Characters: For Better or for Worse

This is a list of characters in the comic strip For Better or for Worse by Lynn Johnston.

Elly Patterson

The matriarch of the Patterson family and the main character. She started out as a frustrated housewife who, in a break from the media conventions of the day, did not like housework or raising children at all well. Her yearning for a greater role in society than "Anonymous Drone Housewife Who Everyone Takes For Granted" informed the early era of the strip while her anxiety about how her children's lives were going informed the latter.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Elly is terrified of having to deal with the scary devil computers that evil, conflict-causing MEN have allowed to proliferate without once stopping to consider the needs of, well, of stupid, impatient women who explode in a blind rage the second they get the least bit frustrated.
  • Can't Take Criticism: One of the many ways to get on Elly's bad side is to offer her helpful advice. This is because she can't believe that a person who says that she might be wrong could possibly be a good person who has her interests at heart.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Elly spends a lot of time slaving over a hot oven cooking heavy, salty, indigestible stews and casseroles because she thinks that she's showing her creative side. Since her sense of taste seems to be far less keen than that of pretty much everyone on the planet, she has no idea why her cruel and selfish family rejects her loving offering of love and not at all foul-smelling and tasting pile of refuse.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Elly's driving passion, really. She hates the idea that all she's ever going to be thought of as is just another anonymous, underappreciated housewife when she's sure that she was meant to make a bigger mark.
  • Drama Queen: One of the recurring images in the strip is Elly bellowing at the top of her lungs and jabbing her finger in the air for emphasis about how little her family appreciates her and how everyone loves to see her suffer and so on and so forth. This is usually touched off by some sort of minor incident that less fragile egos would shrug off.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: One of the less palatable of her antics was when she exploded in a blind rage at April for DARING to calmly and politely tell her that she had put her homework away before coming down to eat dinner.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Despite promoting herself as being a loving and patient mother, Elly's rages tend towards the volcanic.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Not only does she almost always misinterpret the motives of her children in the worst possible light, she spent at least three months defending the sincerity and moral goodness of someone who was stealing from her because the massive phony flattered her shamelessly to her face.
  • My Beloved Smother: She seems to be convinced that her endless nagging and lecturing was necessary and good. Given that the end result is to produce two misfits who can't function in the real world and thus require babysitter spouses and an estranged daughter, the jury is still out on that.
  • Never My Fault: Not one of the very many horrible things that happen in the strip can be said to be Elly's fault, not her marriage to a patronizing dullard, not the fact that her children live in fear of her rages and especially not the fact that her youngest almost died on her watch.
  • New Media Are Evil: Despite April's reassurances that she and John raised her right, Elly soils herself in terror anyway because she's convinced that the child will inevitably make the worst possible choices because children ALWAYS make the worst possible choices.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Elly lives and breathes this. For some reason, she's a lot happier when she has no idea what the kids are doing or where they are. This led to the very stupid incident in which April came within an inch of drowning because Mommy was too busy doing something important (boasting about a vacation to her gal pal) to worry about the triviality called "making sure her child doesn't die."
  • Pride: Elly's Fatal Flaw. Simply put, she can't allow herself to admit that she's doing something the wrong way, failing to listen to something important, wasting time on something foolish or being a jerk to her children because she believes that backing down when she's made an ass of herself would make everyone lose all respect for her.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: Given her hair-trigger temper, it doesn't take much to make Elly turn into a frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic screaming about some made-up offense.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: She deliberately made the kids fight just to keep them from teaming up against her so she could complain about how they don't get along and embarrass her.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Elly's guiding principle in life. While most of us see the teenaged versions of the Patterson children as pliable, apathetic children too cowed by her and John's non-stop hostility to do anything seriously rebellious, Elly behaved as if she was backed into a corner by space Nazis.
  • The Unapologetic: Even when Elly has done something she knows is wrong, she can't admit that she's in the wrong because then, she'd have to apologize for everything she ever did and even things she didn't; she's just that terrified of losing face.
  • You Can Panic Now: When she's not boiling over in a blind rage at nothing at all, she's usually found running around screaming in terror about some made-up and improbable doomsday scenario. The most gnawing example of this was when she deliberately misinterpreted Mike's wanting to dress up as Adam Ant for Halloween as his turning his back on love, happiness and kindness because of the atom bomb.

John Patterson

Elly's husband. For most of the early years of the strip, he simply couldn't allow himself to understand that Elly felt overwhelmed and under-valued. Later on, he developed an interest in trains.
  • Aesop Amnesia: John is constantly having to relearn that Elly feels unappreciated and that his children aren't space Nazis who are plotting to ruin him.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: He loves shutting down his children's attempts to make him care about their problems by talking about starving refugees.
  • Berserk Button: Don't, under any circumstances, tell the unfeeling, unkind and unfair clod that he's a self-serving jerk. Also, don't defend yourself when Elly is undergoing one of her trademark rages.
  • Dirty Coward: It doesn't take very long to realize that John behaves as if he has absolutely no control over the children he brutally dominates. This seems to be an extension of his living in pants-soiling terror of being humiliated and dominated.
  • Envy: What makes the man run. It's obvious that he thinks that everyone everywhere has it easier than he does and he's looking for payback.
  • It's All About Me: Most of the reason that he doesn't listen to Elly's worries about the world is that he's a self-absorbed dolt.
  • Parents as People: John clearly doesn't like to interact with his children and it shows. Most of the time, he seems to regard them as nuisances who bore him with whining about things that, since he doesn't care about them, they shouldn't either or infuriate him by challenging him.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: John seems to be mystified that his children aren't slavishly grateful that he does them the enormous favor of not turning them out into the street to fend for themselves.

Michael Patterson

The eldest of John and Elly's three children. While starting out the strip as a generic scruffy little boy who could never quite wrap his head around why Mommy seemed to hate him, he ended as a mildly successful author of the sort of period piece novels that Lifetime adapts into high-impact events.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Mike is constantly learning AND forgetting that other people's feelings matter as much to them as his do to him.
  • Callousness Towards Emergency: Upon coming on the scene of the accident that led to his reunion with Deanna, Mike made an ugly fool of himself complaining about the paramedics ruining his shot by getting in the way just because they were trying to save a young woman's life.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The end result of being raised by his self-serving and stupid parents is that he can't really function in the adult world and needs a baby-sitter to keep him from starving to death; this is where Deanna enters the picture.
  • Drama Queen: Almost as theatrical and self-serving as his imbecile mother. Asking him to do anything that he isn't interested in doing always results in disgusting yowling about how nooooooooooobody loves him and how everyone loves Lizzie better and so on and so forth.
  • Failed a Spot Check: A lot of the trouble Mike waltzes into could easily be avoided were it not obvious that that he's so utterly stupid, he thinks the universe ceases to exist when he closes his eyes.
  • Freudian Excuse: Most of his swinishness and idiocy would have been forestalled if his rock-stupid mother had been taken aside and told "Hey! Maybe you should reassure him that there's still room in your great big heart for him instead of spending all your time going Lizzie this and Lizzie that and telling him to shut up because he isn't talking about Lizzie."
  • Idiot Houdini: Despite all the horribly ridiculous and stupid things he's done, Mike lives a life of ease and success. Not only is he not called on being a ridiculous jackass, he's praised to the skies as a wonderful parent and great asset to the community.
  • Informed Ability: Everyone and his dog will gladly tell you that he's a gifted writer despite the fact that the on-site excerpts of his prose reveal that his writing style is best described as 'barbarous twaddle.'
  • Parental Abandonment: What Elly doesn't realize is that her habit of constantly screaming "GET LOST" when Mike selfishly DEMANDED her attention has left him with the fear that she can't wait to ship him away somewhere else because she hates him.
  • The Resenter: Most of the reason that he doesn't like having Liz around is that his parents can never shut up about a passive lump that just has to coo and look pretty to get ALL the love while ignoring him and telling him to go away when he tries to tell them about all the great stuff he can do.
  • Sibling Rivalry: The whining dolt's initial reaction to having a kid sister was to yowl witlessly about how he was no longer loved.....and he still can't shut up about it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: We are dealing with a man who, upon escaping a house fire, charged back into a burning building to rescue a laptop despite having a back-up copy of his important files at his place of work. He also expects people to applaud him for his creativity when he torments his kid sister for what he assumes is her deliberate attempt to have him tossed on the curb like all the other things his parents have no use for.

Elizabeth Patterson

The rather moody middle child of the family. She seems to have spent most of the strip living through an awkward period; while it did look as if she'd have an interesting life, she eventually fell into the open arms of a dull photostat of her dad because the outside world is scary.
  • Captain Oblivious: Her friends actually had to sit her down and explain to her that the reason Anthony kept following her around is that he had a sloppy, embarrassing crush on her that everyone but her saw.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Much like her 'ugly' brother, Liz seems to be unable to cope without an adult making sure that she's looked after. This means that she did end up marrying a man like her dad after all because of the whole Anthony trading a woman for an infant thing.
  • Extreme Doormat: Unless she's deliberately misunderstanding what evil career women are trying to say or being mocked by a younger sister, Liz tends to drift through life like a leaf on the wind.
  • Generation Xerox: She married a man who doesn't really respect her any more than John respects Elly. This is seen as a wonderful affirmation of Elly's life.
  • Sloth: While claiming to be a take-charge personality, the idea of doing things on her own seems to baffle and terrify her.

April Patterson

The youngest of the family. Her function seems to be to prove what great parents the Pattersons are by being a challenge to them in their golden years. The problem is that she's rather pliable and timid so, well....

Deanna Patterson

Mike's long-suffering wife whom he had a sloppy, embarrassing (and mildly off-putting) crush on in the fifth grade and whom he reunited with after a car accident.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Not only does she have two children to raise, she also has to keep her husband from blowing all of his money on coffee and from starving to death in a pile of his own filth.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the more annoying of her traits is her wondrous capacity for not being able to take what she dishes out. At one point, she smugly listed every little tiny thing about Mike that annoyed her only to go into an idiotic crying jag when he pointed out that she was tone deaf.
  • Mommy Issues: Deanna seems to be convinced that her mother is a domineering social climber who thinks that she has to run everything and who never listens to her children. The reason that this is kind of pathetic is that she says that this is not the case with Elly.

Anthony Caine

The rather bland, boring, unambitious man that Liz eventually married. Given that his ambition is to eventually open a bed and breakfast, John and Elly love him to bits because he's even more white-bread and gutless than they are.
  • Lack of Empathy: When it became obvious that his first wife was crippled by post-partum depression, Anthony treated her like a leper because she didn't turn into Suzy Homemaker like television said she would. This led to problems.