dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The interesting thing about the Pattersons' habit of thinking that they have to avenge themselves on people who they judge as deserving it is not just that we're dealing with a clan of vindictive, nihilistic and cynical imbeciles who can't picture a world in which people who enjoy themselves aren't doing so to enrage, humiliate and ruin their lives. The interesting thing is their reaction to being the victims of the same sort of horrible people that they themselves are. As we all know, about fifteen or so years ago, a bunch of jerk kids had nasty fun smashing John's model train layout. As we also all know, the Patterswine made a bunch of ill-informed noise about how a lower-class kid corrupted kids from good homes into ruining things for people because that's just what poor people do. Not only is this an atrocity because Lynn equates not having enough money with moral inferiority, it's morally false because Lynn doesn't understand vandalism.

This is because it seems to me that the kids honestly seemed to think that John was trying to be a dick to them by having a good time when they were miserable. It's not that there's a yawning hole in their psyches where the ability to enjoy life is, it's that people are stealing an ability to feel happy that they never had, do not have and never shall have away from them. The closest they can come to real happiness is a vindictive outburst of rage against their alleged oppressors. The reason that I find this interesting is that I've not only described the choads in the balaclavas going smashy-smashy, I've also described the Foobs.

The end result is that one set of narcissistic sociopaths with a vindictive streak have to deal with the ugly antics of people just like them and they don't like it one bit.
dreadedcandiru2: (Indignant Candiru)
Here's a little thought-experiment for you; imagine yourself to be friends with Phil Richards. For reason or another, you and he one day end up at the Pattermanse in the early eighties watching Elly struggling with her endless load of laundry. You ask him if this is a common occurence; he says it is but he doesn't know why. It baffles him because, unlike his mother, Big Sis doesn't need to take in laundry from other people to help make ends meet. This, of course, leads into a long, pointless argument about how Phil thought that Elly knew that; when she gets all defensive, snarly and pouty when your pal asks the question "You aren't doing all that because you think that's how things are supposed to be, are you?", you start eyeing the door and perhaps reconsidering your friendship with the man if he's got a sibling this dimwitted, stubborn and surly.

What you've just witnessed, of course, is how the Pattersons reject common sense and substitute their own arbitrary, silly and stupid point of view. The example I came up with, of course, doesn't appear in the strip itself but it's the only thing that doesn't involve Elly having super OCD that makes sense; what could have happened is that she watched Marian do a lot of laundry and never stirred herself to ask why because she assumed that's simply how things were done. If so, her need to not assert herself when it's necessary acted to her detriment once more.

Also, her inability to see that simply because a dog has an expression on its face that means a certain thing when it's worn by a human doesn't mean that the dog feels that way hampers her almost as badly as her belief that if she demonstrates her sincerity, her children will sit quietly where ever she plops them and not do anything baffling like move around or get into things. In both those cases, she would rather not accept the fact that a dog doesn't think along the same lines as we do or that a child needs more attention than she has the stamina to provide.

Similary, John cannot get it through his thick skull that when he makes his demeaning remarks, he will not be applauded for his creativity; the idea that his right to swing his arm ends with the other person's nose is seen as an attempt to limit his right to swing his arm. He also tends to not be on the same page with the rest of us when it comes to asking the question "What's going on around me?"; a man with a lick of sense would ask "What really happened in Anthony's marriage?", "Why does Elly look so unfulfilled?" or "Hey, I wonder what's got April so upset about the move" instead of letting his preconceptions answer the questions for him. That way, he could avoid the baffling horror of being blindsided when truths that he never foresaw because they don't mesh with the shibboleths spot-welded into his narrow mind emerge. If, for instance, he were to come across proof that even he could not will away or shout down that Thérèse was far more sinned against than sinning, it would totally throw him for a loop because, despite being an unavoidable reality, it would same to make no sense at first.

Having to answer the questions the revelation of what an awful person his beloved Anthony really is raised would, of course, occasion the same sort of unpleasant conversation Elly has with herself whenever she does something so dumb, even she can't hide behind the old, familiar excuses; the nasty little voice in his head that tells him that he doesn't actually know anything useful about anything because he refuses to think about what he's doing would be roaring back with an unwelcome vengeance.

When the time does come for John to realize that most of what he thought was solid, unshakable fact was in reality as fragile as tissue paper, he won't be able to deal with it any more than Elly can really admit that she wasted her life chasing delusions. It would be like the terrible day when Liz is somehow forced to face the fact that it's not the world's fault that it doesn't supply her with an endless supply of ankles to cower behind in diaper-soiling terror; I don't even want to think about the day when Mike realizes that he's wasted his life expecting everyone to service his needs.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
I think that we can all safely agree that Elly goes into a situation based on how impressive it would make her look; as an example, she likes the idea of being a mother but, as we've seen, doesn't do very well at it because the day-to-day details of bandaging skinned knees, tending to bruised egos, keeping track of where they are and what they're doing, keeping a cool head and, above all, having to remember that her children depend on her is far more than she could possibly do.

What seems to make it worse is that Elly sees people who seem to have perfect children without any effort that she can see. Since she insists on confusing constantly doing the wrong thing or focusing mindlessly on non-issues with actually putting in the effort required to do what needs to be done, she can't see that the people she hates for making it look easy work harder than she does. Trying to explain this to her would, of course, be an exercise in futility. It would be like trying to tell her that her witlessly racing around the house in a blind rush because her over-focus on the laundry she doesn't do right anyway has eaten away the time that could have been spent doing something productive is why the house never looks clean.

Similarly, it's sort of impossible to explain to Mike and Liz that all the people that they think are frightful suck-ups don't get good grades because they flatter their teachers; having to explain to them that buckling down and getting things done takes less time than standing around bellowing about how haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard math is and how much they haaaaaaaaaaaate it does would be like trying to explain things to a fencepost. Or, if you want something less animated, John.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
As we've seen, the Pattersons are very slow-witted, small-minded people who don't realize how abnormal and atypical they are. As an example, most people don't actually wear themselves out doing a crapload of laundry every single frakking day of their lives just to feel as if they're doing anything at all nor do they leave themselves with so little time afterwards that a house that would take a more organized person an hour to clean is only half-way tidy at the end of the day. The problem is that Elly admits to knowing no other way of doing things. You see, admitting to that would leave her humiliated by having to admit that she doesn't actually know what she's talking about and, well, since she and John are of a kind, the idea of that sickens her. This means that she assumes that everyone else must be like her and if they aren't, they're not doing a good job of things. This is also why she doesn't actually take the vicious infighting between her children any more seriously than John takes her outside interests; since she and Phil fought like scorpions, she assumes the horrific mess we see is normal, healthy and good and must only stop in the name of making her look competent.

As for John, most of what he assumes that everyone knows can be summarized as "Whatever makes life easy for me is good and whatever does not is bad; if other people are inconvenienced by my getting my way, they should never have gotten in it." This sort of thinking not only explains why he's sort of not aware of how very conflicted Elly is; since he needs her to be a happy homemaker, he not only tries to will away the fact that she isn't, he tries to paint her as being somehow not normal for being as worried as everyone else.

The parental need to assume that what they want to think everyone believes is what everyone does believe would be bad enough if it stopped with them; sadly, the need to will reality away is so strong, the children have picked up on it. Mike is so sure that if he had a kid brother, his life would be perfect, he not only blinds himself to displays of brother-sister harmony, he totally ignores how much infighting goes on between Christopher and Richard Nichols. Also, Liz needs to believe that teachers play favorites because she doesn't want to admit that she's sort of stupid; also, she needs to believe that the sort of loveless union she and Anthony have is what everyone wants because otherwise, she'd realize that she played her cards abominably. This puts her on much the same romantic page as Michael; both of them have traded away people who could have made their lives better for John and Elly's creatures who only exist to remind them of their need to let their wonderful parents own their horses because they gave them more than was dreamed of in the philosophy of John Rosemond: food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
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Remember how pissed off we were when either Elly or John dismissed Paul by asking Liz where he was when she needed him? Remember how angry the realization that the only reason that the same Anthony that they seemed to want to marry a lot more than Liz did was even there was because of a court summons made us? I'd like to re-examine that, if I may. It seems to me thatt the Pattersons aren't impressed by the things that would entrance and excite normal people because of their warped, self-serving values and inability to figure out how the world works. As I've explained before, the presence of genuinely heroic figures and those who don't wait for fate to plop things into their laps alarms and disgusts them because they call into question the notion that the Foobs are at all sympathetic figures. This not only requires them to denigrate those who don't passively vegetate so as to avoid risk, it mandates that they lionize those who serve their needs. Iris is impressive in much the same way that Anthony and Gordon are; they make it easier to be Pattersons so they're great people. It's a good thing that the Pattersons ARE as insulated from reality as they are; that keeps them from realizing that the derisive hooting that they hear from time to time is directed at them when they boast about all the horrible people they know.
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One of the more annoying things about reading the strip is watchinmg Elly stint herself needlessly in the firm but false belief that the ten pounds of excess flab no one but her can see is a sign of her being worthless and week; John gets a lot of fun out of it but, as we've seen, he doesn't seem to notice how foolish it is for her to deny herself pleasure in the pursuit of a damaging illusion.

I, of course, didn't expect that of him; that's because he and the rest of them deny themselves a lot of happiness because they believe that taking an active pleasure in the things of this world is a sign that they're low, garish, slobby people wallowing in the muck. The wrong sort, you see, wear bright colors, talk far too much and get needlessly combative, eat threatening foodstuffs, paw all over one another, are too permissive with their children and dress garishly and lasciviously.

Speaking of Wilf and Mira, the bright colors and demonstrative nature of the Sobinskis are a threat to the way they see the world. After all, if it could be said that there's something to saying exactly what's on your mind to the people who bother you, taking an active interest into what your children do and thinking of their concerns as being meaningful, showing affection and not dressing so as to blend in with the crowd, that would mean that they'd wasted their lives in the pursuit of an empty comfort when real happiness was there all along.

This exaggerated need to not expose themselves to risk is why they seem to prefer dull, slug-like males and bovine females as mates; that way, big scary emotions and the bigger, scarier fear of disappointment can't threaten them. Better to not really live at all than to live with any sort of pain, you see.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
As we've seen in the past, John and Elly seem to have it fixed in their heads that their children somehow owe them the money they spent raising them. This, of course, seems to be because they really don't quite understand that their dependents are incapable of looking after themselves and are not merely sponging off them out of malice. This leads them to not giving their adult children monetary gifts because of a belief that it hampers the children's attempt to be independent; after all, said gift must be paid back so to do so is to try to create a client. Given how they love to claim that the Sobinskis are using their family politics to somehow ensnare Michael by monetary gifts, it's clear that they have no real idea that Mira doesn't expect to be paid back or would be horrified by the suggestion that she should expect it. Since they judge her by their standards, they assume the worst.

They're helped by Deanna who seems to have bitterly resented being actively parented when she wanted to be left to vegetate. One cannot read Deanna's bill of particulars without realizing that she likes Elly for the same reasons we do not; one is left to wonder where Mira and Wilf went wrong that they gave birth to someone who admires and respects inattention, depression, rage and a willful inability to empathize with the needs of minors.

Speaking of the chronic stupidity and criminal ineptitude that passed for parenting in the Pattermanse, we find that the bellowing, inconsistency and lack of empathy have borne the bitter fruit of adults who cannot cope with the demands of daily life. Mike's first big decision, after all, was to run crying home to Mommy when the big meanie Gluttson asked that he try making one for a change. Similary, Liz's attempts at being a person in her own right were as pathetic, ugly and doomed as Elly's. The end result is that given that John and Elly make Mafia loansharks look caring and generous, the steps they take to make their children independent turn them into their clients.

What makes them look even worse is that the people they despise for their garish and unpleasant habit of enjoying their lives end up looking far more appealing to people who matter. As an example, when Elly puffs herself up by boasting that she gives Meredith and Robin time instead of toys, that really means that the children have a different person bellowing "Don't do that" without ever suggesting that there's something that they can do; the reason for that, of course, is that whoever's guarding them doesn't want to deal with them lest her brains dissolve and she become a weak, useless child herself. When I contrast her with Mira who gets involved and channels her children's creative urges instead of having the Pattersonian hope that they'll go away and reconcile themselves to their "proper" role of "grinning zombie who sits where Mommy plunks her down and never bothers Mommy by moving or embarrasses her by being curious about the world", I find myself thinking that Elly, Liz and Deanna are not only full of crap, they should be expressly forbidden from being near minor children. Steps must, you see, be taken to protect children from dangerous things and people.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
You can't look at the strip for as long as I have without noticing certain attributes the Pattersons have; one of them is that they have a rather tedious habit of revealing their feelings by their somewhat extreme facial expressions. The expressions that I associate with the Pattersons are as follows: the open-mouthed yell of blind rage, the scream of panic, the snarly frown of resentment, the goggle-eyed glare of horror and crying after being mistreated. The expressions I do not see are the cheery smile of someone content with his or her lot in life or the self-deprecating laugh at his or her folly. The only time I see someone smile or laugh is when that someone has either gone out of his or her way to be a complete shit to someone else or is contemplating an antisocial act.  The reason, of course, is that the Pattersons aren't actually happy with their lot in life; John pays the same price for his vigilance against admitting to an imperfect understanding of the world as Mike and Elly do for their sullen (and false) pride and nasty disposition and Liz does for her inaction and conspiracy thinking; we've thirty years of proof that they've traded away the ability to enjoy life for the phony crown of being obnoxious jerks. The closest they come to the happiness they won't allow themselves is schadenfreude.  
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
As we all know, the Pattersons tend to be baffled by the existence of people who aren't sympathetic to the mean ends and fatuous, self-serving goals they've set for themselves; it baffles them, for instance, when someone comes along and tells them that it looks as if they actively tried to destroy Thérèse's marriage simply because it was an inconvenient obstacle. That, of course, is immediately followed by an incoherent attempt to state that they did no such thing; according to them, all the blame for what happened is that she wanted more than Fate alloted her. Anyone not beholden to them financially would respond by exhorting them to not urinate on his or her leg and declare that it's raining. We know that they decided that Liz must marry Anthony at all costs because it was convenient for them and them alone. It matters not that neither person likes one another or, given what we've seen, is really compatible; John and Elly need to control Gordon and need to make sure that Liz pays them back all the money they spent raising her since they couldn't spend it on themselves like they wanted to. Since their perception of those around them is as warped as their self-concept, a Patterson regards someone who doesn't like them as being either jealous or deluded; the idea that someone could have an honest dislike for what a Foob wants might lead that person to the dangerous conclusion that he or she is doing something he or she should not. That way leads to the eternal humiliation of being forced to constantly apologize and never being allowed to get up off the floor; simply put, we're dealing with a bunch of spoiled children who think that admitting error leads to eternal torment.

The saddest part, of course, is that the same people who the Pattersons describe as being jealous picky-faces who basically hate themselves and need to ruin other people's fun actually sort of just pity them; that's because the Pattersons themselves are filled with self-loathing, envy and malice and it bothers them that other people are having more fun than they are. As a matter of fact, the idea of really enjoying life so bothers them, they've forted themselves up in their bunkers so they can rid themselves of the last shreds of the humanity they despise so much.
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As we know from a cursory reading of the strip, one of the things that Mike found most appealing about Deanna was that she bears a striking similarity to Liz; granted, his conscious self was repulsed but, since he got over the discovery in a hurry, his subconscious self only wanted Deanna even more. That's because he's been acculturated to, on some level or another, to want to keep sex within the family. We also know that Anthony's selling point is that he's a safe version of Mike and John and that April is looked at funny because she finds people who don't look like relatives attractive. What we tend to lose sight of is that the same thing applies to John and Elly. Were I Elly, I really wouldn't care one way or another who Phil dated as long as it didn't complicate my day-to-day life; the problem is that her fantasy men all tend to look like Phil so we can safely say that she did the same thing that Liz did by finding a legal surrogate for the longed-for brother and-or father. It should also be noted that both Elly and Connie bear striking resemblances to members of John's family; the fact that Connie and his sister Bev could be twins goes a long way towards explaining why John is so interested in her comings and goings.
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You might have noticed that one of the strips I linked to when I discussed how Elly blindsided Georgia had John run his damned mouth about how Phil probably still had a thing for Connie. That sort of malicious gossip would be bad enough were it not combined with Elly's gutless, baffling refusal to tell her future sister-in-law something important like the fact that Phil used to date her best friend. What we're left with is the distinct impression that the Pattersons halfway want to destroy the relationship Phil and Georgia were trying to build for their own repulsive purposes. I can get why Elly would want that to happen; if Phil and Georgia were to break up, she could have a lot of fun blathering non-stop about his being an immature nomad who was never going to grow up and who never listened to or appreciated the shit-stupid, malicious harridan he calls an older sister. John's need to destroy romances is even more repulsive; he secretly envies Phil and wants to ensure that he's unhappy so he can feel better about having shackled himself to an imbecile in the name of propriety. We can safely refer to that as being a symptom of the megalomania that despises anyone having a better time than he has; said need to jam it to people he considers to be getting a free ride when he had to grow up with a wage-slave for a father is also why he harps on how his children are spoiled when they're not.

In any event, John and Elly's need to avenge themselves for not having perfect lives is also why they worked their malice on Mike and Liz's love lives; the reason they can call the Settlepocalypse and Fake Wedding happy endings is that their agenda got served at the expense of the last lingering shred of their adult children's decency.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
As I mentioned earlier, Elly has adopted Marian's habit of cluttering her living space with bric-a-brac she doesn't need, old containers and wrapping paper she'll never use and, worst of all, has a freezer filled with leftovers that will never be eaten. The punchline of the jokes that remind us of this sad fact always picture John regretting that he cannot unclutter his living space. The interesting thing about that is that what's a harmless and misunderstood eccentricity for Elly is a hateful form of oppression when Steve loads up his garage with old junk; the reason for that, of course, is that he's in the way of a busy woman with no help and no time for himself. Or, to put it in English, there's nothing in his pile of refuse that Elly would find especially interesting. What we see time and again is that Elly simply cannot part with things that mean something to her but has no problem at all with tossing things she doesn't find interesting. This, along with her interesting habit of taking over the housework because her family can't be trusted to do it properly, is why the Early Years saw her not so much cleaning her house as she was rearranging the dirt. The problem with her having appointed herself the person who decides what gets thrown out is that it brings her no real peace; since she's oppressed by her possessions, it's sort of a high price to pay for the illusion of control it affords her.
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As we're going to see in a few years' time, Elly and John had a great reason for not cohabiting before marriage: their fear of what would happen if their parents found out. Elly lived in dread of being disowned and John feared losing face in his community so they decided to be sensible and get married. It might look as if the question "How would their parents even know?" is missing from the equation but it isn't; their inability to keep secrets at all well would have given away the fact that something was not on the up-and-up and, well, they do like to justify themselves to others. About the only time that they were ever able to successfully deceive someone was Mira and even then, they had help from Deanna and Jim keeping their enemies confused. Assuming, of course, that Mira wasn't simply biding her time waiting to yell "GOTCHA!!" when they inevitably slipped up; this is, of course, why Elizabeth still doesn't know that the wedding at which she was a bridesmaid was a sham designed to allow Deanna to profit from deceiving her ill-used mother.
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Continuing on from yesterday's theme, it occurs to me that Phil's failed attempt to teach Michael how to play the trumpet is more or less the only summary we'll really need of how Lynn views those who try to instill within her a love of learning for its own sake. It would be a kindness to call Mike a reluctant student; his low boredom threshhold, innate laziness and need to make a moronic spectacle of himself soon wore Phil down and the project was abandoned; the wrap-up had Mike whine that there should be a pill or something that one could take to become instantly good at a thing without, you know, earning it. That being said, the Pattersons share Lynn's need to make their vices into virtues. Mike wasn't a sullen, slow-witted, ungrateful clodhopper who'd rather sit on his ass wasting time when their was work to be done, he was and is a delicate genius who can't pigeon-holed like lesser mortals. We must also contend with another annoying habit of the also-ran: ascribing the disdain their betters feel to jealousy. This, of course, explains why it is that they dare look down on people that look a lot like protagonists. Mira, as a for-instance, isn't a generous, tireless matriarch who doesn't mince words and dotes on her family because she simply can't stay on the sidelines when she sees someone she loves in need; since Deanna has it in her head that she has to deprive herself and her children because people somewhere else are doing just fine without the comforts she denies herself and since Elly hates competition, Mira is a spiteful harridan who wants to be the boss of everyone, especially Michael. Therese's reward for neither suffering in silence nor fools gladly was to be depicted as a succubus by morons who regard her legitimate need to not be shoved aside for their convenience as one of the more bafflingly maddening things they presume to call unfair. It wasn't that the Pattersons, especially Liz, meddled in things that weren't their business or that their needs aren't the will of God, she was irrationally jealous. Another person who ran afoul of the Patterson's need to not value hard work for its own sake was Becky; since John is as lazy and inattentive as everyone else, he meant it when he said that she couldn't possibly be having fun when, as we all know, the life of a D-lister is a lot more enjoyable than that of a petulant, self-willed nobody.
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As I've said before, what strikes me as the most annoying convention of the chick lit genre is the disconnect between the praise lavished on the protagonists and the unpalatable reality of their smug, blank-witted incapacity. It's sort of revolting to remember that the target audience thinks that the shrill, irrational, helpless moron heroine is a wonderful boss because the author says so. That revulsion is doubled by the knowledge that critical thinking is neither welcome nor encouraged. Since the Patterswine are chick-lit monstrosities, let's see what kind of wonderful bosses they are:

  • First off, we have John. As we all know, it would be an act of the highest charity to call him merely unprofessional. He clearly hates his job, he treats his employees like slaves, he gossips about his family and friends while he's supposed to be focused on the patient and he makes no secret of despising small children. About the only reason I can think of for his having patients at all is that they have no choice.
  • Second, we have Elly. We all know that she gushed over a dishonest incompetent who knew how to flatter her, how she couldn't deal with customers and how Moira was actually running things while she sat on her rump and let herself be lied to; what we tend to lose sight of is that it wasn't just being publicly embarrassed when Kortney was unmasked that made her retire. The day-to-day routine of actually having to be an employer was too much for her.
  • Her lack of stamina seems to have been passed down to Mike; the instant he was asked to make a real decision, he resigned and went home to cry to Mommy about the mean, ugly man who was picking on him. In the real world, Deanna would have called him an idiot and gotten herself a divorce lawyer; since this is the Foobiverse, she praised him for destroying his reputation and leaving his successor to clean up the mess he made of Portrait Magazine.

Simply put, the Pattersons' ineptitude, stupidity and destructive nature shines through when put in a position of power over their fellows; what is also crystal clear is their not knowing what they're not good at. Since they think that they're great at being in charge, they think that they have the right to boss people around even after they've retired.
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One of the less palatable facts of life in Milborough is having to be reminded that the Pattersons expect a lot of the people they call friends. As a for instance, look at the Settlepocalypse; instead of having Elly impart what little wisdom she had to her lush of a daughter or watching a parade of minor characters making their last star turn in a travesty of a Fellini movie, we had to watch damned near every one of their friends contribute to the wedding because they were grateful to their super-amazing friends, the Pattersons. This leads me to my inquiry: what have the Foobs done to deserve such tribute. I know it's impolite to answer my own question but, well, here's a break-down of what, if anything, the Pattersons did to deserve things on a friend-by-friend basis.

  • Annie: As you know, she handled the catering for the reception at the hotel where she worked. As you also know, Elly's initial reaction to her marital woes was to shun her like a leper because of a misunderstanding. Instead of realizing that her friend was in the terminal stage of the Foob infidelity cycle and subjecting Steve to eternal torment, she believed that Annie had let herself be oppressed and, as a result, spurned her like a rabid dog.
  • Gordon: Their reaction to his abuse was to simper about dark houses and let him handle it himself. Later on, John paid him seed capital and boasted about how he and the family were there for him; how odd that they regard cosigning a loan as an excuse to demand things of him. "Hire our choice for son-in-law, interfere in his marriage, supply us with vehicles, blah, blah, blah."
  • Lawrence: Second verse, same as the first; Lawrence got kicked out, the Pattersons (who were as in denial about his sexuality as Connie and Greg) ran around like chickens with their heads cut off and later on puffed themselves up as being his best friends.

In all three cases, the Pattersons were very reluctant to help unless there was something in it for them, they did next to nothing and they think that as a result of their inaction, they deserve to own people's horses. The answer to my question is that these people would be better off with a pit viper in their underwear drawer than the Pattersons in their lives. The problem, of course, is that the rules of the genre state otherwise; since this is chick lit, we're supposed to congratulate these vermin for vermining.
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In the strip that's due to be re-published on 4 August 2010, John resolves the tension between him and Elly by, well, not actually resolving it. What I mean by this is that he soothes Elly's nerves by telling her that she has the right to be upset. This sneaky, blame-evading way of handling a problem is all too common in the Foobisphere and I don't much like it. This is because of the following reasons:
  1. John doesn't actually admit that he was wrong to not check with Ted before they started out.
  2. He never actually learns what it is that is upsetting Elly; we don't either but that's to be expected.
  3. What it means is that he wants no further discussion on the subject; this, of course, means that they cannot and will not tell Michael that they are not upset with him because, hey, they're done talking about the trip, can't they move on?
  4. They don't have to learn from their mistakes and can go back to normal.
That last is the worst of it; the Pattersons, as I have said beforehand, don't want to smarten up because it would be too humiliating to admit they were ever stupid. This means that we either have screaming fits that turn mild criticism against the accuser, a kiss-off e-mail, simpering about not being made to feel guilty now or simply informing someone who knows why she's upset with her parents that she's confused as to why. Anything to avoid having to admit to having a dark side like the rest of mankind, anything to avoid having to grow.
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As we all know, all religions have as one of their basic tenets the idea that Man is an imperfect entity with free will; this, of course, means that everyone has impulses to good and to evil. Part of growing up is integrating the two halves; to do that, one must first acknowledge their existence. The problem with the Pattersons is that they have the child’s habit of seeing the people around them as being either all-good or all-bad; psychiatrists call this behavior ‘splitting’. The criterion by which they divide those around them into Goodies and Baddies is equally child-like. Simply put, people who make the Pattersons feel uncomfortable about themselves, stand in the way of their petty ambitions or ask them to do things they don’t feel like doing are bad guys while those who indulge their lack of self-restraint are good guys. As by way of example, Rhetta Blum is pretty much as bad as Hitler because she took the initiative in her relationship with Michael instead of passively letting him decide her fate like she was supposed to; similarly, Ted is a bad guy not because he’s what we used to call a confirmed bachelor but because his freedom calls Elly’s need to martyr herself in the name of being thought of as a good girl into question. If he were a good guy, he’d be a Josef Weeder whose purpose on this Earth is to inform Mike that he cannot be allowed to abide criticism. Questioning themselves, you see, is an unfair and evil thing to do because it makes the Pattersons face the fact that they have the same negative, destructive impulses flesh is heir to; to admit to that would make them totally bad because they cannot reconcile the positives and negatives in their soul. 

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Since many of us started following the strip in the nineties or so, we labor under the misapprehension that the Pattersons have never given more of their time to a cause than lip service; this is something of a mistake because Lynn appropriated Rod's instinct towards public service and assigned it to the Elly of the late eighties. As we will eventually see, she spent most of her free time either in a meeting or shuttling between them. What Lynn really thought of volunteering is fairly easy to determine by examining the role Elly played; she was a hand sticking leaflets under wiper blades or ringing doorbells, a bottom sitting behind a card table holding a fund-raiser's jug and a voice mouthing slogans or cheering on Mike's hockey team; what she wasn't was a brain deciding goals or formulating policy. That part of her life came about as the result of volunteering, though; I am, of course, discussing the programs she ran at the local library. The odd thing is that giving of herself gave Elly no peace of mind; she and Connie spent their time whining about it taking time away from their families, about how they had no time to themselves and how they missed out on sunsets. This, of course, was the beginning of the end for that as it foreshadowed how Elly would later opine that Lilliput's was stating to own her; slowly but surely, Elly "realized" the family-unfriendly moral Lynn had planned all along; that's because in her view, volunteering is a well-meaning but essentially futile activity that disrupts family life. Having all the programs she worked so hard to maintain be scrapped after she got fired due to budget cuts was simply the final nail in the coffin. Elly could then safely moan that since nothing she did had any lasting impact and since the problems of the world never really went away, the only thing open to her was to post a sign in the bathroom reminding April that they conserved water so don't take too long in the shower.

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One of the the things that almost all human beings share is the hope that their lives will have an impact on the world; even the most humble of us hope, that on some level, their lives are not being lived in vain, that their presence has a lasting effect on the world. The fear that this is not the case, that they as people do not matter for anything is, as I said once a while ago, the engine that drives the Pattersons’ less lovely behavior. So far, we’ve seen:

  • Elly’s non-stop dread that all she’s good for is wiping up runny noses, laundering socks and baking cookies. The notion that all her hopes and dreams are for naught terrifies her and makes her lash out at the symbols of her fear: her children.
  • Mike was consumed with the dread that since Lizzie was there, his parents no longer needed him around; rather than be shoved into a corner like an afterthought, he struck back at what he thought was the cause of all his problems: his baby sister.
  • When Elly was pregnant with April, Liz was convinced that with the new baby on the way, everyone would forget about the old baby.
  • April’s main concern about the Housening was the legitimate fear that her opinion about the move didn’t matter.

You may no doubt have noticed that their fear of being shoved aside and forgotten blinds them to the emotional needs of others; on the occasion that it does register, they’d tell the other party not to make them feel bad. This came into play when John shot down Elly’s proposal to take a part-time job when Mike entered grade school. Unlike other men who either thought that they were protecting their wives from the cruel world of Big Business or the lads who didn’t want to be thought of as bums that needed the little missus to cover their asses instead of being able to give them the life they deserved on their own, John’s reasoning is based on the fear of not being necessary. Unlike Don Draper or Max Klinger, John’s reasoning was based on fear of his wife, not a warped sort of chivalry; he seems to me to have believed that if Elly was able to support herself and the kids, he was more or less obsolete; instead of his home, it would be Elly’s. This is because he's afraid of being obsolete as the rest of them and doesn't care about his fellow panicky idiots.


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