Before I get to other characters who speak to Lynn only to say things that she doesn't want to hear, I'd like to talk about stories that she never really told. As we all remember, she made big promises for the new-runs that she never delivered on such as telling the real story of the Sobinski's move to Burlington. We can well imagine the horrible wailing about wanting to make herself happy and the horrible snarkertrolls who hate her and want to hurt her because that's what she thinks when she's told that she can't be awarded top marks for incomplete work that contradicts itself when she was told that she not only moved Deanna away in the stupidest manner possible, she'd done it too early.
Now, if someone competent who had enough pride to do it properly were to have handled the story, they would have made it quite clear that Mira is a different sort of sordid joke character: the domineering twit social climber who let her absurd chase for status and respectability break her relationship with her older daughter and bend it with the younger. The woman of the here and now probably looks back on her past with the same regret Lovey Saltzmann does owing to her prodding and pushing having no more results that children who don't trust her and peace of mind and happiness sacrificed on the heathen altar of social standing.
Said better, more patient author would also make it quite clear that Deanna is still too busy being mad at having to jump through hoops because of her mother's very real fear of being laughed at and referred to by any of the English language's fine ethnic slurs directed at Eastern Europeans to see her mother not as a monster trying to devour everything in sight but as fleeing a larger predator. This testy withholding of empathy would probably color how she explained her past to her children and how her finally forgiving Mike for letting the Guys influence his behavior was delayed fifteen years because her mother stepped all over a relationship being a big shot and ruining her health and everyone else's lives chasing an evil distracting star that kept her from the good life of being the happy wife of a humble tradesman.
As we all know, Lynn spent an ungodly amount of time five and a half years ago engaged in promoting the return of Farley to the strip. This is because one thing that she was aware of is that most of her fanbase remember one thing about him: his "heroic" exit from the strip. While it's true that we got a lot of mileage out of commentary about how everybody cried when he died saving April from her refusal to realize that she's not supposed to remember being lied to, it's also true that the people who expected him to be a sort of beloved fixture as well as a Canadian Content version of Lassie ended up being disappointed. After all, they had no way of knowing that Lynn used him as a means of expressing her belief that dogs are shaggy, stupid, smelly, dirty lummoxes who refuse to understand English no matter how sincere we poor, long-suffering pet owners are and are willed on us to keep us from the public sphere by cheating cheater husbands who cheat in the first place. I should think that this need to say "Dogs are stupid, right?" to a cohort of people who thought that Farley wasn't put on this Earth to be the butt of jokes about how having pets equates solely to Elly suffering because her family hates her soooooooooo much, they leash her to a stupid creature to keep her from expressing herself is pretty much most of the reason why Lynn's garage is filled with stuff she can't sell. They want to be part of the heroic legacy, not to aid and abet Lynn's need to avenge herself on something she had killed merely to avenge herself on her ex.
Well, we sort of got something close to what I expected on the strip for 31 October 2012. Granted, it was more of "John finds catering to the needs of his horrible children to be horrible" than "John gets hammered over the head with the fact that Elly has feelings too" but it was a pointless add-on to a plot that didn't actually need to have extra material added to it.
What it also is is a reminder that Lynn is still pretty much the same person she was forty years ago artistically. As the three collections she had published before she thought of fictionalizing her family life prove, her real strong point is creating mildly amusing single panel strips. She, of course, cannot admit this but anyone not married to a theory at the expense of his or her credibility can see, she's really good at coming up with funny images. What experience teaches us all is that she still does this but feels compelled to work backwards to see how the characters got to where they're going. The problem with doing it that way is that Lynn doesn't know a heck of a lot about the world outside her window and assumes that what little she does know doesn't need to be supplemented by real-life experience.
The end result of this being a know-nothing know-it-all who bristles at the suggestion that she do some research before writing her strip is to make it look as if the Pattersons live in a bizarre alternate world which only superficially resembles our own. In this weird world, three year old children run like Olympic sprinters instead of like real three year old children, trick-or-treating is a sort of race in which one has to compete with glowing white figures and treat bags are held in a manner that the candy is guaranteed to go flying all over the sidewalk.
We also wouldn't have to be reminded that Lynn can no longer draw her characters the way she used to and probably doesn't even know it. She clearly does seem to believe that the freakish little homunculus with the dot eyes, Muppet mouth and arms sprouting out of her neck is the same Lizzie is the one who hid behind the shrubbery in the preceding strip and that the horror freak whose skull seems to be spot-welded directly to his shoulders owing to the absence of anything like a neck is John. Heck, she doesn't even know who these people are any longer. I doubt that she can remember that Lizzie's defining trait is that she's terrified out of her tiny mind of new faces and new places and that John would rather forego a greaseburger than go the extra mile for his children.
About the only good thing to come out of it was the fact that the notes give us a hint as to her problem. It says a lot that her encountering a parent using the common-sense measure of bringing a wagon along with her to take her sleeping children home was regarded as both a never-before-thought-of thing and an act of genius. What her saying "Whoa, wow!" at something as predictable as a mom taking a precaution damned never everyone would take under the circumstances hints at the reason why Lynn still impresses me as being one of the moronic parents from Apaches: she seems to be constantly surprised by the bleeding obvious.
As you know, I've got a bit of the problem with the way the new-runs have messed up the chronology. It's sort of creepy, for instance, to have to realize that Lynn really does want the relationship between Mike and Deanna to have started in kindergarten of all places. You know and I know that that is somewhat on the sickening side but you can't tell her that.
That being said, the warped chronology does make all the whining that Phil is doing about Connie tossing him aside because Ted said jump make a damned sight more sense. In the original understanding of events, he'd tried to parlay a one-night stand into a romance because Connie, who he barely know, was a fairly proficient sexual athlete. When Connie turned around and went back to Ted, he didn't act like a regular dumb guy from the sticks and shrug off self-defeating behavior like he should have; what he did instead was act like a spoiled brat (Mike, for instance) and declare that she should die old and alone because she was interested in someone else.
In the new version of history, his antics look a lot more comprehensible; that's because the two of them had what he thought was a fairly solid long distance relationship that, for reasons that escaped him, went zippity-doo-dah when the distance was reduced to down the block. Outraged that familiarity led to ennui at best and contempt at worst, Phil's hostile over-reaction to Connie's equivocation makes a lot more sense. Granted, it's the sense that stopped clocks make but we have to hand Lynn this one; she sure didn't intend to but her stupid revisionist history made Phil less of an ass.
AS Lynn said in her many interviews on the subject, her plan was to interweave new-run material with actual old strips in order to add depth to the story. To that extent, she's still creating a hybrid strip but without the jumps in time that confused her readers. That isn't the only way that hybridization comes into play, though. The new-run artwork is, despite her honest belief otherwise, not a return to her old style but her modern-day self's attempt to imitate it. The love of silhouettes she recently developed didn't factor into the real classic material so its appearance last week means that she's sort of merged her old and new techniques into an unsatisfying mixture of the two. We also see that Young Elly is acting like her 2008 self in that she won't express doubt. This means her personality has hybridized too.
As we have learned, the strip for the thirty-first of August is supposed to show us what will happen to the Pattersons in the years to come. Since Lynn will probably be busy with the reload, howtheduck is right to assume she won't have time to write the Big Book of Destiny and thus must satisfy her itch to finish off her character's stories with a device borrowed from American Graffiti. She has also promised us that we'd be told what's happening to the Pattersons in the present day while she's subjecting us to the mother of all retcons. This tells me that we're going to be dealing with something I thought we'd get to snark last year: an annual Christmas letter that sums up what's going on in the lives of the characters so we can see how far along they are to reaching the ending Lynn has written for them.
It occurs to me that even Lynn realizes that beginning the reload at the very first strip is an absurdity. After all, the last year has been been loaded with examples of the first year of the strip so repeating material too closely might start to make her fans wonder why they're seeing the same strips over and over again. Her recent interview in which she boasts about the imminent "resurrection" of Farley tells me that she might have a different starting point in mind when the time freeze takes effect. Instead of watching the Pattersons buy a mattress of Liz's bed, we'll be seeing Elly and Connie yapping about how John and Mike's desire to get a pet dog is a means of chaining her to the house. The instinct to demonize Rod and Aaron by proxy is still there, it'll simply have a furrier expression.
As you know, the wedding date falls on if not the last, then one of the last weekends of Summer Vacation. There's a definite end-of-season feel to everything that surrounds the Settlepocalypse. After all, not only do we have the end of Liz Patterson and the beginning of Liz Caine, we have Robin and Françoise entering pre-school, Meredith going into grade one, April's senior year, John's reducing himself to one day a week of practice and, unless I miss my guess, Jim going to Sunset Acres. This means that Elly is the only person of consequence in the strip whose life isn't going through a sea change in the next four weeks because none of this really affects her in any real way. She doesn't have to pick up children from school, John will just spend a few more days in his workshop and Iris can take care of things from her end. Since Elly is only a supporting character in all these stories, it seems strange to me that the strip will end the way I think it will; I fully expect to see her sitting back reflecting on all the years that have gone by while she was standing around flapping, honking and complaining as if she were anything more than a frowny-faced bit player in her own life. Watching her belly-ache because she gave JSTF too much say in how she lived is going to remind me why I initially hated the characters; after all, the Reload won't last long enough to show us when they grew out of being jerks.
howtheduck made an interesting point today. As you know, she'd planned to end the strip last year only to miss her deadline generating false suspense as to who'd marry Liz. She also wanted to leave her other characters' story lines equally open-ended so as to create an audience for The Tome of Destiny. We were supposed to see the following branching-off points a year ago:
- April's garage band breaking up so she concentrate on her studies with the understanding that she will eventually marry her Twoo Wuv Gerald.
- Michael becoming a best selling author worried about becoming too big for his britches.
- Deanna balancing a career and motherhood.
- Liz and Anthony settling down to more or less become the new Elly and John.
- Jim and Iris spending their last years in an assisted living facility.
- John and Elly seeing Jim's poor health as a reminder that one day, one of them will have to take care of the other.
Since she gave herself an extra year, she had to find some way to force people's story lines back to the conclusion she'd decided on. To that end, we had the business last spring where April and Gerald had a spat over his touring with Evil Becky, the Blood Cargo ego-fest and more strips with Dee being gobsmacked. This is also why Jim had a second stroke. That way, his health problems would still be fresh in people's minds so they could believe in Lynn's attempts to revisit the recent past just as much as they do her rehashing the distant past.