Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Life’s Worse than Your Life

In today's strip, this is the third time that April’s life has been praised by other characters in the strip. Luis Guzmán told her that her life was better than that of a refugee. Eva Abuya told her she was lucky to have a nice place to live and not to be homeless in a wartorn country. And now, Becky McGuire tells April she is lucky to have a regular life, a regular home, and parents who are not divorced.

The overall point seems to be to let April know that, despite her complaining, she has got the good life. April’s life is pretty good. The peculiar thing is that these other characters seem to be determined to let April know that her life is better than theirs, and their criteria is a little on the bizarre side. Most people in Canada are not refugees like Luis, didn’t come from wartorn countries like Eva, and are not pop stars like Becky.

As near as I can tell, April has a home life typical for most teenaged girls living in suburban Toronto. It seems that Lynn Johnston is going out of her way to proclaim the advantages of the average Toronto suburbanite. This may be the true reason for this storyline. The creator wants people to be able to relate to her comic strip and I would say the bulk of the people who read For Better or For Worse are not like Luis, Eva, or Becky; and more like April. In this way, Lynn is actually praising the readers.

Look! You’re not divorced and you’re raising a child. You’re pretty good. You’ve given your child a home. Good for you! Your kids are wholly unremarkable and average in talents. Thank goodness for that, or your kids would be miserable. You only buy wash-and-wear clothing. Good job!

All those people who say that the Pattersons remind them of themselves, can also take with them the idea that their lives are worthwhile and praiseworthy, all thanks to reading For Better or For Worse. It’s no wonder people love this comic strip. It makes them feel better about themselves.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Coffee Talk

I got my entry into the For Better or For Worse Elly’s Coffee Talk (http://www.fborfw.com/fun/blog/) today (Paul S. from Oro Valley, AZ, in case you want to look for it). It was not the first time I had sent something in, but it was the first one accepted and displayed. It was also the first one where my comments were swallowed in an effusion of praise for Lynn Johnston and it is because of this quality of the contribution, I am sure it was accepted.

Usually the nature of snarking the stories in For Better or For Worse also includes as a part of it snarking the person who wrote the stories in For Better or For Worse. There have certainly been a number of stories over the last year where the quality of the writing has been poor, at best (the Howard Bunt trial comes to mind). However, from time-to-time, things show up in the strip, which I cannot tell if they are poor characterization or excellent.

For example, when Elizabeth was in Mtigwaki, her school-teaching focus seemed to be almost entirely on one boy, Jesse Mukwa. The usual criticism of those stories has to do with Elizabeth showing a poor teaching habit of concentrating on Jesse and forsaking the other students in her class. However, Lynn Johnston showed Elizabeth having a similar problem during her student-teaching with a boy named Dylan, and even had a strip where Liz received criticism for concentrating on one student by her student evaluators. Then when Elizabeth went back to visit the boy in Mtigwaki after she moved, he confessed he had grown so attached to her, he had stolen a harmonica from her to have as a keepsake. Liz ultimately lets him keep the harmonica and rejoices internally when he says he misses her.

In Elizabeth’s newest school, we have seen her teach twice and in both cases, she concentrated on no one particular student. If I am looking at this from a writing perspective, I could draw the conclusion that Lynn Johnston has subtly shown us that Elizabeth has finally realized the lesson that the teaching evaluators tried to tell her during her student teaching. This could be an example of a nice, delicately-told story from Lynn Johnston in her characterization of Liz Patterson. The message comes across without the use of a sledgehammer, but it makes me wonder if Lynn Johnston simply hasn’t gotten around to establishing the bad boy in Liz’s classroom who will fulfill the Dylan / Jesse Mukwa role, and I am making a mistake in complimenting the writing.

The problem I have is that the point of so many of the For Better or For Worse stories are driven home by a sledgehammer, when one is told more gracefully, I mistrust that this is the effect of good story-writing. I think, “Well, this must have happened by sheer accident.” Or “She’ll get around to messing this up. Just wait.”

In my Coffee Talk submission, I complimented the writing of Becky McGuire’s dialogue from Saturday, saying that Lynn Johnston chose the words precisely to show that Becky misunderstood how particular April Patterson is about the qualifications for her friendship. The presumption of many who read the strip is that the Patterson character’s opinion is Lynn Johnston’s own, and I don’t know that this is truly the case. April has bad-mouthed Becky McGuire over and over again. Is this Lynn Johnston’s opinion of the character also? I have my doubts. Becky’s dialogue could have been worded in such a way to make it unmistakably clear that Becky is completely at fault for the problems she has had with April for the last 2 years. Was the dialogue poorly-worded because it didn’t spell that out explicitly, or was it cleverly-worded because it pointed to the real truth in their relationship, i.e. a good deal of why Becky and April are no longer good friends has to do with April?

The Coffee Talk monitor had no response to my submission, so I cannot tell. Needless to say, I have become motivated by my success and I plan to submit more such writing to Coffee Talk, if I can find another storyline where the writing is similarly ambiguous in its quality.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why Pattersons Can't Talk to Each Other

Why Pattersons can't talk to each other: Puns.

I have made comments on various occasions how the only person in For Better or For Worse who ever seemed to compliment April Patterson on her performance was Grandpa Jim. Then much to my surprise, in today's strip, John Patterson tells April that "You two sang like there's no tomorrow."

Instead of interpreting this as an apocalyptic prophecy, I interpreted it as "John Patterson just complimented his daughter on music." This was significant. April's involvement with her band or her music has mostly been portrayed as music intentionally created to irritate her parents. For John Patterson to give her this kind of acceptance, hasn't happened since the days when April performed with Mr. Bergan, her guitar teacher.

But does April recognize this landmark event? No. Instead she makes a pun, like what my 12-year-old son would make. Now I know why John Patterson never compliments April, if that's the reaction he gets.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rod / John: Friendless or Friendful?

A few years back, my dad took my family on a trip to visit a friend of his, a 90ish man who attended his church, who had a massive model train set up in his house. When we went to visit, he showed us his layout, and he was actually wearing the railroader, pin-striped bib overalls. Of course, he was a cute, 90ish Swedish man and it didn’t bother me at all. Likewise, it does not bother me when Dr. John Patterson does it.

John Patterson of For Better or For Worse is modeled after Lynn Johnston’s husband Rod, and so is his obsession with trains. What I find interesting is that other aspects of Rod’s life are not modeled with John Patterson. Since I have been snarking this strip, I have from time-to-time done internet searches on Rod Johnston and discovered a man who is very much involved in the community of Corbeil, Ontario where he lives and the surrounding, larger town of North Bay. Just from this I have learned that Rod has worked with local universities, he is involved with community improvement, and appears to contribute money around the area. He also has an interest in flying small planes in addition to his model train interests. I believe he also has a side business in setting up large model train setups for other people, but I don’t know how much business he actually does with that.

Why is John Patterson limited to just trains? I think part of it might be for comic effect. There was a strip which joked about John Patterson panicking that Deanna Patterson might buy the Stibbs place and sell off the other lots and wreck his train plans. Today’s strip is also going for comedy, by comparing John to a boy who can’t get anyone to come over and play with his toys. This kind of comedy is like a double-edged sword. Making a good man appear foolish for a joke can also make him appear pitiful.

In the past, when Lynn Johnston would portray her fights with Rod in the strip, there was a definite bias towards hers (Elly’s) point of view. John often came off as pompous, sexist, insensitive and well-deserving of the coffee cup Elly hurled at his head. Rod would have to have a great sense of humour to have him, through John, mocked like this across the land.

It makes me wonder if the portrayal of John Patterson as friendless in today’s strip is also a portrayal of Rod Johnston as friendless, or is it a backhanded stab at Rod Johnston for having a hobby which Lynn may consider to be childish. As near as I can tell from my internet searches, I doubt the real Dr. Rod Johnston is friendless.

Why is Becky Eating Humble Pie Again?

Why is Becky eating humble pie again? The simple answer is because she has not talked to April about anything that did not involve herself for the last 2 years.

If you start from the September, 2005 strips where Becky begins to talk about her career and take every single appearance she has made since that time, she has never had a conversation with April where she (Becky) was not the focus. Even when she was humiliated in the Gym / Jam, the conversation with April in the washroom was devoted to herself and how she was humiliated.

The new Becky we see today talks about something else other than herself and she has a topic in particular. That topic is how good April and Eva were. Not only that, but when April slams her and Eva slams her, she takes it and keeps on going. You see it is not enough to want to be friends with April after you have left her band. It is not enough to take April’s solace after a tremendous public humiliation. It is not enough to have a topic of conversation other than yourself. In order to truly get forgiveness from a Patterson, you must make them your focus. You must talk about how wonderful the Patterson is.

This is the lesson that Gordon Mayes learned. This is the lesson that Lawrence Poirier leaned. Now it’s time for Becky to learn it too.

Friday, July 27, 2007

April vs. Becky…Again

The For Better or For Worse strip sequence at the telethon shows some interest contrasts in the character of April. First of all, she does not show up with Luis or Duncan and has instead opted to go with just Eva and also to go with badly-written original material. Without an alternative male, April is shown in a clear gender contrast to Becky with Gerald.

When she sees Becky perform, Eva compliments Becky’s sound, but April attributes it to Gerald’s drumming. In contrast, Becky pronounced April and Eva to be really good. It appears that April’s dislike of Becky continues, even though her dislike of Gerald has abated.

April plays it nonchalant, acting like she doesn’t mind if Gerald goes on tour with Becky because it would be his big break. However, she thinks big break could also mean big breakup, showing she actually does mind if Gerald goes on tour with Becky.

The way Eva phrased the dialogue “I wonder what it’s like to be famous. She must get everything she wants. What if she wants Gerald, April? What if she wants to take him on tour?” This could lead you to believe that wanting Gerald and wanting to take him on tour are one and the same. Even Eva’s follow-up phrases continue along these lines, “What about our band?!!—What about you?!!” Gerald playing with Becky would destroy the band, but Eva also seems to be saying it would destroy his relationship with April.

This is along the same vein as Liz relationships with Constable Paul Wright, “Where is he when you need him?” or Warren Blackwood, “I’ve got a job that will keep me occupied for awhile” as being reasons for destroying a relationship. The other possibility is that April, under the influence of Shannon Lake, will approve his playing with Becky for a single performance, but multiple performances for non-“special needs” charities would put them back to the same place they were before, where she considers doing anything with Becky as a personal betrayal.

I can’t tell if this is yet more Becky hate, or if the purpose behind this storyline is to lead up a more permanent Gerald and April breakup. Becky hate has been pretty consistent, and Lynn does not seem to be able to let it go as a storyline, since she has been doing it for 3 solid years now. On the other hand, the idea that Becky might try to steal Gerald away is also a long-running idea from years ago. Another possibility is that April’s Becky hate is being readied for a smackdown, considering the positive way Gerald and Becky are being portrayed. A smackdown is my personal wish. I would hate for Lynn Johnston to enter the hybrid phase having left April still feeling as if she has been betrayed by Becky more than 2 years after the Grade 8 grad.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back from Dallas

I am back from attending my wife’s Homemade Gourmet Convention in Dallas, Texas last week and visiting relatives that are there. As is usually for these kinds of situations, naturally things happened which reminded me of events occurring in the For Better or For Worse comic strip.

One of the ladies we met, who works Homemade Gourmet, like my wife does, has a child she brought to the convention, who has a very rare blood disease (I don’t remember the name, probably because that was all my wife could remember). Nevertheless, it means the child in is a wheelchair all the time. Oddly enough, we got into a conversation about the supply of wheelchairs for kids who have disabilities and it turns out that (at least in Texas), the demand for good working wheelchairs well exceeds the supply. So, I thought, Shannon’s telethon would make sense if it was being carried out in Texas. There was actually a need for wheelchairs for kids with disabilities, despite the fact the Disabilities Act says our government should provide them.

After the convention was done, we were staying with my wife’s mom and step-dad, and we got to have a night out, which for us meant seeing a movie we wanted to see, which was not available for us to see in the smaller town of Tucson. The movie was Michael Moore’s Sicko, in which he lambastes the American Health Insurance industry and the national government which keeps it in place instead of going to the superiour universal national health care like the countries of Canada, England, France, and Cuba. Mr. Moore explained very carefully in his film how, even if you have health insurance, if something bad happens to you, the health insurance companies are going to do their best to screw you over, and you would be much better off in one of those aforementioned countries.

Of course, the Shannon Lake telethon kind of flies in the face of that concept, because surely Canada is better than Texas about supplying the needs of those persons with special needs. My guess is that this telethon is something out of Lynn Johnston’s niece Stephanie’s own world or it would never come up, and maybe the Canadian Health Care system is not as perfect as Michael Moore would have me believe. Or in fact, perhaps not as perfect as some criticizers of the For Better or For Worse strip would have me believe, when they point out that all this equipment should be provided by the government and readily available for special needs kids so the strip’s telethon doesn’t make sense.

As for Sicko, it was entertaining, as Michael Moore usually is, but we have learned to take Michael Moore movies with a grain of salt. My wife has her degree in audiology and used to work for an Ear/Nose/Throat doctor who did cochlear implant operations. When Michael Moore explained how a man with a deaf child got a cochlear implant for his child and the evil insurance company refused to allow him to get a second cochlear implant for her other ear, my wife said, “Obviously the man and Michael Moore don’t know too much about cochlear implants.” In other words, they are not a one-for-one replacement of ears. My wife has never known anyone to get two cochlear implants. If you don’t know that, then the insurance company looks evil. If you do know that, then you can see the bias of the material. Most people will think “Two ears should equal two cochear implants.”

I don’t have any personal experience with the health care systems of England, France, Canada (except by For Better or For Worse), or Cuba. The one country with universal health care, with which I am familiar, is the closely-located-to-Arizona, Mexico. I noticed Michael Moore did not put that country on his list, and from my experience, it would not have compared well. Back when I lived in Texas, a friend of mine’s boyfriend’s brother came up from Mexico to Texas to get dialysis, which he did by letting his situation get so bad, he could go to a hospital emergency room and get the dialysis necessary to save his life. In Mexico, he was on a list for the equipment and operation necessary to reverse this situation, but he was not expected to get it for several months. In the meantime, he made many emergency room visits in Texas. This particular story has coloured my view of Mexican health care system, even though I know this situation may not be typical.

Is Shannon’s telethon realistic or not? I still don’t know, but I suspect it has some basis in fact.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What’s Left?

It's July and we have about 6+ weeks left.

The special needs mall telethon. Necessity: Probable. Lynn Johnston made a big deal about this telethon, and April has already told Gerald the band would play there. You get a last hurrah for Becky McGuire and Shannon Lake, plus the members of 4Evah&Eva. Plus, there is the opportunity for Eva, Luis, and Shannon to smackdown April Patterson once again because she wasn’t a refugee, or because has a nice house, or because she doesn’t have any of the myriad of problems people with special needs have.

The romance of Anthony and Elizabeth
  1. Françoise accepts Elizabeth as her new mom.
    Necessity: Crucial. Even the most pro-Anthony and Elizabeth people whose comments I have read admit that Elizabeth is taking a risk taking on Françoise. For them to accept Anthony and Elizabeth together long term, it must be shown than Elizabeth is good with Françoise. Lynn has displayed Elizabeth in such a negative light in the last year (shrieking at her cat, spitting at phones, curled up in bed with a stuffed animal), she really needs to turn it around. A few ballet moves at a wedding reception do not cut it for me, and many others.
  2. Anthony proposes to Elizabeth and they marry.
    Necessity: Probable. I think Lynn wants Elizabeth to be living with Anthony and Françoise by the time hybrid goes into effect, or she wouldn’t have spent all that time showing Anthony’s house. That won’t be acceptable without a proposal and a wedding.
  3. Elizabeth deals with Warren.
    Necessity: Optional. She already spat at a phone. What more do you need?
  4. Elizabeth, Anthony and Françoise deliver a smackdown to Thérèse.
    Necessity: Optional and dangerous. Thérèse has not appeared in the strip in years, so she would have to be re-introduced. Moreover, Lynn Johnston seemed to be unable to put Anthony and Elizabeth together with Thérèse without painting Thérèse so broadly bad, as to draw sympathy to her. The primary complaint about Thérèse was that she did not want to raise her daughter. To bring her back would show an interest in her daughter and defeat that purpose. Personally, I would love to see her back, but I think it is unlikely.

Mike has a best seller. Necessity: Crucial. Someone has to validate that awful writing in those monthly Mike letters, and show that Mike was not a complete idiot for dropping his paying job for his authorial career.

John retires. Necessity: Crucial. The final step of a retirement plan first mentioned in the strip back in 2003 and justifies the strips featuring Dr. Everett Callahan as future business owner.

April on the farm. Necessity: Crucial. April has to say definitely for sure this time, after her 3rd visit to Winnipeg, she is going to be a vet. If we are really lucky, all those strips and monthly letters which have hinted April will be going to live somewhere other than the Stibbs’ house (and not living there for the next 2 years) will come true.

Grandpa Jim is miraculously healed. Necessity: Unlikely. Originally I thought it was crucial to have Grandpa Jim better so he could introduce storylines involving him in the hybrid, but Lynn has gone to such lengths to research the recovery of a man who has not regained his speech, I am no longer certain she will do this.

As for me, I am back from Myrtle Beach (actually Garden City), South Carolina. On Tuesday, my family launches off to Dallas, Texas for my wife’s Homemade Gourmet Convention and to visit her family who lives there until Thursday the following week. So, there will be another stretch with limited computer connections. Sorry, folks.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Woody and Lynn

When I saw today’s For Better or For Worse strip, I was reminded of the old Woody Allen movie, Everyone Says I Love You. In this movie towards the end, there is a choreographed dance sequence with Goldie Hawn, I believe, where she does dance moves in combination with wire work, so her leaps in the air are, shall we say, spectacular. I used to watch the old Siskel and Ebert movie review show religiously, and I remember that one of them thought the wire-work choreography was stunningly beautiful and the work of a film genius to think of and include it in the movie. The other reviewer thought it was awful, came out of nowhere, and was a fairly ridiculous notion. Of course, neither of them actually revealed what it was in the film, being good critics who didn’t want to ruin the movie for me. So, when I saw the movie, all I knew was that something was going to happen.

Much in the way that happened when I viewed the ballet poses in today’s For Better or For Worse strip, my opinion fell more in the negative. When the dancing started I thought to myself, “What the heck is this?” and I was unable to enjoy the choreography, because I was so flummoxed by the idea it had been added to the movie. The movie on the whole struck me as one of those latter day Woody Allen efforts, where the great writer and director was heading on the downward spiral into movies like Scoop, which came out recently and was quite poorly done. I looked Everyone Says I Love You up on the Internet Movie Database, I see that the movie was nominated for a number of awards during its time, so I might not have the same opinion on a later viewing.

Woody Allen used to be one of my favourite film directors and I would see everything he did. Not so any more. I find there are many parallels between his art and Lynn Johnston’s. Their initial works were crude, but funny. Later on, their work took a more serious side and became more heavily autobiographical and hit a certain creative peak, where they were doing their best work, and they were deservedly acclaimed for it. Lynn got her Reuben. Woody got his Oscars. More recently, most of their work misfires and gets acclaim whenever it is not so bad, and makes you wonder how someone so talented could have lost so much of their ability to tell a coherent and credible story.

Since Lynn Johnston is nearing the very end of her career, I almost view this progression as a part of an artist’s life. I’ll read about the end of the long, long courtship between Elizabeth and Anthony so I will know how it ends, but no longer so I will get any satisfaction at the way the story was told. If I look at it in the right spirit I can try to be in a positive mood about seeing the two characters finally together after all these years apart. But more likely, I will just howl in laughter, as I did when I first saw those awkward ballet poses. For Better or For Worse has made me laugh again, just like the good old days.

Just you let you know, on Saturday to Saturday, I will be in Myrtle Beach, S.C. on a vacation to a family reunion of sorts. There will be limited internet access during that time. I might pop in every once in a while, but it will be limited. If my April's Real Blog characters are not responding the way they should, feel free to make them do what is needed.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dialogue Interpretation

The dialogue for today’s For Better or For Worse strip was just a little awkward, so I will translate for you:

Line: Oh, have I missed you!!
Translation: I’ve seen you several times every year since we last dated, so what I really mean is I haven’t kissed you in eight years.

Line: I’ve missed you, too.
Translation: I’ve been with a lot of guys, all of whom are better-looking than you are, so I am just saying this to be polite.

Line: Elizabeth, we’ve both fallen in love and broken up with other people…
Translation: Actually, I was never in love with Thérèse, since I was mooning over you within days of having proposed to Thérèse, so this is sort of a lie for me. I think you could tell I wasn't in love with Julia, so she doesn't count either.

Line: Don’t you think we should try again?…Falling in love, I mean.
Translation: Actually, given our track records in romance between us and with others, the expectation of falling in love and also breaking up would be more likely. Please ignore my little Freudian slip.

Line: Could we give it one more chance?
Translation: Now I am begging for the chance to fall in love. (Don’t think about it too hard.)

Line: Chances are…we could.
Translation: I am a Patterson, and I can’t say anything romantic without wordplay. Of course, because I am Elizabeth Patterson I can’t give a straightforward answer to anything, so all I am really telling you is that there is a chance we could try to fall in love again. That’s as much as I can commit to at this time.

As for me I am thinking, "After all this, the man is talking about asking for a chance to fall in love. Why can't he just say he's never been in love with any other woman than Elizabeth?" His tentativeness and passivity, while completely in character for him, is more tiresome than endearing to me. Why can't these people ever say, "I love you."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Timing Issues

Back last December, the monthly letters slipped out a few weeks early for January, which ended up being a blessing for doing April’s Real Blog, because those leaked early letters provided a means by which what was going on in the apartment fire strips could be understood. I remember being very curious when the January monthly letters were officially released if there were would be any edits of the letters to accommodate the strips that were published between the early release and the actual release. There were none. This told me that the monthly letters were actually written a few weeks in advance. Given the need to do advance work for newspaper publication, they could have been written even further in advance than when they were leaked.

Today’s released July monthly letters are probably the furthest removed from actual strip content that I have seen. The June storylines are about Shawna-Marie’s wedding and Shannon liberation speech / Gerald and April month long break up.

The Elizabeth letter acknowledges the wedding rehearsal plotline from June 4 – 9, but none of the wedding, giving me the impression that those strips were intended to run at the end of June and to lead into a July wedding sequence, where the events actually happened in June, much the way the Grade 8 grad was handled back in 2005.

The Shannon liberation speech, the reconciliation with Gerald, the reappearance of Jeremy Jones after a 2-year absence, the special needs kids telethon are items which should have been noted by the April monthly letter. Instead, the letter makes it look like April is still estranged from Gerald, and Luis Guzmán (for his comments to April about her lack of professionalism) at the lunch table at the end of May.

Every single letter talks about the move and there was not one single strip devoted to the actual moving. That is akin to every single letter talking about the apartment fire, or every single letter talking about Grandpa Jim’s stroke and then not showing it. Clearly moving strips were supposed to be there.

In addition to these disparities, there were a few other unusual things:
1. April’s sitting at the lunch table with Shannon and the special needs kids is a clear carryover from her leaving the lunch table to shun Gerald and yet 2 weeks of the wedding is stuck between those points, which dilutes the effect.
2. Friday, June 29, and Saturday, June, 30 strips with April making up with Gerald, and Eva talking summer plans with April on the school bus, while Shannon gets off the bus seem tacked on, particularly with Shannon on the bus, where she has never been shown before.
3. The wedding sequence, which has to operate over a specific time frame, was interrupted by the 2 weeks of the Shannon liberation speech. I have never seen Lynn Johnston do this before, without someone voicing over a recollection of things that happened earlier. Plot wise, it was particularly jarring to have Julia push Anthony to make his move on Liz and then wait 2 weeks for it to happen.
4. Elly's Letter, June 2007 says: “I'm happy that Mike and Deanna are being so accommodating; they're taking possession of our house on the first of July and they've given us all the time we need to remove the remainder of our belongings. We don't intend to abuse the privilege - we hope to be out sooner than that, but whatever happens we'll be just down the street, so I expect there will be some back-and-forth for forgotten items for a while after the Big Day. Wish us luck!” This clearly sounds like the move was supposed to be completely over by July 1 and not happening exactly on July 1 weekend.

What happened? I can only speculate.

1. The Shannon liberation storyline. Shannon is rarely mentioned (only 4 times since 2004) in April’s monthly letters, even when things happen involving her. My guess is that the Shannon liberation storyline was intended to be standalone and not commented on, except April says she’s going to try to do things with Shannon, now she’s considered to be cool.
2. The telethon sequence (if we get to see it). I think this was intended to be another standalone sequence and it was here that Gerald and April (and maybe Becky too) were supposed to make up, instead of the tack-on strips at the end of June. Probably the telethon would have been intended for late July after the wedding sequence is over. The make up with Gerald strips would have worked nicely with the band gathering for the telethon and then departing to their various summer places, just as April was going back to Winnipeg.
3. The Shawna-Marie wedding sequence. This was probably intended to start so the rehearsal part of it and meeting Mason would be at the end of June and the rest of the wedding would run into July.
4. The moving strips (if we get to see them, which I seriously doubt). These were probably intended for just after the Shannon liberation storyline.

My theory is this: The May 7 – May 19 strips of Grandpa Jim’s therapy had to be included, because Lynn had gone through the trouble of researching them and including drawings of real people and exercises in the sequences. By including these strips, everything else was thrown off.

I think the story order was intended to be this:

May 7 – June 2. April / Gerald / Shannon. April’s outfit on May 5 closely matches her outfit on May 21 after the Grandpa Jim therapy strips, except for the shading on the clothing, which Lynn Johnston does not add. If I extract the 2 weeks of Grandpa Jim strips from May 7 – 19 and allow the Tree limb falling / April-Gerald split / Shannon strips to run sequentially, then they would run from May 7 – June 2.

June 4 – 22. The moving strips. This is a little long at 3 weeks, so there might be something else that had been intended to be included, possibly the introduction of Elly's giant collection of memorabilia which will serve as the basis for the hybrid.

June 25 – July 20, Shawna-Marie wedding strip (assuming 4 weeks total)

July 23 – August 3, Telethon. Here we would have had Gerald and April make up. The band members leave for all their various locations, including April to Winnipeg. We may yet see part of this one, but the telethon and the moving strips seem to me to be certainly stories we can do without. Scenes of Elly packing and moving and huffing about are deadly dull; and as for the telethon, who needs to see another Becky McGuire humiliation / reconciliation?

The future?

Anthony’s language about wanting to do “everything” with Liz seems to me to be a lead-in to a marriage proposal (sorry). If the strip were ending in September as originally planned and not hybriding in September, then a wedding in September with the “For Better or For Worse” closing line would be likely. However, if Lynn wants to show them as a happily married couple by September so they can pop in and introduce old strips from time-to-time talking about their early courtship strips, then a quick courtship and wedding in July to August seems the only possibility, particularly after Lynn has gone through such great lengths to set up Shawna-Marie’s giant wedding in contrast. I have hopes for a Thérèse reappearance and humiliation, but there may not be time for that.

Lynn will want to have at 1 – 2 weeks of strips of April in Winnipeg in August talking about how she knows for certain she wants to be a veterinarian, and you know Lynn is going to want to couple that moment with her assistance in birthing a calf or a horse (most likely horse) to make it seem somewhat dramatic.

Then there has to be at least one week of strips where Mike’s book comes out and becomes an instant best-seller and one week where the hybrid concept is introduced to the readers. That is really all there is time for by September, unless Lynn decides to slip the hybrid start to a later time.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wedding Disorientation

When we last saw the Shawna-Marie and Brian wedding 2 weeks ago:
a. Julia was trying to convince Anthony to make his move on Liz.
b. The garter was being removed, which is an event, along with the bouquet-throwing, which I think normally occurs shortly before the bride and groom are about to leave.
c. The wedding party was located at an outdoor tent, where the wedding had taken place.

Two weeks later:
a. The reception has moved to an indoor hall.
b. We get one speech to the groom and one speech to the bride.
c. Then Mason the best man / master of ceremonies passes out from drinking too much.

What is wrong with this storyline?

Three big things. The first thing is virtually no scenes of feminine bonding in the wedding. Weddings are built for feminine bonding. Bridal showers, and bachelorette parties, and fancy dresses are a veritable estrogen bath. Where was this stuff?

I remember when my wife acted as the maid of honour at her best friend from university’s wedding. She had a bridal shower for her, hosted her bachelorette party, and during the wedding ceremony was in there, helping her get dressed, helping her deal with people, making sure everything went smoothly, and of course was available with stories about her best friend at the reception and during the rehearsal dinner designed to honour her. This was really an opportunity to show Liz and Dawn Enjo as helpers, supporters, and good friends of a woman they have known (and we have known by loyally reading this strip) for ages. All we get in For Better or For Worse was a single joke about a corset when the 3 friends were together.

Second thing. The removal of the threats must occur before Liz and Anthony can get together. Julia is shown not to be a threat to Liz and Anthony because she is short, fat, and suspiciously enthusiastic about the idea that Liz and Anthony should be together. Mason is nice-looking, and has the physical strength to heave Liz’s bulk above the mud, but has an unfortunate drinking problem or narcolepsy or something. Now Liz and Anthony are free to move together, because their competition has melted away in a sea of jolly fat and alcoholism. Once again, Anthony and Liz are made to appear to choose each other for no other reason than there is no one else suitable.

What Lynn Johnston fails to realize is that when two people really care for each other, it does not mean that there are not other good choices for mates out there. In fact, the story is more powerful if Julia really likes Anthony and she is smart, pretty, funny and a reasonable competition for Liz; but Anthony chooses Liz anyway. Likewise, if Mason had been shown to be a suave and sophisticated dancer, but Liz prefers the nerdier dancing of Anthony, then you have a love story. As it is, you have a “Well! You’re the only one left, so we might as well get together” story. I suppose some people get married for that reason, but it’s not very romantic.

Third thing. Françoise is ignored. If you want to court someone with a child, then you have to show the person wooing not only the parent, but the child. Tweaking the ear of an attacker is not going to do it. Helping someone pick out a car is not going to do it. Testimony at the courtroom on behalf of someone is not going to do it. Stepping in for a passed out master of ceremonies at a wedding, is not going to do it. Liz and Anthony could end the wedding sequence in bed after a night of passionate debauchery, and still, it is not going to do it. Liz must interact with Françoise, and we must be made to believe that she is going to be not only a good wife for Anthony, but a good mother for the little girl. Even schmaltzy Hollywood movies understand this.

What needs to happen to fix this?
a. Liz and Anthony agree to go out on a date involving Françoise, where we get to see the date and we get to see Liz bond with Françoise and Anthony.
b. Liz and Dawn need to get off their butts and spend a little quality time with Shawna-Marie, but I fear that it is too late in the wedding for this to occur.