Sunday, July 05, 2009

Elly is Missing Something

Sometimes the future works against you. When I originally read Elly’s theory about what happens with the missing socks in the laundry, I thought that Elly was just making up a nonsense theory, so ridiculous that neither John nor she took it seriously. The idea that the speed of the rotating dryer + the forced, heated air would send socks into another time dimension is silly. Anyone who has opened up the inside of an old dryer, or moved an old dryer, has been able to find the location of many, missing socks. I would think that Lynn Johnston was trying to do a Linus type of strip from Peanuts, where Linus would theorize the fantastic (like the Great Pumpkin, for example) and have no one believe him. The humour relied on Linus being young and everyone remembering back when they were his age and trying to make sense of things. It works great with Linus, but not so much with a grown woman. The final panel makes me wonder if Elly takes her own theory seriously, and whether Lynn Johnston sympathizes with Elly or is just trying to make her appear a little silly.

Then along came this strip from Sunday June 26, 2005, where April puts forth a ridiculous theory about how hummingbirds and insects must live in a parallel time dimension and calls it a quantum physics sort of hypothesis. At the end of it, Elly ponders how time flies (i.e. April is growing up), as if April sounded intelligent instead of sounding like a young teenager who learned a few big words without really knowing what they meant. I think Lynn intended us readers to be impressed with April’s knowledge. With today’s reprint strip in For Better or For Worse, it makes me wonder if Lynn wanted us to be impressed with Elly’s theory about the socks too.

After all, this is the same woman, who in her Mexico travelogue spouts off nonsense about Aztec civilizations as if she knows something about it and is extremely impressed that ancient peoples in Mexico used natural colours. The difference between the April strip and the Elly strip is that John is clearly portrayed in the Elly strip as finding Elly’s theory to be very amusing. That tells us to not take it too seriously. The problem is that we don’t ever see Elly laugh at herself. Ultimately, I don’t know if I am supposed to empathize with John or empathize with Elly or empathize with the missing socks.

10 Comments:

Blogger Clio said...

There's also the "prairie/prayer" strip. Ignorant Foobs love their own theories and no evidence in the world can tell them they're wrong, because they'll never seek out any information besides what little is already in their heads.

My theory is that the horribleness of the strip caused the socks to develop sentience and figure out how to escape being shoved into peoples' faces constantly.

1:38 AM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

howard,

Anyone who has opened up the inside of an old dryer, or moved an old dryer, has been able to find the location of many, missing socks.

It's not just socks; as cookie77 reminds us, they can also be found wrapped around the innards of washing machines.

I would think that Lynn Johnston was trying to do a Linus type of strip from Peanuts, where Linus would theorize the fantastic (like the Great Pumpkin, for example) and have no one believe him. The humour relied on Linus being young and everyone remembering back when they were his age and trying to make sense of things. It works great with Linus, but not so much with a grown woman.

The problem, of course, is the one that Clio identified; the Pattersons love their crackpot theories just as much as Lynn does hers and there's no shifting them. No matter how many times she sees examples of the mundane causes for missing socks, Elly sincerely believes that one day Robin will be pelted with socks from the seventies.

3:31 AM  
Blogger howard said...

Clio,

There's also the "prairie/prayer" strip. Ignorant Foobs love their own theories and no evidence in the world can tell them they're wrong, because they'll never seek out any information besides what little is already in their heads.-

Prairie/prayer is a good one too. The one I remember is after Grandpa Jim had his stroke and doctor Elly made a number of unmedical comments about what it would take for him to recover. Then in later strips, the whole thing turned around and Lynn researched strokes for accuracy. I always wondered what it was that turned her from relying on her “expertise” to doing research. Would such a thing be necessary with this strip? Would it take someone opening up a dryer to convince her? Obviously she is still in the same habit, or we wouldn’t have had the comments in her travelogue about Aztecs.

5:12 AM  
Blogger April Patterson said...

I also thought of April and the hummingbird. I think readers were supposed to be impressed, but the unintended message of the strip is that Elly's impressed because she's poorly educated enough to be dazzled by what April slings her way.

Elly's theory has already been disproved, since the original version of the strip had her positing that the socks would return in 2001. As we know, that year came and went without the sudden appearance of missing socks.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I think April and Elly smoke a lot of pot. These theories harken back to days of yore (I took writing lessons from Michael) when my friends and I would discuss the cosmic nature of paint.

8:29 AM  
Blogger howard said...

Jennifer,

Certainly with the 2007 rulings by the Ontario Court of Justice that the prohibition in the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act against the possession of marijuana were unconstitutional, Lynn is living in the right province for such activities. If the constant mention of alcoholic beverage consumption in her travelogue is any indication, Lynn's Mexican drug of choice is "cervesa".

3:27 PM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

howard,

If the constant mention of alcoholic beverage consumption in her travelogue is any indication, Lynn's Mexican drug of choice is "cervesa".

She'd have to be hitting the tonsil polish pretty hard if she thinks people actually identify with Elly as a person; as you said, they get a chuckle and say that Lynn has a camera in their house because Elly does something they did once. None of them ever admit to acting like as a person. Certainly none of them are going to sit and their kitchens and moan that their husbands eat the same dreary sludge might after endless night.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Muzition said...

"I think April and Elly smoke a lot of pot."

That would explain a lot that goes on in the comic, actually.

3:42 PM  
Blogger howard said...

Muzition,

"I think April and Elly smoke a lot of pot."-

The only time we saw April do anything like that, she was downing a bottle of wine with Gerald. Because she is not based on a real kid, I don't think Lynn ever had a sense how of how she would behave. Elly, on the other hand, has been shown to be drinking on a number of occasions.

The one that really got trashed from drinking on a regular basis was Elizabeth, oddly enough. Possibly this is a nod to Elizabeth's real-life form of Kate Johnston. As for Michael, his association with a character called Weed, tells the whole story. It could be Lynn's little way of saying Aaron Johnston prefers the pot, while Kate takes after her mother.

As for mental flights of fancy, all I have to do is see a live Lynn Johnston interview to know that no drugs are necessary.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Muzition said...

My sister and I always joke that Weed is a stoner.

Just because it's never actually shown in the comic, doesn't mean...

7:01 AM  

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