By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)
Ok, here I am looking at a list of twenty characters that I have to cut to a quarter of that for this list. I didn’t even go crazy thinking about everything I’ve watched or read to find that one person that stood out above the rest. I just really looked at my bookshelf, which should contain most, if not all, of my favorites. But, is it everything? Do I have everything I want to own in pop culture circles? (No! I don’t own Firefly or Stalag 17 or every appearance of the Legion of Substitute Super Heroes!)
That problem aside, at least I had an idea from the beginning to focus the list. When thinking of my favorite characters, I chose good friends. I chose characters that support their friends and family, though sometimes it takes a little personal growth to do so.
To help narrow down the list, I made a choice not to include any of the characters from a previous borg.com essay on characters to make it more of a challenge.*
* Side note, the list I made then had three characters not on the list I made now. I bet I could make this list every day and find five new favorites. Eliminating Sam Gamgee and Hermione Granger though, those were tough blows to a list about supportive friends.
I then eliminated childhood favorite comic book characters since I know I’ll probably mine that idea for future essays just devoted to them.
That eliminated ten names. I still have to eliminate five more. Well, one actor played two parts so I’ll eliminate one of his. Nine. Picking one character from Doctor Who (or from Buffy, I can’t believe I forgot Buffy) seems unfair, so I have to lop them off. Eight. Ditto for Community** and The Simpsons. Six. Lastly, I have to get rid of Supes from Kingdom Come because as much as I love the friendship between him, Wonder Woman and Batman, it’s not about any one of them, it’s about how they approach things differently and yet work well together (eventually).
** Though I will say that I have to write a little about eliminated choice Britta Perry. She’s a hippie, she mispronounces things and she can be a bit awkward (though can’t they all be a bit awkward.) So, in those small ways, I can see a female me. The similarities start to fail once you realize that I don’t want to sleep with Jeff Winger. Now, if there were a Jennifer Winger…
So, without further ado, here are my top five characters*** in no particular order:
*** As of January 2012. It could change by February and I may put back in some of the eliminated ones. A good list is just a product of its specific moment in time.
Frank Cross – Scrooged****
Niagara Falls. Every time I watch Scrooged I always know I’m going to cry at the end. I can just think of little Calvin Cooley tugging on Frank’s sleeve and I start to get a little misty. Yes, it probably has everything to do with Bill Murray’s portrayal as he makes every scoundrel he plays lovable. But, for this role, you get to see his choices that led to being a scoundrel. It’s not like they are bad choices, just everyday choices that he doesn’t want to admit were wrong. As a friend, well, he’s not much of one until the end, but I think it was always there as a possibility. He just didn’t have an outlet for it until the ghosts showed him what was out there for him like Claire, the folks he meets at the shelter, the Cooley family and last, but not least, his own family. The S.S. Minnow, James, the S.S. Minnow.
**** He was the actor with two characters, though about any of his characters would probably qualify for a part on a list. The one I eliminated was Bob Harris from Lost in Translation as temporary friends we meet when we travel can be very powerful in our memories. I almost think I should go back and include Bob. Maybe summer camp and travel friends are a separate list. It would give me a chance to go back and look at Meatballs and Wet Hot American Summer for great characters. As an additional aside, I also think that credit should be given to Charles Dickens for his original creation of Scrooge that I feel Murray was born to play.
Jaye Tyler – Wonderfalls
Jaye. Hmmm. A good friend? Maybe? Well definitely, but not intentionally, which I think may be one of the points of the show. You can do all the things that a good friend should do and still not be a good friend. On the other hand, if you think you’re crazy and toys, stuffed animals and coins speak to you and you just do things to get them off your back, you can be a good friend by accident. You stop thinking of yourself and how it works for you and instead you put yourself at risk for embarrassment just long enough to do something good for someone else. The fact that it’s unintentional, does it mean it is any less good?
The Sundance Kid – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
I think Sundance embodies the evolution of friendship. At the beginning of the movie, Sundance defers to Butch because Butch is the smart one coming up with plans. By the end, Sundance realizes that he’s the smart one that knows Spanish and Butch is helpless and he wonders why he ever believed anything different. Still, they’re friends and have been for many a year. You don’t abandon something like that and at the end, as they hide, injured and desperate, Sundance has to have regrets, but I don’t think that their friendship is one of them. Not going to Australia on the other hand looms large in the pantheon of regrets.
Rorschach – Watchmen
He’s crazy, but there’s one person that mitigates that crazy and that’s Nite Owl and I think that Rorschach knows that. He’s at his best when he is with Nite Owl and he goes as far as to admit it, in a way. He talks of the days that they used to patrol together as a team and he misses those days. If Butch and Sundance would have made it to Australia, I think Butch would be like Rorschach and longing for the time that they were a team. Without the tempering influence of Sundance, Butch’s plans would be left unsaid, festering into crazy at their unrealized potential to make his world better in his mind. The friendship for Rorschach and Butch might be gone at that point, but it never really leaves, it just becomes a different form. You can’t go back to going out night after night and fighting crime, the body and mind is not built like that. Eventually the friendship matures and you find new ways to enjoy it.
Vladimir – Waiting for Godot
This one is personal. Yes, the existentialist play is about two friends trying to pass the time and on that level it’s a fantastic look at all the aspects of friendship. What elevates it to top five status for me is that I can’t think of the play without thinking of my good friend Jason Vivone. We did an excerpt from it for a duet scene in high school. We saw a touring company version of it performed in Lawrence, Kansas. We performed the whole thing as adults in Kansas City. It’s about friends and I will always associate it with a good friend. I’ve known Jason for over thirty years and no matter what, when I talk to him it’s like we’ve seen each other every day over that time.
The reluctant friend, the unintentional friend, the friend who knows your faults and still hangs out with you, old friends that you may not ever be as close to again and the mature friendship that will never go away are all different ways to express friendship. Believe me, there are many other ways out there as well and the good characters find ways to make that universal feeling we have with our fellow humans feel fresh again. Like writing about characters and friends with the characters and great friends that contribute to borg.com. See you next time.
Next up tomorrow–Art Schmidt’s favorite characters.