dreadedcandiru2 (dreadedcandiru2) wrote,

On graceless behaviour and its origins.

Of course, what most annoys me about the way she used Keith Enjo is that in the majority of cases, he's used as an audience surrogate for the purposes of displaying disapproval of Michael's inability to behave in public. After all, most of the Early, Middle and early Later Years of the strip is dedicated to Elly's despairing of his ever going out in public without doing something that would make him look like a fool and her look like a bad parent. We're thus supposed to clutch the slouching old fool to our bosoms and cry bitter, angry tears that she did all she could to raise the boy right but still he makes an ass of himself. The problem is that she actually did all that she could and that's why he's a jerk.

First off, let's remember that she never seems to have ever realized that he and the other children are paying attention to what she does and why she does it. This means that he's come to the conclusion that the only reason that she minds his eating messily or wanting to blow off things that bore him when she does those same things is that she just wants to be a hypocritical jerk. Her obliviousness as as to how she sets a horrible example blinds her to the fact that if he's copying her, he's learning to be a short-tempered, whiny, ill-mannered jerk with a poor work ethic.

Second, we have to remember that he really doesn't know what Elly he's going to get and what her reaction is going to be to things. Will she explode into a blind rage at nothing, stick to her guns when it doesn't matter or just let him walk all over her because she doesn't want to be the heavy? Since cause and effect are divorced, he has no idea what to expect in a situation and doesn't understand that there are consequences for his actions. To him, it's all about waking the lion. Since he comes from an environment where punishment and reward depend solely on the caprice of his imbecile parents, he doesn't have any reason to improve his behaviour because it wouldn't be acknowledged anyway.

Next, there's the fact that when it comes to giving advice, he couldn't do worse than listening to his clod of a mother if he tried. As I've said before, the reason Liz sought out Miss Edwards is that she wanted a kindly voice that dispensed something Elly could not: common sense from someone with a functioning brain and an ability to learn from experience. The problem is that there is no such figure in his life. Instead, owing to a factor I'm about to get to, he always seems to seek the approval of people who only he would find impressive. This and a need to reassure himself that he meets an imbecile's standard of virility always leads to problems.

This tendency to blunder into a disaster he doesn't need leaves us having to cope with the fact that he's just as stupid as Elly herself is. Even if he were in a household where consistency and decency reigned, it's fairly obvious that Mike is one of the stupidest male characters to appear in the four-panel universe. As we see here, he's as capable of connecting his own behaviour to the way he's treated as Elly is capable of connecting her own panicky dread of spending time with her children lest her alleged brain atrophy from lack of use and the porch go unswept thereby causing the quality ladies to come over and shoot her in the face with a bazooka for failure with their belief that the only reason she wants a career is to get away from them. Since there isn't a social norm he's smart enough to recognize, he blunders his way through life looking for all the world like what he is: a boy-man too freaking dim to know when he's offending people.
Tags: child rearing disasters, elly patterson: universal imbecile., mike patterson: universal idiot

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