Tags: john needs vitamin stfu

Snarky Candiru2

The world of cardboard cutouts: John's wiring problem.

As you know, I love to point out that I really think that Lynn made a mistake not skipping over 1979 all together and thus avoiding the new-runs and hybrid and all that other confusing stupidity that drove people away. If this had happened, we'd be on the other side of another annoying and stupid incident in which John's letting stereotypes do his thinking for him made his and everyone else's life worse. Said incident is his balking at remodeling the kitchen and getting rid of all of the clapped-out old appliances that burn food and make it unpalatable. John spent entirely too long moaning about the horrible expense of renovations he could easily afford because he's a moron programmed to think that while he, a doorknob who wastes money on toys, is practical and clear-headed because he's a dude, Elly just pisses money away despite the evidence of his senses because she's a woman. It's obvious that Trash Bag Johnny still has no clue what a cheapskate he married because his brain isn't wired to get to know people.

Since John isn't designed to really get to know the people around him and since his brain replaces the insight it isn't built to process or comprehend with cardboard cutouts, he not lives in a world where he, the practical man wanted to keep Elly from spending them all into the poorhouse because silly women Don't Know The Value Of A Dollar is surrounded by irritating people who want to tell him he's wrong all the time, he also lives in a world where other people come along and tell him that he isn't the long-suffering father of baffling and disrespectful children who need his firmness but instead an out of touch old coward who hides in his shed playing with toys rather than get to know who they are and what they really want because of his fear of actually being the bad guy. That would make him the one cardboard character he doesn't want peopling his world: the moron antagonist who blunders his way through life not knowing what he's talking about.
Snarky Candiru2

The three hardest words to say: "I am wrong."

Now, to get to why John acted so gracelessly to the proposed solution to the problem of Farley rooting through the trash, we have to remember two facts. First, he'd wasted time and made a fool of himself solving a problem that didn't exist. Second, he didn't like the idea of adopting someone smarter's solution for an easily understandable reason: he didn't like being reminded that he's not a very smart person and tends to screw things up left to his own devices.

You see, when Red Green points out that the three words men find hardest to say are "I don't know," he knows that they're usually accompanied by three words men find impossible to say: "I was wrong." John was wrong about why the garbage got scattered over the curb, he was wrong about how to solve it when he did learn and he's wrong to get angry at Farley because he doesn't understand that Elly is making canned food into a problem. Where he's most wrong is not admitting that he's wrong because of that stubborn male pride thing. Simply put, his belief that admitting to making a mistake is far worse than the mistake made keeps him from learning from his mistakes and primes him to make worse ones.
Snarky Candiru2

On why Will laughs at John.

As we all know, one of the hallmarks of the adolescent is the belief that no one on Earth can understand what it is to be him or her owing to the fact that said child doesn't have the life experience required to understand what other people understand nor really overly much the ability to think things through. This means that most of why Molly and Connie failed to get along is Connie taking offense to Molly's angry comment about how she'd forgotten what it was like to be young and in love. This is, of course, pure D twaddle because like Elly, Connie does remember what it was like to be young but has simply learned the wrong lessons. Elly has learned to be angry at all the popular girls and Connie has learned that she wants to be Elly.

If Molly wanted to encounter someone who's forgotten what it was like to be a kid, she should actually be talking to John. While he does vaguely remember not being a social lion and feared that no one really liked him much, he's usually found running around wondering why his children feel moody and alienated when he was himself a groovy, upbeat kid instead of the sullen, unhappy goof angrily telling his folks that no, they don't remember what it was like to be a kid. Eventually, his dad has to remind him that he too was a moody pinhead saying crap like that. The interesting thing is that after this happens, Will Patterson laughs at his son for a reason that escapes John. The reason is that Will has just learned that bushwa about forgetting being a kid can actually happen and isn't just crap kids who don't know better say; funnier still, it happened to the pompous noodle who told him that back in 1968. Since John is kind of stupid, this sails right over his empty head.
Snarky Candiru2

The lecture helmet.

As we know, John has it in his stupid head that his children have bad attitudes and don't know the value of work or money and need to learn to respect their elders and be grateful and admit that they owe Mommy and Daddy for the great big freaking favor they're doing them putting food in their bellies, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. Since he's sort of dumb and, as I've suggested before, can hear a story about children working in factories and come away with the impression that his kids are lazy and won't pay their own way because they're selfish, he needs to come up with a way to brow-beat them into not noticing that his thinking is wrong, anti-social and self-serving.

The boring lecture about the mining helmet he gets his dad to send Mike tells us that his path to getting them to not realize that he and Elly have a duty of care and should thus be horsewhipped for suggesting otherwise is to make them feel bad about the truth. Just as he lectured Lizzie about how bad she was feeling bad about something that she could actually do something about by invoking a problem too entrenched for a middle school girl to fix, we're going to get an annoying lecture about how hard Will worked in the coal mine and how he needs a reminder of the great guy who knew the value of honest work and so on into the guilting his son into thinking that a horribly soppy present is the sovereign goods.
Snarky Candiru2

John versus kindergarten graduations.

As we've all guessed, the kindergarten graduation reminds us that part of Elly is the part of Lynn who thinks that children are tricking her into attending events that really don't mean anything no matter how much they behave otherwise because she doesn't want to be there. The interesting thing about that is that we eventually reveal the part of her that resents her children for having things she never got; the part of her that outs her as Mrs Begrudgery is, of course, John.

As this strip indicates, John says he is against April's graduating from eighth grade to the freshman year of high school (or, to put in in Canadian English, from Grade 8 to Grade 9) because he doesn't believe the transition from middle school to high school is especially worthy of attention. This is very interesting and very telling because the whole "in my day" experience is pretty much a dog-whistle sort of deal.

This is because whenever someone runs his mouth about how things were different in his day and children weren't so soft and didn't have so much handed to them because it makes them ungrateful, what's really going on is that Daddy hates the fact that he didn't get a party when he was a kid and can't abide the idea of someone getting something he wasn't allowed to have. He poses as a guardian of the traditions but deep down, John is a mean-spirited child mewling for toys he cannot have. The sad thing is that he achieves the near-impossibility of having less self-awareness than Jerome "It MUST be the PC police hounding me because the scary alternative is that I was never all that funny to begin with" Seinfeld, Esquire and thinks of himself as an exemplar of common sense.
Snarky Candiru2

On how John keeps fooling people....

It seems to me that what I said about Gordon being tricked into following along with the plans of someone who isn't really what he seems to be is due to two factors that need to be expanded on. The first of these is that with the Gordon Mayeses of the world, there is no substantive difference between the private and public versions of his persona. Since Gordon is the same man in public that he is at home, he assumes something that he probably should not when he assumes that two-faced people like John who don't deserve the praise they get don't actually exist.

This means that it turns out that you can cheat an honest man like Gordon if you manage to present yourself properly. The same Gordon who looks at Liz and sees someone who needs to be pushed into getting what she's supposed to get because she is someone who needs to have her destiny guided because she won't do it on her own is sort of defenseless in the face of manipulators like John and Anthony who are able to hit hot buttons to make him do their bidding.

Not, of course, that they give themselves the name 'con artist' or 'charlatan' or 'suburban Machiavelli.' The second factor that must be considered is that John thinks that he's the straight-shooter salt of the earth friend to everyone that the public falsely believes him to be and Anthony looks in the mirror, sees the sunken-chested and heartless whining imbecile we see and thinks he's the go-getter he's said to be. After all, the best con men in the world always end up being their own best mark.
Snarky Candiru2

Further notes on the gratitude issue.

As we saw last Sunday, Lynn has issues with gratitude in that she doesn't think that she gets enough of it and people who expect it expect too much of her. What she tends to not remember is that since all of her characters are aspects of her own psyche made to wear the forms of people she knows, she tends to reveal a certain hypocrisy in that the Pattersons never seem to want to admit that things cut both ways.

It seems to me that John's reactions to receiving and having to express gratitude tell us pretty much the whole story in that one little strip. As we saw, he exploded in a sort of blind rage because he believed that he didn't get the level of gratitude he actually deserved while (as always) ended up being utterly dismissive of Elly's equal struggle on his behalf. What I believe to be going on inside his and everyone elses' head is that he thinks too damned highly of himself and not enough of those around him. Despite his (and Lynn's) obvious belief otherwise, it just isn't possible for someone to sustain the sort of groveling gratitude that he clearly expected of Michael without turning into someone who can't function in society. It's as absurd as Elly's belief that Mike's silly little crush on Martha would naturally be followed by them dropping out of junior high and living in sin or John's own belief that praising people for doing what they're supposed to do would somehow turn them into selfish monsters.

What he and the others don't realize is that this explosive over-reaction to not getting the absurd level of deference they expect of those around them and the accompanying tendency to withhold thanks out of entitlement and a fear I'll get to later is that it resulted in men and women who can't thank people because of an instinctive belief that praise and gratitude are traps meant to lead one to being yelled at for being insincere. Not, of course, that we can expect John to admit this. Since the dumb-ass doesn't admit to having a violent temper, a blinkered and self-serving view of his family and a seemingly bottomless level of resentment, he'd be as ready to admit people are right to see him as a humorless, tyrannical ogre as he and everyone else would admit that people who are better than they are at things aren't doing to with the specific intent of mocking them. More on that tomorrow.
Snarky Candiru2

On not letting things sink in.

As we know, we're coming up to a bit of a break in the "Elly assists John" arc to remind ourselves that once again, Mike is struggling at school because percentages and decimals and all the other stoopid numbers make no sense. As you might also recall, I speculated that Mike might have an organic disorder that prevents him from understanding that one hundred percent of anything will always be all of everything; I went so far as to get banned from Coffee Talk by alluding as to how two plus two equaling four every time (instead of being three, seven, R or tangering) was the same sort of unaccountable miracle birth and death are.

The odd thing is that John himself inadvertently disproved this notion by marveling at a tendency to not let a fact he didn't feel like hearing sink in that he himself demonstrated. We get a further hint as to why Mike doesn't seem to make much headway with mathematics later on when another wise-ass who thinks that school is all about only doing things that please him when Liz's overseer tells her flat out that Dylan's math grades are in the cellar because a child has to actively want to understand math in order to do well.

We thus have to deal with the possibility that Michael simply suffers from a mental block that prevents him from wanting to understand math because it's hard and it's not fun and it's too much like work and life is supposed to be easy and fun ALL the time. It's akin to how John has a mental block that prevents him from understanding that it's not woman hormones that make Elly feel as if her life has no meaning because that would make him a bad guy who welched on a deal because he believed in a fairy story about some fake, impossible, bull-shit and non-existent thing called a maternal instinct that magically makes women love domesticity because he's too stupid to understand that his mother wasn't a grinning robot who mindlessly baked socks and knitted cookies. She CHOSE to do so because it pleased her and besides, someone had to. John can't allow himself to listen to complaints that require him to be a less self-serving dick because he can't face the possibility that he actually IS a self-serving dick.
Snarky Candiru2

On wondering what people have to talk about.

I can't remember quite when but a while back, I wrote something about how little curiosity Elly and Lizzie had about what the other person could possibly have to talk about. The underlying assumption of that is that nothing that a child could be doing could possibly matter to adults while children tend to have no curiosity at all about what real people do. The reason that I mention that is that the men in the strip tend to have their own idea as to what women talk about: them.

As this strip in which John tries telling himself scary social change that would cause him to suddenly become an insensitive and selfish oaf cruelly holding his wife back because he's selfish and hateful hasn't taken place so he isn't a grunting, knuckle-dragging ape indicates, he firmly believes that while he talks about important things, silly women have nothing better to do than to pick apart the men in their lives because that's what media tells him. Meanwhile, no one has less to say about anything important than John does because he's got a huge case of head up the ass. From blathering about how Mike magically owes his parents a living to running his stupid mouth about what a great guy someone he can actually intimidate is, John needs to meditate on this bit of wisdom from Red Green: "you have nothing to say....stop talking."