Literally and figuratively.
Very few fictional characters are pulled from thin air, because what's the point of having friends and family if you can't steal their essence and sell it to strangers for entertainment? But as we've shown you once before, sometimes the real world inspirations for these characters come from bizarre and unexpected places ...
Comedy Central Productions
South Park, the show you watched because your mom told you not to, has been on the air forever. The majority of the action still centers around the kids, but there's a robust supporting cast of rich, multidimensional characters too. Like underpants gnomes, gay dogs, and Cartman's whore of a mother.
Cartman's mother, Liane, is based on co-creator Trey Parker's college fiancee, who cheated on him before dumping him. Understandably upset, Parker first channeled his heartbreak into Cannibal! The Musical, a film that, according to the audio commentary, he wrote just so he could ridicule her. In it, Liane is a horse that everyone rides, and if you don't understand the symbolism you should probably get back to your coloring book. He also ridiculed her decision to dump someone now worth millions on the commentary, because when you're busying making movies and TV shows you don't have time for therapy.
As for South Park, Liane has a single defining character trait, and it's that she's easier than a kindergarten math test. She's done everything with everyone, starred in scat porn, worked as a prostitute, and was featured in Crack Whore Magazine, amongst many other sexual shenanigans. So we guess the lesson here is: Never screw around on a guy that's good with paper cutouts. It'll come back to bite you on the ass in a big way.
Comedy Central Productions
Before turning Justin Long into a walrus, Kevin Smith directed indie flicks like Clerks and Chasing Amy. The latter revolves around a guy named Holden falling in love with a girl named Alyssa. But he discovers that she has a, shall we say "storied" sexual history, and he just can't deal with that. The relationship falls apart, and we all are reminded once again that there are no happy endings in New Jersey.
Alyssa is played by Joey Lauren Adams, and the whole story is based on Kevin Smith's relationship with her. The two dated for a while, but the inexperienced Smith was intimidated by Adams' globetrotting and partying ways. Then he asked her about her sexual history, and from the sounds of it the angry and tearful conversation more or less played out exactly how it did on film.
In Smith's words, he was insecure about measuring up to past partners and wanted Adams to apologize for her life history -- two mindsets that anyone who doesn't hang out on a MRA subreddit would recognize as unhealthy. The relationship didn't last, proving once again that romance built on crippling emotional problems never works out unless you're the star of a Disney movie.
Late in the film, Smith appears as Silent Bob, and breaks with his title to basically call Holden a dumbass. Bob sits him down and tells the story of his failed relationship with "Amy," and how he learned a valuable lesson and he'll forever regret screwing things up in the first place. It's a scene where a character based on Smith is taught a lesson from Smith's life by two of Smith's most famous creations, one of whom is played by him, proving once again that filmmakers will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid therapy.
Fleischer Studios/Paramount Pictures
Betty Boop is famous for being the first cartoon character it was acceptable to jerk off to. She sings, she dances, she speaks in nonsense baby talk, and she's even getting her own movie, something we know is exclusively reserved for only the most cherished characters.
We've mentioned that Betty Boop was based on singer Helen Kane ...
But like many good things that white people have contributed to the world, it was actually started by black people. Specifically, Kane's shtick was taken from an African-American actress whose stage name was Baby Esther.
We're not just speculating -- for once in our lives we have the courts on our side. Helen Kane knew that Betty Boop was a rip-off of her, as did everyone else with functioning eyes or ears. So she took Boop's creators to court, suing them for appropriating her iconic "boop oop a doop" line, in what we have no doubt was a very dignified trial.
Kane's argument seemed reasonable, until Baby Esther's manager showed up to testify that he and Kane had watched Esther perform, just weeks before Kane started emulating Esther. Boop's creator was able to locate film of Esther performing (Esther herself was believed to have died), which ended the lawsuit. Because apparently it's totally fine to steal something if someone else stole it from a minority first.
Sherlock Holmes is the world's most famous detective. He clashes with "Napoleon of Crime" Professor Moriarty and the only woman to ever outsmart him, Irene Adler. We've told you already that Sherlock Holmes is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's friend and teacher, Joseph Bell. Bell was a genius physician who diagnosed people much the same way Holmes deduces crimes -- all smarty-pants like, with his brain and stuff. But that was just the tip of Reichenbach Falls.
In Adler's first (and only official) appearance she's a brilliant woman who had an affair with a foreign king. Sherlock scholars think she's based on Lillie Langtry, who was kind of like a reality TV star of her day except with actual wit and talent. Her trysts with English aristocracy were highly publicized, but she was most famous for spending three years as the "official mistress" of the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VII, while both of them were married. As their relationship was going downhill the Prince supposedly complained "I've spent enough on you to build a battleship," to which Langtry's clever yet disgusting response was "And you've spent enough in me to float one."
Aside from her propensity to sleep with royals and then drop sick burns on them, it's been pointed out that Langtry was from Jersey while Adler was from New Jersey, and you never make a fictional character from New Jersey unless you have a damn good reason to.
Then there's Moriarty. In the books, he's a respected astronomer who operates as an evil criminal behind the scenes, kind of like if Stephen Hawking was revealed to be a drug kingpin. The science genius side was brought to us by American astronomer Simon Newcomb, whose scientific career shared many of the same highlights as Moriarty's, such as publishing papers on the same specific topic at the same young age. Both were also far more intimidating than you'd expect an astronomer to be, although everyone from the 1800s was fucking terrifying.
Moriarty's criminal side appears to be based on Adam Worth, who was given the Napoleon nickname by a Scotland Yard detective. Worth got his start as a New York pickpocket and bank robber before moving to England and building a criminal network that Carmen Sandiego would envy. He cracked safes, robbed trains, and stole paintings, and he used his profits to buy houses, horses, a yacht, and a bar that he converted into a center for illegal gambling. When he died a detective who clashed with him mourned the loss of a "great gentleman thief," because back then it was OK to steal shit as long as you were dapper about it.
Walt Disney Pictures
The Little Mermaid's Ursula is a grotesque, purple-skinned sea-witch, which is a hell of a dig on her real life inspiration ...
Divine, the world's most famous drag queen.
Walt Disney Pictures
Divine's biggest claim to fame is starring in the works of John Waters, whose bizarre films are adored by the sort of people you generally don't want to talk to. Divine's act was raunchy even by drag standards. Considering her signature line was "Fuck you very much," it should be clear why Disney didn't go out of their way to advertise the obvious visual inspiration.
Divine's most infamous work was Pink Flamingos, which was essentially 90 minutes of John Waters trying to make you vomit. In it, Divine is named "the filthiest person alive," and spends the entire movie proving that the title was well-earned. Divine murders and eats police officers, tars, feathers and executes her rivals in filth, has oral sex with her son, and declares "Blood does more than turn me on, it makes me cum. ... Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit!"
New Line Cinema
One line from that manifesto was taken disturbingly literally. Divine provided her own feces for a scene where she unwraps a box of shit, and that's not even the worst shit-related scene. The movie ends with Divine following a dog around, waiting for it to do its business, and then eating an actual, honest-to-God piece of dog shit on screen. That's called character commitment, Daniel Day-Lewis.
When Tara Marie isn't writing for Cracked, she's reading comics. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org . This article is dedicated to Tara Marie's parents, Tom and Barbara, on their 25th anniversary! Happy Anniversary, you guys!
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and YouTube, where you can catch all our video content, such as 5 Ways 'Little Mermaid' Is The Most Terrifying Disney Movie and other videos you won't see on the site!