April 29th, 2014

Snarky Candiru2

On the fear of sympathy.

If you've been paying attention to the Pattersons as long as I have, you'll have noticed that the number of strips where someone offers anyone sympathy can be counted on the fingers of one hand. It seems to me that Panel Two of this installment of the "Liz takes third-hand gossip from people with an axe to grind as gospel" arc says it all. On the one hand, we have a woman suffering the heart-ache and torment of post-partum depression and on the other, a jackass who not only doesn't understand why she's in such a wretched state or that it isn't all in her hear or that she isn't a horrible person for not being what his narrow, empty mind says she's supposed to be, he seems terrified of offering his wife sympathy.

This seems to be as Pattersonian as bludgeoning children over the head with the "Needlessly inconvenience yourself or we can't love you" thing. It seems to me that the Pattersons are horrified by the prospect of trying to console the ailing in their vicinity. The reason Anthony tried to blame everything on Thérèse for wanting things women just shouldn't is the same reason Eva Warzone has for talking about refugees as well as the same one John and Elly use to justify their insane need to never really listen to their children. Lynn's mock wisdom about complaining being good for you unless you're doing so to the person you've got a problem with hints at why as well. Simply put, the Pattersons never want to console people because they're terrified of realizing that what they're doing is actually wrong and harmful. As an example, Elly doesn't want to reassure Mike that it isn't the end of the world if he isn't great at the trumpet because it would mean giving up the delightful vices of panicking over nothing to feel all big and important and assuming that he's out to destroy her in order to not admit that she's not some sort of special snowflake that everyone wants to keep down because she's too cool to be allowed to live free.

Elly also doesn't want to live in a world wherein the obviously unimportant and meaningless things her children do can be said to matter or wherein their feelings can be hurt because that would mean something just as terrible and wrong. Not only would it mean that she is a crappy parent who treats good kids like crap out of selfishness and malice, it would also mean that she's partway responsible for the chaos that baffles her.
Snarky Candiru2

Elly: The daughter Mrs Baird wanted but didn't actually need.

Remember the other day when the Patterson children made a big show of 'adopting' Mrs Baird? While we questioned the sincerity and usefulness of the gesture, what wasn't covered is how Thelma saw the Pattersons. From her earliest appearance in the strip to her last arc, it seemed obvious that she saw Elly and the others as filling a vacuum in her life that she was 'supposed' to have. Since all women in the Foobiverse are supposed to want children lest they be evil, spidery, man-eating career women who plot to make poor Liz die alone and unloved and never, ever in a position to pay her poooooor parents back, Elly was seen as being God's way of giving Thelma the daughter a cruel fate denied her. Finally, she could have someone to pass her wisdom down to like a woman is supposed to.

The problem is that Elly was as ready to receive her wisdom as she was her own real mother's. The same child who did a very bad job of observing and accurately Marian's methodology owing to a combination of impatience, inattention and her stubborn fear of being corrected grew up to become a tended to tune out Mrs Baird when the kindly old lady archetype talked about boring and wrong stuff about how maybe Mike should be allowed to get things that benefit him when it was obvious that the only benefit Mike should derive out of life was the knowledge that he was making his mother's life better. It's also not as if she was a more dutiful child in other respects. She made a vague promise to look in on Thelma's gentleman friend after the woman passed on but she never did because that would be too much like work. Simply put, Thelma would have done better to stick with her dogs. They aren't always bumming money or getting snippy when you tell them that they're making a mistake raising their kids.