress strangers and jam it to Mira being generous. They put their cars in the garage and leave Mrs "Only MY Time Is Important" out in the driveway chipping away ice as she bellows like the idiot she is and brandishes an ice scraper like a sceptre of failure and shit-for-brains stupidity.
As I said yesterday, making a point of not seeing what they have in common with women who remind them of the things they hate about themselves is what binds the Patterson women. Had Lynn had the time and inclination, we'd have learned that both Deanna and Meredith make a point of not seeing that they are functionally identical to their sitcom arch-nemeses in order to shield themselves from introspection and reform. The reason that I reminded you of this is that they're bound legally, sort of emotionally and only nominally romantically to men who share the belief that they could not ever have anything in common with people who don't share their interests.

You'll possibly remember that I once said that John doesn't make friends with Elly's friends' husbands because he just can't picture himself as having a meaningful conversation with Steve, Greg or Keith. They aren't medical professionals so they couldn't possibly have anything useful to say to him or anything to provide him so he sits in his little bunker wondering why no one will play with a stand-offish jerk who doesn't meet people half-way. The only other friend he's got is Gordon Mayes because they both love cars. The odd thing is that Gordon used to be Michael's friend but for some reason, Mike wants nothing much to do with him.

This is because the same person who bristled at having to learn about hardware stores and other things that aren't about his narrow interest in churning out abuse porn has dropped the friends he had growing up because they want to waste his time talking about other things in favour of another artsy monomaniac who makes the Delicate Genius feel good about being a self-imposed idiot recluse.

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