Monday, March 31, 2008

Wake me when the serial killer gets here

I used to actually enjoy For Better or For Worse, but like everybody else, I read it daily now out of the same compulsion that impels me to crane my neck for a better glimpse when I drive by a particularly nasty car wreck. It started going south in a big way when Lynn Johnston decided that Elizabeth needed to ditch her teaching job in that Inuit town in the wild northern Canadian country and return home so she could re-shack up with Anthony, a character so bland that if you distilled his essence to that of a food item, he'd be a rice cake that's been left under your couch for a year.

FOOB used to be an endearing strip about a family of individuals who lived their own lives, but over the last year or two, in the wake of Johnston's announcement that she'll be retiring the strip, she's been steadily pushing her characters toward a rather creepy denouement in which all of the Patterson children will marry their childhood sweethearts and live within a mile or two of the ancestral Patterson home. The characters have stopped being characters, and are now nothing more than plot-devices. It's like we're watching the final season of Happy Days again, still knowing that yeah, Joanie's gonna marry Chachi and at the end, Howard Cunningham will make a tearful speech about his two wonderful children, forgetting his oldest son, Chuck.

But as creepy as FOOB has been, today's installment is the creepiest yet:

First, there's the whole nauseating "My son could get married but it won't be the same" crap. Uh...yeah, it would, because it would be a wedding. That entire exchange is disgusting. It's like Lynn Johnston is saying "Yeah, you gays out there can say you're 'married', but it's all about the ceremony and it's not the real thing without that."

But even more disturbing is Ellie's describing her child's impending marriage in the words "The circle is complete". Is Ellie really trying to channel Darth Vader here? Is Lynn Johnston really maintaining that parenthood is about relentlessly steering your children toward a predetermined destination, and only by successfully reaching that goal can one really look back on one's years of parenting with satisfaction? And that isn't even bringing up Ellie's admission in the last panel that she has no intention whatsoever to stop controlling and pushing.

Just a few weeks ago, Ellie's oldest child, Michael, discovered his grandmother's wedding dress packed in a crawlspace in the Patterson ancestral home. Wow, wasn't that a bit of convenient timing! Guess who now gets to wear the dress to her marriage ceremony when she, too, weds her childhood sweetheart! But don't stop reading, because what if Grandpa doesn't live that long!

FOOB has become a soap opera, and not even that good a soap opera, either. Oh well, but there's still time for Lynn Johnston to rectify matters. For instance, she can take her cue from that wonderful 1980s prime-time soap Dynasty, and have the Elizabeth-and-Anthony wedding end the way this Dynasty wedding did:

Yup, that's the only thing that can save FOOB now: armed commandoes seizing the throne of Moldavia!


Anonymous said...

The dumb thing is FBOW is a CANADIAN comic strip... so Lawrence and Nicholas could legally get married.

*sighs* dumbing it down for American audiences

Roger Owen Green said...

Yeah, it's like what Alvy Singer said in Annie Hall about a relationship being like a shark; if it doesn't move forward, it dies. FBOW is a dead shark, propelled by inertia. I LOVED that strip, too.

The Siren said...

I would love to comment about FBOFW because I followed and loved the strip for years ... but I can't, I'm laughing too hard about Moldavia. The thing about the 1980s is that the big hair made twice as big a target if commandos decided to shoot up your catered affair.