dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
The interesting thing about John is that his problem is hidden in plain sight in his parents' Liography. As we know, his dad used to be a coal miner before relocating the family to Exile Farm pretty much when John entered high school. While you might think that the disruption of his social circle is why John is a bit of a jerk, it seems to me that the circumstances of the move tend to reveal the real problem he's still not dealing with. As I recall correctly, an injury of some sort was alluded to that helped make it easier for Will to become Farmer Brown and said injury could have accelerated a process that would make life harder for those around his eldest son: assigning a young person who needs to make his mother happy adult responsibilities before he was ready.

John's need to make sure that no 'mistakes' like having a working mother who gave birth to a kid with a name that doesn't honour the old people at home are made and his almost naked envy of the supposed life of ease his allegedly ungrateful and spoiled children and his need to have something to play with all the time tell me that we're not dealing with an ordinary idiot baby boomer. We're clearly dealing with a numb-skull who was forced into becoming a sort of third parent while his dad recovered from whatever injury barred him from the coalface and the need to 'prove' himself and also live the childhood he was deprived of is going to be a problem for years to come.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
The irritating thing about the on-going battle to get Mike to muck out his bedroom is that John and Elly don't actually really enforce the punishment they imposed on him. As we saw, Michael only gets his allowance when he picks stuff up. This is a good start but, sadly, there are two flaws to their scheme. The first flaw is that they don't quite go far enough and didn't forbid him from going to the local shops even if he were to somehow earn the money to buy things. That would have been the first thing my parents did in that instance and their inability to simply bar him from buying stuff and make that stick seems like a damaging oversight.

The second is sort of wrapped up in the first and has to do with stopping him from earning money in another way. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to them that he'd try to bum money off of Lizzie because it's obvious that he thinks that the only thing stopping him from buying a Goo Bar is not having enough cash because that's the only thing stopping him from doing so. If he knew that he'd get into trouble for pawning Teddy or going to the store, he might actually pick stuff up but their penalty is weak and he learned nothing.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we know, there's a good reason that we have a collection called "There goes my baby" and an alternate strip that contrasts Elly's saying that about Mike as he drives off in John's car for a test drive while John thought-bubbles the same thing about the car: Lynn believes that John engages in the anthropomorphism and personification of a series of motor vehicles at the expense of his family. The same general idea appears to me to be the engine that drives forward the arc in which John is irrationally punitive because Mike missed an exit. If John screwed up and missed an exit, it'd be fine but Mike cannot because the car means more to him than his kids do.

This seems to baffle Elly not just because she thinks that a car is simply a mechanical contrivance that can't feel loss and confusion and pain and struggle with injustice. A car is to her and Lynn simply an object that should have the purpose of ferrying around children and groceries and whatever other large objects that need to be taken from Point A to Point B. The idea of making a love object of it at a real person's expense bothers her. This is not just, of course, because she doesn't like it when people don't think exactly like she does. There is also the element of pleasure John derives from it. As I've said before, Elly is deeply suspicious of pleasure for its own sake because she tends to call it 'sin.' Only silly and bad people have fun without somehow having earned the right to do so. This means that John is somehow getting away with something when he drives the thing and he must be made to greedily agree that Elly is always right.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we know, Lynn seems to have the need to keep certain characters apart. As an example, Connie and Elly's parents have never been in the same room that I've noticed and we never seemed to see Liz and Deanna talk to one another much without it turning into a lecture of some sort. The reason that I mention this is that I've made the following observations.

First off, when the family was lamenting Jim' stroke, John's brain was blank. April wanted her grandpa back, Elly and Phil wanted their dad back, Iris wanted her husband back and John....probably wanted to get a bite to eat but was hampered by the sad people talking about the old dude who just upped and stroked out like old people did.

We also have to remember that John fears having to contemplate his own mortality. We have a rejected strip that has him wish to ignore the problem because it's too depressing and a later strip that suggests that if Elly becomes a burden, he might simply smother her for the insurance money.

Finally, we have to remember the fact that John has never sat down and actually talked to Jim about anything that I've noticed. He might have been under his son-in-law's roof for a while but they never compared notes because John feared being told off by someone who could back up his discontent.

This leads us to the inevitable hypothesis as regards how John sees his father-in-law's stroke: "What happened to Elly's dad is a shame but not something that should affect me as long as he has people taking care of him."
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The odd part of the current visit is that we have an old problem show up. On the one hand, we have Marian being set in her way and thinking that the best way to spend free time is to head into the kitchen to whip up some treats for the menfolk because that's pretty much how she was raised. She likes doing it because, despite what her daughter might say about the issue, no one is holding a gun to her head or chaining her to the stove or taking away her freedom and dignity. She sees herself as a damned good cook and letting that talent go to waste sitting around running her mouth or sightseeing seems wrong.

On the other hand, we have Elly who legitimately does see her mother as being a victim of the male system being cheated out of the good life catering to unappreciative clods (like John) who subscribe to the Viking philosophy "praise no wife until she's burned" and wants to free her from the oppressive burden of catering to slug-like males who don't seem to notice how exhausted their wives are or especially care.

The reason that I mention this is that Elly doesn't quite manage to realize that while John's brain might allow as how he's an ogre trying to keep her down and that's not right or fair, his stomach, his need to shove down crap without having to work for it, that's always going to win out. He doesn't do a Hell of a lot of thinking because he's basically a fat gut with a dentist attached to it.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
While it's tempting to come to the conclusion that if John isn't trying to game the system by taking his trash directly to the city dump, we're dealing with the fumble-fingeredness that makes him misplace car keys rake the form of forgetting that it was pick-up day, it's not really as simple as him being a nitwit who wants to stink up the car because his priorities are wrong. What's going on is that for reasons that escape him currently, no sooner does he put the trash on the curb of a morning than it is spread all over the place. Surely, he thinks, the wife will put up with a little discomfort in order to outsmart raccoons making a mess of things.

The problem with this logic is that the loutish animal that eats garbage is Farley The Canine Punching Bag. For some reason that isn't the fact that owing to Elly's angry braying making him think that a can of Alpo is a can of being hollered at at random, he prefers their food waste to the can that's a punishment because she yells at him. This necessitates his having to build a real solution to the trash problem and also to his being a surly dick about it because the Kid is smarter than he is.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Sadly, the addition of dramatic tension to the wedding ceremony by the annoying masterstroke of having John get stuck in a dumpster like an idiot because he thinks he's beating the system is well within character. After all, when confronted with the fact that he has a mental block against remembering or really valuing sentimental occasions, idiot John defends himself by talking up what a practical-minded man he is. No sir, you won't catch him getting all starry-eyed and weepy about greeting card holidays like Valentines or making a big display about anniversaries, not him. That sort of baffling display is something that silly women value because they're not rational.

Of course, the Problem with a capital P is that John is actually a clueless, physically awkward dolt with an overweening addiction to shortcuts that make his life worse. It is the English genius to be smugly proud of the sort of moronic cock-up that cannot be in his best interests that John sees as a master-stroke of practicality. There used to be a British sitcom called 'Last of the Summer Wine' that celebrated the tendency of deluded, self-important nincompoops like John to have grand visions of success that, well, fall to itty bitty bits when colliding with the laws of physics and probability.

The reason that he never learns not to do stupid things or take idiotic short-cuts comes from not only not having the sense to understand what he did wrong but also from the sort of mutton-headed pride that views having his son know that he used to be a kid like himself once as a horrible humiliation. John can't admit that he's a thumb-fingered imbecile that swamps canoes, gets stuck in dumpsters and makes windy noise about highway exits because he's too stupid to know what he's bad at because doing so would force him to realize that his self-image is wrong.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The interesting thing about the Middle Years is that we're going to establish who the John of that era actually is in about six months time. Before now, he was a loutish ogre who begrudged Elly time away from her duty of being the domestic angel she couldn't be if she lived to be a million. What's starting to emerge now is the goofy man-child who loves to tear-arse around in sports cars in order to feel alive. While Elly frets about the impracticality of a vehicle that cannot ferry children and groceries, there's something far stupider that she should really be worried about.

Said really stupid thing is how it is John justifies splurging on ego-gratifying toys for himself while pleading desperately for anyone to agree with him that Elly is going to burden their grandchildren with the expense of improving their house. As I've said before, John makes two sets of financial calculations when planning for the future. When he spends money on himself, he makes as much as a dentist makes. When he spends money that will mostly benefit other people, he makes as much as his coal miner father makes. He isn't aware that he's doing it but as Neil Gallagher says, 99.9% of the people are as thick as pig-shit so there's that to consider. We are NOT dealing with a family that understands why it does what it does and it shows.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The interesting thing about this year is that we finally get around to meeting John's favourite family member: the ego-gratification sports car he buys because there's a void in his life he won't fill by doing things no one should expect of him like spending time getting to know his children. He certainly does seem to love his ride more than they do because of the following things that he sees as positives:

  • A sports car does not spend most of its free time complaining that the home you provide it to keep it safe from the horrible working world is a maximum security prison that leaves it feeling unfulfilled.

  • A sports car does not ask him to spend his money remodeling a kitchen he doesn't use.

  • A sports car does not rub it in when it tells him that the reason he's eating edible food is that he invested in appliances that actually cook food properly.

  • A sports car doesn't complain about its math homework nor does it whine about hanging out with the guys when there's chores to be done.

  • A sports car doesn't make confusing remarks about how it doesn't feel like it has any friends nor does it talk about problem hair.

  • A sports car doesn't keep him up half the night driving it to band practice.

  • A sports car doesn't call him a blind-eyed sorehead who doesn't know what's going on under his own roof because he's a cowardly moron who doesn't want to actually be a father.

  • A sports car doesn't tell him that he's wasted his life feeling sorry for himself because his parents weren't vending machines.

In short, a sports car doesn't tell John to get his head out of his ass and took a good long look at himself to see what everyone else does: a boorish, stand-offish petty dictator who doesn't want to admit that his selfishness is why his life is a mess.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we all know, we know next to nothing about Georgia's family. We have a vague idea that they're from Montreal, we know that she's got an uncle Bert, we know that she's got an unnamed friend who finds Lizzie to be something of a trial but other than that, she seems to have fallen out of the sky for the sole purpose of being a stand-in for a sister-in-law Lynn seems to not know very well. It occurs to me that the wedding explains why it is that her family doesn't make much of an effort to get to know the Patterson family.

This is because they have to deal with the bizarre fact that for some stupid reason, Phil's idiot brother in law seemed to be more worried about taking a load of garbage to a dump than the wedding. Not only that, the stupid fool dropped his watch in a dumpster and waded in trash to fish it out because that seemed to be more important than a silly little thing like being on time for something important to anyone else. I can see them being appalled that this fool is so impractical and so closed-off in his thinking that he couldn't wait until after the reception to take stuff to the dump. This is not a person to get to know. This is a person to whom the only correct response to is "smile politely, move away slowly and don't make eye contact." Simply put, we never get to know these people because idiot John witlessly scared them away being 'practical'.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Now that it's Christmas Eve at the Pattermanse, we can look forward to an interesting thing. Said interesting thing is John's palpable relief that he doesn't have to go into debt this holiday season. One of the holiday traditions that isn't either him or Elly complain about how materialistic children are and how they should really be satisfied with less is him sitting at the kitchen table moaning at a stack of bills he has to pay. Elly has her month of thankless scurrying about beforehand and he has his month of thankless scurrying around afterward to pay for this excess. This seems to be an attempt to establish him as a sort of only sane man in that he's the only person who seems to be capable of paying attention to where the money is going.

The problem with that is that he seems to have no real problem lavishing what he still sees as being his money to spend however he sees fit on an ego-gratifying toy for himself. When Elly comes in talking about the need to have a kitchen that isn't a disaster area or an addition to the home to accommodate Martians, he whines piteously about how Mike's grandchildren will be paying off the debt. When he wants a Look-at-memobile in order to call attention to himself, it's an investment that will last the ages. This, as I've said before, tells us that what John objects to is not spending money like a drunken sailor. What he objects to is not somehow benefiting from it.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Let's assume that in the real course of events, John does not end up getting decapitated by a falling sign because Lynn needs to make Rod suffer for stealing her money and doing to her what she did to Doug. Given that he seems to take marginally better care of himself than Elly does, we could be looking at an extended period in which he's alone in the world. Without the distraction of children and without the need to posture and hide behind tradition, he might actually have time to think about the woman he married and what she really wanted instead of screaming about what his fears made it look like she wanted.

Reflection will finally start to make him realize that she actually did feel trapped in their home and that marriage and motherhood didn't instantly make her the horror freak Suzie Homemaker the flickering blue parent promised him. It would also make him see that if her life was an exercise in frustration and unfairness that someone in her life was responsible and that someone was him and his insatiable desires. What this means is that the only thing that will make him see the anxious and messed-up woman he actually married instead of the person he thought he deserved is for her to be a small pile of ground-up combustion fragments in a ceramic box some place. It's not much but hey, at least she's finally going to get what she wants. She just can't be alive to enjoy it.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The odd thing is that before the trip, John gave off the impression that he was this big, important dude who couldn't be bothered with the odd, baffling demands his family made of him. He could never quite wrap his head around why Elly thought the home he provided her was a stifling trap any more than he could understand why his children didn't give him the automatic deference he clearly deserved. Given that the point of the strip is to hammer home the fact that John is an inept buffoon who suffered the humiliating revelation that he's the sort of absurd, cowardly imbecile who damned near starved to death thirty minutes away from civilization.

What this means is that instead of trying to see off challengers to his beneficial but stern reign, we're now dealing with a man defending against loss. Everything that he does from now on is predicated on the assumption that people who still see him as a stern disciplinarian will also realize what a churlish, craven and incompetent imbecile he is and set his worthless opinion at naught. This, I think, is why the kids' attitudes needed adjusting. We see normal kids developing normally. John thought "Holy Damnit Christmas! They're starting to realize I'm a fraud! Gotta get'em off balance before they think things through!!"
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
I think that the most interesting strip in this whole sequence of John taking his little trip so he can leave Elly in the lurch arrives after he gets home. As Mike tells Gordo, Darryl and Brian what happened to him, Elly tells them not to disturb John because he's bed-ridden for some reason. When Mike asks what ails him, our boy thought-bubbles that mostly, he's suffering from some sort of humiliation. A normal person would probably assume that his forgetting elementary boating safety because he and Phil succumbed to panic might be what he's feeling low about.

That does sort of make sense because he and Phil wound up looking like two dumb jerks from the city who didn't know what they were doing and feeling the burn of having the locals deride them for their epic failure. As far as I know, neither of them go back there because the idea of being laughed at for being two dumb motherhubbards who should have hired a competent guide instead of witlessly risking their lives makes returning there untenable.

This talk of 'guides' is, of course, not the only instance in which their fragile little egos make the whole thing into a humiliation they can never live down. This is because before things started, someone who wasn't supposed to know what she was talking about did while at the same time revealing that someone who was didn't. Since one of the things he wanted to get away from was Elly being right about his heading for a fall, John simply couldn't face the neighbors for weeks because he fears and hates being laughed at when he makes a fool of himself. Eventually, he finds a way of getting away from it all without going anywhere when he gets that damned train fixation. For now, though, he's going to be "Panicky Idiot Number Two."
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As you know, we're about two years away from John balking at necessary upgrades to the kitchen. He might try to duck the issue by using a baffling non-sequitur about how since he doesn't use the kitchen that much, it doesn't need to be modernized despite the fact that most of the reason he has to eat garbage is that Elly can only do so much with the clapped-out appliances she has. He might also whine about an expense he can easily afford on his take-home. This again has the end result of making him look like a short-sighted fool who wants his wife to be unhappy so he can be a naughty, selfish child playing with toys while she and the rest go without. Thank goodness for him that Elly isn't all that good at understanding how men think or else she'd immediately understand what really bothers him: his desperate dread of calling in professional help and thus feeling like less of a man.

You see, like most men, John is very insecure about his own personal level of virility (and has very good reason to be because he isn't any sort of man at all really.) We see this when he turns purple and yells at the children for their horrible crime of reminding him of the fact that Daddy isn't really all that much more than a nasty peer that they somehow magically can't challenge despite their being pretty much as grown up as he is. We see this when he gets all snippy about having a home because that's a reminder that he's an intestinal-fortitude free zone. We also see this when the idea of having a contractor fix all the stuff he's too busy (by which he means 'wimpy and incompetent') to repair reminds him that he's not the alpha male he thinks is needed to have an orderly home. Thus we have him squeal about money as a means of hiding the fact that the real cost is his alleged manlihood.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we slowly head into the Middle Years of the strip, it behooves us to remind ourselves of an annoying fact of life: Mike's idiotic belief that if he could somehow make Lizzie go away, he would be able to return to the life he had before she arrived. No one would be yelling at him, no one would be dumping on him about setting a good example, he wouldn't have give everything away and never be allowed to be recognized and he wouldn't have to fight some weak girl all the time. The reason that I mention this is that it never really goes away. Somewhere in the back of his head is the need to punish Lizzie for deliberately deciding to be born just to ruin his day. To admit that she had no control over it is as appalling a prospect to him as the idea that even if Lizzie were to somehow be done away with, he couldn't get his life back.

This makes less than no sense to him because, just as the kid smoking dope in the PSA learned to be an addict by watching his alcoholic father, he learned to rail against how unfair it is that there's no undo button in life from his imbecile parents. While I don't have a camera in Elly's house, I do know people who think and act as she does and one of their favorite things to scream is nonsense about how when her children go away, she can get back to living the wonderful life she was living before the offsprings and small ones ruined it. Given that John says the same stupid thing, it's not hard to see why it is that Mike will die resenting the fact that he can't wish interlopers who HAVE to be out to ruin him away.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The interesting thing about looking ahead to where I think thatthe reprints are supposed to be is not that we should be hip deep in the kids engaging in possibly age-inappropriate angsting about Mrs Baird's moving away or Elly and John's divergent reasons for fearing Lizzie getting earrings (he thinks they'll attract unwanted attention, she thinks they herald in a world where she's ooooooooold and useless) or even Phil getting cold feet about his upcoming marriage in which he's sure to be a horrible husband because he's kind of down on himself deep down. The interesting thing is that we get to see a glimpse of the John Patterson of the late sixties.

This is because he gets talked into taking a ballroom dance class that he really doesn't want to attend. Elly is all for it and doesn't understand his standoffish reluctance and feelings of self-consciousness until she bears witness to his having a flashback to when some girl he liked dumped him for a dude with a guitar or a better car or something; he then goes on explain that when he was in high school, he felt like an outsider no one really liked. It's strips like that which go a long way towards making my arch comment about how John and Elly's real reason for marrying when they did is that each is the first person two lonely outcasts dated more than once.

Of course, where sympathy turns to mild contempt is that John never seemed to, well, you know, try to share his experiences with his son in order to, shall we say, get to know the real Michael instead of the super-crazy, no way media monster Mike he needed to believe in because otherwise, he'd actually be a panicky nitwit leaning on a sitting duck because he's stupid enough to believe in monsters. Simply put, John's dimwitted need to believe in whatever mush unworthy authority figures told him to believe and servile obedience to their command to ignore the evidence of his own senses got in the way of his ever realizing that Mike was an okay kid with the same problems he had.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As you know, I don't think that Elly really has all that good a public image because to this day, she's probably known as "the angry, ill-informed idiot who protested the arena expansion for the specious reason that she took something as an attack on her person and who is personally responsible for delaying a necessary upgrade for decades." It bothers her that the general public regards her as being a fractious, ignorant imbecile screaming about nothing and ruining things for everyone because she gets enough of that noise out of her own family.

What bothers her more is that John is the same sort of short-tempered, short-sighted, pig-ignorant and easily-offended nincompoop she is and is as likely to fly off his handle and go on a rampage of complete and utter stupidity as she is but the public seems to love him and think of him as a figure of dignity, intelligence and respect. Leaving aside the innate advantage he has of being a white man and thus being given more of the benefit of the doubt than he actually deserves, it seems to me that John is superior to Elly in one respect that makes all the difference: he's a better bullshit artist.

Granted, he doesn't have Jean fooled for a second because she sees through the public image of the heroic dentist and long-suffering husband to see the apathetic borderline-incompetent dentist and entitled churl we see but it's fairly obvious that the general public regards John as a figure of gravitas, sobriety and respect. This is because he knows what words to say, when to say them and (most importantly) when to keep his fat yap shut. He never seems to have mastered that skill with his own family with the result that they see him as either a ghost or a vaguely looming menace that they don't want to rile up but, as I said, clods like Gordon and Anthony see him as a role model because they don't see past the surface.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we know, Elly seems to be one of those people who needs to be busy all the time just to feel as if she's pulling her weight. She doesn't like it and wishes she could change she can't do so any more than she can not squirrel away wrapping paper that never actually does come in handy.

What we also know is that Jim shoves his foot through Lizzie's ceiling because of a similar need to be helpful and needed and that Marian took the Depression-era handy hint of saving containers for a rainy day too far. This means that Elly combines Jim's need to be doing something no matter what with Marian's tendency to hoard possessions to stave off a sort of imaginary doomsday.

The reason that I mention this is that while we learn a lot about Jim and Marian through flashbacks, we were never really given much of an in-strip back story for John. For some reason, Lynn seemed to have better things to do with her time than to show us what John's childhood was like. Granted, we get something of a portrait of his mother Carrie whenever he stands around bleating about how Elly should try to make the same home she did and from her habit of treating him like little Johnny with a mortgage, Will remains something of a cipher.

A pattern does, however, emerge when we see him sending Mike a hard hat to remind him to appreciate his elders, laughing maniacally about John having children just like himself and complaining about how 'greedy' children are. What seems to be happening here is that we're figuring out where it is that John gets the insane idea that his family is inches away from sleeping over a steam grate despite his making a comfortable living as well as why he sees ordinary behaviour as heralding in an apocalypse. Simply put, he's the child of an overly indulgent and sentimental mother and an authoritarian cheapskate. Since he was raised to think he could do no wrong and isn't smart enough to understand that simply because his dad couldn't afford things, that it doesn't mean he can't, we're in for about ten more years of his whining about the not-really-unreasonable costs of home improvement.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Since the John of the middle years seems to serve as something of a sounding board for Elly, it's rather a simpler task to explore who and what he is. It would seem to me that if we were to meet him in the real world, we'd see a rather goofily charming figure who's all bonhomie and smiles. We'd further assume that he's a bland, unflappable everyman who gets along with everyone. We'd be wrong because he's actually a cautionary example of the hazards of unearned, unacknowledged privilege and what happens when it's threatened.

As we see here, he seems to see himself as being assailed on all fronts by people who, for reasons that he doesn't understand, want to upset the very laws of nature by questioning the fact that he gets to do and say what he wants and that his person must, unlike those lesser than himself, must be kept inviolate. This, as I have said before is why he makes the same sort of decision Elly does for a different reason.

The best evidence of this is their joint decision to send Michael to Exile Farm for his own good. While we know that Elly thought it would be good for him (and her) for him to be isolated from a relationship that was moving far too fast for anyone's good, John stood on his hind legs and blustered about how Mike needed to be reminded that his attitude was all wrong. The reason Mike's attitude needed to be made right was, of course, that he'd made the mistake of forgetting that his humorless clod of a father has a fragile little ego that can't bear to tolerate his being questioned about anything.

That being said, what most annoys me is not that John made his life worse by being an unreasoning block of absolutism. What bothers me more is that (as I'm about to remind you) his need for an alcove in which he'd be protected from a world that wants him to live on his knees kept him from quite knowing who the people around him actually are.


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