Monday, October 08, 2007

The Battle Over Jim

I honestly could not believe my eyes were reading what I read in today’s For Better or For Worse. Were Elly and Iris actually battling over Jim? Jim appears to be unconscious with an oxygen mask on and an IV in his arm, while Elly and Iris each seem to be trying to get him to do something: Recognize someone, or smile, or eat homemade pudding. I was incredulous. They are treating him like two little girls fighting over a favourite doll. Is this what people really do after their husband or father has a stroke? Can this truly be the story that Lynn Johnston is trying to tell about these characters?

It’s interesting in an odd kind of way, to see Elly and Iris each trying to say what Jim feels, or hears, or does; when we, the reader, can look right at Jim and see he is plainly asleep. It’s kind of like watching one of those shows, where the dysfunctional family gets into huge arguments when the patriarch dies or is on his deathbed. And I think it works pretty well that way. Neither Iris nor Elly are really in each other’s faces. It’s a lot subtler than that. There are no bad words, or evil looks, or backhanded compliments. You see, this is the difference between “show and not tell,” which is so vastly superiour to “Tell and not show” in the sequential art medium. When the pictures of the events are shown, then you get to bring in the additional and important character of the reader into the story. The reader can see what is really happening, and not just be forced to take the characters’ words about it.

If it was just based on yesterday’s “tell and not show” strip, I would think Grandpa Jim is sitting up and eating and on his merry way to recovery. In this strip, I can see where Grandpa Jim really is, and more importantly, I can understand why Elly Patterson’s diagnosis from yesterday was so completely fouled up, and also why Elly might be anxious to get Jim into a long term care facility and out of the hands of his current caretaker, Iris.

I would say this is a fine strip, in the same vein as the strip where Liz pretended she was leaving Mtigwaki because she said she was homesick, when we could plainly see it was really to chase after the newly-divorced Anthony Caine. Unfortunately, I know from Lynn Johnston’s interviews, these subtleties of plotting are lost even on the person who is creating this strip. In interview, Lynn Johnston steadfastly stuck to the idea that Liz Patterson left Mtigwaki because she was homesick and not intended for a Mtigwaki lifestyle. I have a feeling that Lynn Johnston has no idea how nicely she has rendered the competition between Elly and Iris over Jim. No matter. I will enjoy the details of the story, even if the creator cannot.


Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

Like I said yesterday, these are not pleasant people. When we compare Elly's description of a father on the meand with the depressing reality and add in the very subtle competition over who gets to be primary caregiver for a man who won't be around much longer, we can safely state that Iris will join April as one of the losers of the funeral. Simply put, the rest of the Patterswine will go out of their way to convince themselves and others that their enemies didn't really love Jim.

10:38 PM  
Blogger howard said...


I am not so sure what to think about the situation anymore. Just after stroke #1, Iris was pushing the doctor to let her take care of Jim on her own at home before, as it appeared, Jim was really ready to be leaving the hospital. Then we saw Iris seemingly by herself with Jim over and over again, with limited help from the Pattersons. She would talk a good game about Jim and her struggling with it together, while at the same time she would complain about not being able to get time by herself and how she had no one to talk to. But then today, we see Iris being strangely and adversarially protective of Jim around Elly, just after Elly was telling Connie about Jim going into long term care, where Iris’ position as primary caregiver could be taken from her by the staff. As much as I would like to credit Iris for taking care of Jim, I also am getting the feeling Iris takes care of Jim, because she doesn’t want anyone else to do it. That would shed a whole different light on the Pattersons’ lack of participation in helping Jim.

As for April, who knows? She jumped on Liz about the harmonica she hadn’t thought about for 3 years, and unlike stroke #1, she is not one of the first ones there at the hospital to visit him. She seemed to be content to have Liz report his condition to her. After a year of Jim post-stroke, April may have grown to accept the idea the grandfather she remembers doesn't exist anymore, and she wants to hang onto souvenirs from that grandfather.

11:10 PM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

She does have a porprietary interest in being Janey on the spot at that. That does explain the Patterson's absence. After all, if they pressed the issue, tried to force to accept help she was too proud to actually ask for, she could've arranged things so they'd be completely frozen out.

3:38 AM  
Blogger howard said...


Aside from Iris' odd behaviour, the other strange behaviour comes from Elly. The whole line about Jim sitting up and eating did not match Grandpa Jim’s appearance one day later. Then there was the whole 2-year waiting list for the long term care. Lynn made similar mistakes in research the first time she launched into the stroke #1 storyline, which were then corrected in later strips. I would have thought she would have learned her lesson and checked out some of the facts, before she made the same mistake again. There are a lot of people in her audience who are intimately familiar with the subject of long term care. I don’t think there are going to be any Coffee Talk entries where someone says, “I had to wait 2 years to get into Sunset Manor, and I applied a year before I had my stroke, just like Iris and Jim.”

11:44 AM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

Elly's insistence that her moribund father is on the road to recovery is almost as strong as her creator's unwavering belief in the accuracy of her ill-informed misconceptions. The same drive that inspired her to tell her critics to get a life keeps her from acknowledging factual errors or accepting facts from experts that conflict with her view of the world.

12:35 PM  
Blogger howard said...

Lynn Johnston will accept some criticisms though. I am just not sure from whom.

The Thérèse/Anthony marriage retcon was the result of criticisms about Elizabeth’s involvement in breaking up Anthony and Thérèse’s marriage. That retcon did not even mention Elizabeth, except for her to lay the blame for the breakup solely on Thérèse while she was telling the story to Candace.

Lynn Johnston admitted she stuck a laptop into the apartment fire story, because someone pointed out that modern authors use computers and not paper printouts for preservation. Of course, in the podcast, she reversed on this story and said her author friend espoused the invaluable hardcopy, and no the laptop.

Likewise, she got away from the initial talk of brain inflammation and strokes back last September to actual research on the subject. Someone must have told her she didn’t have the story straight, or we would have had to suffer through a series of jokes about Grandpa Jim and his “swelled head.”

2:20 PM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

Given that that her attempt to fix the blame on Therese made her a more sympathetic character and Mike's irrational impulse made him look like a reckless fool, her getting the medical facts as straight as she did is a minor miracle. As far as that goes, Elly and Iris are also behaving in a believable, if not palatable, manner.

3:00 PM  
Blogger howard said...

Elly and Iris are also behaving in a believable, if not palatable, manner.

Exactly. Well put.

As for her medical facts, I have a feeling she will be challenged on that one. Someone she knows and trusts will say, "Lynn. I don't mean to be a bother, but 2 years is a little long for a waiting list. It only took me 3 months to get my mom in."

3:24 PM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

Which will be immediately followed by an explanation that Elly meant to say 'months' instead of 'years'.

4:14 PM  
Blogger howard said...

'months' instead of 'years'.
Very likely, as when John described the performance of the engine of his new Crevasse, or as when Liz couldn't keep straight if Mtigwaki was 60 km or miles from Spruce Narrows.

7:22 PM  

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