Tags: lynn: failed creator

Snarky Candiru2

On wasting perfectly good characters: Molly, Gayle and April

What a lot of people who follow the strip kind of don't remember because we were too busy watching Mike be a lousy boyfriend and Elly angsting because she was doomed to diaper pails and kindergarten at forty is that at some point between 3 November 1988 and 9 March 1993, Connie's step-daughters went from "being mentioned off camera" to "moving away from Milborough because reasons". This, of course, is owing to Lynn's belief that she had too many characters anyway....by which she seems to mean "she can't spend too much time not focused on the Pattersons' doings."

The reason that I mention this is that Lynn's shortcomings meant that she had to create a new character in order to implement the standard sitcom plot "adolescent child chafes under the rule of someone else's slightly older daughter" when Liz aims a fire extinguisher at one of John's employees six years from now. If she'd kept one of the Thomas girls around instead, we could have had wacky sitcom hijinx much earlier.
Cynical Candiru

Continuity gets sent to a "nice farm".

I think that it's fair to say that up until now, Martha has taken most of the initiative in her doomed relationship with Michael. If that passive shmo had his way, he'd still be standing around looking stupid wondering what it would be like if he actually spoke to her in real life. Save for one occasion, she has done all of the heavy lifting in her failed romance with the dreary turd: said occasion comes next Summer when she doesn't write him after promising that she would and he's left feeling gutted.

This is so Lynn could tell the very boring story of how much it still hurts that she got ghosted ages ago in hopes that the person who blew her off would, I dunno, realize that he's a monster who breaks sensitive hearts and hop into the nearest industrial shredder to make things right. This means that consistency in characterization has to be set aside as the non-importance it is to her so she can seek pity and validation and also complain about horrible people who say that she's misusing the verb "to vindicate."
Snarky Candiru2

Prepubescent, precocious and preposterous.

As I said last time, the reason we never see Molly or Gayle again is that Lynn decided that at twelve years of age, Michael was finally old enough a character that she would be able to nag Aaron about dating girls who gave her the creeps. Wile it was her own choice to send her son unsubtle messages about predatory girls with dangerous body language, it would have been slightly more plausible if the alleged gold-digger Elly panicked about the most were herself not a thirteen-year old slip of a girl. 

There are, of course, two reasons for this moronic fiasco. The first is the idiotic age gap she can’t or won’t admit that she blundered into by not bothering to pay attention to her immediate surroundings. She’s probably convinced herself that she planned ll along to  make her characters three years younger but persuing the catalog and remembering her need to have the Patterson children do age-inappropraite things because she wanted to  rebuke Aaron and Katie right then and there make that a lie.

The second is that she always seems to have needed a male companion even when she was in her first decade of life. While her peers were fearing cooties and ickiness, Lindy Ridgway had it in her head that she wasn’t worth the effort of feeding if she didn’t have a man in her life all her life. This mental peculiarity led to her angrily over-reacting and banishing Deanna for a decade because someone told her something she didn’t want to hear about how normal people behave.

Snarky Candiru2

Kidlit April: a warning.

As we all know, Lynn has made vague comments about projects that never materialize owing to her being done telling the Pattersons' story and not being especially interested in anyone else doing so. The reason I mention this is that in a recent interview, Lynn announced that she'd vaguely sort of like to do a series of books about April's little garage band and its ups and downs. While she was predictably all over the map about what would happen, who would make it and (since most kids don't actually know who the Hell the Pattersons are) who it would be for, it seemed to her that it might be fun to somehow get today's headache-music loving kids interested in real books somehow. The problem is that I can foresee three perils she might not.

The first such peril relates to her insistence on freezing April in place as a high school student. We happen to know that if Lynn had her druthers, the youngest would be Aypo forever and we also happen to know that Lynn's fragility in relating to her children seemed to have reached its peak when they were in their teens. Factor in her self-satisfied ignorance of what goes on in today's world and need to look at children through the eyes of a reproving old lady filled with fear and hate and you'll realize that a potential reader might be attracted by how completely off the wall her look at what she thinks day to day life is like. It would be as if she were to try to pass off a Road Runner cartoon as a documentary about wildlife in the US Southwest.

The second and third perils are, so to speak, brother and sister and relate directly to her blinkered vision of what constitutes proper behaviour. First off, we'd have April's insane jealousy of Becky go pretty much unopposed by anything like reason, decency, integrity or anything bad that limits Lynn's need to meet anything like disagreement with maximum force. The sitting duck antagonist would be accused of any number of crazy evil things while such accusations would have no more solidity than Liz's claims that she wasn't a spoiled brat who slipped and fell on her arse because being told to behave with something approaching decorum made her too angry to look where she was going but the victim of evil career woman French person mind powers.

Now that we've made of Becky someone who's totally a monster because April's totally not jealous or insecure despite both such traits being betrayed by her choice of language, let's point out the third, crucial peril: sanctifying John and Elly's emotional and physical absence from the plot. I remember that in one of her retcons, Elly dismissed the attention Becky's parents were paying her as the same sort of family politics that inspire Mira to somehow intrude on Mike's life instead of letting the Pattersons' sacrifices pay off. This tells me that it's going to be seen as being good and noble of Elly to be a distant and disapproving presence that is as afraid of participating in her daughter's life as Lynn is of being an actual grandmother. At some point, Lynn would be made sad and angry when it's asked where John and Elly are when April needs them when it's clear to her that doing so would mean that they'd lose family politics and be their child's servants.
Snarky Candiru2

Further discontents of mystery illnesses....

Of course, we don't need the fact that Lynn had no real idea what to do with April after she stopped being able to write cute kid strips as a reminder that she really doesn't have any idea of what she's doing. The current arc serves that purpose just as well. If you'll allow me, I'd like to list the features common to both Lizzie's Mystery Fever Of Melodrama™ and the shabby way that the Pattersons treated the unfavorite third child.

The first common feature comes to us from the notes; that's because Lynn said that she had never actually had to send a child to hospital with an illness. Since she isn't really all that good at imagining what people do when she never did it, we end up with parents who sit home like uncaring idiots while their sick, frightened child wonders why she's been abandoned. This is like how April thought she was going to end up locked in a dungeon because Lynn couldn't imagine John and Elly actually talking to her. In both cases, Lynn never actually bothered sitting down and wondering what people would do and decided to have them do what she would. Since she doesn't seem to understand the social norms that apply, the result is rather off-putting.

The second commonality proceeds logically from the first; this is because we have Lynn not really understanding what it looks like when Elly acts as if doing the bare minimum to qualify as a decent human being is some sort of heroic sacrifice. It's as annoying to think that Lynn wants us to praise Elly for being a hero for sitting in the waiting room while Lizzie still cries for Mommy as it will be when she declares that Elly "understands' April when she tells her that she's not upset about what she's upset about.

Finally, we have to contend with the fact that Lynn has a strong aversion to having to care about people in genuine need. Whenever the conversation veers towards the subject of sick relatives, Lynn tends to lavish praise on people who don't ask her to feel bad for them. There are two reasons for this appalling tendency of hers. The first is that her own fear or being weak and dependent tends to make her think that people who are weak have somehow committed a crime and thus aren't worthy of her attention. The second is that said awful people are trying to impose on her and make her weaker than they are when they have no right to do so. This means that Lynn has criminalized compassion and empathy because she wants all the sympathy for herself.

The end result of all of this is that she never reused this sort of storyline because she did not get the results she both expected and wanted. Instead of getting letters lavishing sympathy on John and Elly for having to take care of some stupid kid who went and got herself sick, she ended up with a lot of letters that angered and confused her about how sad they were for Lizzie and how angry they were that John and Elly weren't doing enough.
Snarky Candiru2

The real reason for kid strips......

I wish it hadn't happened the way it did but the "Mike gets locked out" arc ended the way I'd expected it would. Instead of Elly reassuring Michael that no one intended for him to end up getting locked out or admitting that maybe he should have a key or something, John made a comment about Mike's nose being out of joint that Lizzie overheard and thought meant that Mike's nose was somehow askew. It thus ended not with a bang or a whimper but with another in a long list of cheap, stupid and juvenile sight-gags foisted on us by the adult child in charge of the strip. This, I think, is why she wanted to have a new child in the strip so badly back in the early nineties. It would seem that even her gushiest fans allowed as how Liz was too old for stuff like that; thus came April and her arrested development and thus came Meredith and Robin. Had the strip continued, we could have looked forward to James Allen taking things far too literally for his own good in the service of a questionable joke.
Snarky Candiru2

Deanna and Anthony don't really exist: Official.

As you may or may not know, Lynn made a very interesting admission in a recent Lynnsight. Said admission is that there is no one she knew of corresponding to the Deanna Sobinski Mike had a crush on in grade school. The Deanna he didn't want to sit next to while having egg breath is, as one could probably expect from a mildly rigorous analysis of Lynn's methodology, a sitcom character shoved into the strip so as to give Mike conflict.

The problem is that most of Aaron's peers didn't understand that there was no "real" Deanna any more than they understood that Liz's inability to pick up on the signals Anthony was sending her was a recap of Lynn's courting Rod and had nothing to do with Kate. This sort of thing led to them having, as she put it, "problems." Since Lynn really doesn't seem to overly concern herself with any down side to her work owing to her lovely tendency to bleat that it's just a comic strip when she's called out for screwing up people's lives, it's safe to assume that her children joined Rod in being told to suck it up already.

Snarky Candiru2

The art of not thinking about things.

Part of the reason that Lynn didn't quite understand why people questioned how heroic Anthony was supposed to have been is that she doesn't seem to spend a lot of time thinking about the broader implications of what she does. Unlike Rumiko Takahashi and her response of "I don't think about such things and neither should you" when confronted with the horrifying implications of some of the things she's written, Lynn isn't actually so frightened of having to work out how her gags would play out in the real world that she wills herself to not follow the logic to its disturbing conclusion. She actually isn't seeing a problem with what she does because thirty seconds after she steps away from her drawing board, her short-term memory goes blank.

This inability to remember the past marches hand in hand with the assumption that everyone else has a memory like a sieve. Lynn's suppressed anger at having things she's said in the past brought up is combined with confusion because, well, she's upset that people seem to remember things. This sort of not really thinking and not really remembering is thus another factor that makes the notes an exercise in confusion. Not only do we have to deal with things that only make sense to her, we have to contend with her inability to remember why she did things.

One of the things that she seems to have failed to remember is (as forworse implies) that she even had a character named Janice to play with in the first place. By the time she got done hammering the kids over the head with the fact that they should be grateful that John and Elly feed, clothe and house them and us over the head with the fact that John is an insensitive brute, the concept "tomboyish foil" seems to have vanished from her brain. This, along with an antipathy to tomboys I'll discuss later, is why the next time a girl named Janice appeared, she was more of a real girl.
Snarky Candiru2

The pacing failure of Lynn Johnston

As we’ve seen before, Lynn loves to retell the same annoying non-joke in which she contrasts the enthusiasms of a child with how poor, down-trodden Elly cannot be allowed to enjoy anything but instead is expected to work and work and work without any hope of assistance, gratitude or recognition. Time and again we are forced to watch Mike, Lizzie or April boast about how great it is to have a holiday in which they do not have to work when in the presence of a long-suffering mother who is not permitted to do so and who isn’t really being thought of as working at all. This irritating exercise in whining about how Elly’s ungrateful, selfish, cruel and oblivious family will finally start to realize how hard her life was and how much she did for them when they’re noting that it’s been twenty years after she died would be bad enough if Elly were only groaning under the weight of one onerous task. What generally happens is that we see her doing a different back-breaking job in each and every panel. This need to hammer home how hard Elly’s life is and how she seems all but invisible to her family has a high cost in that it makes her children look as if they take forever to complete a sentence. After all, what we see is an offspring coming up to Elly, saying something about how great it is to be on vacation and immediately forgetting what he was going to say only to remember the rest of it a longish while later. 

Snarky Candiru2

A panel too far......

Here's an interesting little experiment that the people on the Foobiverse suggested the other day: take a typical daily supplement of Foobery and chop off the fourth panel. What generally happens is that John and Elly's IQ rises about fifty points and they no longer look like idiotic, bipolar lunatics who scream verbal abuse at the baffling, malevolent little strangers who appeared from parts unknown and seem to exist to confuse, defy and mock them. Without that fourth panel, they turn into the normal suburban family that Lynn and Kool-Aid Nation falsely believe them to be.

This is because Lynn does something that we see entirely too much of: imitating something that pleases her without understanding what she's doing while thinking that what's really just an option is an iron-clad law. Just as she draws hovercars because she thinks that there's no other way to show that a car is in motion, she ends her strips with her characters yelling like idiots because Sparky did it. What she doesn't understand is that there's a huge difference between Charlie Brown bellowing because Lucy made a sap of him and Elly hollering in blind rage because Mike wonders how long a lecture is going to last. In the first instance, we have a messed-up, gloomy eight year old thinking that the world is going to end because another screwed-up eight year old thinks it's funny and cute to be a malicious little shit. On the other, we have a tetchy bully hollering because someone she's dominating isn't cravenly grateful to be told what a disappointment he is and doesn't immediately agree that he owes her every penny she ever spent on him (as well as a rate of interest that would stagger a Mafia loan shark) because his need for attention and love was far too intolerate a burden for a thin-skinned narcissistic bitch like her to bear.

The problem, of course, is that Lynn believes that the joke is that two entitled, thin-skinned sourballs are embittered by the fact that other people insist on defying them which causes them to bellow at weak, powerless people for wanting to live on their own terms. It takes a special kind of angry, childish and clueless maniac to think that breathing fire at sitting ducks for not knuckling under quickly or cravenly enough to monstrously selfish people is at all humorous and it would seem that Lynn is that maniac.