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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
18th-Dec-2006 07:46 pm
Atagoul
A little late but none the worse for wear:

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/shaenongarrity/smithson/series.php

Scooter is apparently going through with his "Non-Hits of One-Hit Wonders" concept for the night's show. Being a cartoon character, he has the enviable ability to play songs by both real and fictional bands.

I'm planning to do another Overlooked Manga Festival later this week, and that'll be the last installment for 2006. In the meantime, here's an essay about something I've wanted to get off my chest for a while. It's long, real long, so it's going behind a cut.



Why I Hate Anthony
By Shaenon K. Garrity

If you read comics, you know which Anthony I mean. Very likely you’re already nodding in agreement. I’m talking about Anthony Caine, Elizabeth Patterson’s ex-boyfriend in For Better or For Worse. Friends since grade school, Liz and Anthony dated as teenagers, close to ten years ago in both real time and strip time. Liz went on to university, became a schoolteacher in a remote First Nations village in northern Ontario, and dated a succession of interchangeable hunks, while Anthony stayed in their hometown of Milborough, became an accountant, and married Cruella di Ville. Over the last few years, however, FBOFW has become increasingly dominated by transparent authorial efforts to bring Liz and Anthony back together, presumably in time for the strip’s planned ending sometime next year.

I hate Anthony. I hate him more than I’ve ever hated a cartoon character, and, yes, I’m including both Scrappy-Doo and Ted Rall. I’m far from the only one; Anthony supporters appear to be a tiny minority among FBOFW readers, and most of them can’t muster much more enthusiasm than, “Hey, he’s not that bad.” Josh Fruhlinger, of the popular comic-strip blog The Comics Curmudgeon, rips into Anthony every time he appears. Venerable comics journalist Tom Spurgeon describes himself as “anti-Anthony, pro-anybody else, up to and including Snuffy Smith.” A woman on LiveJournal with the username ellcee writes elaborate anti-Anthony fanfics in which he appears as a murderer or the mustache-twirling villain of a Victorian romance.

So my feelings are hardly unique. Nonetheless, I find myself asking why my reaction to Anthony is so powerfully negative, why it slides from dislike into outright repugnance. For Better or For Worse has long been one of my favorite comic strips. It’s the last great newspaper comic, a holdover from a time when there was room for accomplished art, clever dialogue, and ambitious plotting in the funny pages. Creator Lynn Johnston is one of the most gifted female cartoonists in North America and an inspiration to women like myself. Beyond that, I have strong emotional ties to the strip. Launched when I was just a year old, it’s been part of my life since I taught myself to read with the Sunday comics. Liz is about my age, Michael is only a few years older, and my parents are Baby Boomers just like John and Elly—and, since the characters age in real time, the experiences of the Patterson family have often hewn close to ours. Growing up, there were always FBOFW strips on the family fridge.

But I hate Anthony. I loathe him. I want to shove a tire iron in his face. Why do I feel this way?

1. The “Beauty and the Geek” plot, already overused in comic strips. In Greg Evans’s Luann, cute blonde teenager Luann has two suitors, hunky Aaron and nerdy Gunther, and nowadays usually ends up with Gunther. A few years ago, Evans held a reader poll to decide which beau should take Luann to the prom; when Aaron won, Evans set her up with Gunther anyway, then arranged for Aaron to be transferred to Hawaii. In Brooke McEldowny’s 9 Chickweed Lane, beautiful, absurdly perfect ballerina Ella has only one heterosexual man in her life, the schleppy Amos, who won her heart in a discreetly-drawn night of passion. In Liberty Meadows, dorky, toy-collecting Frank, who just happens to share a name with creator Frank Cho, is pursued by two beautiful, top-heavy women. Even Jon, Garfield’s hopelessly geeky owner, has finally hooked up with puffy-lipped veterinarian Liz. And who can forget classic beautiful woman/nerdy guy pairings like Lola Granola and Opus the Penguin, or Blondie and Dagwood? (At least the original 1930s version of Blondie provided an amusingly unsentimental explanation for the attraction: she was a gold-digging flapper, and he came from money.)

From Blondie onward, the comics page has long been a cornucopia of male fantasies about nerdy men hooking up with devoted babes despite lacking good looks, social skills, or convincingly-drawn hair. Usually, this phenomenon has an obvious explanation: the strips are drawn by nerdy men (yes, Brooke McEldowny is a man—one who looks more than a little like Amos). But For Better or For Worse is one of the few major newspaper comics drawn by a woman and written largely from the viewpoint of the female characters. Couldn’t Johnston have abandoned this comic-strip cliché and indulged in just a little bit of female fantasy for once? Even Cathy’s husband Irving has more sex appeal then Anthony, plus he had the strength of character to marry a woman with no nose.

2. The “childhood sweethearts reunited” plot, already overused in For Better or For Worse. In case you haven’t been following For Better or For Worse closely for the last 30 years (and why not?), Elizabeth’s big brother Michael is married to his grade-school sweetheart, Deanna. The two were separated in middle school, then came back together in a dramatic storyline that involved Deanna being injured in a car accident and Michael covering the story for a newspaper. They spent some time apart when Deanna, a pharmacist, went to South America for her residency (a plot which was itself recycled from the backstory of Elly’s friend Connie), then reconnected and got hitched.

It was all very romantic, but it doesn’t need to be done again. By treading the same ground with Liz, Johnston gives the peculiar impression that she thinks everyone ought to be paired off with their first loves. Already, there have been exchanges hinting that teenage April’s forgettable boyfriend Gerald is the man with whom the youngest Patterson sibling is destined to spend her life. Since April and Gerald have known each other, if I’m remembering correctly, since preschool, this may be the ultimate FBOFW match: April will get to marry the first person outside her immediate family she ever met.

The strip has made no bones about why childhood sweethearts are preferable: the parents know them and get to oversee the courtship from beginning to end. Liz’s parents, Elly and John, haven’t shown much fondness for any of the men Liz has met outside Milborough. But they’re elated about the increasingly prominent role Anthony is playing in her life. When Liz and Anthony first ran into each other as adults, John and Elly (and their middle-aged friends) gloated about the “good news” and pushed Liz to attend a New Year’s Eve party with Anthony as her date—even though both Liz and Anthony were involved with other people. While April fretted about her sister’s infidelity (April has loved all of Liz’s non-Anthony boyfriends, which is held up as a sign of her immaturity), John and Elly exchanged a high-five in the background. Finally, a nice local boy they could keep an eye on! It’s Crossing Delancy on the comics page.

3. The plodding inevitability of the Liz-Anthony pairing. The writing’s been on the wall for a long time. In the 20th anniversary book The Lives Behind the Lines, written while Liz and Anthony were still in high school, Johnston wrote about Anthony:

…he’s the kind of kid that a girl’s mother would point out. “See him? Wait twenty years and he’ll knock the socks off any jock in the city! That’s the kind of guy who’s going t o do well in whatever he chooses to do, and by golly—when he’s got a little gray in his hair, he will be so handsome that every woman at your twentieth high school reunion will wonder why they didn’t beg him to go out with them when they had the chance!” Mothers know these things.

The section on Anthony ends, “After all, I’ve been to my twentieth high school reunion. I know which nuts to pick.”

As Liz’s high-school boyfriend, Anthony was…okay. I wasn’t crazy about him even then, but I could tolerate him. He was earnest, gawky, unremarkable, and generally more interested in hanging out with his buddies than in cultivating any kind of serious romance. In other words, he was a perfectly decent first boyfriend, and very much the type of boy most parents would like to see their teenage daughters date. After all, there was absolutely no danger of him talking a girl into sex.

Since the breakup, however, every appearance of Anthony has been laden with foreshadowing that he and Liz should—nay, must—reunite, that only in one another’s arms can they find true happiness. It grows more oppressive as the strip goes on. And it’s not like their original relationship set the world on fire, so the obsession with shoving them back together is baffling.

4. His stupid moustache. You see that paragraph from The Lives Behind the Lines that I quoted above?

IT WAS A HIDEOUS LIE.

Anthony did not grow up to be handsome. He grew up to look exactly like his twerpy high-school self, but with a receding hairline and a bad moustache. He also looks about twice as old as Liz, inspiring many Anthony detractors on the Internet to refer to him as “Granthony.” (Other popular nicknames: “Blandthony,” “that fucking moustache bastard.”) Meanwhile, Liz matured into a smoking hot blonde, and in recent strips is drawn so glammed-up it’s actually getting a little creepy.

It’s true that nerdy guys often age well, especially the little weedy ones, who start to improve once they reach the age at which being slim and looking younger than you are become pluses rather than minuses. My own circle of nerdy cartoonist friends includes several illuminating examples, most notably my smoldering husband. But it didn’t happen to Anthony. If anything, he keeps getting less attractive.

The rest of the paragraph is also a lie. The adult Anthony does not “do well in whatever he chooses to do.” He seems to get by as an accountant, nothing more, nothing less, and he doesn’t appear to have ambitions beyond doing okay at his dull, sensible job. Nor did he have much success with his first marriage, which seems worth considering as the plot steers him implacably toward his second.

5. Everyone’s constantly talking him up. It’s like the strip has become a FBOFW fanfic written by Anthony. In every storyline in which he appears, at least one Patterson is sure to launch into a speech about how great Anthony is. Maybe it’ll be Elly, commenting wistfully that she’s sorry Liz broke up with him (you know, ten years ago, when they were in high school). Maybe it’ll be John, pontificating on the many virtues of Anthony, most of which are visible only to John. Maybe it’ll be Liz herself, reflecting wide-eyed on how much Anthony has accomplished. Which makes sense, since Anthony, an accountant with a small suburban ranch house and a failed starter marriage, has clearly achieved much, much more in life than Liz, who went straight from university to teaching underprivileged Native American children in the remote north. I mean, there’s no comparison.

Many of Anthony’s supposed good qualities are informed attributes: they come from what other people say about the character, not from the actions of the character himself. On more than one occasion, for instance, John has commented on how smart and funny Anthony is. Despite his stereotypically nerdy appearance, Anthony has never come off as especially smart, and I can’t recall him ever exhibiting a sense of humor. Not as a teenager, not as an adult. And this is in a strip where most of the characters are constantly cracking jokes and making groan-worthy puns.

Anthony’s most exemplary action to date has been taking responsibility for his young daughter (with help from his unseen mother), but even that’s just basic decency. Most people, after all, take care of their children. It puts him a cut above his evil ex-wife, but that’s about it. And readers might be more inclined to think kindly of Anthony’s fatherly devotion if the characters in the strip didn’t keep jumping in to gush over it.

This nonstop chatter about Anthony’s greatness may be the element that most turns readers against him. If he were just a dull, dorky loser, he’d annoy us. But he’s a dull, dorky loser whom we’re expected to hold in awe, and therefore we hate him.

6. He’s boring, whiny and pathetic. End of story.

About a year and a half ago, Johnston tried to butch Anthony up with what may be the most misguided storyline in the history of FBOFW, in which Anthony saved Liz from a would-be rapist down at Lawrence’s landscaping business. (At the time, I was desperately hoping that Lawrence would be the one to save Liz, because how cool would that be, the strip’s resident gay guy breaking stereotypes and kicking rapist ass?) After playing out this literal rape-and-rescue scenario, Anthony proceeded to ruin any veneer of heroism he might have earned by breaking down in front of the still-shocked Liz, crying to her that his marriage wasn’t working and he needed her to “wait for me!” When Liz replied that she wasn’t a “homewrecker,” Anthony wailed, “I have no home!” Liz, who does have a home, went there and filed a police report with the help of her parents, Anthony being useful only for punching and whining. (And, yes, Liz’s parents used the opportunity to muse on what an incredible person Anthony was and what a pity it was that Liz wasn’t dating him.)

More recently, Liz and Anthony were summoned to testify in court against the rapist, a situation requiring them to spend plenty of time sequestered together while John and Elly speculated about whether romantic sparks might fly. The attempted rape has thus brought them closer together, ramping the courtship up from uncomfortable to outright icky.

7. He’s not a nice guy; he’s a Nice Guy[tm]. Cranky female bloggers often rant about the phenomenon of Nice Guys[tm], hangdog, nerdy men who complain endlessly about how women don’t appreciate them enough. In their minds, all other men in the world, especially the good-looking ones, are abusive date-rapists, and therefore women are idiots for going out with those jerks instead of a Nice Guy like themselves. Nice Guys have a huge sense of entitlement where women are concerned; they don’t think they need to be attractive, intelligent, witty, or even polite, as long as they’re “nice.” They’re also incapable of seeing themselves as anything other than Nice Guys, so they never take the blame for anything that goes wrong in a relationship. It’s always the woman’s fault; she’s a bitch who didn’t appreciate him.

Or, as John puts it in his December 2006 letter on the FBOFW website (all the main characters write monthly online missives):

Anthony has certainly come through, though. He always was incredibly reliable. Maybe that's why Liz never appreciated him. He was too reliable, and treated her too well. I am always amazed how girls seem to prefer guys who mistreat them. I suppose it is more exciting! There's always lots of drama! It makes me glad that Elly fell for a dull, reliable (but incredibly good looking) guy like me!

(See what I mean about everyone talking Anthony up?)

Anthony is a classic example of the self-proclaimed, self-pitying Nice Guy, as his first marriage illustrates. A few years after breaking up with Liz, Anthony married Therese, a French-Canadian woman who immediately emasculated him by entering the world of vaguely-defined high-powered finance. A cold-hearted career woman, Therese made it clear that she didn’t want kids, but Anthony kept begging for them. Finally, Therese agreed to have a baby if Anthony would take total responsibility for it. Anthony leapt at the chance to bring a child into their loveless household, and baby Françoise was born. The marriage continued to decay, until Therese finally revealed she was having an affair and skipped town, leaving Anthony with their toddler.

Admittedly, Therese is a horrible person. But at no point in FBOFW has anyone broached the idea that maybe the failure of the marriage wasn’t 100% her fault: that maybe Anthony shouldn’t have pressured Therese into having a baby she didn’t want, that maybe Therese’s affair would seem more clearly in the wrong if Anthony weren’t always mooning after Liz, or that, at the very least, it was kind of stupid of Anthony to marry a woman who was obviously (and, the later years of FBOFW not being noted for their subtlety, I do mean obviously) pure evil. If nothing else, it might be polite for Anthony himself to say something along those lines, if only so the other characters could reassure him that it really wasn’t his fault. But no: Anthony is good, Therese is an evil harpy. Nothing more to see here.

Incidentally, much of the story of Anthony’s marriage was communicated to readers via a week of New Year’s party bathroom gossip, with a group of young women clucking over how awful Therese was for having a job and not wanting a baby. Which reminds me…

8. The whole storyline with the wife is fucking sexist. Lynn Johnston has never made any secret of the fact that she’s not a feminist and doesn’t look too kindly on working women. In The Lives Behind the Lines, she comments that Connie, one of the strip’s earliest supporting characters, “was opinionated, abrasive, and designed to be a sort of feminist nemesis to Elly: someone who would flaunt her career and her lifestyle, someone who was, if not critical of, then slightly sorry for Elly, who had given up other goals to focus on her family.” She was supposed to be the career-oriented Evil Woman who would provide a counterpoint to Elly’s domestic, maternal Good Woman. Soon, however, Johnston developed sympathy for Connie’s situation as a single mom and respect for her job (she’s a radiologist who previously worked at a children’s clinic in South America—and you know what cold, career-obsessed bitches those pediatric nurses are.) Like all good writers, Johnston had a natural tendency to empathize with her characters, even the ones who were supposed to be villains, and develop them with depth and nuance. Instead of a nemesis, Connie became Elly’s best friend and one of the strip’s central characters.

Somewhere along the line, Johnston lost that empathy, and her “bad” characters became one-sided villains. Therese, her most recent effort at a “career woman,” may be the most evil character in the FBOFW universe. Even the rapist had a certain human pathos. Even before she abandoned her family, Therese’s sins, for which she was constantly excoriated by the other characters, included having a career; continuing to work after getting married; not wanting children; agreeing to have a child but wanting her husband to take care of it; being jealous of her husband’s friendship with his ex-girlfriend (which, as it turned out, was eminently sensible of her); and a host of minor grievances such as asking for money at her baby shower. Therese’s heartless behavior is consistently linked to her status as a liberated career woman with no interest in becoming a stay-at-home mom. In some strips, her disinterest in children and possession of a career are discussed as if they were every bit as scandalous as her infidelity.

Every storyline involving Anthony during his married years included at least one scene in which characters shook their heads over his misfortune at having shackled himself to an unnatural, unfeminine woman who didn’t want to quit her job to raise his children. Before long, I came to instinctively recoil from any appearance of Anthony, bracing myself for the anti-feminist scolding that was sure to come. That instinct remains, lodged in my reptilian hindbrain, and stirs to action every time Anthony rears his moustachioed head.

Therese is the cardboard Evil Woman Johnston originally intended Connie to be: an inhuman homewrecker who destroys men, abandons children, and, worse, dares get between a Patterson and happiness. Liz has been set up to oppose her as the Good Woman in the conflict, which is why, upon learning Anthony was single again, she promptly quit her job and moved home. Forget having a life of her own; she can push her kids into whatever career she regrets not having, like Elly has done with Michael. And little Françoise still needs a mother, dammit.

9. Anthony represents the death of youthful dreams. Liz is hardly perfect herself, and she’s had many exasperating moments (although, to be honest, most of the recent examples are tied directly to Anthony, and involve her behaving stupidly, thoughtlessly, or out of character in order to speed up the reunion). But she has her appealing qualities, chief among them her spirited personality and dedication to teaching. Unlike Michael, a straight arrow who got busy recreating his parents’ model of marriage, suburban home, and one towheaded kid of each gender as soon as he was financially solvent, Liz has followed a less beaten path, one that’s taken some surprising turns. It’s also consistently involved seeking a life distinct from her family’s—again in contrast to Michael, who chose the writing career his mother always wanted to have, settled down in his hometown, and is now poised to take over the family homestead after John and Elly retire.

Liz developed an interest in teaching through an inspiring high-school teacher, Miss (not, of course, Ms.) Edwards, who became her friend and confidant. (Even this was seen as straying dangerously far from family togetherness:The Lives Behind the Lines praises Miss Edwards’s positive influence, but adds darkly, “Her mother wondered in silence why she was not the one Elizabeth was turning to.”) After getting her degree and certification, Liz moved to the remote village of Mtigwaki to teach elementary school. The last few years of the strip have devoted much space to Liz’s adventures in Mtigwaki, where she’s learned local customs, made friends among her students and neighbors, and adopted a cat. She’s also dated Warren, a dashing helicopter pilot, and Paul, a hunky if poorly-defined half-Native cop.

This year, it all ended. Liz’s move away from Mtigwaki was foreshadowed with strips, scattered over the course of several months, in which she talked about being homesick and vaguely unhappy with the life she’d made. After her mother told her that Anthony was back on the market, the homesickness rapidly increased. Liz quit her teaching job, said her goodbyes to the people of Mtigwaki, and moved home—not just to her hometown, but back into her parents’ house. One of her first orders of business: taking a tour of Chez Anthony and cooing over his home office and Françoise’s fenced-in basement playhouse.

In retrospect, Liz’s story arc is clear. Many readers—particularly, no doubt, young readers of Liz’s age like myself—thought that Liz’s enthusiasm for her teaching career and exciting life in Mtigwaki represented a young woman’s development into an independent person capable of fulfilling her dreams and making her way in the wide world. To Johnston, however, Liz’s young-adult life—the fulfilling work, the exploration of new places and cultures, the sexy boyfriends—has been nothing more than playtime. She’s had her fun and sown her wild oats, and now it’s time for her to grow up and adopt a “real” adult life: a life as much like her parents’ as possible, complete with prefab house, prefab toddler, and a husband picked out by Mom and Dad.

For years, characters have periodically commented on how much Anthony resembles Liz’s father, with the implication that this makes him perfect for her. By reuniting with him, Liz will accept her destiny as a pale copy of her mother, keeping house right down the street from her watchful parents. The path to adulthood doesn’t lead to independence and a vast horizon of possibility; it leads right back to the childhood doorstep.

This is why I, and so many other readers, hate Anthony. His joyless, colorless, sexless presence hovers over us like a sulky specter, the Ghost of Dreams Deferred, reminding us of the deadly dull version of adulthood we might one day awaken to find ourselves trapped within. Even in the funny pages, traditionally the one haven of childlike fun in the gray, grown-up world of the daily newspaper, we can’t hide from the clammy fate that Anthony represents. So we hate him, in a deep, primal way.

That, and the moustache.
Comments 
18th-Dec-2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
I didn't *hate* Anthony, I'd just sort of thought of him as kind of a comparison. Kind of "Hey, look at how differently he and Liz developed; she went on to do interesting things and he, well, became an unhappily married accountant." Y'know, someone who can stay in the damned background most of the time to highlight how exceptional the Pattersons are or something.

I seem to have been ignoring a lot of foreshadowing. This concept of them getting together angers me.
18th-Dec-2006 09:10 pm (UTC)
Well written. It makes me want to have started rereading FBOFW a couple years ago, just so I could quit in disgust...
9th-Jan-2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
Just feel with you;)
18th-Dec-2006 09:14 pm (UTC)
I have little to add to this, except: Word. If I see one more "charming, attractive, intelligent, successful young woman must abandon fabulous life and hunky suitor(s) for hopeless hometown dork who will make her Truly Happy (TM) despite all evidence to the contrary, because becoming successful and cosmopolitan is inherently shallow" storyline in film, comics, or anything else, I will fucking explode. And I say this as a hopeless dork who in theory should be sympathetic to said Hopeless Hometown Dork.

Just once, can't the successful, hunky, male New York financial analyst come back to his crappy hometown and ditch the runway-beautiful French concert cellist for the nerdy emo chick with the comic book collection, for the sake of equality?
19th-Dec-2006 02:34 am (UTC)
. . . and take her back to the city so she can get the job she's always wanted while the hunk stays home with the kids if they ever agree to have any? I want a comic that ditches the 'hometown=happiness' idea. I have always wanted to get the fuck away from my hometown, and I want to see more 'Big city with lots of job opportunities and many many bookstores = happiness' stories.
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18th-Dec-2006 09:17 pm (UTC)
Everyone check out Shaenon's interview at Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter website:

http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/an_interview_with_shaenon_garrity/

We now return you to your Anthony deathwatch, already in progress.
9th-Oct-2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
I now return you to your regularly scheduled deathwatch. 1. Michael Browning, Anti-Mosquito Products 2.
18th-Dec-2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
Oh my God yes.

The creepiest thing is that Anthony is basically being praised / rewarded for not having matured past high school.

yrs--
--Ben
19th-Dec-2006 02:37 am (UTC)
He's working for GORDON. Gordon, who started out with little more than the faith of friends, with no money for higher education beyond High School, who is now pretty much in charge of a small business empire. Gordon, I admire, even though he's not likely to leave his hometown. He was given a bad situation and did something about it, didn't back down, even if there were desperate times along the way.

Anthony. . . bleh.
18th-Dec-2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
This is something that's been bothering me as well. It's one of the reasons I can't read that comic anymore. She was doing something really great and interesting with her life. She seemed quite happy, except during moments of unexplained dissatisfaction. I guess it's that she can only be truly happy when she's shackled to an bland, unattractive man from her childhood. This is worriesome to me, because my childhood was chock full of bland, unattractive boys. I wonder which one is my destined Nice Guy.
18th-Dec-2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
I didn't mind Anthony much when they were younger, but really, my entire reaction to the current setup is, bleah, why on earth would Liz want anything to do with a man with such demonstrably excrable judgement?

And, y'know, being an at-home mother who's married to a man I've known since I was 17, that part doesn't inherently bug me, but...it's got to be the *right man you've known since you were 17.... Say, someone who'd support you in your career goals, for instance.
11th-Jul-2008 01:58 am (UTC)
Posted by: simbo on March PM Lulu, that sounds right, but since it's been a few years for me too, I'll wait for someone who actually understands it to explain why.
18th-Dec-2006 09:50 pm (UTC)
OH. MY. GOD.

THANK YOU. From the bottom of my inarticulate heart, THANK YOU!

You have managed to express everything about Anthony and the strip that has been making me crazy for ages. I really loathe Johnston's need to strong-arm her readers into feeling what she wants them to feel and thinking what she wants them to think. Liz should have stayed where she was. She should be with Paul (or anyone that isn't Anthony.) But heavens forfend any storyline that takes the Pattersons out of their comfortable, safe and deadly-dull middle ground.

And yeah, that fucking mustache. *cringe*
19th-Dec-2006 11:55 pm (UTC)
What she said. This is fabulous and must be pimped everywhere, as far as I'm concerned.
18th-Dec-2006 09:54 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness--HEAR HEAR, SHAENON. Nobody has put it as succinctly as you just have. Thanks for taking the time to sit down and put it all into words.

The one thing I haven't really heard anyone mention yet is how the Lizthony situation kind of mirrors Lynn's own experience from her pre-FBOFW early days. Yeah, Connie was originally created to be this character, but you already explained how that didn't work out: When Lynn was young, she married a guy who didn't really care for her. The dude fathered her son, then took off. Lynn was alone with a toddler, working, feeling miserable, when she met Rod Johnston The Flying Dentist. Actually bits and pieces of her past have worked their way into various FBOFW plots over the years, but it seems that because Lynn fell in love with and then married the nerdy guy, we're crashing toward the same conclusion with Liz.

I keep waiting for Paul to show up with lipstick on his collar, so we can all feel justified that Anthony really IS the last good guy on earth. Apparently we only have to wait another few days before Liz and Paul reunite....I'm waiting with bated breath.

If we're lucky, maybe Paul will buy a plane so he can visit Liz more often. Or maybe a helicopter. Or maybe he'll grow a moustache!
18th-Dec-2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
"Or maybe he'll grow a moustache!"

GAH! Anything but that!
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18th-Dec-2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
Hmmm....

It's perhaps understandable that male cartoonists might be inclined to have Hat Babe go for Geek as probably a number of male cartoonists see themselves in the Geek Camp. And that is appealing to us who are, uhh, kinda geeky ourselves (although many of us would rather be with a girl geek, but oh well...).

Is it possible, really, that ultimately Liz will decide to go where she really was the most needed and the most fulfilled and where she had chance at an exciting relationship? Or is that as likely as the strip ending with a massive murder-sucide?
19th-Dec-2006 04:43 am (UTC)
That second paragraph had me tittering. Tittering, I say!
18th-Dec-2006 10:18 pm (UTC)
Wow... I'd never even heard about "For Better Or For Worse" before... That's a strange way to get acquainted with a comic strip.
18th-Dec-2006 10:29 pm (UTC)
what drives me crazy about the Beauty and the Geek scenario is when the gender roles are switched... because the nerdy girl always becomes whatever the creators think is gorgeous for the romantic climax scene. In other words, they take an adorably nerdy girl, and say "look, she's actually the model-quality media female object underneath, isn't it heartwarming?". Aside from that this rarely (if ever) happens with male geek characters, it's completely idiotic. You touched on this with Helen... who is hands down one of the most beautiful women in comics, regardless of what she's wearing, as far as i'm concerned.

all this aside, it's been far too long since i read FBoW.
18th-Dec-2006 11:10 pm (UTC)
Geez, I hadn't realized how annoying this whole situation was... I still like the way she writes old people...
19th-Dec-2006 01:48 am (UTC)
As another feminist of about Liz's age, the Liz/Anthony thing has been hitting my buttons as well. I can even remember being mildly happy about their breakup way back when, hoping that Lynn would eschew the annoying "childhood sweethearts" cliche. And the demonization of Therese was just insulting.

If nothing else, it's been interesting to see how much of a reaction this plotline has gotten from comics readers.
19th-Dec-2006 02:26 am (UTC)
I am not in support of ANYONE other than Anthony for Liz's boyfriend. He's still ahead of the guy who cheated on her (I suck at keeping track of the extended cast) and the guy who she's currently going to court to press charges against. And *considers* Edgar, but only because of the species difference.

It's -- Mike and Dee already had the 'Childhood crush = One Tru Luv' storyline. It was handled in a sweet way. The moral with Liz should be 'Love can be found through experiance and developing standards'.

Out of all the examples on the comic page you listed, I think 9 Chickweed Lane has had the best handling of 'geeky guy/hot girl'. But the cats may have distracted me from any glaring errors.

. . . now I'm depressed because I tried to think of any mainstream comic that paired a geeky guy with a geeky girl and all I could think of was an Archie comic I read about a decade back where Dilton had a girlfriend named Danni Malloy who was as big a geek as he was.

Actually, the comic page needs more geeky girls, period. GET NARBONIC SYNDICATED, DAMMIT. You'd be able to promise the syndicates six years worth of material with no fear that you'd miss a deadline for whatever reason.

Now I want to write a fanfic where squirrels attack Anthony and rip off his moustache to use the hair to line their nest. Then they toss it in the garbage and look for something more appealing in there because even they have standards.
19th-Dec-2006 10:34 am (UTC)
Um, what about the guy Liz is currently dating? Y'know, the devoted loving First-nations police officer?
19th-Dec-2006 04:45 am (UTC)
Personally, I think it would be hilarious for the strip to end with Liz getting married to Paul and one panel of Lynn saying, "Gotcha all!"
19th-Dec-2006 09:09 am (UTC)
Ah, but it wouldn't really be a "gotcha". Per my long comment below, there's more than one way for all the Liz/Anthony foreshadowing to sort itself out -- and a Liz/Paul marriage was arguably foreshadowed practically from the moment the character was introduced.

As much as I agree with parts of Our Hostess's essay, I also trust Johnston's writing enough to suspect that we haven't seen all the shoes drop yet.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
19th-Dec-2006 04:54 am (UTC)
and, yes, I’m including both Scrappy-Doo and Ted Rall.

It's a good thing my Pernod is in the other room, or I would now have a Pernod-flavored keyboard.
19th-Dec-2006 05:33 am (UTC)
That was beautiful.

What upset me with the whole Anthony/Liz rape trial was when Elly asked Liz where Paul was during all of this? What? He has a job! He can't get time off whenever to go across the country. She made it seem like it was such a big deal that Anthony was there for her. He was a witness! He had to be there for the same reason that Liz was there. So stupid.

I'm a little older than Liz, and don't consider myself to be a feminist by any means, but this entire storyline is icky and wrong for so many reasons. Thank you for having this little list.
19th-Dec-2006 05:56 pm (UTC) - Where was Paul?
Anonymous
Not only did Paul have a job, but he had a job that he moved to, to be closer to Liz...who then moved away on him! I want Paul to come back and twirl Blantony around by his pornstache, yelling "Where's Paul? Here's Paul!" and then throw him into a pile of doughnuts.
Hmmmm... - Anonymous - Expand
(Deleted comment)
19th-Dec-2006 05:34 am (UTC)
Here from Comics Curmudgeon, and THANK YOU for this! I knew I hated Anthony, I just couldn't figure out WHY I hated him. Now I can point people to this post instead of just flailing wildly and yelling "Mustache! MUSTACHE!"
19th-Dec-2006 05:53 am (UTC)
Well, yeah, but the flaily "Mustache! Mustache!" rage thing's kinda cool in itself.
19th-Dec-2006 06:55 am (UTC)
Also here from the Comics Curmudgeon, and I have to say, incredible essay. I find the Liz-Anthony storyline more offensive than Anthony himself. After all, flawed characters are interesting, and Anthony is flawed in many ways.

But I totally agree that assuming they end up together, it's going to be akward, inorganic, and totally out of character. I thought Canadians were supposed to be progressive?
19th-Dec-2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
She shows her Canadian roots in some ways. The gay character whose nicely-handled outing got the strip banned from some papers is in a happy and stable relationship, unless I missed some horrible revelation.
19th-Dec-2006 06:56 am (UTC) - Admittedly, I haven't been keeping up, but—
In Brooke McEldowny’s 9 Chickweed Lane, beautiful, absurdly perfect ballerina Ella has only one heterosexual man in her life, the schleppy Amos, who won her heart in a discreetly-drawn night of passion.

He what?! SERIOUSLY?! Wow!

I haven't read that strip in probably five years, but I was always rooting for the little dweeb.
19th-Dec-2006 06:55 pm (UTC) - Re: Admittedly, I haven't been keeping up, but—
Edda's roommate set her up. He took her out to dinner for a night of dancing, but "accidentally bumped into" his boyfriend and left her stranded, at which point Amos casually strolled up wearing a tuxedo.

The disheartening thing about the Babe-meets-Geek scenario, though, is that it's so often portrayed as a joke. Cho doesn't try to hide the fact that Liberty Meadows is a deliberate fantasy, and constantly teases his protagonist with the exceptional sexuality of his suitors. Amos's creator plays up the extreme unlikelihood of Edda's interest by allowing Amos to forget that he's supposed to be romantic and letting him go off on long tangents while Edda looks on in disgust. Anthony, on the other hand, isn't supposed to be parody. He's supposed to be the real thing - that real guy that all you ladies overlooked when you went fawning after the quarterback. And there's something truly funny about that.
19th-Dec-2006 07:54 am (UTC)
THANK YOU. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Anthony angers me, too.
19th-Dec-2006 08:38 am (UTC)
THANK YOU!!! I hate Anthony with a flaming passion of a thousand suns, and it's SO NICE to know I'm not the only one!
19th-Dec-2006 08:56 am (UTC)
This actually reminded me of a letter I sent to Lynn a few years ago, expressing my. . .displeasure. . .at Deanna's manipulation of her pregnancy. SUUUUUUREEE. . .the woman is a damn pharmacist, but she stopped taking her birth control pills, FORGOT to mention that to Michael, and FORGOT about every other available form of birth control. Grrrr. . .it still makes me mad just thinking about it!
19th-Dec-2006 09:04 am (UTC)
There's a lot of well-reasoned thought here -- in particular, the discussions of Therese, of Anthony's relatively unambitious professional life, and of his not growing up to be handsome.

That said -- I don't hate Anthony. I agree that he's grown into a character who's distinctly unappealing in certain respects. I agree that as he's currently written, he's not a good candidate for an intimate relationship with Liz. But I don't think he's hate-worthy . . . and I think there's a decent chance that we will not see Anthony and Liz "hook up" by strip's end.

First: I'm not sure it's entirely fair to complain on the one hand that Johnston makes Anthony sound too attractive in one venue (Lives Behind the Lines), yet makes him too UNattractive in another (the strip itself). One can't have this argument both ways, at least not without mounting an equal harangue against the parallel evolution of Connie from one role to another.

Second: My recollection of the downward spiral of the Anthony/Therese relationship was that it seemed fairly clear at the time that however much evil Therese may have committed, Anthony did have issues, and bore some fault for the way the situation evolved -- most notably, he consistently failed to stand up to Therese when she was on a tear over something.

Which brings up a couple of odd points about Therese. One is the question of why she married Anthony in the first place; as strong-willed and independent as she is, it's hard to tell what she saw in him. The other is why in heaven's name she did in fact have Anthony's baby. Based on what we ultimately see of Therese's character -- utterly self-centered, emotionally detached from all around her -- and Anthony's generally anti-aggressive personality, it should have been flat-out impossible for Anthony to talk her into either action against her will. (I don't recall just now exactly how either of these matters was addressed in the strip, but it occurs to me to wonder if Francoise really is Anthony's biological daughter....)

Third: I agree that everybody around Liz and Anthony in the strip is rooting for them to get back together. And I agree that the two of them have Unresolved Issues in their relationship. I am not convinced, however, that Johnston is in fact planning to turn them into a couple.

My reading of Anthony is that his relationships with Liz and Therese have a common denominator -- he has had intimacy issues with both. He never had the nerve to press for a close physical relationship with Liz, and he never had the will (or, as events proved, any chance) to create an emotional bond with Therese. He has managed to detach himself from Therese, but his emotional issues with Liz remain basically unresolved. In that light, the rape/rescue incident with Liz is significant, because it marks the first time that Anthony did break through his pattern of inaction to fight for someone he (arguably, at least) loves. The situation has also brought Liz's and Anthony's old feelings for each other -- never fully resolved on either side -- to the surface.

Now absolutely, this is a setup for Liz and Anthony to confront those feelings together and resolve them -- but I think that the logical and likely consequence of that resolution is that the two of them will both take good hard looks at themselves and each other, see that they're in different places, and move on. Initial breakthrough notwithstanding, Anthony has too much growing to do yet to be an equal partner to Liz, and I think both characters are smart enough to know it. And although I think Johnston has yet to show us the real chemistry in the Liz/Paul relationship, I think she committed herself to it the moment she gave us his surname -- Wright, complete with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to the readers.
19th-Dec-2006 10:14 am (UTC) - It's not Anthony so much
Anonymous
There's not ONE charachter in this strip I don't find phony and repulsive: Anthony no more than anyone else.

I lived in Canada (BC) for eight years and mostly liked it, barring a few things that I utterly loathed: FBOFW sums them all up, especially a certain ignorant, petty, bland self-righteousness not even aware of being such.

Nicola
19th-Dec-2006 10:40 am (UTC)
Amen. The handling of Therese's character is especially awful. I don't know why she married Anthony, but at least she didn't seem to have intended to be unfaithful at the beginning--unlike her wonderful husband, who was drooling over Liz and wistfully thinking about how he wished they'd never broken up at his engagement party.

And forcing Therese to have a baby on the sole condition that he'll be the one to take care of it, and then demonizing her because she expected him to live up to his promise? That's classy.

I think Therese's fits of jealousy show that she DID have feelings for Anthony at one time. And who wouldn't be jealous when their husband goes gaga-gaga eyed over their ex girlfriend and won't stop talking about her? I see her agreeing to have the baby as a last-resort type deal to let Anthony have what he wanted so that maybe he'd forget about Liz. Misguided and stupid, sure, but at least not as awful as Anthony's goading and guilting her into it in the first place.
21st-Jan-2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
Word to everything you just said about Therese. I felt more sorry for her than anything else, just because Johnston was so heavy-handed in demonizing her when she really did have some legitimate complaints.
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