Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Meme: 5 Characters

Yes, yet another meme! This one was just too appealing. It works as follows:

1. By posting in the comments section of the last person to do this, I am given a letter.

2. I name five characters whose names begin with this letter.

3. I write down my thoughts on them.

4. If you want to participate, post a comment to that effect and I will give you a letter.

Anyway, I got “Y”. Because we like you.

1. Yossarian- It’s interesting. As flawed as the Mike Nichols adaptation of CATCH 22 was (too much righteous anger, not enough black humor), the casting of Alan Arkin as Yossarian was so perfect that it’s hard to imagine anyone else while reading.

It’s actually been a while since I did read the book, but I think it’s an accomplishment that Heller created a character who acted as a “viewpoint” for the reader without making him a cipher. He has his own mission (being found crazy so he won’t have to fly more missions) and can be as tenacious about it as the other characters are about their obsessions, but maybe since his motivation is pure survival, we can empathize.

2. Yellowjacket- Okay, so this was an unhinged alter ego of Hank Pym (formerly Ant-Man, later Giant-Man, Goliath, and probably others) who somehow surfaced in the guy’s mind and got him in big trouble. Mainly for hitting his wife Janet, in what I guess was an attempt to touch on the issue of spousal abuse in that classic heavy handed way that Seventies comics do. (I say this with love. Partly.)

And boy, the writers have never let him forget it. Even though Hank and Jan eventually reconciled, references to this incident keep creeping up over and over and over again- in fact, in the ultra-extreme “Ultimates” universe, Hank beats Jan on a regular basis. (One of many reasons I avoid the “Ultimate” titles.) Now, in the real world, spousal abuse is generally a chronic problem and it’s usually not a good idea for a battered spouse to trust that his or her partner has reformed. However, in the real world, wife beaters are not supervillains and it’s hard to take this as a serious parallel to domestic abuse. (In fact, I’m not even sure that was the original intent of the writers.)

In any case it’s more or less ruined Hank Pym as a viable heroic figure in most of Marvel’s comics. Not that he was that compelling a figure to start with, but now he’s mostly written as a dour martinet, and not much fun. Short of retconning the whole Yellowjacket story out of existence, I can’t think of any way to get writers to stop picking at this scab. Fortunately, the kid-friendly Marvel Adventures line has given us appearances by a young, not-yet-disgraced Dr. Pym.

3. Yellowbelly- Okay, there isn’t much to say about a one-note character who appeared in an exceedingly short SCTV sketch. Except that I remembered this guy’s song for YEARS.

Yellow, Yellowbelly, where you gonna run to now?

4. Yoda- who doesn’t love Yoda? It’s still amazing to think that back in 1980, with a strained schedule and production budget, the makers of the sequel to what was then the biggest movie of all time were effectively replacing Alec Guinness with a piece of sculpted foam rubber.

And. They. Sold. It.

Frank Oz and Irvin Kershner managed to have a puppet not only pass as an alien creature, but handle the film’s most challenging metaphysical dialogue and carry entire scenes. A small green puppet. Who wasn’t even Kermit.

Interesting fact- of all the minor pieces of STAR WARS trivia that tie-in books and comics and action figure packages have explained in insane detail, Yoda’s species and past remain a mystery. George Lucas has discouraged the release of anything that would explain too much about the mysterious little guy; where he comes from, whether he always looked like that, why he talks like he does, none of this revealed has been. Sorry. It’s catchy.

5. Yorgi. Another John Candy creation for SCTV, and sort of a one-joke character, but a memorable one. One episode featured as its premise the idea that the Soviets had hacked into SCTV’s signal, and started broadcasting CCCP1 programming. The most memorable show was “Hey Yorgi”, featuring the title character, a lovable Russian man who roams the countryside helping people for the good of all the motherland.

“Hey, Yorgi, he’s coming to your town...” Damn, I’m doing it again.


weepingsam said...

Kind of neat idea. Do you pass it on? is that the idea?

And I should add: you remind me that Catch 22 is one of those books I should read every 2-3 years. It's been - 5 maybe? whenever Stone Reader came out, sent me to reading Heller. I'll have to pick it up again...

Evan Waters said...

Yeah, if you want in, I'll give you a letter.

weepingsam said...

Sure - it looks like an interesting exercise.

Evan Waters said...

Okay, you get: D.