Monday, November 29

Favorite characters

I am inspired. By a meme. After near two weeks of aborted attempts at posts I find inspiration in providing reasoning behind my selections for the 15 Favorite Characters meme, already on Facebook. Enjoy.

Rachel, K.A. Applegate's Animorphs

Tobias was trapped in the body of a red-tailed hawk. Marco was prepared to kill his mother. Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthil betrayed his people. Jake ordered the murder of his brother. Cassie was morally inconvenienced. The war against the Yeerks damaged all of the Animorphs, but none so much as Rachel. She was so subsumed by the fight that she wouldn't have been able to exist without it had she not carried out Jake's last order. Her essential conflict was repeated in each of her books after the David trilogy, but hers was the most powerful. And she was the only one to regularly zing Marco.

Screwtape, C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters

The banality of evil is a not uncommon phrase. Screwtape is the methodology and bureaucracy of evil. His machinations toward all other demons, including his own nephew and suggestions on the small, gradual capture of a soul make him as terrifying as the Joker. And somehow, even though Lewis didn't exactly enjoy writing the character, he still created something that was, if not sympathetic, at least lamentable.

Tyler Durden, David Fincher's Fight Club

The passing perfection of the hand on the beach withstanding, my preference is for the film Tyler Durden whose overwhelming charisma could make you believe all the things that came out of his mouth. He had style to burn and beat a man without touching him. And we all know that he was really the grown Hobbes to Edward Norton's grown Calvin.

Jin, Shinichiro Watanabe's Samurai Champloo

Shinichiro Watanabe is fascinated by characters betrayed many times over and still beholden to their pasts no matter how long or far they go to escape them. They are the heroes of his premier series Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. When these characters begin to shed their pasts and emotional shells to look forward to a future with their new friends, the series reach their emotional climaxes. None of the climaxes reach as high as Jin's return. He had been left for dead by Kariya Kagetoki. He could have escaped with his life but returns and accepts a killing blow to save Fuu. And he totally would have beaten Mugen given a fair chance.

The father, Tobias Wolff's "Powder"

Because even forty-eight year-old, rumpled, kind, bankrupt of honor men have their moments.

Calvin, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes

When I was younger Hobbes was my clear favorite. He pounced and won the fights. Calvin transmogrified into a tiger. Hobbes just always seemed to have the better of Calvin. My appreciation for the boy who was Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man and Tracer Bullet; the boy who invented the Duplicator and Ethicator; and the boy who led GROSS as dictator-for life has only grown. He was irrepressible, and that counts for a lot.

Jim Gordon, Frank Miller's Batman: Year Zero

Jim Gordon can beat a drunk, baseball-bat-wielding former Green Beret alone, but Batman can defeat an entire SWAT team. Gordon can't even stop an out-of-control truck from running down an old woman, and she is only saved by the appearance of Batman, but Gordon is the braver and better of the two. He fights crime and the corruption of the Gotham police department without a mask. If Batman wanted security for the rest of his life, he would only have to burn the cape and cowl and live forever as Bruce Wayne. Gordon can never escape his enemies, and he has more to lose. He has a wife and children. Even if his identity were revealed, Batman has a near infinite fortune that can replace any material loss and keeps every person at arm's length. Batman wishes he could be as good as Gordon.

Lancelot, T.H. White's The Once and Future King

In the many, many retellings of the Arthurian legends, Lancelot is a beautiful playboy, but White's man with a face as ugly as a gorilla's is definitive. He knows himself to be a bad man but is desperate to be a good man and great knight in service of his king's dreams. When he is allowed to perform a miracle and heal Sir Urre, it's heartbreaking.

O.E. Parker, Flannery O'Connor's "Parker's Back"

Parker is unique among O'Connor's characters, mostly in that he is neither a jaded university student or jaded land owner. Like them, a person whom he has no interest in enters his life and becomes its focal point. Unlike them, he does not spend all of his time rejecting this person. He doesn't always understand why or enjoy doing so, but he pursues the woman who hates his tattoos, and somehow finds himself a new man at the end of it.

Morgan Grimes, Chuck

Morgan has no Intersect and has no expertise, but his loyalty to his friends has saved any number of missions and kept Chuck sane. When the CIA couldn't handle the Buy More properly, he became the manager. And the Morgan stance has defeated more than its share of villains.

Marge Simpson, The Simpsons

The only Simpson that doesn't overshadow Marge is Maggie, and that's only because she can't talk. Marge lacks the rampaging id of Homer and Bart and the unrelenting idealism of Lisa, but her sense of responsibility and unflagging love keeps the family together. When she was allowed to take center stage in episodes like "A Streetcar Named Marge" and "Marge vs. the Monorail," The Simpsons was at its best.

Woody, Toy Story

Through the de facto leader of Andy's toys the crises of becoming obsolete, finding a sort of immortality and being discarded find their focal point. Woody is not perfect. He is jealous of Buzz to the point of knocking him out a window and is tempted to join the Tokyo toy museum, but his loyalty to his friends and Andy carries him through against all challenges.

Cole Richards, Scott Kurtz's PvP

Cole Richards is the Marge Simpson of PvP, the only responsible adult amidst a company of children who would rather be playing than doing their jobs. He has his pathos in seeing the world move on from the pop culture that sustained him as a child that make his small victories, seeing Superman Returns and finally beating Max Powers, as ridiculous as his rivalry with him may be, all the sweeter.

Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad

While Breaking Bad is undeniably the domain of Walter White, Jesse has become the nearest thing to a moral center the drama has as the teacher has clung to his new identity as the meth supplier of Albuquerque. Jesse takes beatings from every side and still strives for human connections and relationships that White has forsaken. If the drama has any hope, it lies in Jesse. That being said, I've only seen the first two seasons. Maybe things get considerably cheerier in the third.

Inigo Montoya, William Goldman's The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya is the best at what he does, swordplay, just as Fezzik is the strongest, Vizzini the craftiest, Buttercup the most beautiful and Humperdinck the greatest hunter, but it comes from a place of misery. Mandy Patinkin's "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." is legendary, but Goldman's literary Montoya edges him out for having a deeper past that is not entirely driven by revenge and the same intensity.

The following are the near misses. Maybe another character from the same work or the same creator is included proper, and this character was overlooked in the name of diversity. Perhaps I don't want to admit to liking them that much. Possibly the boundary between their reality and their fiction is disputed. In any case, if the meme expanded to thirty favorite characters, they would there.

Chewbacca, Star Wars; Elwin Ransom, C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy; Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons; Turanga Leela, Futurama; Nightcrawler, X-Men; Troy Barnes, Community; Agatha Heterodyne, Phil and Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius; Satchel, Darby Conley's Get Fuzzy, Mark Zuckerberg, David Fincher's The Social Network; Budd, Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 2; Hobbes, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes; James Wilson, House, M.D.; Cloud Strife, Final Fantasy VII; Naota Nandaba, FLCL; Spike Spiegel, Shinichiro Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop


Emmett said...

I should have picked Screwtape. His character is genius and Lewis portrayed him brilliantly. I try to read the Screwtape Letters once a year or so since it is the finest psychological account of temptation I have ever encountered - but I haven't been able to get to it for some time and that made me pick others ahead of him.
I find it interesting that you tend to pick (1) responsible, ethical characters often in a world of evil or at least uncertainty, or (2) underdogs. Or both.

Chris said...

Well I find it interesting that your list was largely comprised of the smartest characters in the room. Sherlock Holmes, Odysseus, Gregory House, Paul Atreides, Ender Wiggin and Funes? Seriously?

You're right, though. It became really obvious at the end as I tried to explain what particularly about these characters appealed to me so much. I guess I just like characters who recognize how deeply flawed they are and try to just be good people no matter their how prodigious their other talents.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Chris, of all the Simpsons characters you pick Marge, and then give Lisa the honorable mention? Lisa is by far my least favorite character, and Marge isn't too far ahead of her. Homer is the funniest in the family by a landslide, and secondary characters like Chief Wiggum, Duff Man, Lionel Hutz, Principal Skinner, etc. all are far funnier than those Simpsons ladies as well. The only redeeming quality of Lisa is the fact that she can exist so Homer can patronizingly pat her on the head as if he knows so much better than his daughter who's 80 IQ points smarter than him in his idea of good parenting.