dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
We're in for a bit of revisionist history to take us into June. We know from the book "Lives Behind the Lines" that Elly was John's assistant when he started out and she resumed that role when Jean Baker was absent for a while. It would appear, however, that Lynn is in the process of rewriting history so that Jean wasn't even there to be absent. However Lynn wants to retcon things, one thing is certain: Elly wasn't very good at it. The strips I remember show her making a complete mess of things. She could never remember a technical term for more than five seconds and was always handing John the wrong tool. She also didn't handle his angered reaction too well. Here he was, trying to stay afloat and there she was screwing things up for them and their family. I should also think her ineptitude helped sour him on the idea of her working outside the home by confirming the stereotypes he grew up with. His hiring more attractive assistants later on was an act of nastiness calculated to mess with her head as badly as he felt she messed up as an assistant. He had no intention of stepping out on her, he just wanted to see her squirm.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
The strip for 27 May 2008 is an example of something I've noticed about Elly Patterson; it takes her a while to warm up to a technological advance. You can rely on her acceptance of a new way of doing things to take three steps. These are:

1) Frustration: As we've seen, Elly hasn't got all that much patience so usually greets a petty reverse with a violent and counterproductive display of flailing limbs and shouting. An example of this is her dealings with the Yap-Tel voice mail system. It takes her quite a while to get the hang of something but when she does, it stops being intrinsically evil.

2) Begrudgery: Elly's fear that a technology she's adopted will be misused by the ignorant to wreck society, frighten children and bruise fruit comes from her distrust of the Martian sitting at the computer looking up potentially-scary information. The device in question is morally neutral, only becoming evil when it's being used by evil people.

3) Obliviousness: This is when she's so familiar with a device (like her hovercar) that its misapplication would never occur to her. She sees news reports about how ginormous vehicles like that are increasingly a bad idea but ignores them because she thinks she needs all that car.

This, of course, stems from her need to think of herself as perfect. She thinks that if she admitted ignorance, people would never respect her again.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
As we all know, the first three years of the strip were a huge downer. We had a few good moments here and there but most of the time, people stood around being pointlessly upset about things and acting needlessly jerkish to one another. It took to 1982 for the artwork to improve, the people to treat each other like people and, well, the continuity we're familiar with to get established. That being said, we still have to explain why Elly has so many negative memories of that period. The non-stop nastiness we saw in the first few years of the strip strains credibility. My guess is that Elly didn't want to remember the good times, that she wanted, for her own reasons, to focus on the things that upset her to feel big and important. You see, she doesn't feel that she's contributing to society at large so she needs to feel like her life was worthwhile. If she can make a beige suburban existence with a cloddish husband and loutish children sound like some horrid catastrophe, she's rescued herself from being irrelevant.
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It should come as no surprise that someone as vain and silly and humorless and filled with the desire to martyr herself as Elly is is so judgmental that she cannot and will not see that there are two sides to things. As a matter of fact, the idea that people believe that there could be another side to the story is one of the "unfair" things that she hates. She is completely in the right, completely victimzed and everyone else cannot be allowed to anything other than wrong. The reason she's still burning with resentment for the minor indignities of her first few years of marriage is that her family has not admitted the "truth". Her "truth", of course, has no relation to anything like objective facts. John was and is an insenstive, ignornant, lazy clod who expected her to be a stay-at-home mom because he grew up expecting to have a wife to clean for him but he is not the villain who set out to rob her of her youth and happiness that she thinks he is. He knows that she blames him and the kids for every wrinkle, grey hair and extra ounce of flab but he knows that the responsibility for that is on her shoulders. He also knows better than to remind her of that fact. She'll also neve get the expected admission that her children's emotional needs were an "unfair" burden that they selfishly inflicted on their poor, helpless martyr-mommy. The amazing thing is that she thinks she's soooooo oooooooold when thinking like that is the hallmark of an idiot teenager. She sounds like one of the huffy, wet-behind-the-ears brat kids you see on the soaps ranting about "bad" things her parents did when she has neither the facts at hand nor the experience and wisdom to judge her elders.
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We know for a fact that Elly cannot sit still, that her love of activity for its own sweet sake made her fill every single minute of her free time with chores. We also know that John, for all his insensitive jackassery, is being straightforward when he expresses confusion about her complaints about that fact. This tells me that even though he initially expected Elly to be a housewife in the mold of his mother, Carrie Patterson was not in love with work for its own sake. She managed to keep her house spotless enough to satisfy the requirements of the Gods of Hygeine and have time to pursue her own interests. What's more, she didn't spend her time moaning about having to do it because she actually liked the way her life turned out. John probably assumed for the longest time that Elly was the same way, that she was able to clean house and have time to herself. Now that he's underfoot more often and realizes that his wife is not like his mother and cannot ever rest or be happy with what she has, he's probably started to rethink some of the things she used to say. Too bad that he probably thinks that her joyless workaholism is a good thing.
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Despite Elly's stated desire to prop her feet up, sit down and read and the fact that we often see her doing so, it's quite clear that's not how she usually spends her time. What she usually does is a lot of housework. What's more, it takes hours longer than she actually should spend. It would appear at first glance that she regards how long a job took as proof of how good that job is. That has a lot to do with it but it isn't the whole story. She, like Deanna, likes to make things harder than she has to so she can have an excuse to martyr herself. By taking more time, putting more work into things than is needed, people will feel sorry for her. Where she differs from Deanna is that she has no real idea what to do with the time that a labor-saving device would grant her. For all her moaning about how she was meant to be more than a housewife, she really doesn't have the vaguest idea of what that life would be. Therefore, it's safer to ignore the fact that candles exist so she can curse the darkness.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
It seems obvious that, while Connie is complaining about the people around her who did not help at all with the housework, Elly, as I've said before, has a different axe to grind. Her main concern, as we've seen so far this week, is with help that does not help her much at all. We've seen too many strips where she came into the kitchen after John did some domestic stuff and re-do them her way, to many strips wher his ofer to help was violently rebuffed, too many strips where Mike was discouraged from housework because his ideas of what needed to be done conflicted with her own not to realize that she doesn't want them butting in and doing a sub-standard job. In her mind, not doing things her way is as bad as not doing anything.
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As we've seen, the real reason Liz is going ahead with the Settlepocalypse is to avenge herself on an indifferent world. She's got a lot of pent-up rage and she wants to make sure all the people who've wronged her in the past pay and never stop because she's filled with entitlement. In this, she's very much Elly's daughter. Her overweening desire to control every aspect of her children's lives is not only because does she think that she knows best about everything, they owe her. In her mind, she was happy, young, thin and desirable when out of nowhere, she had children and she turned old, ugly, fat and miserable. Since they destroyed her life, she has to control theirs because her idea of justice mandates it. You'll notice that to think that way, she's ignoring something called 'personal responsibility'. It wasn't fate or nasty, smelly, dirty, ungrateful children who laid her low, it was the woman in the mirror. Why is she fat? She has a terrible diet and won't stick to an exercise regime. Why does she look twenty years older than she should? She won't maintain herself. Why is she unhappy? She has unrealistic expectations that can never be fulfilled. Why did her children act up? They were messed up because of her negativity and emotional neglect. Why is she stuck with a husband who won't help? Her high-handed refusal to be helped on his terms saw to that. But saying it's her fault isn't "fair". If she thought like that, she'd have to admit that her domineering, evil mother was right and she is an arrogant, ignorant and reckless know-it-all.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
I know I've said this before but it's too good a point to not repeat. For the last twenty-eight and a half years, we have been subjected to an extended plea for sympathy from most of the female characters in the strip. Everything they say or do can be boiled down to the phrase "Behold me, the wronged, and pity me." You cannot spend too much time before you encounter some idiot who whines about how hard her lot is, how helpless she is to change it and how nobody understands or offers her sympathy or help. Let's exmaine how stupid that is. First off, they got themselves into the bad situation of their own free stupid will. Nobody forced Elly to marry John. Second, it's not a matter of the Ignoble Sufferer being trapped in a bad situation. If they wanted to, they could leave in a minute. They do not want to, though. The will to self-aggrandizement by showing how much crap they can endure keeps them fixed in place. Second, they actively refuse to be helped because they'd rather be pitied. What compounds the awfulness is that if they do not have misfortune in their lives, they'll inflate something trivial into a crisis. This trafficking in mostly undeserved sympathy has a nasty side effect; it blinds them to concerns of those in genuine need. There are people with real problems like Therese and April who get shoved aside because Liz and Elly want to be patted on the head for nothing.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
You notice after a while that the Pattersons don't really expect all that much of Michael. They've come to expect him to make a token effort to do things most people would without asking and no more. The odd occasions when he does act as if he's appreciative of those around him are regarded as rare miracles. "Hurray! Mike did housework without being told to. Woo-hoo! He paid back a loan! Whooty-doo, world! He picked us up at the airport!" Why is he allowed to slide on by doing as little as possible? Because he's been doing it all his life. How did he get that way? Elly let him. When firmness was called for, she started to buckle which made our 'hero' realize that if he pushed hard enough, he wouldn't have to do what other people told him to do. When you combine that with Elly's tendency to angrily declare defeat and John's will to escape from unpleasantness, it's not hard to see that they gave up on trying to change him after a while. They were reduced to shipping him out to the farm and other non-solutions to manage his asshattery because correcting it was beyond them. Simply put, the people around him are at pains to minimize the damage he does.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
When Michael told us that Liz deserved to be teased because she was cuter than he was, it led me to expect that we'd have a whole bunch of strips wherein she supposedly got him into trouble 'on purpose'. That would lead to the alarming prospect of a thirty-one year old man who hadn't changed his thinking in twenty-six years. A grown man who'd think that a toddler was deliberately tormenting him is someone to avoid. However, we find something different. We find him shifting from that to the times Elly swooped down on him and started yelling. Here he was, just trying to be a kid only to have every single thing he did make her holler and scream with her arms failing and her face a mask of rage. He can't fight that enemy and win so he has to find other ways to rebel. That means that he tagets things that she likes to get back at her. Messing up tax forms and walloping people on the head with his bear only go so far, though. To really punish her for yelling at him for no reason, he strikes at the child they only had because they were mad at him: Lizzie. This leads me to believe that after talking out why he picked on Liz, he'd realize a new 'fact': she was just a stand-in for Elly. He might even make a stumbling attempt at an apology based on that 'wisdom'.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
You cannot read this strip for very long without coming to the conclusion that Lynn was extremely dissatisfied with motherhood. As trumanf pointed out, it's a litany of disappointments, of children who won't behave, of things that break down, of nothing ever going right and nobody showing Elly the least bit of real sympathy or gratitude. In short, the melodramatic yoo-hoo at the drawing board was in to turning molehills into mountains. For the longest time, we've have to view the Patterson family and the world around them through the eyes of a self-defeating basket-case who refuses to be grateful for what she has because it would mean to her that people are right not to take her as seriously as she takes herself. Now, things have changed. A new idiot hero has taken centre stage: Michael. His dysfunction is the insane need to be the corpse at every funeral, the child at every christening and the bride at every wedding. Not for him the pathetic whining about how nobody understands him; he parades around beaming with pride at shoving people out of the spotlight like the damb bully he is. The point of the hybrid, as I see it, is to re-examine the past and prove that Elly was wrong and Michael was right. Instead of endless variations on the theme "children-as-burden", we are told a story about a misunderstood genius and the hateful little girl who messed up his life.
dreadedcandiru2: (Cynical Candiru)
Now that we must face a week of Mike whining about how Liz always got him into trouble, let's examine how it was that he was allowed to think that he was the victim of a feminine plot. I've alreadt examined his internalizing of John's fear of the changing world so that chauvinism was second nature, how he allowed himself the luxury of thinking that Elly's hormones inpsired all the screaming and threats of punishment. What we do not see and will not see this week is her tendency to squeamishness. Just like John was allowed to be a macho bonehead for years because she caved in owing to her lack of courage, she always held back on her threats, never quite went through with things. She, by not doing exactly what she threatened, failed to gain her son's respect. Elly also tried to keep John from making his punishments stick. The conclusion that the little creep's muddled brain formed was that tormenting Liz was only wrong because she made noise. Since he never really got shown how bad he was, never had to deal with real blow-back from someone angry enough at him to force him to admit error, he still thinks that she's fair game for insults. As big a jerk as he is, he wasn't born that way: a mother with some firmness in her would have made sure to see that he grew a conscience.
dreadedcandiru2: (Lady Candiru 2)
One thing we can all agree on is that Michael doesn't have an original thought in his head. It has been stated on many occasions that he's internalized John's chauvinistic attitudes because they made his life make sense to him. It was far easier for him to think that Elly's hormones were making her yell at him and dole out the punishment than to accept that he deserved it. Also, Liz "deliberately" used her "feminine wiles" to get him into "undeserved" grief. This is because he shares something with Elly: the urge to blame everyone else but himself for his troubles. People aren't angry at him because he's a sullen, destructive, selfish little jerk; they're out to destroy a misunderstood hero. The most entertaining thing about watching the unoriginal dum-dum is noting how a petty, immature misogynist with delusions of grandeur became a tool of feminine ambition. I think it's fairly obvious that Elly should share credit for writing Stone Season because, as fairest1 said, she was the one who convinced him that Sheilagh's primary virtue was that she put up with being a housewife. Things like independence of thought or common sense were to be avoided. That isn't the only way he became a puppet. fairest1 pointed this out also:

Let's see . . . name from his elementary school teacher, plot from his landlady and War Bride and the Heritage Minute commercial, character from his mother, action sequence from his sister's assult, birth scene from watching his daughter be born. . . how much of this came from him?

It seems obivous from that that he is little more than a conduit for female creativity. But since he's a chauvinsitic idiot, he won't recognize that and keep the money for himself.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
I find it hard to empathize with the struggles of the Patterson family because they have an annoying habit that I keep talking about because they do it so often: they refuse to own up to doing something wrong. You'd think at first blush that they simply can't see themselves as ever having made a mistake, that they're all blind to the consequences of their actions. That would make them all like John. It takes a while for the old boy to realize that he's done something unpleasant but when he does he tries to make up for it in his own ham-fisted manner. The rest of the family, instead, seem to take after Elly. Elly seems unable to admit to herself that she is to any degree repsonsible for the messes she gets in. The finger that points out the guilty can never point to her. Children learn to see the world from those around them so, I repeat, it should be obvious that the main reason Mike says that Liz deserved to be teased because she was cuter than he was is that he was brought up to blame his troubles on a fall-guy. Since he's convinced himself that nothing is ever his fault, he is never going to apologize because he feels no guilt or remorse. It's Lizardbreath's fault for tattling and his parent's fault for taking her side. To see an adult who retains the morals of a five-year-old is sort of disgusting in a horrfying way.
dreadedcandiru2: (Cynical Candiru)
One of the first things you notice about the Pattersons is that Elly likes to nag. The second that a family member does something that isn't exactly the way she'd do it, they get chapter and verse on what they're doing wrong. John, for instance, cannot ever clean the house to her standards and she isn't shy about telling him that. It doesn't matter that the end result is the same, her way is better. Her children also remember primarily as a fountain of unsolicited hectoring about their deficiencies. All of her strident yapping is delivered in a rather condesecending tone which indicates that, to some degree, she thinks the people around her are idiots who need her bellowing at them. It also indicates that she does not trust the people around her, that she fears that left to their own devices they'd bring disgrace to the family. Her constant, persistent fear that she'd be somehow publicly humiliated by the others if she relaxed her vigilance corroded the part of her that could take things in stride, leaving behind the frothingly frustrated mess that only derives a warped enjoyment from listing all the times people have let her down.
dreadedcandiru2: (Cynical Candiru)
THe porblem with John, as I see it, is that he is very slow on the uptake. It takes time for him to assimilate new ideas because he's a born conservative. It's only with the greatest reluctance that he alters his thinking because he can rarely muster the effort to see that he might be the cause of a problem. As the most pressing example, he spent the first few years of the strip making an ugly fool of himself because of his studied refusal to see that Elly was overworked and felt underappreciated. To him, the tidy home, good food, well-behaved kids and balanced finances seemed to occur by magic. He wouldn't allow himself to see that doing so swallowed most of his wife's time because he had a comfy image in his head of her sitting on her rump eating bon-bons that he didn't want to admit was wrong. He has changed, though. That's because he started to notice that the little woman had a point. First off, he slowly but surely figured out how much of a trial the children were. By the time that happened, he was contemplating shipping the kids off to his sister's farm to set them straight. It may not seem that taking twelve years to admit to himself that he was off base is something to be proud of but he might never have learned. Too bad it took another decade or so to get it through his skull how much work Elly put into getting the house in an order their mothers would approve of as well as putting the greaseburgers on the table. Vacuum cleaners, mops and spray cans don't clean houses, you see. People clean houses. Also, she never liked portion control in the food department. About the only thing he refuses to ackowledge now is that his spending habits are open to debate. Given his slowness on the pick up, I'd say by their thirty-fifth annversary, he'd start to publicly admit that he was wrong about the stereo incident.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
I really don't like defending John Patterson because he's such a stupid, selfish character but it seems to me that he might have had a reason to not take Elly seriously for so long. It takes him a while to realize that when a girl or woman is upset, it's not the hormones talking but when the notion penetrates his thick skull, he does change his tune. Why did it take him six months to realize that April was upset about being treated like furniture and twenty years to realize that Elly was dissatisfied with being just Suzy Homemaker and nothing else? The sixteen-year-old kid had the brains to say what was on her mind. I remember when he bought the over-priced stereo when she was trying to budget 'cause it was "his" money. He bought her an appliance and got to keep his toy. What he took away from that is not that she had a genuine concern but that she wanted a bribe so as to allow him his impulse purchase. Had she insisted on returning the silly thing, he might have got the point. Not her, though. She didn't have it in her to modify his behavior. A bit more firmness in her and he might have been brought up to code a lot sooner. She continued to give him enough definite maybes to allow himself the luxury of trivializing her. The reason, of course, is simple. She was afraid that he'd pack up and leave if she lowered the boom. Her greatest nightmare was, after all, single motherhood. Once she developed the confidence to shout him down without fear of what divorce might mean she was, of course, in her late forties. By that time, John was still appreciative of the female form but smart enough to realize that said approval might not be reciprocated.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
As we all know, Mira's always thought that any problems in her daughter's life can be traced to the same source: the worthless twit she married. Over the years, we've seen strong hints that Mira lies awake at night asking herself the following questions:

- Why does a daugher she raised to seek out the best in everything buy second hand goods for her children?

- Why did she live in a series of rathole apartments?

- Why is she treading water financially when she was brought up to be careful with her money?

- Why does the bright, cheerful young woman who went to Honduras look like a carbon copy of the shouting idiot she calls a mother-in-law?

All these horrible questions have a horrible answer: the selfish creep she'd married is draining the life out of her. As far as Mira can see, the daydreaming slacker sits on his fat ass pretending that he's a big time author thereby forcing Deanna to wear herself out to support him. This, to her, is a terrible thing because she could have married a better man and had a better life. The only real problem with that line of reasoning is that Deanna wants to do this. She, for reasons that make sense to her, refuses the life her mother had planned for her. Not for her the understanding that Mom thinks that she has to be twice as good as everyone else just to be accepted. Everything we know about Deanna tells us that she wants nothing to do with the overly-structured life her mother values. She's willing to endure a few minor inconveniences in the name of a slower life. She clearly thinks that once things settle down, she'll have the quiet, tidy life she thinks that the Pattersons have. To sum up, she knows she can do the things her Mom wants her to, she just doesn't want to.

This sort of contrasts her with her role model, Elly. As we've seen over the years, our hero complains non-stop about the potential she's wasting raising children and cleaning house. What's more, Jim was always right in there mourning the loss of the great contribution she made to society, always seemingly ready to blame John and his selfish habit of keeping his child from excelling for her constant unhappiness. He, too, would do so in vain because Elly was not really serious about wanting her degree. She wanted a husband, kids and a home to care for and she wanted to complain about having them because she's only happy when she's upset and getting everyone else wound up. I remember most of the strips from the early years and she wasn't talking about her great work never being accomplished. She wanted to hear adult voices that talked about things she might care about and that was that.
dreadedcandiru2: (Default)
It seems obvious that Elly isn't really all that worried about what Jim is going through right now. We know that he is lucid for the most part but seems to be slowly slipping into a predicted state in which he no longer recognizes his surroundings or the people around him, thereby moving him from the Senior's complex in which he now lives to spend the last of his days in an assisted living environment. Her refusal to be bothered by this or to offer Iris clearly needed help makes her look selfish and ungrateful because we can clearly see that even for a healthy young woman taking care of the indefinitely infirm would be backbreaking labor. I should think that we'd end up seeing strips in the immediate future that would point out that Elly spent most of her time trying to get Iris to make things easy on herself and let Jim go to Sunset Manor, that letting go would be the best thing for everyone. This is because Lynn sort of realizes that Elly kind of looks like a creep and wants to retcon away her sins. I should also expect to see something that explains that our turnip-nosed protagonist had gone through the stages of grief in a few milliseconds, that she's convinced that her dad is dead but his body doesn't know it yet. I get the feeling the point of all this drama we're seeing is to convince Iris and April that it's letting go of him and moving on is the best way to honor him.

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