5 Famous Characters We Get Wrong
There's a reason we separate most of our fictional characters into "good guys" and "bad guys." Black and white, good and evil, Batman and not-Batman -- we need these simple distinctions because otherwise we might find something in our heroes that we hate, or something in our villains that we reluctantly agree with. To that end ...
Harry Potter Isn't A Nerdy Underdog
It's easy to understand why Harry Potter is a hero to millions of children and millennials who don't know when to quit. He's a bespectacled dweeb who overcomes hardship, bullying (both from his teachers and his classmates), the loss of his parents, being molested by a ghost, having to watch countless friends die in front of him, and a terrible haircut to fulfill his destiny of saving the entire wizarding world.
His foil in the series is obviously Draco Malfoy -- a preening, snobbish, bigoted rich prick who, despite having every conceivable advantage in the world, still wound up being such an irredeemable character that not even J.K. Rowling can be bothered to retcon his bullshit (yet). Or at least, that's what the books want us to believe. When you actually stop and think about Harry and his circumstances, some of these premises fall apart.
For starters, Harry's list of allies includes the smartest girl in the school, the headmaster, the groundskeeper, several professors and members of the government, the school's resident pranksters, a whole sports team, and oh right, a secret society that has sworn to protect his life. His parents might be dead, and the Dursleys might be abusive monsters, but the guy has a tighter support network than a quality swimsuit.
He might not be the most popular guy in Hogwarts, but he's definitely not the least popular. He wins most of the Quidditch matches he plays, clinches the House Cup for Gryffindor every year that Rowling could be bothered to mention it, and saves the day countless times ... which he also only manages because of the insane amount of help provided by his friends and teachers.
Oh, and he's absurdly rich. Did we mention his towering piles of money? His parents left him a fortune in wizarding currency, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any mention of that fact after the first couple of books because, well, that would rub up against the whole "downtrodden orphan" archetype, wouldn't it?
Killmonger Is The Hero We Need Right Now
In Black Panther, Erik "Killmonger" Stevens orchestrates a convoluted scheme to overthrow T'Challa and take control of Wakanda. So far, so Lion King. But power for its own sake isn't Killmonger's endgame. Rather, it's the complete distribution of Wakanda's advanced weaponry across the world and into the hands of oppressed black people everywhere.
Does that really sound so bad? To see every African warlord and despot deposed, all with someone who received special forces training in toppling nations backing them up? What, he'd target the U.S. too? Dismantle our structural racism? Oh no, how terrible. Why are we rooting against this guy?
Is The Shark The True Hero Of Jaws 3D?
Jaws 3D is set at SeaWorld Orlando, which suggests that maybe the owners of SeaWorld were trying to Producers their own operation, but whatever. It involves a great white shark (and its baby) breaking into the park to eat everything in sight. The shark is almost killed at one point, but the park's manager lets it loose, because doing so will allow him to capture the baby and make mad dollar exhibiting it to the public.
If there's a true bad guy in this movie, it's the park manager who -- and this bears repeating -- lets the (confirmed!) killer shark go, all in order to capture its child ... which promptly dies, because that's what great white sharks do in captivity. Moreover, this is something that aquariums have known about since the 1950s, which makes the decision even more baffling. More than that, recall that SeaWorld is the villain of another, more recent motion picture: Blackfish.
We don't know whether the phrase "the enemy of my enemy" applies here, considering that the shark would probably eat us if it had the chance, but SeaWorld is terrible, and anything that threatens to send it to the bottom of the ocean is at least sort of a hero.
Is Clifford The Big Red Dog A Kaiju?
Last year, Twitter user @grantthethief decided to take a closer look at Clifford's monster status in order to see if he could be placed alongside other famous kaiju like Godzilla, Mothra, and King Kong. The answer? Kinda, yeah.
All we're going to say is that we can't wait for Toho's Chief Godzilla Officer (a job title that really exists!) to pick up on these findings and have Clifford go toe-to-toe with Godzilla in their next movie. It's going to be awesome, at least until Godzilla sets fire to Clifford with his atomic breath and we have to watch a giant puppy burn.
Should Violet Have Won Wonka's Chocolate Factory?
Hey, did you know Tumblr is still a thing, even without the porn? Inexplicable, we know! Anyway, this post from a few weeks back reconsidered an old movie and came up with a surprising conclusion: Charlie should not have won the Chocolate Factory. If anything, the winner should've been Violet Beauregarde (the one so obsessed with chewing gum that she accidentally transmogrified herself into a giant blueberry).
The argument goes like this: Violet knows all about candy, and unlike the other children whom she and Charlie tour the factory with, she's not so far into the throes of her addiction that she can't quit (in this case, in order to move from gum to chocolate to find the golden ticket). This shows that she has "personal discipline and is goal oriented," both of which are traits that business tycoons need.
But Wonka isn't a normal businessman. He's all about fucking with people and not conforming to societal norms ... just like Violet. She's constantly reminded that chewing gum isn't a socially acceptable hobby (like when her mom calls her out on it while she's appearing on national television), but she carries on regardless -- not out of addiction, but because she doesn't give a damn about appearances and does give a damn about candy. You'd think that Wonka would respect game like that.
She's also not a total shithead. When characters like Veruca Salt (and Wonka himself) are being assholes about the plight of the Oompa Loompas, she's quick to chastise them, which shows that she doesn't think of the Loompas as disposable objects. Even the nature of her own "disqualification" from the contest is a pretty fitting way for Wonka's heir to behave. The true jerks of the tour group -- Veruca, Mike Teavee, Augustus, and Charlie (to a lesser extent) -- are undone in ways that screw with the factory, but Violet just eats a piece of chewing gum that Wonka puts right up into her face. It's not even like she's selfish about the experience, either, considering that "she tells everyone what she's tasting and feeling ... taking a personal risk to share knowledge with everyone. Violet is Prometheus: fact."
To look at it yet another way, though: At least the Nazi didn't win.
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter dedicated to depressing history facts. It's not as heartbreakingly sad as it sounds, promise!
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