Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Weddings Kill


Most fairy tales end with a wedding. Prince Charming carries the Formerly Forlorn But Now Ecstatically Happy Princess off into the sunset on his White Charger, having vanquished the Evil Machinations of the FFBNEH Princess' older female relatives, this serving as both proposal and acceptance of marriage.

They Live Happily Ever After. What happens after the wedding, where they live, how many children they have, what they do when the bank forecloses on their modest little ranch castle, how they tell their little one that the puppy can't stay, all these things are glossed over. End of story. The rest of their lives flash past so quickly that the conclusion that it's the wedding that kills them is rather inescapable.

I bring that up because Lynn Johnston has just declared her strip For Better or For Worse to be Over and Done With. It ended on the wedding of the older girl, Elizabeth, to her high school sweetheart, who's already had one failed marriage and a toddler thereby, and for whom she dumped her teaching job with Native Canadian kids, her relationship with the reservation policeman, and her other relationship with the helicopter pilot.

Yes, Lynn Johnston's Prince Charming is a used-car-lot accountant with an ex-wife and no social life, who rescued Elizabeth from a potential rapist a couple years ago only to instantly demand her emotional support because his marriage was failing. I'm talking, like, in the car on the way to the police station to file charges. At least he dumped the pornstache. Jesus.

In spite of myself, I was wanting Elizabeth and April, the two central sisters, to escape from all this humdrum life and do something exciting. It's a story, after all, why do I want to read about someone who's going to just take care of her kids and get a part-time job after they're old enough to let themselves in after school? I want to read about the Dashing Reservation Teacher And Her Handsome Chopper Pilot. This was made all the worse by having plenty of examples of what married life means for women already there in the strip. Elly has always been dull, and the humor in the early years of the strip was largely based on her children being annoying. As they got older, the drama started to overwhelm the humor, such that we recently had some graveyard humor concerning Lizardbreath's ailing, hospitalized grandpa being at her wedding "in spirit," which was pounded to death by the last panel's tearful protestations that "I thought he was going to pull through!"

Then there's Michael's wife, Deanna. Michael gets to be a big author, and get an incredibly huge advance on his first book (It doesn't work that way, Lynn!). That just underscores the unfairness of it all. Michael, who possesses a Y chromosome, gets the glory and the excitement, his existence is publicly approved by the world of the comic strip, and while he's off schmoozing at parties, Deanna gets to put the kids to bed.

What this world needs is more married people having adventures. I am worried about what those tales about Prince Charming are telling girls about their futures.

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