Of course, Mira isn't the first person that the Pattersons have plotted against for a stupid reason. We're hip deep in watching Elly sigh and whine and complain because she wants to make a meal of how big a threat a girl she never bothers learning anything about is. Watching Elly be five seconds away from howling that her baby boy has stopped loving her because she's too fucking stupid and immature to understand that a person can love more than one person at the same time is kind of God-damned awful. What's worse is that it's kind of damned obvious that for reasons that will never be known, Dan and Bev are on Team Break-Up.
This is especially disgusting because they never think to question the tissue of lies and conjecture that issues forth from Bev's sister-in-law's biased mouth because their by-the-good-book chat about the emptiness of city living reveals an emptiness of their own skulls. All they know is that Mike let a dame get in the way of living his life right so he needs to be brought down to Earth. They never bother asking why Elly is angry and frightened because it never occurs to any of the people that the Pattersons use why they want to crush someone. The answer is always the same: the target actually deserves the thing a Patterson wants.
Now, to get back to why Danny is better than Fiona, let's examine the spray-painting strip. What happens is that Danny gives Mike instructions that contradict one another, goes away instead of making sure that he does something he's never done before properly and then criticizes him after he fails. This means that he's getting the same experience he gets at home. It also means that yet again, Don Cruikshank's reputation takes another body blow from a childish nitwit who doesn't really care about the damage she does with her strip.
That's because it's not just his avatar's being praised for being the same sort of negligent idiot parent John and Elly are that makes his credibility go sluicing down the commode. We also have to contend with the fact that he's depicted as being a bumpkin living in the eighteen fifties who spouts windy nonsense that makes him look like he's higher than a fucking kite. Hell, even Walt Wingfield of the "Letters From Wingfield Farm" series of plays would make fun of him.
The interesting thing about Michael's upcoming trip to the farm is we've just learned that it has less basis in reality that Lynn implied it did. This is owing to her recent confession that a lot of why she doesn't like Fiona is that she had to spend a week working tables at her aunt Margaret's restaurant about fifty years ago or so. While I have no real doubt that most of the objections John raised might have come out of her mother's mouth, actual exposure to the working class types who frequented the place appear to have somehow traumatized Lynn to an extent and could explain her otherwise baffling dread of the world outside her cozy suburban redoubt.
This is why we have to watch Mike stand there being lectured to about reading between the lines and farm life while watching bored people try to liven up their dull lives by dressing up the pork steaks of the future. Not only must her week of 'slave labour' bring back a lot of bad memories, her need to make Elly the most exciting character makes it mandatory that Mike not be exposed to colourful billiard hall patrons lest he outshine the Dullest Woman In The Whole Wide World.
As we know, this year's Valentine Dance arc is mostly about how Aaron needed to smarten up and stop strutting around like he owned the place. We get that hammered home when John gets all morose about how it's hard to keep up with a boy that can run faster than he can. This leads us to John's reason for agreeing with Elly's plan to drive a wedge between Mike and Name Escapes Me: his need to compensate for anaemic and inconsistent underparenting by going to a somewhat overweening extreme: packing the boy off to a far-away place to establish dominance.
This is because of a defect in John's character that he sees as a strength: his refusal to actually learn who the people around him are and what they want out of life. He's already decided who they are and why they behave the way they do so their being different people is clearly a slam against him. Learning that Mike sees him as a dour and unsympathetic presence who lives a life of pointless boredom and also as Elly's enforcer would lead to something perilous: his realizing that his own self-assessment is as off-base as his opinion of everyone else. Better to fulminate about attitudes and give the boy the vacation he'd like for himself.
Since we're about to be reminded why Lawrence is radioactive soon enough, I'd like to clarify my position on the stupid reasons Martha gave for not writing Michael. The first stupid reason is, of course, Lynn using Martha as a means of settling scores with classmates who she felt had deliberately slighted her because they hate her. When she's not standing around squealing that of course the popular girls want to steal all the boys because they want to laugh at her when her urn is planted in a maiden's forgotten grave because they all decided that Lindy Ridgway didn't deserve to be happy because popular girls are mean, she's pissed off at some boy she scared off acting the way she does. In this instance, Martha is being used to castigate some poor slob who wasn't that into the crazy girl who spent her youth flinging herself at anything remotely male that didn't move too quick for not keeping a promise to write that he'd never intended to keep in the first place.
The second stupid reason is that Martha claimed to be so intimidated by Mike's unreasonable facsimile of a writing style that she felt that he'd think she was an imbecile if she wrote to him in clear English that people could actually understand. This is nuts because it ignores their shared history of his making a paranoid and vindictive jackass of himself every time he handed her a note. Since he can't admit that he put too much stock in the opinion of a bunch of scruffy idiots who still hold him in contempt, it's easy for him to want to confuse her sharing a touching comment with her girlfriends with her sharing a good laugh at the monkey she's stringing along because he's not smart enough or self-aware enough to realize that his anger and fear of humiliation had the wrong focus.
What this means is that it made no sense for her to not write because his not being able to see what she was really doing is all the paranoia fuel a gloomy dope with a nightmare fantasy of endless humiliation based on a well-deserved self-hatred he can't admit to needed. We could see her being so clean, we could eat off of her and him going nuts making up incriminating bullshit. The problem is that we'd be asked to sympathize with the nutcase pulling the case against her out of his fat Tom Of Finland ass instead of the sitting duck antagonist because she'd be convicted by horrid wordplay about what absence really makes the heart do.
I think that this summer should stand out for one very bizarre and troubling reason: it's the only one in the strip's history that doesn't have Elly and John howl about the need to pack their kids off some place for weeks on end or arrange a really neat job John would really like that turns out to be a degrading slog no sane person should like to make'em suddenly wonderful by reminding them what hard work is. Granted, we get Elly delivering a mind-blowing speech about how Mike supposedly owes her and John for the air he breathes but that's about it.
The reason that this sticks out in my mind is because it's a reminder that for some reason, John and Elly are convinced that the kids are having a better time than they are and for sure, a far better time than they did and so does Lynn, it would seem. Since she's sort of weird and sort of thinks that her opinion is everyone's opinion, her attempt to depict the kids as being spoiled falls far short of the mark and makes John and Elly look like jerk parents screaming about nothing much at all.
This would be a minor irritation save for one factor: Lynn's strip seems to have become a sort of flypaper for freaks and monsters who smile and nod and tell themselves they're great people for insisting that John and Elly should occasionally fire off and wale the snot outta their kids for no reason at all just to show'em who's in charge. Since the lovers of appalling and irrational cruelty for its own sake will always be with us, Lynn will always have fans and admirers.
The irritating thing about Danny is that he assumes that people can't simply come to visit when they show up. This manifests itself as John complaining about having to thaw and replace plumbing and repair farm equipment when he wanted to take things easy. This tendency of his to impose back-breaking labour on people because his farm ain't no hippie commune is that his "you wanna eat, you gotta work" outlook on life extends to his kid. The end result of his being the jackass who makes his kid work at the family business to keep her out of mischief is that being made to feel guilty about not wanting to be a farmhand fills her with envy of those who don't have to live her life.
Said envy tends to explain her defensiveness when it's pointed out that her life looks rather bleak and boring as well as her shrewish ad hominem attacks on the cousins who play tourist on the farm of a Summer while she has to be there year round. Given Danny's being a bit of a dope and a lot of a throwback is that now that he's probably retired, he probably sold it out from under her without even considering if she'd like to own the place because of that Heir Club For Men thing he and John are rocking.
One of the things one must remember about Elly is her tendency to make a pleasant myth of painful experiences in order to avoid learning from the past. While it might look as if Michael is the only Patterson who was about to transmute the ridiculous and needless clusterfuck that was spending Christmas at a failing family farm in the coldest spot on the continent into a Hallmark Movie Of The Week, we have proof that somewhere in the next two and a half years from now, they'll come to the conclusion that what Mike needs to cure him of "defiance" (by which John means not agreeing with every stupid thing that comes out of his ignorant fucking yap quickly or cravenly enough) and "dangerous attachments" (by which Elly means associating with a girl she doesn't know) is to send him to the Magic Land of Wonder and Enrichment that is a dirt farm because absence has made the depressing stain on the map more delightful the longer they're away from it.
The reason that I mention this is that by the year 2007, it is quite likely that all of the Pattersons who bore witness to the horrid and preventable mess that blighted the Christmas of 1988 have let a fine haze of pea-brained nostalgia blur the past to a more pleasing and less teeth-grindingly stupid shape. Instead of remembering being cheek by jowl with dumbass hicks, they choose to remember the place as a sort of Xanadu filled with love and companionship. This is why, I should think, it made sense to everyone who wasn't April to just crowd into the Pattermanse like idiots and stay until Mike forced Elly to flee her home by waving his brats under her nose. This means that like a lot of stupid things, the Housening is really Danny's fault. If he were a better host, the Pattersons would remember a boring but pleasant time and be less inclined to recreate it.
As we know, Elly tends to hate it when either her mother or John's mother shows up when she's around. She doesn't mind telling the kids to mind their elders when she's not around but there's something about being no longer the eldest that just gets on her nerves. Said something is, of course, her having to take a back seat to Granny and being overruled at every turn. When she issues forth an ill-considered, inflexible and stupid decree because she thinks that the point of being a wife and mother is to say no to everything, she doesn't like having an older person coming along and setting aside her brutal commands.
The reason this is important over the next two or three weeks is that Elly happens to be a guest in someone else's house. This means that she cannot actually boss Laura around the same way she can tyrannize her own children because Laura isn't her kid and she's not actually in charge of anything other than telling people what other parents have decided. If someone else says something she disapproves of is okay, Elly has no choice but to lump it because what Someone Else says goes and that's wrong. What's also wrong is that she can't commandeer her niece's room and manage to bar her from it. Why, she even has to accept other people's judgment as to whether her children are happy and that's terrible too. This is why Exile Farm is some place other people get sent to: Elly can't cooperate unless she's in charge.
As we all know, all of the Pattersons have a terrible time when they go to Exile Farm. The kids have to endure Cousin Laura and her wall-to-wall bitchy moral superiority, Elly has to deal with the fact that despite what the media tells her, exposure to grain silos and barn yard animals doesn't ennoble people and John winds up becoming the farm hand he feared becoming. The reason that I mention this is that despite the fact that he really hates farm life when he's actually living it, John tells himself that people who live on the land are really lucky.
This is important for two reasons. Not only did he marry a city girl who also blanks out on how miserable she is on the farm, he has at least two children out there who look back on their purgatorial period of dealing with recalcitrant future meal options and the boorish yokels Elly and John think are better than civilized men and women with the same idiot gloss of sentimentality. Oddly enough, the only person sane enough to remember what a craphole the farm is went nuts in a different way and thinks Blandthony is Galahad.