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YMMV: For Better or for Worse

  • Accidental Aesop: It happens a lot. Favorites include: "a woman's duty is to become a Housewife even if you hate it", "children are horrible monsters because you have to take care of them and they want you to show them love and affection instead of spoiling yourself rotten", "men are pigs, but not having a husband or family means you're a complete failure as a woman", and "stealing another woman's husband away is perfectly fine".
    • Given that at no point does anyone ever stand up to Mira Sobinski's overbearing behavior, it's rather obvious that Johnston wants the reader to believe this - "No matter how unreasonable or difficult your mother is, you must always accomodate her even when she's being nasty to you and everyone around you." Given that Johnston herself is apparently a very controlling parent of her now-grown children, one wonders if she was possibly nervous about giving any indication that standing up to your parents is ever acceptable.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The author's viewpoint is that Thérèse is a cold, calculating shrew with severe and unreasonable jealousy problems who, despite Anthony's being a loving and supportive spouse, distanced herself from him and their child, cheated on him, and cruelly divorced him. But it's possible to make a solid case that Anthony was manipulative and overbearing, pushing Thérèse towards things she didn't want (a house in the suburbs, a baby) and being a whiny little bitch when she insisted on doing what she'd planned to do, such as go back to work after Francoise was born. There's textual evidence to support the thesis that Thérèse's "distance" was postpartum depression which Anthony did nothing about. Additionally, Anthony was emotionally unfaithful to Thérèse from the get-go, pining after his ex-girlfriend Liz for his entire marriage. Anthony and Liz's wedding occurs at the end of the strip's run and would seem to justify Therese's jealousy.
    • Word of God is that childless career women are cold, selfish, self-centered wastes of space and that the only women who matter are full-time wives and mothers. The character of Connie (Lawrence's mother) was originally created to show this, but the author soon saw her in a sympathetic way and abandoned her plan - only to revive it with evil, evil Thérèse. Thérèse may also be evil because she is French-Canadian and attractive.
    • Similarly, Anthony is seen by other characters as steadfast, loyal, and unfailingly devoted to Elizabeth. Since he maintained that loyalty and devotion to Elizabeth throughout his engagement and marriage to Therese, those traits aren't quite as admirable as they sound.
    • Is Elly Patterson a long-suffering mother who never receives due praise for holding her home and family together, or does she deliberately make things more difficult for herself because she has a martyr complex? Are her children completely uncontrollable brats, or is she too self-absorbed and caught up in self-pity to tend to their emotional needs? Is she a complete Control Freak, a pillar of negativity and hatred imposing her twisted vision of what's 'good, true and right' on everyone around her? Or is she the Only Sane Man and a true gift to her community? Did she raise her family well, or cause them to turn out as nasty and self-centered as she? Sympathetic Sue, or Villain Protagonist?
    • April Patterson: bratty teen, or remarkably well-behaved girl whose biggest sin is being too young to move out when her parents want to retire? Also, some blame her for Farley's death by drowning when she fell into the flooded creek. Others blame her parents for being almost criminally negligent, leaving a four-year-old unattended while they chatted with friends about their recent vacation. One could call her the Only Sane Man because she was the only one who seemed to think that Anthony and Liz were being unfaithful.
    • Is Michael a delicate genius, or a spoiled brat who uses his work as an excuse to avoid any contact with his children? Is he in love with his friend Weed? Did Deanna make a mistake with her contraceptives, or did she do it deliberately to keep Michael from going on a trip?
    • Did Thérèse actually cheat on Anthony, or did Anthony lie to John for sympathy from the Pattersons and further vilify Thérèse?
    • As you can see, the Hatedom has taken this trope and run with it, inventing various interpretations of all the different characters. For instance, one Fanon theory claims that Elizabeth was constantly making Deanna refit the wedding dress because she was trying to hide a baby bump.
  • Anvilicious / Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Sometimes there are some rather anvilicious moments in the strips...yeah, she can go on Author Filibuster moments, but there have been a couple of these where they really needed to be said. Especially about Grandpa and Shannon; since these actually happen in real life.
  • Creator's Pet: Anthony, to the point of fan obsession. Both of Liz's parents go on about Anthony at various points, and Johnston even discussed him in one of her Anthology collections, speaking of how it's those skinny nerdy kids that end up the most attractive and the "best catches" later on. Essentially, Lynn views Anthony as the Ideal Husband. Using Anthony in this manner, on an audience of women tired of the same "Nerd Gets The Girl" stuff from male writers, did not go over well.
  • Designated Villain: Therese is fairly notable, though it's implied she was always a cold, unemotional woman. Her portrayal as somebody who didn't want to have children makes her villainous in the strips' point-of-view, as was her (justified) jealousy at the attention Anthony had for Elizabeth. Then she got depressed, then finally did something villainous (cheated on Anthony).
  • Die for Our Ship: Fans want Anthony to die for the various ships of Elizabeth/Interesting Life, Elizabeth/Freedom, Elizabeth/Independence, Elizabeth/Anyone But Anthony... well, honestly, they just want Anthony to die.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: April, Candace, and some one-shot background characters.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Elizabeth marrying Anthony after being Strangled by the Red String. Arguably, the "new-runs" make it worse by driving home the notion that she's in for the same Self-Inflicted Hell her mother goes through.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Among other references, in one arc, John (based on the artist's husband) gets a mid-life crisis car that the Author Avatar Elly remarks is like the "other woman". Flash forward years later, and we find out Johnston's real life husband had been cheating on her...
    • It also makes you think about how much John talked up Anthony to Liz and hinted that she should get with him when Anthony was still married to Therese... and then it turns out that the inspiration for John was cheating on his wife.
    • A more meta one: The title of the strip is taken from a traditional wedding vow: "...for better or for worse, until death do you part." It didn't quite turn out that way between Johnston and her husband.
  • Informed Wrongness: Elly's self-absorption, both parents' inability to think of April as anything but the naive baby of the family, and just occasionally the reality of the strip itself all conspired to make sure April was always wrong; if it couldn't make her wrong on factual counts, then it would make sure she was at least a wicked child for insisting upon the facts instead of blindly rolling over and taking the blame.
    • Again, Therese. She's treated as a harpy for telling Anthony to cut up his sandwich or wear different clothes. Yet when he makes her have a baby she doesn't want and move to a place she hates, she's also a harpy for upset by it. The sexist undertones don't help much.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Therese, Anthony's wife, is described as being jealous to the point of paranoia regarding Anthony's contact with Liz. Unfortunately, since the comic actually shows her as being right about this (and Anthony was hated by a lot of fans anyways), a lot of the readers had sympathy for her and not her husband. Even when the comic ended, despite numerous attempts by the strip to make her more and more nasty, most still felt she was unfairly persecuted.
  • Memetic Mutation: The "Gap-Toothed Starey 'Hoooo!' Guy", an unnamed student that gawked at April after her boyfriend apparently told him they'd done the deed. The Comics Curmudgeon happily pointed him out.
    • Also, "roadside", coming from a bad attempt by Johnston to create teenage euphemisms for sex.
    • And "foob" itself. The term was used in the strip by April, who explained to John that it was "a cross between a fool and a boob."
  • Mis-blamed / Scapegoat Creator: Lynn actually wanted to retire after ending the story; but a lot of newspapers didn't want to lose a slot in the funny pages (Especially since it had been there for so long). The writing; however, is her doing - Some think she lacked the original spark she had in the seventies so she's just essentially doing this as revenge.
    • The newspapers couldn't force Lynn to continue doing the strip if she didn't want to. (And, in fact, she eventually stopped drawing new strips.)
  • Never Live It Down: "I have no hoooooome!"
    • Michael abandoning his family during the apartment fire in favor of saving his laptop. While Easily Forgiven for this in-strip, a big chunk of the Fandom saw this as his Moral Event Horizon.
  • Nightmare Fuel: For a while, the digital versions of the strips as seen on the site were actually animated GIFs, with the only animation being the characters' eyes blinking every so often. It was... unsettling.
    • Grandpa Jim's And I Must Scream after his second stroke. Imagine being perfectly fine mentally, but completely unable to communicate this with anyone, and watching them gleefully interpret all your attempts at telling them how you feel however they please... "Boxcar!" indeed.
    • The latest of the e-cards that Lynn makes available on site is a Quicktime animation of Farley sneaking into the bathroom, drinking out of the toilet and licking the camera lens; the caption is "I was thinking of you and decided to give you a big, wet kiss."
    • Lynn's latest attempt to cash in is a series of golf-club covers that have Farley's face on them. The problem is that it looks as if someone had decapitated him, shrunken his head and put it on a stake as a warning to all other sheepdogs.
  • Purity Sue: Mike gets a $25,000 advance for his first novel, from the first publisher to whom he submits it, despite having no agent (theoretically possible, especially if you're Canadian). Nine short months later (this often takes two years to go from a single manuscript to book stores), his second novel is already a best seller and he has a movie deal lined up. Thing is, the excerpts of the novel on the FBorFW site are just plain terrible...
    • For the non-writers out there, it's not uncommon for a first novel to go through dozens of publishers, even with an agent to fine-tune it, usually having to go through the same publisher multiple times. And a $25,000 dollar advance is huge, considering $50-60,000 isn't bad for the total payment an author gets from a book.
    • What really made Michael's book deal totally unbelievable was that, on top of the $25,000 advance, his publisher also gave the book a large expensive publicity campaign. One of the frustrations of the real-life publishing world is that publishers will usually spend lots of money to promote new books by established authors who are already famous (and books by celebrities), but publishers will almost never pay for publicity campaigns for new authors who would actually benefit from the publicity.
    • Also Anthony, who everyone in the strip considers a saint, the only man Liz should marry, despite never doing anything worthy of being shilled by her parents, her friends, the author... did we mention they even did this kind of thing when he was married to someone else?
  • Rooting for the Empire: 90% of the fandom was hoping that Elizabeth would end up with one of her Wrong Guy First candidates, rather than the inevitable blandness that is Anthony.
  • Seasonal Rot: the later years of the strip are mostly regarded as lower in quality.
  • Snark Bait: Especially in its later years.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Elizabeth and Anthony. It was bad enough that Elizabeth dumped two other boyfriends that she had better chemistry with for Anthony. It was worse that Anthony was still married when they got together for good. It was even worse when Anthony's ex-wife was villainized as a horrible woman for daring to avert Stay in the Kitchen and suspecting that Anthony was cheating on her (Even though he was, and even though he promised he'd be a House Husband when he convinced Therese to get pregnant, then went back on his word.) What probably puts it in this trope the most is how everyone talked up this pairing, from Elizabeth's parents to their mutual friends to the author, with the only person with reservations being The Unfavorite of Elizabeth's family. And don't even mention the "going after" if you want to avoid a Flame War.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Johnston spent quite a few strips setting up Therese's unreasonable jealousy and shrewishness. Then spent five times as many strips unintentionally proving every one of Therese's rationales as spot-on.
    • Thérèse and Anthony again, though it goes both ways a little. Thérèse is portrayed as horrendous for not staying home with her daughter, but going back to work after maternity leave, which is is what Anthony agreed to, not to mention she is making more money than he is, and would be the better provider in a one-income family. Even worse, Thérèse is rightly portrayed as wrong for cheating on Anthony, but Anthony cheated too, if not outright physically. He specifically asked Elizabeth to "wait for him" (right after the Attempted Rape, no less - classy), which is not that much different. Thérèse was also portrayed as being unreasonably paranoid and suspicious of his constant contact and pining for Elizabeth, when his behavior towards Liz as his marriage fell apart proves that he really did love Liz more (and seriously calls into question why in the world Anthony got married to her.) He then sits around waiting for Thérèse to cheat on him so he looks like the good one, instead of being an adult and admitting to her that their marriage isn't working. Though this last is Truth in Television - it's a massive step that most people would be reluctant to take.
    • Also, while John is supposed to an idiotic, conflict-causing MAN, several times he actually comes off as far more rational than Elly. For instance, his attempts to ensure he has life insurance so his family will be taken care of if anything unexpected happens to him is hampered by Elly trying to derail the discussion by sobbing melodramatically and wildly accusing him of trying to scare her.
    • The Kelpfroths, Michael's crabby Ceiling Banger neighbors, also get upset at them for leaving their kids' toys and strollers in the stairwell and a kiddie pool on the common lawn area, where they're 'eyesores'. However, leaving items on the stairwell actually can create a safety hazard, and kiddie pools can be hazardous to the grass. And when Michael resorted to the childish 'solution' of separating the shared foyer in half in duct tape so they can keep their kids things on 'their side', the Kelpfroths were portrayed as being even more unreasonable for not liking this idea.
      • Another strip, they're pissed off at the fact the clogged up plumbing requires that their bathroom be torn up. But the clogged plumbing was caused by Michael's family, so they're suffering the inconvenience for their neighbor's inability to keep their kids in line, and yet when they're giving a formal complaint to the landlord, the landlord brushes them off.
    • Jo Weeder's father is depicted as being a heartless, soulless authoritarian because he pointed out that Weed would have to be exceptionally fortunate to make a career of photography. He joins Mira Sobinski and Gavin Caine in a rogue's gallery of allegedly awful parents whose crime was expecting their children to work for a living instead of passively waiting for miracles to solve their problems like the Pattersons do.
    • Weed's father was more about the (admittedly true) fact that Weed would almost certainly make less money at photography than he would going into business with his father. His father is wrong for trying to make him do something he hates, but Weed definitely isn't sitting back and expecting miracles - whenever we see him at his job, he's doing his best.
    • When the Pattersons are moving into their neighbours' house and selling their old house to Michael's family, April takes issue with the fact that she still lives there, too, and they aren't even taking her into consideration. She's distraught with both offers of staying in the house (Wherein she will be Michael's live-in babysitter.) or moving into the basement of the neighbours' house. April's friend tells her that she has a pretty sweet deal out of it no matter what, but in all honest, can you blame April for being distraught, or needing time to get over it? A major decision was made more or less without taking her into consideration.
  • Tear Jerker: Farley's death was this for some; especially since you don't really expect Newspaper Comics to talk about stuff like this.
    • Also, the death of Elly's mother was a very long, drawn-out storyline that involved months of strips about her impending death, and the aftermath.
  • Thirty Sue Pileup: Elly, Elizabeth, Michael and Anthony.
  • Unfortunate Implications: The token gay character grows up to become a florist. The same character in re-run strips, younger but now re-colored with dark skin (being half-white is less controversial now than in the Eighties), is shown encouraging Michael to shoplift.
    • Many negative characters are those coming from "broken homes", or had single parents. In one strip, some vandals of the Patterson property were revealed as two kids from "good homes" (Elly was shocked that they could be involved), but a third kid talked them into it.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Therese and April. The former because her supposed evil traits are usually read sympathetically by readers, and April because her family eventually starts treating her like The Unfavorite to the point of selling their own house and forcing her to live in a basement just so their precious Michael can have a big home for his new family.
    • A lot of people felt the only good thing to come out of the end of the comic was the revelation that April moved across the continent and never looked back. Sure, it's implied it was partially due to finding a "country boy", but she still at least got to choose a career and a partner without the constant meddling and pressure of her parents and has a career of her own.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Anthony, Elizabeth, Michael, Elly. Notice a pattern?
  • Values Dissonance: Several concepts central to the strip, such as ambition being evil, children being horrible monsters for daring to demand attention and affection — and yet the only real measure of a woman's success, and the eventual uplifting of several characters to Pattersainthood while retaining their many obvious character flaws resulted in massive amounts of Dissonance.

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