Thursday, November 8, 2012

Well-Matched

Tesla Versus Edison - contemporaries, visionaries, geniuses, rivals.

Edison's name is, arguably, the more recognizable but Tesla's is more fun to say.

Today's t-shirt is the product of ThinkGeek (note Timmy the TG mascot on the label) and confuses the heck out of my students whenever I wear it.


Some of the most fascinating books, movies, and television arcs are driven by well-matched rivalries. Sherlock & Moriarty, Neo & Agent Smith, Gandalf & Saruman, Batman & Joker, Nina Sayers & Lily in The Black Swan (I'm assuming on that last one based on what I know about the movie)... An intelligent villain is far more interesting than the typical thug. I'd go as far to say that some villains are far MORE interesting than the supposed "hero" of the story. (Man, I do like to dump on heroes, don't I? First sidekicks, now villains. Not that Tesla is a villain... except maybe on Sanctuary. Anyhoo...) 

One of my favourite novels from my Arthurian adaptations phase is The Forever King by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy. Cochran and Murphy collaborated in writing three books altogether before they divorced, personally and professionally - The Forever King, its sequel The Broken Sword, and a standalone Atlantis-based, story-within-a-story World Without End (not to be confused with Ken Follett's 2007 novel of the same name but greater exposure) - and their collective writing style was the first instance where I realized that the villain(s) was/were far more developed and intricate than the hero(es) of the stories. Where I could easily visualize every scar and shadow on the face of their villains, their protagonists remained faceless and generic. And, yet, all three books are intensely good reads. Now, in teaching English classes, the contrasting of protagonist and antagonist is protagonist-centred. The antagonist exists only to stand in the way or cause problems for the protagonist. The logic stands that the protagonist would be worth reading about even without the antagonist. That logic doesn't pan out in a lot of contemporary lit/media. I would much rather watch Renard than Nick on Grimm, much rather read about HAL's journal than Dave's, and think Jean Grey was more interesting after the M'Kraan Crystal fell into her life.

It's a sad but true trope that too often in our commercialized and mainstreamed world, "good" = "boring". J.K. Rowling is on record as cautioning fans from romanticizing her darker characters like Malfoy, Riddle and Sirius Black (my personal fave).

Reader participation time: Anyone have a favourite rivalry? Instances where it's more appealing to root for the "baddie"? Situations where these immortal words hold true?