Monday, February 08, 2010

Connie’s Cousin: Important After All

Today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse has made the change to panel 3 from:

Well, it’s been great seeing you. Can I drop you at your cousin’s place?

To:

Well, it’s been great seeing you. Can I drop you at your hotel?

From this statement, Connie responds in thought: Nice. A brush-off. But nice.

When the original statement was talking about being dropped off at her cousin’s place, the interpretation of a brush-off would be correct. Phil is not inviting Connie to a sleazy hotel. Phil is not inviting Connie to his apartment. “Cousin’s place” means “When I drop you off, there will be no sex or spending the night or much of anything.”

With the rewritten strip using “your hotel”, Phil is still not inviting Connie back to his apartment; but now that makes sense. If he has the “’Allo?” girl there, he wouldn’t want to take Connie back to his apartment. This means offering to go to Connie’s hotel is not really a brush-off. It’s exactly the opposite. It should be precisely what Connie wants Phil to do. All Connie has to do is invite him up for a nightcap. In other words, Lynn has reworded the comic strip to get rid of the cousin reference, without thinking why the cousin reference was there in the first place. Here you go, Lynn! I figured it out for you. Back in 1981 you put in a cousin so Connie would know she was being brushed off, when Phil offered to drop her at her cousin's place. It didn’t have anything to do with having the cousin in as a character.

Let’s assume Connie is right and Phil really is brushing Connie off by dropping her at her hotel. What is Connie expecting that would not be a brush-off? Is she expecting Phil to invite her to go to a different sleazy motel room from the one in which she is already staying? And if that is her expectation, what is Connie doing to let Phil know that this is what she wants? This is Connie’s method of seduction:

1. Wear frumpy clothes covering you up to your neck and down to your wrist.
2. Don’t speak to Phil. Let him do all the talking.
3. Don’t touch Phil or smile at Phil (except when he isn't looking at you).
4. When you are walking beside Phil, put your hand in your pocket, stare straight forward and put your purse in a death grip; just in case Phil decides to mug you.

With seduction techniques like that, the unseen 5th panel to today's strip should show Phil thinking, “I wish she invited me up to her hotel room, but she just stood there and didn’t say anything. Nice. A brush-off. But nice.”

Connie shows up out of nowhere. Phil has not had the time to prepare to show her around town or take her any place nice. Not only that, but by the time Phil finished his gig, it's not likely there are many places around town that are still open. Assuming Phil isn't a sleazebag who is going to say, "Connie, let's go to a hotel and have hot and tawdry sex," then what are his options?:

a. Thank Connie for coming to see him and wave goodbye at the Jazzy Club. After all, if she got there by herself, then she can get back by herself.

b. Offer to take Connie back to where she is staying. It's the gentlemanly thing to do to make sure Connie gets home safely.

c. Take Connie home, but offer to take Connie out to do something the next day.

d. Realize that Connie has gone out of her way to visit him, so he should get on bended knee and propose.

Personally I think (b) is the best answer, followed closely by (c). Phil seems to be acting like a gentlemen to me. For Connie to think he is brushing her off, must mean that Connie is not accustomed to a man treating her very well. It's like she is saying, "He's not pawing all over me and trying to get me in bed. He must not like me." The more I look at this strip, the more messed-up Connie seems to be.

Take this behaviour and add it in the story of Pablo da Silva. Were Connie and Pablo really all that much in love during their medical mission, as Connie suggests when she tells the story? Or did Connie throw herself at Pablo and got pregnant with Lawrence as a result.

Take this behaviour and add it in the story of Connie's first husband, Peter Landry,who kept trying to change her? Was Peter really trying to unfairly control Connie? Or was Peter trying to change Connie to help her with her terrible self-esteem?

10 Comments:

Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

With seduction techniques like that, the unseen 5th panel to today's strip should show Phil thinking, “I wish she invited me up to her hotel room, but she just stood there and didn’t say anything. Nice. A brush-off. But nice.”

Wouldn't it be just a kick in the teeth if that's what Phil tells Elly in a new-ruin trying to explain himself? Having to realize that her pal stood around like a dope thought-bubbling instead of taking care of business would probably give Flapandhonk a serious case of input failure.

10:51 PM  
Blogger forworse said...

I get the impression that Pablo da Silva dodged a bullet when he took Connie to the airport and promised he'd be on the next flight. There's nothing in Connie's behaviour to suggest she did anything than tumble into bed with him with every intention of getting pregnant so he'd have to propose. Maybe Pablo felt some pangs of guilt at the thought of his child growing up without a father, but he knew that any relationship he had with Connie would have collapsed within months anyway.

Once again, the retcons make the characters' behaviour even less sensible. If Connie were still fairly recently divorced (about two years by this point?) and just getting back into dating, perhaps a crush on Phil and some overly-enthusiastic behaviour could be better understood, especially if Peter Landry had been her childhood sweetheart and she had very little experience with adult relationships. The retcon of Pablo threw that possibility out the window, since by the time she met Phil she'd already had two serious adult relationships, and the further retcon that she and Phil were far more involved than previously shown -- and in touch over a long period -- now makes this Montreal trip behaviour ridiculous. And it wasn't good to begin with.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Clio said...

Unless Connie's drunk, Phil's old-run offer to take her to her cousin's isn't "gentlemanly". She has her own transportation. There are two plausible reasons for him to offer to take her to her cousin's: 1) she shouldn't be driving herself because she is drunk or 2) he wants to spend more time with her.

Connie is, was, and always will be, a moron.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, what happens with Phil's pipe? I thought Lynn Johnston would be "filling in details" like this. :-D

11:38 PM  
Blogger howard said...

DreadedCandiru2,

Wouldn't it be just a kick in the teeth if that's what Phil tells Elly in a new-ruin trying to explain himself?

I think it would be great. I hate to say it, but new-runs are what this storyline desperately needs.

4:46 AM  
Blogger howard said...

forworse,

There's nothing in Connie's behaviour to suggest she did anything than tumble into bed with him with every intention of getting pregnant so he'd have to propose.

Her overly-romanticized version of her story with Pablo, the fact that Pablo seemed to have no trouble marrying another woman and raising sons, and the series of strips which seems to say, “I love you Lawrence, because you remind me of a little Pablo” are all giveaways to that.

Maybe Pablo felt some pangs of guilt at the thought of his child growing up without a father, but he knew that any relationship he had with Connie would have collapsed within months anyway.

When he meets Lawrence years later, he takes the blame on himself and doesn’t say anything negative about Connie. He doesn’t say, “Sorry, Lawrence, but your mother was a whacko and there was no way I was going to marry her.”

If Connie were still fairly recently divorced (about two years by this point?) and just getting back into dating, perhaps a crush on Phil and some overly-enthusiastic behaviour could be better understood, especially if Peter Landry had been her childhood sweetheart and she had very little experience with adult relationships.

In other words, if Lynn had left the Connie and Peter story like it was when she using it to imitate her own life with her first husband. Whenever she strays from her own personal experience and relies on her imagination, things go awry.

…now makes this Montreal trip behaviour ridiculous. And it wasn't good to begin with.

This is a story that could stand to have been completely rewritten. Back in 2009, when Lynn skipped over it after showing Phil and Connie date, I had hoped she would skip it.

4:47 AM  
Blogger howard said...

Clio,

There are two plausible reasons for him to offer to take her to her cousin's: 1) she shouldn't be driving herself because she is drunk or 2) he wants to spend more time with her.

Oh no, the traffic in Montreal is so terrible, Connie took a cab. Didn’t you see the cab strip? It was right there after the one where Connie confronted the “’Allo?” girl, and the one where she felt sorry for her son.

4:47 AM  
Blogger howard said...

Anonymous,

So, what happens with Phil's pipe? I thought Lynn Johnston would be "filling in details" like this. :-D

It is interesting how Lynn Johnston’s brain works towards “filling in details”. When she said she wanted to tell the secret story about how Deanna Sobinski left, I thought we would see more intimate details of the workings of the Sobinski family. Instead it was, “My dad got a job and we’re moving. See ya’!” She seemed to be content with showing that the characters knew Deanna was moving, when before Deanna was just gone without explanation.

With this “Connie in Montreal” story, Lynn has fixated on showing the girl Connie met at Phil’s apartment, and removing Connie’s cousin from the storyline. Of course, coming up we may have a new-run where Connie reveals what happened to the pipe; but I doubt it.

4:49 AM  
Blogger FDChief said...

For me, the sad part of this is that it works at erasing the sort-of fondness I developed for these characters when I was reading these the first time.

I think because this really was a nadir for Lynn I pretty much glossed over this story arc the first time. By reprinting it I'm reminded what a truly selfish little idiot Connie was, how cluelessly Lynn portrayed her brother's life (did she EVER go to one of his gigs?) and how generally loathsome she made everyone involved in this little episode look.

And the thing is, as howard points out, she didn't need to re-run it. The entire episode is pointless except as a way of emphasizing that Connie is a self-deluding, passive-aggressive little fool, Phil is a cheating cheater that cheats, Elly has neither sense nor spine, and poor Lawrence gets worked over by his creator like no fictional character deserves (well, okay, maybe Garfield).

10:31 AM  
Blogger howard said...

FDChief,

For me, the sad part of this is that it works at erasing the sort-of fondness I developed for these characters when I was reading these the first time.

The work does not bear up under heavy scrutiny. I have found if I remove any expectation that the Pattersons and their close friends are nice people, then the strip makes a lot more sense.

By reprinting it I'm reminded what a truly selfish little idiot Connie was, how cluelessly Lynn portrayed her brother's life (did she EVER go to one of his gigs?) and how generally loathsome she made everyone involved in this little episode look.

I am not sure what to think about Lynn attending one of her brother’s performances. His website indicates he prefers doing chamber music to jazz. Chamber music concerts are very different from a jazz band playing in a seedy club. The hours are better. There are fewer drunken brawls at the performance venue. And the pay is a little worse. It seems clear to me that Lynn did not attend her brother’s concerts.

And the thing is, as howard points out, she didn't need to re-run it.

Absolutely. Connie is shown to be at her lowest low as a human being, a friend and a mom. Lynn Johnston could have improved her situation considerably by leaving this one alone.

2:04 PM  

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