Tags: the shape of foobs to come

Snarky Candiru2

On learned behaviour and the exile of children

That last strip I linked to yesterday hints at a problem that John and Elly both seem to have: their inability to own up to the fact that the children are modeling themselves after the two of them. While Lynn is willing to admit that just perhaps the reason that Mike, Liz and April Pattersnarf because John and Elly also eat messily and that maybe Lizzie and April can parrot her, that seems to be as far as it goes as far as acknowledging that maybe John and Elly should have set better examples for their children if they wanted desirable behaviour from them.

What this tells me is that were we to look in at the present day, we could well be watching Mike and Deanna packing Meredith and Robin off to summer camp because they too are at their meagre wits' end in dealing with two placid children who don't know what to do with their time because one parent is too tired and the other two fearful to interact with them. What makes things worse is something else I predicted: Mike will end up being cravenly grateful to be underparented by idiots.
Snarky Candiru2

Cramming To Get Into Heaven: a proposal.

As we know, John has a very hard time interacting with his children because he shares the counterproductive and stupid belief that if he and his children have the least bit of a difference of opinion, the offsprings are arguing with them and must be punished for defiance. We also know that the two dimwitted yuppie jackholes either grumble about being misunderstood by meddling outsiders or reveal their true colors when they scream and yelp about how they've been backed into a corner by the unstoppable menace that is a bunch of placid children who use their free will to see the world the way they see it, not how their parents wish they would.

We also remember that John shares with Elly a default mistrust in the honesty of his children. Somewhere along the way, the collection of folk beliefs, misapprehensions and self-serving shibboleths that comprise what he oh-so-charitably refers to as a mind wound up containing the concepts "Children can't be trusted to see the world properly" and "children are only truthful when they're in pain". This, along with his refusal to see that he's a self-serving, oblivious, heartless, boorish, foul-tempered, callous, bullying piece of crap, tends to make him a brute of a father who thinks that he's respected rather than feared. Quite simply, he can't remember any occasion in which he might have been in the wrong let alone have anything to apologize for. Where Elly can look back and allow herself to admit that just possibly her life would have been easier if she didn't behave as if her children were trying to destroy her, the rat bastard idiot she married is sort of smug about his legacy of cheap shots, deceit and threats.

The fun thing is that this idiot thinks that while other parents have made horrible mistakes and should atone to their kids for acting like they were under the gun when they clearly weren't, we ended the strip without his ever having realized that he's got a lot of crap to live down. Given that Jim and he are a lot alike and Jim turned out okay in the end, there is a fairly good chance that the same man who eventually realized that Elly might just have a point about how housework is an overwhelming burden might figure out that he could have handled things better when his children were smaller.

The way I see it happening is that sooner or later, he's going to blunder into a mild difference of opinion that's quickly escalating into a pointless screaming match. Michael will have it in his fat head that one thing happened, Meredith will say quite another and, since Mike has internalized John's self-serving belief that "disagreement is defiance", what could have been a non-event is quickly mutating into Michael losing his shit because his child doesn't admit that because Daddy says it, two plus two is five. Let's also say as a for instance that John saw what happened and that it happened the way Meredith said it did, not in the way that would allow Mike to win all the time. Hearing his own arguments used to steamroll a child into admitting that she's a bad kid because Daddy has to be right all the time or the world will spin off its axis coming from the child he used to spar with might just give John pause to reflect.

Should this happen, we'd have him realize "CHEE! Mike looked as if he thought admitting that Meredith was right would mean that he could never be right again. That's weird; it's almost as weird as how he can't seem to allow himself to be laughed at. I wonder why the expression on his face looked so familiar, though. Maybe if I were to look at some old photos and home movies, I could figure out how he got to thinking something that freaking dumb."  Given that at that point in his life, the pressures he wasn't handling well and displaced onto his family would have abated, he wouldn't be able to view the events he saw through the distorting lens of panic and see someone who shared something with his wife: a need to blow things out of proportion because he seemed to have thought that he was alone in feeling inadequate.

Since it isn't in him to run around like the Ancient Mariner on the rare occasions when he realizes that he's responsible for the mess his life is, we can probably look forward to Mike, Deanna, Liz and Anthony having to contend with what they see as an old fart undermining their attempts to establish order and what everyone else would see as another old dude who was trying to make up for bad parenting by being a voice of reason.
Indignant Candiru

The Tome Of Destiny Reconsidered in the Light of Stuff....

As you know, I spent about a week or so speculating on what we might see in what I referred to as 'the Tome Of Destiny' and what Lynn once vaguely referred to as a glimpse into the Pattersons' future; I'd also contrasted that to how things would happen in reality given what we saw in the strip and how people behave outside of Lynn's weird fantasy capsule and come up with a far less positive picture than the one she'd have painted. About a few months ago, I'd sort of realized that it was just another project that Lynn had dropped because it was kind of a lot of work and, well, she'd prefer to rush through things because she hates to have to do basic research. Going over her files, you see, would mean that she'd have to spend more than thirty seconds thinking about what happened and she judges that as being to be too much to ask of her. Recent developments have put a new, even less reassuring idea in my head; given that she recently gave aprilp_katje the lazy, snippy teenager's answer "Stuff happened, 'kay?!!" to the adult question of "Why is Elly just now getting her first year English" (as well as the less strident "Good question; I have no idea" to my inquiry as to what Georgia's original last name is), I finally stopped thinking that she bothered keeping records to ignore in the first place. She'd far rather be captain of HMCS Ineptitude and steer herself right into the Abyss of Failure than limit her creativity by uncool, unfair and boring consistency. What makes it all the more annoying is that her need to not be bothered with continuity only expresses itself when people point out the gaping holes she left in it; when people praise her for the research she's too lazy and flighty to do, she boasts about how great a fan of it she is.
Snarky Candiru2

What's eating Elly Patterson: a recapitulation.....

Elly's baffled and unacknowledged desire to somehow couple with Phil isn't the only factor that must be considered when we look back at her life; we also have to remember that she's transfixed by the following vision:

Place: Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens, Milborough, Ontario, Canada. Date: 28 August 2021.
[We find John, Michael, Liz and April putting flowers on a grave marker.]

Michael: It's hard to believe it's been five years since Mom passed on. I thought she'd be here for years and years...

John: It was simply her time.

Michael: Was it, Dad? I look back at the past and I can't but remember that she did a lot more than we ever gave her credit for; I feel kinda bad that we didn't do more for her when she was alive.

This vision, this nightmare fantasy in which she will only praised for her years of hard work long after she's died leads her on like a pillar of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. We all know the causes and they're all in Elly's head. The first, of course, is that she is sick with the fear that she doesn't really matter, that her life has no impact and that all she does is play a minor supporting role in the lives of people who have an important part to play in the human drama. As she sees it, she has no identity of her own as it seems to her that she's not so much an individual as she is a female adjunct of a male of some sort. This not-really-hidden self-loathing has a sidekick: her preference of The-world-that-might-have-been to the World-that-is; she's never really happy with all the desirable things in her life because that which she thinks should be hers means more. A third concern is that she can't rest or take time off lest chaos befall the world due to her laziness; this means that enforced idleness is the sheerest cruelty possible to inflict on her. Since she doesn't want to admit that she has to do endless hours of futile busywork just to feel minimally useful, John doesn't know what Elly does all day. As I've said before, what she thought was a slam at her for being lazy was his comparing how long it would take his mother to clean a house their size and figuring out that she could have tidied up at least three of them per diem; her claims of overwork don't thus make sense unless the tired joke he makes of dusting the attic every day is more than hyperbole. We also need to contend with her very real need to not look weak by telling people what's really bothering her and its twin, the belief that they already know. Finally, there's her warped perception of risk. My guess as to why she never considered getting a lock to the gate is that it was better that April be exposed to harm than to have random strangers think that she was some loon hunkered down in her bunker. This constellation of hang-ups seem to have the revenge effect of making what seems like a unrealistic fantasy of martyrdom at the hands of the clueless a near certainty. In the real world, Mike would have stated that if she was upset with her lot in life, he would have known.
Snarky Candiru2

Hockey Night in Milboring.

As I mentioned a little while ago, I believe that had the strip gone on past August 2008, we'd right now be in the early part of a new, fifth era: the Obstructive Years. The reasons that I call it by that name are as follows:

  1. John's statement that he and Elly would have to be careful-careful with their money tells me that we'd return to the anxious days of the early eighties when the two of them were struggling to get by on not a lot of money.
  2. Their lack of spending cash would not be blamed on their improvident behavior but on their having a third child which means that the lecturing and hostility April was subjected to when Elly decided that she'd quit being a mother would look like a golden age of fair treatment.
  3. Mike and Liz would have to pay a tithe of their insanely high income because Elly and John fed, housed and clothed them and it was now their turn to do that for their parents.
  4. Finally, the ownership of their horses meant that they'd have to obey the useless unsolicited advice they'd be bombarded with.
As an example of said useless advice, let us assume that for some reason that Meredith had somehow or other expressed an interest in playing girl's ice hockey. Given what we know about the Pattersons, we can break down the near-uniform negativity into a spectrum of failure:
  • Elly would be horrified at the prospect that Meredith would be thus exposed to risk; people would blame her for it, you see.
  • Deanna would object as it would be too much like imposing structure on her daughter's life; since her own mother made her do things and might suggest that Meredith do something that isn't sit quietly and stare into space, she'd be against it.
  • Mike would be aghast because it would mean he'd have to come in contact with the awful little half-people who want to tear him away from ticka-tacka-tapping away on his laptop.
  • Liz would be enraged because she never got to play organized sports as a kid and would be damned if another Patterson got to.
  • John would shuffle, giggle and bloviate about how, while he isn't a chauvinist, she should do something feminine.
About the only person who would probably not see a problem with it is the Martian princess who is always 'wrong'; since Lynn doesn't know how regular people react, she'd be horrified by letters that praise her for supporting the amateur sports she was trying to proscribe. That's because the moral she would have wanted to impart was "Women must always be frustrated because while men are always supposed to get first pick over everything, it's still not 'fair'."
Snarky Candiru2

The Pattersons: a look ahead.

I'd like to veer away from my current focus on the doomed and one-sided romance that will dominate the transition to what many of us hope will be the era of straight reprints and return to a topic I covered before: what the modern-day Pattersons will be doing in the future. As you know, I submitted an entry that broke the strip's history down into four eras: the Early, Middle, Later and Declining Years, each of which began with a stressful and ultimately unnecessary catastrophe. If John and Phil had had a sense of direction and the brains to come in out of the rain, if Elly had had the brains to have the gate fixed, if Deanna and Mike had simply told Mira the truth and hashed things out and if the Pattersons and their servitors had not interfered in Anthony's life, the differing eras would have flowed into one another less jarringly. Based on what has come before and how these people act, I think we can safely divide the future of the Patterson-Caine family to discreet eras as well. I believe that things would go something like this:

  • The Obstructive Years: It seems to me that without Jim or John's parents alive to gainsay them, the first few years of John and Elly's retirement will occasion new heights of meddling in Mike and Liz's home lives. Not only can we look forward to more demonization of Mira for wanting to have any influence at all over Meredith and Robin and more praise of Mrs Caine for being invisible, we can also rest assured that the lackeys that Elly permitted her children to marry would insist that she have final say over what happened to her grandchildren. As for 'that woman's child', it seems obvious that Elly will do all she can to make Françoise feel unwelcome and unwanted; to do otherwise would give credence to the haters' theory that she'd meddled in something that wasn't her business and created innocent victims. (She'll also point to how Molly and Gayle Thomas resented Connie for no reason she can allow herself to see as being reason enough to want to make Liz's life more harmonious.) All that will, of course, be of secondary importance because Elly's primary focus will be to bludgeon Meredith into giving way to Robin on every issue of substance because he can carry on the family name. We should also note that Elly and John would spend Christmastime muttering angrily about the ungrateful Martian who moved out West and doesn't talk to them much. Given how poorly Elly has taken care of herself and her piss-poor attitude, I think it's safe to say that her sort-of-untimely death at the age of seventy will bring in the next era.
  • The Chaotic Years: Given that Elly had made Mike and Liz dependent on her by making them unable to decide things on their own and how, without her to be beholden to, Anthony and Deanna will be similarly rudderless, it seems to me that the Pattersons of the 2020s would have neither the experience nor the wisdom to cope with the stresses that face them as their children are ready to head out into the world. I don't, after all, see the Mike that rescued a laptop or the Liz that rattled on about tokens that said she was taken to be able to handle the challenges their adult children will have to deal with. The only means of escape would, I think, be a crisis that laid bare how ineffective, selfish and destructive a human being Elly was; let's say, as a for instance, that a twenty-one year old Meredith were diagnosed with Hodgkin's like Delta from Luann. When Mike and Deanna managed to screw their heads on straight (with plenty of help from John, Mira and April) after months of Elly-like flapping, honking and failing to adapt to circumstances, they'd finally look back on the past objectively and see how foolish they were to hitch their wagons to a potato-nosed star. Similarly, Liz would have a real final confrontation with Thérèse and be made to see how petty and misguided her mother was and how she'd made a mess of things trying to please the old biddy.
  • The Maturing Years. After Mike and Liz had finally started to live their lives as autonomous adults instead of the dependents of a narcissistic freak with entitlement issues, we could probably expect to see them getting along as well as we could expect siblings to. There'd be good days and bad but nothing like the horrors of the turn of the century. Without Elly's baleful, ruinous influence, we can finally expect good things for them and feel confident that they'll live steady, regular lives.
Snarky Candiru2

Year Two: The things we're about to learn.....

As I write this, Lynn has started the second year of the new-ruin era as Mike enters the first grade. As we watch Elly fill herself with martyrdom and embarrassment because she's regressed to the point that she still can't pay attention in class, I'd like to speculate on the things we're going to learn this year:

  1. Elly thought that kindergarten and preschool were the same thing.

  2. Mike will spend more time being a disruption in class than actually studying owing to his having inherited Elly's tendency towards inattention.

  3. Deanna didn't actually leave town because Wilf's job opportunity fell through.

  4. John wants to keep Elly chained to the stove because he's mean.

  5. The stress of having to pay attention to his coursework will force Mike to lash out at Lizzie and make him call her names.

  6. Connie is not only needy enough to chase after Phil when he makes a return trip to the Pattermanse, she even dates Loser Ted.

  7. Elly will continue to shriek at Farley.

I may be off-base on some of the predictions and forgetten things but I think you might agree that I've got some good ideas as to what to expect.

Snarky Candiru2

One year after the Settlepocalypse......

As you know, it's been pretty much one year since the Kitsch Abomination Wedding Of This Or Any Other Century blighted our lives and irritated the world. The strange and annoying part was that we never really got to see too much of what happened to the Pattersons afterwards. Instead of the week-long look ahead at the Pattersons' future I sort of expected, we wound up with a single page that gave them all bizarre futures that none of them really seemed to have earned. Also, we were told quite specifically that Lynn has no interest in revisiting them at any point in time and has thus told us that whatever we imagine them to be doing is what they are doing. In that light, I'd live to give you my best guess as to how they're doing now:

  • Elly: Racing around in a blind panic trying to keep a suddenly-horrible Clarice Caine from having the same sort of destructive influence in James Allen's life that Mira has in Meredith and Robin's; after all, it isn't right to want to interact with children or stimulate their curiosity about the world. All she needs to do to prove that is to point to that sullen, weird, annoying Frenchy girl of Anthony's.
  • John: Still playing with his trains as he agrees with every stupid thing Elly says and does. One of the stupid things he's agreeing to is to finally fix up that basement room so they can rent it to paying customers instead of that freeloading complainer April.
  • April: Irritating Elly and John by spending the summer with people who actually want her around while listening to passive-aggressive phone calls that blame her for their hateful refusal to pay attention to her needs.
  • Liz: Acting like she's the first person to have ever given birth. Also, whining about how big a pain in the ass that needy little child of Anthony's is and her inexplicable need for love and affection.
  • Anthony: Not noticing how Françoise is being left out because he's still convinced that the Pattersons are always right.
  • Michael: Working on big, fat, stupid book number four and still whining about how unfair it is that those weird kids show up from time to time to destroy his concentration.
  • Deanna: Still doing all the parenting, still validating every stupid decision Mike makes and still hating her job.
  • Meredith and Robin: Setting themselves down the road of marrying the first white person of the opposite sex they met in pre-school.
  • Françoise: Being treated like a second-class citizen because the Pattersons don't want to remind themselves they treated her birth mother shamefully.
  • Jim and Iris: Having met his namesake a few months ago, he dies in Iris's arms around the middle of this July. The Pattersons scream about how they wanted more time with him and blame Iris for their failings as people. She leaves town, sickened and sullied by their idiocy.

I might be a little off-base on some of the details but, if so, not by much.

Snarky Candiru2

Thoughts on the strip of destiny......

One of the most glaringly annoying things about the future Lynn allots her characters is that, except for Iris and Francoise, everyone gets a happy ending. It seems clear to me that after the last drop has been wrung out of Jim and he's finally allowed to die, Iris will follow him into the grave shortly after Elly repeats his revoltingly silly joke about how cremation allowed him to be in two places in once. What's more, her passing will go relatively unnoticed. This makes her death like Francoise's life. Lynn revealed one of her biases when she said that James was Anthony and Liz's first child. This makes it clear that she'll be somewhere below Mira on the Foob chain, being the evil career woman's child and all. Of course, the news that Deanna decided to throw a lucrative career as a pharmacist away to open her ludicrous archaism sewing school can be taken as a good sign that it's not all good. The way I look at it, her validating every stupid thing Mikerobe will do will cause her to go quietly insane. Besides, as Pattersons, they don't have the decency to appreciate what they have and will still whine about being sooooo poor and life being soooooo haaaarrrrrd despite farting through high cotton.
Snarky Candiru2

The Deathbedpocalypse: Jim's heart attack and its consequences.

As we all know, Jim's recent heart attack is supposed to derail the Kitsch Horror Wedding somehow. Instead of having the Big Fancy Wedding of her idiot mother's dreams, Liz will suddenly realize that Family matters more than Material Goods and rush off to Jim's hotel room so as to have the simple wedding she wanted and people are supposed to have anyway. This is, of course, a Warped Aesop that's so far removed from the reality of the strip that it inspires derisive hooting instead of the praise Lynn wants. Not only does it seem obvious that Liz barely seems to be aware that Jim exists, the Pattersons are the most materialistic load of bumpkins to mar the surface of the planet. What makes this situation even more appalling is that we got so caught up in deriding the wedding planning, we overlook all the signs that Liz was going to lead a convoy of people to the Treacly Annoyance Wedding at the hospital. This tells me that as she says her I do to Anthraxny, Jim can dance off to Batiuk's Great White Void to be as one with Marian, Farley, the grandfather from Family Circus and Lisa Moore. Not only must we retch at the hokey fakeness of it all, we also have t endure the gushing praise of the Camera-in-my-living-room Squadron.