Thursday, October 20, 2005

Attack Of The Foobs

Part 3 of the History of the Foobiverse series.
Click this link for Part 1 or here for Part 2.
Or just join the party in progress.

The Foobiverse is a big place and rivals Yoknapatawpha County as a literary creation in breadth and scope. Centered largely in and around suburban Toronto, the Foobiverse is a mix of fictional and actual locations where the characters of For Better and For Worse live, work, and raise families without ever seeming to have any sex. Lynn Johnston’s web slaves have been kind enough to produce a map of the region, which includes such Foob-null locations as the actual studios of Foob Central in Corbeil.

The minor characters that merit mention on the obsessively detailed website number over 60, including the lost, and presumed floating in sewage, rubber figurine, Ned. Each character has a brief one-paragraph description on the FBorFW website so that you can tell them apart. The whole list is alphabetized by first name just in case your foob-induced autism can’t remember that Eric the Cheating Boyfriend’s last name is Chamberlain. Characters important enough, like Mike’s buddy and source Weed, get a bigger write-up and are linked to the main Patterson bios.

The most recent expansion of the Foobiverse was when Liz took a job as a teacher in the First Nation (non-Canadians should read “Native American” or any other choice of politically correct euphemisms for genocidally marginalized descendants of pre-Columbian western hemisphere inhabitants) tribal village of Mtigwaki. The village is one of Lynn Johnston’s annoying stabs at relevance and serious issues. Like a 1950’s filmstrip on other cultures, it comes off as insulting and patronizing. The intentionally and occasionally comically misspelled Mtigwackawacka is full of enough noble savages and colorful characters to make F-Troop look like Dances With Wolves.

In addition to stock aboriginal peoples caricatures, several of the other minor characters have rather uplifting traits that make them and by association, the Pattersons, better people. Liz’s inspiration to become a teacher was the wheelchair bound Sharon Taylor (nee Edwards). Shannon is the friend of April with ‘Special Needs.” Mike and Deanna’s landlady Lovey is a Polish Jew who may be a Holocaust survivor. Gordon survived child abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father to become a leading entrepreneur in Milborough.

There is no Aftershool Special trauma too obscure to not to have touched the Pattersons at one point or another. When Liz’s friend Candace gets hit on by her mom’s boyfriend, it’s the Pattersons she seeks solace from. Most famously, when Lawrence came out of the closet, Mike Patterson was the only person there for his childhood friend. This sequence has its own section of the FBoFW website where Lynn Johnston talks about her courageous stand in running the series in the face of literally dozens of complaints. Courageous meaning about 1 percent or the papers carrying her strip cancelled it at least temporarily.

In a strip that used to focus on the positive, an alarming number of recent characters are dishonest, mercenary, conniving, annoying and outright criminal. It started when Elly in her good-heartedness refused to believe that Kortney was stealing from the toy shop. Eric taught Liz the sins of pre-marital pseudo-cohabitation when he started cheating on her. As Mike and Deanna grew closer, Deanna’s mother Mira turned from supportive parent to Momzilla-In-Law.

Anthony Caine, after dumping Liz, unwisely chose on the rebound the career driven Thérèse whose mercenary baby shower and justifiable jealousy of Liz is so un-nuanced that Anthony comes off as one of the most spineless jellyfish in all foobdom. The evil character trend hit rock bottom when Howard Erk was introduced solely to stalk and assault Liz so that Anthony could make one last desperate pathetic play for Liz.

While the strip jumped the shark in the maudlin department when Farley the sheep dog died rescuing little April, this latest descent into melodrama is betraying the warm and cozy slice-of-life roots of the strip. The Pattersons may not have super powers, but they have been a force of goodness and justice for over a quarter century and have left a littered field of minor throw-away characters behind as proof.

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Anonymous said...

Hello, Michele sent me...

Interesting article. I stopped reading the comics years ago when I stopped reading hard copies of my local paper, but I remember that strip - it's like the newsprint edition of dawson's creek or everwood, really, except with less fashion-consciousness and hip dialogue.

Your Mother said...

Wow. You most certainly know your stuff...and no mention of Angelina this time. Slacker.

yellojkt said...

Comics are my other obsession.

Mooselet said...

I used to like this strip. But man it's turned into let's laugh at ourselves into preach-y santimonious crap.

And yet, I continue to read it... something's wrong with me. Foob!

FattyPants said...

angelina is hot. I'm a girl and she still makes me want to dry hump stuff. Thanks for stopping by

lazylol said...

Hi - I'm here from Michele's!

Anonymous said...

You know, I only recently rediscovered the pattersons when I found out I could read them online (yes, it took me that long. What can I say? sometimes I am blond!) but I went from when Mike was a teen and April a baby to now. How silly is it that I wish I could find an entire archive and read it all?

I am so freaking pathetic. I have no desire to do this with any other comic.

Well no, that's not entirely true; I would like to see how Cathy finally got Irving to the alter, but I digress.

Each time you bring up this comic, you fuel my desire to know more. Considering you're bashing their world, you would think it would have the opposite affect. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

Good series, yello.

"Mike's buddy and source" ... *snicker!*

One thing I'll give LJ credit for - maybe the only thing - she did name one of her major characters "Weed".

Anonymous said...

It's really interesting to compare Miss Edwards with Shannon. Miss Edwards was a woman who was a teacher and who happened to be in a wheelchair. Shannon is a special needs student who is April's friend. Even though Shannon is based on someone Lynn actually knows in actual real life, she still seems like An Issue with a personality hastily stapled to it, as opposed to A Person with a history that includes physical handicap.