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HURT COMICS: For Better or for SUCK

For Better or For Worse's current storline is about a house fire.

It is the worst house fire ever. By which I mean not the loss of property or life, I mean BULLSHIT.

I think Lynn Johnston has gotten accustomed to the crutch of the "monthly letters" from the characters to flesh out storylines. (And I'm mostly skipping over how poorly they write, especially the "writer", Mike, whose prose reads like the fanfic of an adjective-afflicted teenager. Witness Mike's neon purple prose, "The alarm on the hall ceiling went off, a high-pitched whine that pumped the adrenaline like a syringe." Oh, Mike, that novel you just finished--it sucks, doesn't it?)

EDIT 2: Oh, for FUCK'S SAKE, Mike WALKS OUT OF THE FIRE clutching his manuscript and laptop. I'd be feeding him that paper rectally. Does he say "I'm okay?" or "I'm sorry?" to the kids and wife?
No, he says "Take my laptop." Maybe he left off, "And club me with it like a harp seal. I'm a dumbass"
BTW, Mike's description of leaving the fire in his letter/retcon reads like gay fireman porn. I thought it was pretty shit writing that he passes out from smoke by is okay enough to leave the hospital the same day, but him WALKING OUT is BULLSHIT.

I am appalled by the stupidity of this writing. It is bad beyond my capacity to rant about it even if I was limited to "Fuck! FUCK! FUCK FUCKING FUCK!"


EDIT: Oh DEAR, the letters are gone. I know someone at the binky_betsy community saved them off-line (See, Mike? That's called BACKING UP, which means we don't have to run back into a burning interweb to advance the plot), and it'll be interesting to compare and see if changes are made when they go up again. Like, if Mike's letter isn't glowing eggplant, if Deanna does more than hiss at Mike, if John isn't an asshole to April.

Anyway, you can read the letters the characters wrote, and compare it with my reality. It burns me (pun intended) that Johnston is looked to as an example, and her happy happy ending wherein nobody dies, even people passed out drunk next to the fires they started, strikes me as not just sitcom-unrealistic but irresponsible.

A fire as written by someone wanting to be sincere in the very worst way, and succeeding magnificently.


( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 22nd, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
Lovie lives next door.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 07:46 am (UTC)
Lynn Johnston lost it some years ago.

Her fans, in revolt, have started a few angry boards, especially one here on Livejournal (which I can't find, will update if I do) that Penny used to read aloud at night and snicker at to keep me awake.
Many of them involve Elly as an evil murderess trying to hide the bodies.

Reading those letters, I am wondering if Ms. Johnson perhaps should see a physician. She used to be able to write better than that, much better, and none of those letters even remotely rings true. Especially the one from Deanna, which ... come ON, the closest thing to an actual reaction, and it reads like stage directions from a high-school drama teacher to her leading lady?
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 22nd, 2006 08:48 am (UTC)
Perhaps if they brought in a third party, something to break up the relentless, hideous, soul-smothering bland bible-beltness of the family.

Mike was based on her brother, who is gay, and so naturally, she has made her fantasy-brother into a perfect hetero-husband. The disappearance of diversity, of celebrated difference, makes it as depressing to read as the later, increasingly conservative Lil' Abner.

I think I stopped having any sympathy for the comic when Elly believed the already-proven high school thief girl over her own daughter, and the daughter didn't call her out on it and continue to hold it over her head whenever she pretends to be wise.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 22nd, 2006 09:05 am (UTC)
I could believe that. I didn't realize that Elly would canonize Deanna for that action, but then my own mother was incredibly stupid about pestering my wife to create grandchildren, even though my brothers' profligate spawning made her a great-grandmother by the time she was forty-five.

(We'd already tried several times and there had been miscarriages - Mom wouldn't listen when I told her to knock it off and NOT to bug Penny about it, and it came back and bit her in the face.)

It's not an unusual thing for people to be stupid, in this way. I can recognize that as a legitimate story, but ... Elly is Lynn Johnson's mary-sue and what she says and does are largely self-insertion, which means that when Elly does something really stupid, it's like Lynn saying that "This is OK!"

And it's NOT ok, what she wrote Elly doing to April in that thief-in-the-store arc. It rang just as false to me as the letters about the fire, which... if I were grading a writing class, would get an A for spelling, a B for composition, and an F for characterization.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC)
A "B"? You have a much higher tolerance for purple prose and stilt than I do...
Dec. 23rd, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC)
It's on a curve.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
Mine came when I found out Deanna was married in a designer gown. The fuh? They're poor as hell, and Deanna's wearing a designer gown? That showed me Johnston was not the still the least bit in touch with (if she ever was) what being poor (or even low on cash) means.
It's the same thinking in which three women rent a giant NYC apartment furnished with metric fuckloads of funky designer stuff, and neither has a Wall Street job or sugar daddy.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC)
"when Elly believed the already-proven high school thief girl over her own daughter, and the daughter didn't call her out on it and continue to hold it over her head whenever she pretends to be wise."

What!? I must have missed that storyline.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 23rd, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
Argh. What a sap Elly is. And stupid too. It's not like it's all that hard to look up a browser history, ya' know?
Dec. 23rd, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)
Actually, Mike is based on her own son, Aaron, who is unmarried and childless and for awhile was homeless.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 06:00 am (UTC)
Really? I clearly recall that she described him earlier as being based on her brother, but I can see him being a wish-fulfillment for her own failure at (s)mothering.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 04:27 pm (UTC)
binky_betsy is the home of the Foobiverse. I was meaning to make a post yesterday here but work ate me.

Lea already found her way there by the time I got back on LJ.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 07:55 am (UTC)
Feh! I've never forgiven her for the way she bumped off the dog. He died after saving their extremely stupid daughter. When she was upset that it was her fault (it WAS!) the dad told her that it wasn't and that the dog would have died anyway. (grinds her teeth) Immediately I saw this week's story I thought of you and knew she wouldn't get it right.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 09:07 am (UTC)
I think that Lynn perhaps has never actually experienced grieving, or perhaps has always had someone preventing her from grieving, so she has no flipping clue.

I wanted to shove the father into the river.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 09:51 am (UTC)
Me, too, though actually I was kinda hoping the kid would drown... I can be mean-spirited, though. : ) You're right about her cluelessness, Perhaps she has very little depth of feeling that she is willing to show. If we've learned anything from this, it is that it is never alright after a house fire, whether everyone gets out alive or not.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
Is the strip ending? 'Cause if it is, then we can imagine that somewhere down the line, Deanna and/or Mike ended up with PTSD and that could bring it more in line with reality.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 02:44 pm (UTC)
Yep. It was announced last year that she was wrapping up the strip due to health issues.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 04:38 pm (UTC)
According to a recent interview "Fall 2007" is when it will end. She thankfully scrapped plans for a spin off series focused on Michael. (I'm guessing because he's the least popular of the cast. This week's story arc will do nothing to change that)

She talks about doing a hybrid comic, but has been vague about how directly tied to FBoFW it will be.

Personally, I'll be glad when it's over. I used to love this comic so much but it's really gone downhill rapidly in the last 2 years.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
I never heard the strip was ending... I would like to see more consequences than, "Oh, well... stuff's gone. Let's get more." I'd think there would at least be child nightmares or something. I hate to wish ill even on lame comic strip characters, but still...
Dec. 22nd, 2006 01:40 pm (UTC)
April was 3 when that happened. Many children at that age don't realize the consequences of their actions.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 01:56 am (UTC)
Like I said, I can be mean spirited!
Dec. 22nd, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC)
I know Johnston has a lot of fans, but I have always hated the false and manipulative sentimentalism in the strip, and this is a perfect example. The best intentions in the world, leading straight to storytelling hell. I suppose she should get a few points for at least attempting to inject some drama into the otherwise lifeless world of newspaper strips. In the kingdom of the bland, the phony melodrama is king...
Dec. 22nd, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
When I read the letters and saw how the storyline was going to play out, you and your family were the first people I thought about.

After seeing what you went through, and other accounts from people who have had their lives changed over something so catastrophic, I'm just appaled that Lynn has used this in such a trite "Very Special Episode" way.

Mike only inhaled enough smoke to get a bad cough for a day and a good talking to from his wife. They only lost enough belongings to make them pitiable but not destitute. In no time they will be back to normal everything hunky dory perfect as they permanently settle in the house Mike grew up in. It's beyond insulting.

And I thought she'd totally lost it when she made a sexual assault (and trial) the base for a rekindling romance between Liz and Anthony.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
... Lynn Johnson, trivializing a serious situation. You know, I can't even read FBFW out of morbid curiosity anymore. >.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)
I'm a bit stunned (but not distressed) at the above reactions. FBOFW was sort of my daily window on English-Canadian family life for a long time. I thought that it reflected English-Canadian values and related cultural traits, as opposed to my own values and cultural traits. Mind you, Doonesbury's been my window on daily family life in the United States for a very long time, and it too might be warped a bit.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC)
Funky Winkerbean might be a better window on daily life in the U.S., rather than Doonesbury. Doonesbury's arch and sometimes funny, but it's very much a Strip by a Man who's politically observant.

As for FBoFW, I don't hate the strip in its entirety, but I really loathe the current storyline, and I haven't liked much of it for the past five or so years. It is suffering from pat writing and inconsistent (and poor) characterization.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 03:08 am (UTC)
Funky Winkerbean might be a better window on daily life in the U.S., rather than Doonesbury.

If you subscribe to the notion that American life is one endless grinding misery of epic depression, then yes. Oh, God. Funky Winkerbean needs a zoloft IV.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 06:05 am (UTC)
Actually, Stone Soup is a good window on it... the woman who writes it (Jan Eliot) lives in the Eugene, Oregon area. She has a much better balance of 'fake' to 'real' in her strip, though she's somewhat constrained by the paradigm of not changing important stuff.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)
When I saw this story line I thought of you, Lea. And I thought "Oh, please! If my husband was doing something that galactically stupid, I'd knock him down and sit on him!"

At one time (years and years ago) FBOW was a favorite of mine. I've been getting more and more fed up with it, and this silliness is really the last straw.
Dec. 23rd, 2006 04:22 am (UTC)
I was re-reading the 2003 strips and laughing my ass off. THEY are really funny!
Dec. 23rd, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
I feel exactly the same way when a tv show or movie conveniently gives a kid leukemia to further the angst factor. This happens a LOT more than you'd think. Whenever they need a sick child to tug at the audiences heart strings, they give 'em leukemia. I want to scream, "This is my fucking LIFE, you assholes! I don't run around using your personal traumas for entertainment. Show a little fucking respect."
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )


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