Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Meet The Foobs

Part 2 of the History of the Foobiverse series.
Click this link for Part 1. Or not.


The internationally syndicated comic strip For Better or For Worse features the lives, loves, and travails of a family so good-natured, wholesome, moral, and above all, nice, they could only be Canadian. This ur-family from the Great White North makes the family from Father Know Best look like Satan-worshipping polyamorists. In the comics world, the Patterson’s only competition for Whitest Family Ever is the oval headed munchkins over at Family Circus. And they don’t count because they never get older.

Since the Patterson family has been sharing our breakfast table for over 25 years, I thought I would share some insights into the personalities of the major characters. Now in the vast enterprise that is Foob Central, full bios of all the cast members are available. These read like Playboy Playmate stat sheets run though a Wonder Bread plant (Liz loves holidays, but hates thong underwear). Instead I want to look behind the official story and take a deeper look. So let’s meet the Foobs.

Elly Patterson is the slightly befuddled and frequently overwhelmed matriarchal heroine of the strip. As Lynn Johnston's alter ego, Elly is frequently the subject of self-depracating observations, many involving the ruder bodily functions. Her continued sense of exasperation only masks an inner goodness that seems to permeate everyone she touches in life. She never breaks out into life-meddling platitudes like Mary Worth, but like Roma Downey, she always seems to be nearby when someone needs some positive karma. Known as Saint Elly of Milborough, the only hurdle in her canonization is that real saints are dead.

John Patterson is about as necessary to this strip as a spoiler on a Bushwhacker. His function is completely vestigial. The only reason he’s around is so that Ellie doesn’t look completely bonkers whining and bitching to herself. He’s a successful dentist with a personality so mild he could be the spokesman for Black Diamond processed cheese. He does play with toy trains and buys a mid-life crisis car about once a decade. Other than that he might as well be wallpaper.

Michael Patterson is the good eldest kid. While he went through a surly teen-age phase, he has never done anything to besmirch the House of Patterson. An aspiring writer, he works hard, is a loving husband and devoted dad and boring beyond belief. His biggest burdens in life are a meddling mother-in-law and cranky downstair neighbors. He is now holding the gee-kids-do-the-darndest things baton that passed onto him when Ellie started having hot flashes and April got too big to be cute. If Mike has a dark side it’s pretty well hidden, but then those are the guys that end up shooting up the entire Tim Hortons in rage when they finally snap.

Deanna Patterson
, neé Sobinski, is one of the charter supporting cast members in the Foobiverse. She was the object/victim of Mike’s schoolyard crush only to disappear for several years. They reunited later when Mike as an aspiring ambulance chasing tabloid writer finds Deanna at a car wreck in a meet-cute set-up that makes most Reese Witherspoon comedies seem plausible. They dump their respective fiancés and secretly get married rather than live together because she’s “not that kind of girl”. Deanna is a trained pharmacist with a rather poor understanding of family planning methods, since they managed to have two kids anyways.

Elizabeth Patterson, aka Liz, aka Lizard-breath, is the current fulcrum of the strip as most storylines eventually lead back to her. While still as squeaky clean as Mike, she has not fallen into married domestic bliss, yet. Since this strip rarely ventures into PG territory, let alone up to 14A, Liz’s sexual history is largely speculative. Her first real boyfriend, Anthony, is now married to a career driven shrew. Other high school crushes are just deep FBOFW trivia.

Her college “longterm serious boyfriend” Eric was put-off when she wouldn’t put-out. She was completely caught by surprise with the concept that sharing an apartment with a boyfriend also meant sharing a bedroom. Naiveté like this cannot be faked, it can only be congenital. Those Pattersons obviously never spent much time watching Degrassi Junior High. Eric eventually moved onto greener pastures causing indignation when Liz found out he was burning the candle, if not at both ends, at least on the other end from hers.

A brief flirtation with Warren, a rugged yet sensitive helicopter pilot, showed promise but fizzled as well. And pickings are pretty slim for eligible bachelors up in the First Nation village of Mtigwaki where Liz is currently a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. In the past few months Liz has been the victim of an attempted sexual assault, the subject of a married man’s crush, and the yet to be realized beneficiary of her Mom’s yenta-like pimping at a remote police outpost. I may not like the direction of Liz’s story arc, but at least it moves.

April Patterson proves that bad sitcoms aren’t the only art form that needs a steady influx of cute kids. Started as an “Oh shit! I can’t be pregnant!” storyline, April is now a teenager with all the baggage that ensues. April and her friends speak in a teen Canuck patois that makes Full House seem hip and happening. The members of the now defunct garage pop band 4-Evah coined the iconic word “foob” which is a cross between “fool” and “boob”. The cut-ups on Mount Foob have created an entire etymology of this faux-slang. I don’t think they realize we are laughing at them and not with them.

Just in case the doctor won’t renew your Halcion prescription anymore or your blood sugar is a little low, all the main characters including Grandpa Jim (and/or Step-Grandma Iris) as well as the family pets “write” monthly letters about all the stuff that happens when the bright lights of the comics spotlight aren’t on them. As examples of backstory earnestness, they manage to stay in character and are as boring, meandering, and inconclusive as anything else about the foobs we love to hate.

This series continues with Part 3: Attack Of The Foobs

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Attention Mt. Foob lawyers: The very small illustration is copyright by Lynn Johnston and I know that. I am using it under my "fair use" rights for review and criticism. Go ahead and send me a nasty "cease and desist" letter. I could use the the street cred around my fellow comics geeks.

11 comments:

November Rain said...

hi again michele sent me :)

Suburban Turmoil said...

This is great. I read this comic when I was little and so was Lizzie. I love how the characters age in real time and it was nice to catch up on their lives.

Thanks!

Claude said...

I'd never admit this on the CC boards, but the cool thing about April is that she's only a few weeks older than my daughter. It's like looking three months into the future......!

Or, you know, not.

J.Po said...

You've got plenty of street cred with me. Even more when Michael eventually shoots up the Tim Horton's. LOL!

Pha-Q said...

Who will be deflowered first? April or Lizzie?

Anonymous said...

Once again, Yello, you nailed it all.

Mmmmwah!

mooselet said...

Dammit, yellojkt, now I have another blog to read along with CC. Spot on, as usual!

Blond Girl said...

Believe it or not, I love that cartoon strip... but I loved your synopsis as well:-)

I am working on a post right now to answer your question. Stop by later...

ellcee said...

I *love* your analysis! Puts my fanfic to shame!

LC

April Patterson said...

I love the comment about John being vestigial, as well as Liz's shock that shacking up means sharing a bedroom (that aspect of the Liz/Eric storyline bugged to no end). As for Mike's dark side, I think it mostly shows in his monthly letters where he reveals he hid from his wife and kids all summer in Weed's airconditioned studio while they sweated in the muggy apartment, and only returned home after midnight when Dee, exhausted, was already deeply asleep. Jerk.

Carmi said...

Cleanliness aside, it's the only comic strip with enough depth to keep us coming back day after day.

Let's face it, the Peanuts gang never inspired this much water cooler talk.

Loved the run-through. Back from Michele's.