Monday, November 17, 2014

“I’d like one of those cool oxygen masks that drop out of the ceiling.” BSC #64: Dawn’s Family Feud (1993)

Jeff’s in town for a visit, and since he hasn’t spent much time with the new Spier-Schafer brood yet, everything’s awkward and difficult. Richard’s trying too hard to get Jeff to like him, while Sharon and Dawn are falling all over themselves to please him, even while he’s acting like a brat. It gets really bad when they go on a long weekend trip to Boston, but they eventually realize how stupid they’re being and enjoy each other’s company.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Barrett found herself a boy toy who has four kids of his own, and of course, the kids all hate each other. The parallels between the two plotlines are obvious, and Mary Anne even draws them out loud in chapter seven, but it doesn’t stop her from being whiny and annoying (as are Dawn and Jeff) throughout the rest of the book.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover! Jeff’s doing exactly what you’d expect him to do if he were just about to have his picture taken. After all, he’s a ten year old boy. (I still do that, actually. My Facebook photo is me and The Pepper making pretty much that same face.) Meanwhile, Dawn and Mary Anne caught a case of the bitch and Richard and Sharon are all, “Aww, aren’t our kids cute?” instead of “Smarten up or I’ll smack you upside the head!” like they should be. Best of all, it’s almost exactly as the book describes the photo is taken (except that Sharon and Richard should look less happy.)

Sharon starts the book by asking Dawn for “that squirty stuff.” I think it’s supposed to be an example of her being scatterbrained, but I think we’ve all had moments like that. (If you haven’t, please don’t let me know. I have them all the time; the other day I asked a coworker to hand me “that thing you write on paper with” because the word pen wouldn’t come out of my mouth.)
Richard wastes a bunch of time showing Dawn how to make Jeff’s bed up with hospital corners. Now if Dawn-the-neat-and-tidy doesn’t see the difference, do you think Jeff is going to care?
I would totally watch The Care Bears Meet the Smurfs. It would be Smurfy!
Avocado cheese melts sound pretty good. I’m thinking I might have to try that on tortilla chips for dinner.
Jeff’s wearing a fanny pack when he gets off the plane. That’s one trend I seriously hope never comes back into fashion. My mom wore one for years, using it as a purse, but she called it a ‘bum bag’ because that’s how they’re known in England. (‘Fanny’ has a whole separate meaning there.)
I think it’s funny that everyone’s talking about how exciting it would be if Franklin married Mrs. Barrett, because it would make a combined seven kids…the same as Kristy’s family and fewer than Mal’s family. (Mal is the only one who doesn’t comment on how insane it would be.) No one seems concerned about how the kids will get along, despite the fact that Kristy herself didn’t want to meet Karen and Andrew in the very first book. I guess this is because Buddy and Suzi actually like Franklin, while Kristy didn’t care for Watson.
Mallory suggests playing license plates with the Barrett and DeWitt kids, but probably only Lindsey and Buddy are old enough to read license plates and know what state it says.
How does Mrs. Barrett, who, sixty books ago, couldn’t even clean her own house or take care of her own kids, know that ‘all matinees start at two’? It would seem to be more her style to show up too late than too early.
Dawn and MA decide to coordinate their outfits for the family portraits, so MA drags out every dress she bought over the ‘last three years.’ Now I can get away with that, but are we really supposed to believe that MA still fits into a dress she bought when she was ten? Or that she’d even want to wear that, since it would be something her dad picked out? (Maybe they mean 1990 to 1993, all of which was while she was 13…)
Why would Dawn eat fried ice cream? Shouldn’t that make her scream and go brush her teeth? I mean, processed sugars!
Ooh, I’d watch all of these too: The Mutant from Outer Space, Revenge of the Mutants, The Mutants Fight Back, Son of the Mutant and The Mutant from Outer Space Part Two.
I can’t fathom the logic of trying to ‘make’ the Barrett and DeWitt kids like each other by cooking a fancy dinner and dressing the kids up in their best clothes. They’re little kids! They’d probably rather eat mac and cheese with cut up hotdogs in it on paper plates, and then they could actually act like kids.
The Richard-Jeff thing reminds me of an episode of Queer as Folk in which a boy about Jeff’s age visits his dad he doesn’t see too often. The kid acts like a little bastard through most of the episode. Finally dad’s boyfriend (who thinks kid has a problem with dad being gay) finds out that the kid thinks his dad overplans their time together and forces him to ‘make the most of it’ by rushing from outing to outing. Finally, they cancel the rest of their plans and sit around reading comic books and the three of them get along better. Richard keeps planning activities for Jeff, but they’re the kind of activities Richard would enjoy rather than what Jeff would enjoy. The whole problem could have been solved by Richard asking Jeff what he wanted to do and then planning that.
Mary Anne only gets upset with Dawn because Dawn suggests her dad is the reason Jeff is miserable. Here’s the thing about this: I don’t blame Jeff for being unhappy. Not only is he completely the center of Richard’s attention (which is weird and awkward, because they’re family but don’t know each other at all), but things are difficult with the triplets because they haven’t kept in touch well and aren’t interested in all the same things anymore. But he is acting extremely bratty about it all, more than the situation requires. And the parents are making it worse by not laying down the law with him (and when they start up, MA and Dawn). I know he’s on vacation, and they don’t see him very much, but telling him to get his attitude straight isn’t that out of line. You still have to be a parent, even when you only see your kid now and then.
Actually, this A plot is one of the most realistic plots in the entire BSC series. Blended families don’t magically get along because their parents decide to get married, the way the Brady Bunch (and the Thomas-Brewer Bunch) do.
We’ve found the source of “Mary Anne the Walking Guide Book”: it’s genetic. Both she and Richard carry guidebooks throughout their stay in Boston. Despite that fact (and, you know, elementary school American history class), she has no idea what the Boston Tea Party is.
Mary Anne also insists on sleeping with Richard and Sharon because Dawn and Jeff are being childish. Bet they loved that.
Of course, Dawn writes multiple letters on her three day vacation. Interestingly, she writes two each to Kristy and Stacey, three to Claudia and one to Jessi. Notice anyone missing?
I think the worst part of the vacation is the fact that Dawn can see that Sharon and Richard are upset, yet she keeps siding with Jeff…even though she acknowledges that he’s being a world-class brat. Sharon really wanted to see the art museum Richard and MA go to, and Richard really wanted to go whale watching, but because the kids are fighting, they go their separate ways. Sharon actually starts crying after a full day of Jeff pulling crap to get out of hanging out with Richard and Mary Anne.
You all know how I feel about Dawn, but she’s definitely the most mature of the Spier-Schafer children in this book, and even she throws a tantrum or two.
Ooh, Claudia spelling! Actually, I was really thrown by this notebook entry because I couldn’t figure out who was doing the joint entry with Claud. It looks like Abby handwriting but obviously couldn’t be Abby. I had to read halfway through to find out it was Shannon. (Shannon usually has tiny little neat handwriting.) On to the spelling: wernt, problums, Baret, Shanon, notbook, becuase. She also uses grate for great and no for know.
And of course, because they’re BSC members, Claudia and Shannon ‘fix’ the Barrett/DeWitt problem. This is obviously the counterpoint to me saying that the other plot was realistic.
The title quote is what Adam says when Jeff offers to get the triplets souvenirs from the plane. When Jordan points out that the oxygen masks are only for emergencies so Jeff can’t get him one, Adam responds, “Jeff can do anything.”
Mrs. Barrett: cream linen slacks, blazer, lavender silk blouse, pearl necklace and earrings (and yes, she looked like a model)
Suzi and Marnie: matching blue and white polka dot dresses, ankle socks, black patent leather shoes
Buddy: blue pants, white shirt, red bow tie
Jeff: torn jeans, dirty t-shirt, ball cap; tan slacks, sweater
Dawn: red t-shirt, blue shirt, jean skirt
Mary Anne: old jeans, sweat shirt
New characters:
Lindsey, Taylor, Madeleine and Ryan DeWitt (8, 6, 4 and 2): 29, 27, 25 and 23

Next week: I have to say I underestimated Tessie. Not only did she not pack up my copy of #62, she actually read it. So I guess it’s my turn to read it too.

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