dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we know, Phil seems to have something of an exaggerated fear of failing at life because he's naive and silly enough to think that since his parents are normal and he's normal, it necessarily follows that Elly herself is normal and typical and average and not spiraling off into her vortex of stupidity and craziness. This leads him to make a lot of questionable life choices based on his not understanding how life really works.

First off, he looked at his big sis being miserable as a spouse and, since his married friends no longer had time for his feckless carousing, assumed sight unseen that marriage made people miserable. Only exposure to other married people after his own wedding opened his eyes to the truth that Elly was born a miserable misfit who could only see bad things. This probably caused him to regret dragging his feet.

Next, there is his mistaken belief that Elly and John are normal parents with normal children. Since most of the married couples with kids he knew didn't let him intrude on their lives because his carefree lifestyle was a damned disruptive nuisance, he doesn't know that Elly and John are terrible parents to weird kids. While he sees a lot of examples of normality, only his having kids of his own would have taught him what a failure his sis is.

This leads us to my subject: his fear of holding down a mortgage because he thinks it means becoming frustrated and old like his parents and sister. Phil isn't aware enough of his family politics to realize that most of why his folks are anxious and morose is that they have to worry about pulling a crazy woman out of a hole so he thinks that home ownership is why they're upset. If Phil were to finally realize that Elly is The Amazing Colossal Human Clusterfuck, he'd ruefully smile as he looks back at a life of limiting himself for a dumb reason. As it stands, he wished that he could have enjoyed the cute little home he did get but between the crazy old man with the barking dog of scaring off the Avenging Black Hordes and expropriation so that his cute neighbourhood could be turned into parking for Wal-Mart and The Gap, he's sort of screwed. Now, he enjoys a condo in Westmount with Georgia vaguely wondering what would have happened had he had a normal sperm count.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we know, it's pretty close to April's twenty-fifth birthday. In three and a half years, we'll see Elly panic and fret because she'll be tied down to the house forever and so on and so forth. What we'll also see is her standing around looking like a gaffed trout because Connie said something that made as much sense to her as Annie's fears that she'd be displaced as best friend did when the woman envied her the chance to be needed again. As we see in this passage from her Liography:

Suddenly, the house was very quiet. Lawrence was 15 now, and busy after school with all his friends and school activities. Connie's work no longer seemed enough to fulfill her. She found herself longing for another child, one fathered by the true love she had found so late. But month after month, her body disappointed her.

It was the bitterest of ironies when Elly announced, with much lamenting, that she was unexpectedly pregnant again.


Connie desperately wanted to have 'proof' of her love for Greg only to face the heartache of infertility and thus had little patience for Elly's wailing about having the child she wanted. This baffled Elly because it didn't make sense that someone might actually envy her or see her as having something they might want.

It's like how she never really understood or heard of another drama: Phil and Georgia's four year battle with the infertility that Connie sees as a betrayal by her body. We were far too busy watching Mike blunder his way into alienating Martha to see something really important: Phil and Georgia's falied attempt at getting in the family way and how they handled it. As HIS Liography indicates:

The second problem had no solution, and it took Phil and Georgia some time to accept it. After four years of marriage and some acutely embarrassing medical moments, they knew they would have no children of their own. There were times when this depressed them. Other times, Phil thought it might be just as well. He wasn't at all certain he had what it took to be a good father.

They talked of adopting, but decided against it. While both would have loved children of their own, there was also pleasure in coming home after a hectic day to a peaceful house. There were advantages, too, in being able to focus totally on their careers. They both worked with children every day; their interest in young people could be channelled into more dedicated efforts to help those kids lead better, richer lives.

When that wasn't quite enough to ease the hurt, they decided to "adopt" two children and their families through an international aid organization. Each month they contributed the amount they had planned to put into an education fund for their own children. It was humbling to find that such a meagre amount was enough to not only support the two families, but to provide a well for safe drinking water for their whole village. There was comfort in knowing that out of their disappointment had come some real good.


Phil might have tried to rationalize away a lot of heartache by telling himself that he was too much of a kid himself to be a dad and that he's doing more good for more kids this way, he and Georgia are pretty much on the same page with Connie in secretly envying Elly's having her "superfluous" child. Not, of course, that Elly is really aware of this or could sympathize if she were. As I said the last time I talked about this, the problem is that Elly is too focused on her own problems and too lacking in real curiosity to see what's going on around her. Were we able to see into the lives of the 2016 Pattersons, I should think that as she sits at the kitchen table with Connie and doesn't realize how much complaining about how April's not calling as often as she'd like still hurts, it's equally likely that she makes pious noise about how Phil never even tried to give her a niece or nephew because she's the same sort of idiot Mike is and thinks that they're morally inferior because they're infertile.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As you probably don't know, the current pointless and sad exercise in tedium that we call this week's Funky Winkerbean is all about how Crazy Harry is confused and outraged that iTunes told him that if he loved Robert Plant, he'd also like Emmylou Harris. While he's willing to concede that if you had to think about it, maybe they'd be connected but not officially because back in 1978, they were in different genres. Factor in the fact that when the title character looks in the mirror, he can't help but see the dime-store Archie Andrews he started out as, we end up dealing with the irritating reality that is a bunch of middle-aged guys so stuck in the past that they don't realize that they're seen as having aged before their time. It might seem ironic that denying that one has aged ages you but to paraphrase P J O'Rourke, life is full of irony if you're stupid.

The reason that I mention this is that the very interesting thing about the only real time that Phil and Mrs Baird actually encounter one another is that he refers to her as being that old fogy from next door. While the strip in which this is revealed has as its premise the fact that children are evil embarrassments who live to make their elders look foolish because the alternative is watching your damned mouth in front of your kids because they're going to repeat things because they don't know better, the thing that interests me is that, as I've said, Phil seems to be suffering from the same sort of mental peculiarity that defines the idiots from Funky Winkerbean.

After all, what is this annoying tendency of his to call marriage 'going down in flames' and acting as if he's being asked to kill what makes him a friendly, happy person but a denial of the fact that he isn't a kid any longer? He varies only in degree and not in kind from Ted and his living his life so as to emulate a hero from his youth; fortunately, he's saved from having to live in the past by his sensible spouse and doesn't end up becoming a ridiculous idiot like Ted who wound up the subject of Liz Patterson's mild disgust. This saves him from being a deluded older fellow who, in the quest to cling to the past, ages himself. While this might be a horrible fate for Funky and the gang, they're at least better off that those in the Patterverse who think of themselves as being older than they really are.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The interesting thing about Phil's idiotic decision to try to 'encourage' Mike by making him listen to one of the masters of the form is, oddly enough, its complete and utter tone deafness. It's not enough that he doesn't see himself as being the angry loudmouth who wants to steal Michael's childhood away from him forever and deny him any chance to laugh and feel good about himself without his failure to realize what Marsalis must mean to a child.

To explain this blind spot, let's remind ourselves of the end of the film "A Boy Named Charlie Brown." As we all know, the Round-Headed Kid bobbles the spelling of the word "beagle" and ends up coming in second place in the State spelling bee and he feels as if the world has come to an end because he's humiliated himself forever and ever. Someone who understood kids would nod his or her head, realize that that's the deal with a rather gloomy child who takes everything too seriously and accept it. Phil, I should think, would be totally confused by this. After all, the boy came in second place and that's pretty darned good, right? What kind of messed up world does this kid live in where coming in second mean he's freaking radioactive? And why do parents keep showing up complaining about how he's riding their kids too hard and making them feel bad about themselves?

This is because we're dealing with the same man who doesn't want his own childhood to matter all that much. From his angry refusal to validate the fact that Elly felt as if she could never catch up to him and that she was always kept on a tighter reign just because she was a girl and his sullen refusal to admit that perhaps his cruel stunt of charging his chums to see her change because no one would do anything about it mattered to his eventual belief that she doesn't need any victories because time doesn't exist, we're looking at a man who needs to believe that children are resilient because if they are not, his suspicion that he'd probably have made a terrible father would be more than confirmed. Simply put, he'd be John Patterson with a scrub bush mustache and a need to blame everyone else but himself for every time he felt bad. Shit. He's what you'd get if Shaggy were to become Anthony's dialogue coach.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Another problem with Elly is that she doesn't realize that she herself is a problem inherent in the system. As we'll see during the length of the "Phil's engagement" arc, she has no idea that her refusal to listen to Phil's fears that he's condemning himself and Georgia to a mistake they can't get out of serve to amplify said fears any more than she can admit to herself that her non-stop whining about how unfulfilling and miserable her married life with kids is might be what put the idea in his head in the first place. Since Phil's married friends are too busy living their lives to set him straight, the poor fool went to the only person who had the time to share her teachings and it made his life worse. That being said, we could still be living in a world where he assumes that his and Georgia's relatively happy life is an anomaly because he had the worst teacher ever.

The reason that I say this is that he still has yet to realize even now that he's in his early sixties that Elly has never been what you'd call an education mother. He doesn't have the advantage of reading the strip so he has no idea that most of her life has been spent shooing the children away because she can't think straight when she has to keep track of what other people happen to be doing and can't admit that children might actually be interested in what she's doing let alone admitting that they'd like to be part of the process.  As I've said before, the poor dope doesn't seem to realize that Elly learned the wrong lesson from watching their parents parent. I can see a world in which Jim and Marian actually did try to include the kids in the process when they had the time and I can see Phil remembering that and assuming that that's what Elly is doing. Unlike him, I can see a world in which Elly came to the conclusion "Don't let children get underfoot or you'll never get anything done. Mom shooed us away and we turned out great so she must know what she's doing."

What this means is that he doesn't realize that there's never been a moment wherein Elly could communicate with her kids that she couldn't somehow or other dodge in the unswerving belief that doing so is the best thing for all concerned. On the rare occasions she does try, the kids are so unused to the idea of being able to talk to her, they don't know what to do. 
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
The interesting thing about Connie's departure is that it looks to all the world as if it's meant to be a temporary obstacle to Elly's having someone with whom she can agree that children are ungrateful parasites who steal time and attention because CHAOS and that their malicious, self-absorbed neglect and solipsism is actually the best way to raise their ill-used offsprings and small ones. It might have looked as if we were dealing with a real-world situation in which life was a fluid thing in which people's lives take different trajectories but Lynn made it obvious that Connie's destiny is to be Elly's sidekick and fellow failure as a mother, wife and human being. The question that faces us is wondering why it is that she had to leave and why it was that it took her so long to return.

The answer seems to be that it was impressed upon Lynn that she couldn't have the soap operatic love triangle between Phil, Georgia and Connie that her day-time television obsessed brain makes her see as being the most desirable means in which to have people interact. Since she couldn't have the drama, it made sense to put Connie on a bus until such time as Alan stopped telling his crazy lie about how Joan was the one dragging her feet about marriage and got married already. Simply put, we have to endure cheap theatrics about how Lawrence has to adjust to living in a whirlwind so that his idiot creator can pout about people having no sense of reality.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As I once said long ago, the reason Lynn wants old flames to not flicker out and die is because she is mildly envious of relationships that last. This yearning for a world in which the flame doesn't gutter out and die is, as I said, why even unto the last days, Connie still played "what if" when thinking about Doctor Ted.

The reason that I mention this is that Lynn needs to assume that some sort of lingering attraction to an old flame is why Alan wouldn't hurry up and marry Joan already. We are, as we all know, dealing with someone who assumes that because she wanted to rush down the aisle with the first thing with a pulse, the same thing must be true of all women everywhere. This means that any sort of reality that involved Joan being the one slowing down the wedding machine could not be real to her. Since Joan 'clearly' wanted to get married as soon as possible, Alan must be to blame for the delay. Thus do we have Phil singing about his love for a woman he barely had time for in the real world.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we know, we're hip-deep in the middle of an arc in which Georgia is angry with Phil for not only spending far too much time talking to Connie but for also not making her aware of the woman's existence. The problem, as has been noted, is that Georgia and Connie had already met the previous Christmas. The reason that we have this awkwardness is that Lynn seems to have forgotten and her father-in-law (who was the one keeping track of these things) didn't remind her in time.

What this means is that instead of an awkward moment in which Georgia got blindsided by the sudden revelation of a key piece of his past that everyone kept from her, what should be happening is her wondering why Connie's boyfriend Ted is a no-show and if that means that someone is looking for a Mister Rebound. Her somewhat insincere declaration that, no, she didn't mind that Phil talked to someone who meant a lot to him (even if that meaning only meant anything if he couldn't have her) even though it really did could stay but the 'Who's that in the tube top' needs to go.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Now, to get back to the whole "Phil doesn't understand that Elly is the problem when he tries to figure out why Mike wants to quit", it occurs to me that Phil is less capable than he can be because he takes Elly at face value when she tells him that she tries her best to support Michael. The poor goon is thus left with an inaccurate mental picture, one in which a loving mother praises and encourages her ungrateful defeatist slacker goof-off son. He is no more capable of understanding that Elly lives in pants-soiling terror of letting it slip that her children do things that please her and make her proud of them than he is capable of flying without wings or gasoline.

The reason that Elly fears the awful day when her children find out this dangerous fact is that she misunderstood what her childcare books told her about praising her children. Rather than differentiate between praising the effort involved and the outcome derived, the very simplistic thinker we call Elly came to the conclusion that all praise was equally bad and, like her mother said, would lead directly to his becoming entitled and defiant. What she doesn't ever realize is that Mike can't help but think that nothing can ever please her. She also never quite put it together that since Mike wanted to undergo the whole exercise in the first place for the express purpose of finding out if his mother loves him and is grateful he exists, her refusal to admit anything like that because WE MOMS know that it would clearly ruin him is most of why he wanted to quit. Since Phil doesn't understand this, he is as powerless in the face of horrible parenting as his nephew. His impotence takes the form of aiding and abetting Elly in destroying happiness for the common good.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we all know, the strip can be divided into eras. Currently, we're in the dying phase of what are called the 'Early Years' of the strip. In a few months, Connie will leave town for a few years, the Enjo family will move in, Lizzie will transition from "fear-filled human barnacle" to "vaguely discontented little girl in pig-tails whose default expression is a blank-eyed, confused frown" and in about a year and a half, Phil will talk John into taking the Camping Trip From Hell. After that, we enter into what can be called the "Growing" or "Middle" Years of the strip.

What I find interesting about all of this is that Phil also seems to be involved in two other elements of the change-over. This is because I sometimes think that if Elly hadn't got it into her stupid head that Phil's job was to save Connie from Ted, the confused, needy, angry woman wouldn't have been soooooooo ashamed and lost that she had to move to Thunder Bay to marry a manipulative SOB on a power trip. Also, had Phil been a less temperamental and more observant teacher, Mike wouldn't have lost faith in adults and become the moody, defeatist slacker he spent years being.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As we all know, we're not just going to spend January 2014 watching the Patterson family fail to learn their lesson about responsible pet ownership. If it were simply another round of the family being shocked out of their alleged minds by the inevitable only to overreact and then go back to normal because it hurts too much to be consistent, we'd just be in for a depressing four weeks of asking ourselves why the Hell Mrs Baird thought that giving the Foobs pets would teach them responsibility. What we also have to contend with is Phil not realizing why it is that Mike's ardor for the trumpet has cooled. While it's true that the vain little kid in him sees Mike's "disrespect" and "lack of drive" as being inspired by ingratitude and hatred, the adult in him is completely baffled by all of this. This is because of something I said the last time I talked about all of this: Phil has no idea that there are two extraneous factors that get in the way of Mike's enthusiasm. Said extraneous factors are a peevish, narrow-minded, disruption-hating father who is more the organic adjunct of a recliner than a supportive role model and a mother who needs to destroy enjoyment in the process of living owing to her stupid belief that only miserable people matter. This inability to consider the home environment of a child as a factor in his or her willingness to learn seems to be inherent to most teachers in the Foobiverse. One would think that when he went to Teacher's College, Phil was told point-blank that a child's surroundings have exactly no relation to anything at all.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Of course, the idea of Georgia pining away and dying of grief because her one-and-only true love died on her isn't the only profoundly sexist idea to inform the strip. As history teaches us, no matter how repellent a man is, a woman is supposed to automatically jump into his arms if he mentions or hints at marriage. It doesn't matter how ugly and self-indulgent a fool the man makes of himself because if he declares his intent, the girl is simply powerless to resist.

The example that comes readiest to mind is the man whose death requires Georgia to commit despairing suicide: Phil. Let's examine his attributes so as to force us to ask the question "What on God's EARTH does she see in the bonehead with the idiotic mustache?!"

I mean, it's not as if we didn't have any number of warning signs that the man was bad meat in a can. After all, Phil outed himself when he made a whiny little shit of himself when Connie Poirier decided to give another self-absorbed momma's boy another chance. When he wasn't sobbing about how he'd let a dame mess him up, he was foaming at the mouth about her being so crazy as to reject him.

The second broad hint as to what makes Phil tick is that nothing on this Earth can seem to make him take Elly's concerns seriously. The very really feeling that she's had all her life that she's been shortchanged just because she's a woman seems to mean very little to the wilted flower child who regards the sixties not as an era of societal change but as an era in which societal rules that kept him from being the spoiled little kid he wants to be were set aside.

Finally, we have the recent exercise in which he, as John would put it, kept Georgia on her toes. The way he saw it, he had to and has to keep the women in his life off balance or else they might start thinking something crazy about how they're supposed to make headway in the brutal war between the sexes that seems to be going on in Soviet Foobistan. As we all know, the idea that underlies the strip is that the women in the strip are all supposed to wail feebly about how they can never come close to any sort of victory over the men in the world. Always and ever, Elly and the others are frustrated by men who in the real world could be taken down by a hamster.

The end result of all of this is that Georgia was kept off balance so long and made unsure of things to such a great extent that she started to think that two and two did after all make twenty-two. This means that the strip seems to preach the moral "Don't worry about him being a vain, immature emotional abuser who thinks that you're less than human, ladies. Just make sure he's a great provider."
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Of course, Elly and the gang aren't alone in being self-absorbed jerkwads who squeal about being cruelly mistreated while they're in the process of denying someone his or her rights, freedom and/or property. Phil is also a rather horrible jerk in his own right. As the recent sequence in which he pulled a Jedi mind trick on Georgia so that she would agree that only he gets to make decisions because he has the Y chromosome that permits them to be made, he likes to play a lot of nasty head games because he's an infantile petty tyrant.

This meant that most of the lead-up to their inevitable marriage meant that she wasted the best years of her life trying to reform the whimpering sack of sewage. In the normal course of events, she might have eventually fallen into the orbit of a less depressingly stupid and entitled and wound up bitterly resenting the time lost pursuing an imbecile who lives to trivialize the hopes, fears and dreams of the women in his life. Sadly, he and John decided to get away from what they called "feminine tyranny" and what actual men call "having to admit that they're most of why their significant others are so damned moody all the time."

Since the two of them had no more idea of what they were doing in the wilderness than a member of Possum Lodge, their canoe capsized owing to being weighed down by all the junk they needed to enjoy the simple life. While Elly was wondering why John's leaving whiskers in the sink like a slob was a big deal, Georgia stated that she simply couldn't go on living if Phil were dead.

Since she didn't have to pine away and die of grief or commit suicide so she could be with her mayyyyyyuuuuunnnnnn, she was glad to take him on, bad habits, verbal abuse and everything. What Phil never seems to have quite realized is that the idea of being free of a puerile moron who spent the better part of the eighties pretending that it was still 1972 had been made so scary that he had no choice but to marry her lest she do herself an injury.

Just as she would later do with Liz and Anthony or Mike and Deanna, Lynn would declare this to be the triumph of True Love. She would be dead bang on were the words "true love" to be pronounced "stock-holm syn-drome."
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
As you will recall, I wrote something a few weeks ago that likened Phil and Georgia's wedding to a dry run of the Settlepocalypse. That's because the point of the whole thing was to lecture Alan about how big, stupid and juvenile a bastard he was being by not putting a ring on his wife's finger. Always and ever, Phil would be made to look like a stupid child who doesn't know what's good for him when it was clear that if he wanted to be taken seriously, he would have to step up, get in that tux, marry that girl and quit his bitching about how living a steady, regular life like everyone else is 'going down in flames' or whatever.

The odd thing that I'd noticed is that a certain pattern would emerge whenever Phil tried to explain his concerns. What would generally happen is that Phil would start to pour his heart out about his fear that he was going to make a decision he couldn't back out on without looking like a son-of-a-bitch only to have Elly or Georgia tune him the Hell out and start running their damned mouths about china patterns or dresses or whatever. The way it looked to Phil was that he was being steamrolled by the wedding machine because no one God-damned listened to him about how anxious he was, how worried he was that he was going to do wrong by everyone.

While Lynn wants to make it look as if he were making a big deal over nothing by having his concerns fade away on the day itself, the fact that the Georgia who manipulated him into stepping up by threatening to walk out the door waited until they were packing for their honeymoon to share the trivial fact that she was just as anxious as he was makes me somewhat pissed off. That's because no one listens and no one talks to one another; somehow, this refusal to share somehow leads to a happy married life.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru2)
Of course, getting him away from his toxic family wasn't the only challenge Georgia faced. The other great big challenge was getting rid of the clutter he'd accreted in the name of the simple life. Like a lot of suburban dimwits of his generation, Phil couldn't live off the land or come and go as he pleased without first accumulating enough gear to support the 1st Air Cavalry. In the name of peace, sanity and not tripping over stuff that her idiot packrat husband only used the once, she decided that they should probably stop renting and get themselves a house.

As you could expect, Phil was an extremely reluctant home-buyer owing to this need of his to not do anything that would require effort on his part. This tendency to think of being a man and stepping out of his comfort zone as being a horrible torture not only explains his own being a whiny little bitch about everything; it would go on to explain why Mike felt that it was best for everyone if he forced things by deciding to buy the Pattermanse.

What bothers me about that is less that we're dealing with two generations of whiny pukes who hated the idea of feeling pain; what's bothering me is that Lynn didn't make The Delicate Genius 'right' by doing to him and Deanna what she did to Phil and Georgia. Back then, she showed us that going to other people's homes was a nightmare owing to the fact that Milborough is so loaded with mutants, we had every right to expect one of them to tell the short, hairy guy smoking the cigar "You know that guy in the helmet with the absolute control over metal? If the two of you got into a fight, he could really mess you up so you should probably stay away from him!" If she'd showed us that the Milborough of 2007 was also filled with mutant horror freaks who live like barnyard animals, it would make displacing everyone for a selfish, stupid reason seem much more sensible to her target demographic.

Ah, well. At least he didn't have to move anything. Back when he moved, Phil acted like a guy and got an old pick-up from some dude because like most of the cast, he didn't realize how much free stuff cost. Not, of course, that we could expect him to do so. After all, his creator doesn't understand that either.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
While it is quite clear that Phil and Georgia simply seemed to click when they first met, the fact that dimwit Elly still can't get over the fact that she's seven years younger than he is isn't the only complicating factor in their relationship. After all, Phil seems to have came out of the womb with a need for what he calls simplicity. Given that he defines 'simplicity' as being able to leave town in an awful hurry whenever he feels 'trapped', it would seem that 'simplicity' turns out to mean 'arranging matters so that he doesn't have to leave a very narrow comfort zone'.

While it does sort of irritate me to have to give John credit where it's due, the reason Phil made irritating noise about not needing a piece of paper was not that he didn't truly care about the social norms that Elly regards as iron-clad laws but more that if he started to feel the least bit of discomfort with his living conditions, he could back out no matter how much it might have hurt Georgia. This is why it took her four or five years to finally get the big mope down the aisle: she had to fight the stupid little kid who doesn't care who gets hurt so long as he doesn't have to feel pain so she could marry the man who loves her no matter what happens. Also, she had to finally wean him away from his mother and his sister and all the other competing females who want to make an infant of him so that they can control him. Since they live in her home town and since Elly is the one dealing with Jim, it would seem that she finally managed to kill the little kid dependent on Mommy and Big Sis.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
I'd like to move away from Elly pouting about how unfair it is that her horrible children wanted to torment her by questioning the iron-clad rule that only their generous parents get to decide what they will allow the offsprings and small ones to keep to talking about how Phil took a very long time adjusting to the idea of a more settled life. Given how often Lynn liked to have him compare the steady, regular existence the Pattersons had to some sort of cruel punishment meant to trap people and keep them from being free, what we were looking at was her hectoring Alan about how worthless and stupid he was being for not settling down NOW and making of himself a disgrace to everyone everywhere.

What she doesn't realize is that when Phil talked about some fellow he knows going down in flames, he (and Alan) were more than likely trying to tell her that he had convinced himself that he was sure to make a complete blunder of the whole work-a-daddy, mind-your-mommy Patterlife held up as a model for all. While John might overshoot the mark with his rattling witlessly about evil, distracting stars that mislead people into living a miserable nomadic life of nomadic misery, Elly is genetically incapable of understanding putting a brave face on things. Since John is too blasted insensitive to understand how dull it is to drift along aimlessly and Elly too angry at him for winning their childhood, it's a good thing for him that he has a reasonably sympathetic life partner in Georgia. She might want to remodel him too but at least it's not because she hates him and wants to torment him to death for the sins of her idiot parents.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru)
Now that I've exhausted the possibilities implied in bludgeoning Kate over the head with the fact that she shouldn't get in Lynn's way when she wants to actually be a parent for once, I'd like to get back to Phil's struggle with kicking an addiction. I'm torn between being disgusted and pleased because he doesn't acquit himself especially well. It both sickens and delights me to have to remind you that the same overbearing snot who witlessly lectured Mike about staying the course made a whiny little bitch of himself because, as he saw it, people were trying to shackle him down when he should be free. This odd aversion to a more structured existence seems, I should think, to stem from the environment in which he and Elly grew up. Since any fool could look at Phillip Richards and immediately identify him as that contemptible figure called the momma's boy, we didn't actually need Elly trying to get him to remember that she was treated like a freaking maid while he had very few limits set on his behaviour to assume that this was the case. Her racing around trying to do things that would finally get her the approval and respect her parents withheld and their fawning over the smug beatnik asshole kid brother's every stupid action would have told us that anyway. Why this fear of re-examining the past? Why this fear of a structured existence in which there are consequences for his actions that last and last and last? It seems to me that Orwell's essay "Notes on Nationalism" can help explain things. In said work, Orwell pointed out that rabid exponents of a cause cannot allow themselves to think certain thoughts that are damaging to their belief systems. It seems to me that there are four core beliefs that Phil doesn't wish to believe that he believes:

  1. "When I saw Elly get shortchanged because of her gender, I thanked whatever god or gods might exist that I was born male and didn't have to deal with that."
  2. "Deep down, I believe that women were put on this Earth for the sole purpose of serving me and they don't like that, they're crazy, evil and selfish."
  3. "If a person bothers me, it's okay if they suffer things that I would not tolerate if they were done to me."
  4. "I am totally exempt from the rules that everyone else must obey."


The reason that Phil does not own up to the hatefulness, bitterness and selfishness in his heart is quite simple: he cannot and will not admit that he's loaded with malice and entitlement. This need to assume himself to be untainted leads him to want to shrug off any sort of implication that he has things to apologize for. His trying to shout Elly down or turn the argument against her tells us that he's comfortable in his denial. His panicky squealing about the castration and ruin implicit in growing the Hell up, paying his taxes and dying like the rest of the human race tells us why he does so: he fears an impossible act of restitution in which he is forced to grovel for forgiveness that isn't forthcoming. The petulant, irrational and immature means by which he expresses his fear of Elly's vengeance tells us that he created this straw older sister the first time someone used the scary phrase "you reap what you sow" in his presence. Were he to finally grow up, he'd be left with an impossibility: how to make up for fifty five years of his life lost fighting a monster made of his own fear that he's a jerk.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru)
What really bothers me about the Phil-quits-smoking saga is not just that Elly and Lynn think that conquering an addiction is as easy as flipping a switch in the sufferer's brain. It also isn't that we're dealing with someone who lacks the empathy to understand that Phil isn't a robot who can switch his personality traits on and off just because she'd prefer it that way. It isn't even the fact that Lynn and Elly falsely assume that binge dieting is anything remotely like going through withdrawal. What bothers me is that Elly tends to not notice that Phil uses tobacco the way another other person with a chemical dependency uses an addictive chemical: as a means of relieving stress. This is because Elly herself is the stress factor that keeps Phil on edge. While Lynn clearly didn't intend to show us what makes Phil assume that he'll be a miserable, unhappy failure, Elly's coming close to actually having an orgasm for once in her life when contemplating his being beaten down and miserable tells us that when our boy talks about how all of his friends have crashed and burned, he really means that his nightmares are haunted by Elly's grinning face laughing a malicious, triumphant laugh about how justice has finally been done and he punished for daring to not admit that he owes his sister an apology for everything he has ever done wrong to her.

What he tends to lose sight of is the fact that his older sister tends to take the normal human tendency to focus on what's gone wrong in her life and dialed it up to eleven. While he sees the two of them as having had the very normal childhood that they actually seem to have had, he doesn't want to admit that Elly sees things as having gone quite differently. He remembers himself as not having gotten away with a Hell of a lot so doesn't get why Elly tells everyone that he was a little pasha who was allowed to do whatever he wanted because he was a boy while she was practically a slave. It wasn't personal, he and their parents weren't setting out to be cruel to her and did what they thought that they had to so it annoys him that she wants to him to grovel pathetically for forgiveness for laughing at her misery when he can't remember a day when he didn't live in fear of her rage and malice.

This sort of thing comes to a head eight years from now when Jim and Marian downsize. Elly clearly wants the old pump organ as a sort of symbol that as oldest child, she should have the right of first refusal over everything. She sees Phil's wanting to have the damned thing because unlike her, he can actually play it as a sign that Phil gets everything ever because he's a boy and because she happens to be a woman, she is not allowed to win anything ever. The look of horror on their faces when they aren't allowed to see who the favourite child really is because Jim gave the bloody thing away is sort of priceless. I mean, all that build-up to settling a pointless argument wasted.

It makes me wonder what sort of mud-slinging went on when Jim died. Given that Elly never really lets anything go, it makes a certain amount of sense that while Mike was delivering an overwrought eulogy loaded with factual errors, Lizardbreath huffing about how unreasonable April was about her doing something that made her feel good and John standing in the background with the usual nothing on his alleged mind, Phil and Elly were still bitching about who was more loved. Also, Phil was probably headed down to the drug store to stock up on nicotine patches.
dreadedcandiru2: (Snarky Candiru)
As you know, we're coming up to the first installment of a long-term plot involving Uncle Phil: his having to quit cigarette smoking. The generalized premise behind the whole thing was that Phil is a spoiled brat who won't listen to the older sister who knows best, a pathetic Neanderthal who confuses the benevolent guidance of the women in his life with being neutered and an anti-social jackass who thinks that his need to puff his brains out is the only consideration that needs to be taken into account. The problem is that she accidentally lets it slip from time to time that Phil is pretty much terrified of failure. Unlike Jim who thought that since he never died of cancer that there was no proven link, Phil joins Candace aware of the risks involved. He also shares with Candace the fear that taking on adult responsibilities means turning into an embittered, angry failure so when things get dicey, the two of them will always have the urge to backslide.

The interesting thing is that this reminds me of the constant hectoring about quitting smoking on the comic strip Curtis. The protagonist can't seem to get that when his dad talks about there's a stress in his life that can only be calmed by a pack of menthols, what would make Greg quit for good is if Curtis turned into the grinning drone who always agreed with authority figures and never bothered questioning what anyone older than he was said that Billingsley holds out as an ideal of childhood. In both cases, we're dealing with a child who should gleefully cast himself into a furnace if an adult told him to who needs to accept that he owes the stupid blind obedience.

Ah. well. At least the humorless granite block of moral absolutism calling himself Ray Billingsley has the courage of his grim, anti-human convictions. When he says that Greg is a fool, Curtis an annoyance and smoking as much a device of Satan as his main character, he means it. He's not like Lynn who only objects to cigarettes because she hates the smell. If she liked it, the Pattersons would be accompanied by their own personal smog cloud.

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