dreadedcandiru2 (dreadedcandiru2) wrote,

Gobsmackery 101

Of course, Elly's being in a permanent stoop isn't the only thing that tells us a lot about her without having to have it explained to us. As I said long ago, her two default expressions when faced with situations she finds stressful tells us who Elly is without actually having to tell us. When Elly (or for that matter, any Patterson) sees something she doesn't like, we have to look at either the triangle-mouthed gasp of horror or the bug-eyed glare of existential horror.

The reason Lynn gives us for drawing over-the-top reactions like this is that she loves to exaggerate how people react to stressful situations. The problem that I have with this is that whenever we see the Foobs make cartoons of themselves, it's when faced with something that would elicit an irritated, world-weary sigh or bemused grin in normal people. When a small child makes a comment that he or she isn't 'supposed' to, we get the pole-axed ewe look. When Michael, Lizzie or April try to have fun with things instead of being as pointlessly, witlessly serious as the adults around them want them to be, Elly, John and Phil look as if they've just come across a crime scene. When Mike reminds Elly that no one actually thinks that she suffers in silence because she never shuts up about how much she does, she gets gobsmacked. What appears to be going on is the end result of the following cycle of behaviour:

  1. Action: An adult either does something, says something or expects something of one of the children.
  2. Unrealistic expectation: Said adult seems to assume that the child in question will not act like a child actually would.
  3. Interaction with reality: The adult in question sees the child behave like a normal child actually would.
  4. Existential Horror: Since the adult is too stupid to understand that his or her expectation is unrealistic, he or she stands there looking as if the child just shot him or her in the gut.

What Lynn loses sight of when she does this is that by constantly depicting her adults as being shocked, confused and horrified by normal and predictable behaviour, she implies that the characters are very stupid and emotionally fragile people who don't know how the world works, who don't understand that children are not tiny adults and who react negatively to surprises. That being said, this is not the only telling inappropriate reaction to non-events that tells us things about Elly that she doesn't know she's saying; the other reaction that she shouldn't have to things that aren't what she thinks they are is to unhinge her jaw and yell.
Tags: child rearing disasters, unfortunate implications theatre

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