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Eric: Am I weird because I actually like burnt casserole?

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(From For Better or For Worse. Click on the thumbnail for full sized "vous semblez fatiguğ.")

There has been a ton of speculation about where Lynn Johnston has been going with her comic strip. Having Liz be rescued from rape at the end of last week had people on the edge of their seats. There was a palpable sense of disappointment, however, when it turned out to be Anthony who had rescued her. "Aw man," the sense seemed to say, if senses in fact could talk. "This is all just setting up the Liz/Anthony Twue Wuv." Many people wished it had been her father who rescued her. Or Lawrence. Or a woman. And then they let Howard run off (after "apologizing.") It seemed a letdown.

Then, Anthony took her home... and started acting disturbingly. He started... well, hitting on Liz. Telling her how he feels about her. This is a woman who was assaulted like four minutes before, her world shaken as a sexual predator tried to take her by force, and now the man who rescued her is clearly suggesting adultery to her.

When she denies having any interest in being, as she put it, a home wrecker, Anthony wails that "I have no home!" And takes her to the park, and vents about how his home life is collapsing and his marriage is going with it and everything is going south. And he asks her -- I swear -- to "wait for him."

This again riled people up. "What's she going to say?" "I bet she tells him to go to Hell!" "No, she's going to agree! That sucks!" Et cetera. I was one of them.

And then, the very next day, we have today's strip.

And Liz is at home... staring at the wall. Shell shocked. Anthony's protestations of love and enjoinments to "wait for him" haven't inspired either devotion or disgust in Liz. Instead... she is numb. She has learned that yes indeed she's going to need to file a police report against Howard. She isn't titillated or flattered by Anthony -- she's just had her overall trauma increased. Now, she can't even cook dinner right. The face we see in panel 1 and 2 is blank. The world has worn it out.

So... Lynn Johnston took a path none of us expected. She actually treated this like it'd happen in the real world.

In the real world, someone like Anthony might be dumb or upset enough to do what he did. And in the real world, someone who's had that many emotional blows in a short amount of time... well, withdraws. Pulls back. Just gets tired. Liz hasn't had a chance to react yet, and now she's overwhelmed.

And there's even some humor in today's strip, which is remarkable all by itself.

I'm impressed as Hell by the way Johnston has handled this. I'm impressed that she was willing to eschew the romantic or the super resilient heroine route with Anthony's protestations, and instead just have Liz be profoundly affected and drained. I'm impressed that the repercussions of what's happened will move forward. I'm impressed that yes, Howard's actions still mean Liz has to endure Hell. It's not simple over. And I'm impressed that Johnston managed to put a punchline in.

This is how it's done when it's done well, people. This is how sensitive and ugly subjects make it onto the newspaper page.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 19, 2005 6:48 PM

Comments

Comment from: JDanRyan posted at August 19, 2005 8:51 PM

For a strip that Johnston is considering pulling back direct involvement on in 2007 (http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/resources/longbox/2152/), she's not letting go of the reins easily. Something tells me the next sixteen months may be one hell of a ride in FBOW.

My question is, where does this plot line go? With no punches being pulled and nothing considered unsafe, she's got a lot of ground she can go over. The good money says, Liz is going to need another rescue, this time from Anthony...

The next big highlight to look for? Who else thiks it'll be April becoming a woman?

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 19, 2005 9:10 PM

In a way, I think Johnson equated what Anthony did in admitting his love to Elizabeth very close to the same level of earth-shattering violation as what Howard tried to do to her. It's almost as if she set all of this up like one of those executive play toys that you strike one ball against another, and a whole series of events proprogate down and back. Back and forth. It is very impressive. On one end, Liz was about to be raped and violated. On the other end, Anthony was essentially asking her to marry him once all of the divorce papers and anguish about who gets their child is settled, the "homewrecker."

I also like how Anthony isn't so much a hero but perhaps something of an anti-hero. He didn't save her just because she needed to be saved, but he thought she could save him from a lifetime in a Hellish marriage. It's something I think at the very least he'd realize after he saved her, but more likely before.

If I would have to gage where is this going, I'm going to say it's not going to end with Elizabeth and Anthony falling in love. This isn't going to be the childhood romanatic fairy-tale that Michael and Deanna was. If anything, Anthony will probably be left alone, and Elizabeth will tread back up North to escape this personal dilemna and hope that someone else saves her. This is going to get very worse before it gets better, as it does in real life.

Hell, if I were Elizabeth, I'd just order Chinese out for the night.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 19, 2005 10:02 PM

I don't think you put Anthony in the "Anti-hero" category any more than you can put him in the "Knight in Shining Armor" category. He cares about Elizabeth and he's unhappy in his marriage and he's not dealing with either of those things well, but he's not dealing with them well in a way that most people don't deal with them well -- the tried and screwed up.

Though I agree -- I think it very likely that Anthony and Elizabeth are going to wind up *not* together, and even possibly estranged for a little while. Though I also think that ultimately it'll wind up with Anthony re-discovering happiness in his marriage, and some time down the road they meet again and breathe a mutual sigh of relief...

And I think I'd be leaning toward Chinese food as well...

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 19, 2005 10:09 PM

I'm willing to bet that Liz tells Anthony no. If you've read the strip for a while, you'll notice that Liz has moved on and found other loves, and barely thinks about Anthny, yet Anthony seems to have spent his entire marriage obsessing over his past with Liz. That isn't healthy, and Liz won't be so willing to gie up what she has up North just to coddle an emotionaly immature boy.

I guess Anthony is the failure of the story. He balances out the other former kids. Everyone else is pretty well off. Mike and Deanna, Gordon and Tracy, Lawrence and that-guy-who-replaced-Ben-without-explanation.

By the way, when did we last see Dawn and her brother? The old next door neighbors.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 19, 2005 10:28 PM

The next big highlight to look for? Who else thiks it'll be April becoming a woman?

April's a gig, man! She's roadside!

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 19, 2005 10:57 PM

Johnston has impressed me with this whole episode. Anthony didn't go to save Elizabeth, he went to say what he needed to say to her. And then, when he ended up saving her from her attacker, he was more stunned than anyone. He didn't feel like a hero: he felt like a guy who still needed to get some heady stuff off his chest.

His way of dealing with the shock? To talk to an old friend knowing she would understand his frustrations. And deep down, in a way I think Liz does understand him... which is why she's not angry and instead she's stunned, left staring at the wall.

However, I agree with the above assessment: Liz is going to head back up north. Anthony is going to dwell in unhappiness. Fessing up to Liz was about the most forthright thing he's ever done. Unfortunately, he's always been the sort to get around to working up confidence after it's too late. And this time, it was definitely too late.

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