Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Voir dire

Entertainment Weekly has recently published their list of the 100 greatest characters of the last two decades, and it has got my nerdy panties in a twist.  Now, I don't begrudge the good people at Entertainment Weekly their rating system, whatever it was, but I just don't see their point on some of these choices.

So let's break it down, folks.  Having discussed this list fairly extensively with with a couple of people, I feel fully justified in criticizing the work of people who actually get paid to write.

100. Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights

No objection; however, wish to express mild reservation at choice of Tim Riggins over Tami or Eric Taylor.

99. The Bride from Kill Bill

No objection.

98. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels

Haven't read it, no objection.

97. Violet Weston from August: Osage County

Haven't read it, no objection.

96. Bernie Mac from The Bernie Mac Show

Objection!  I love Bernie Mac, but is it really fair to say that one of the greatest "characters" of the last twenty years was a someone who was so loosely based on the actor that they shared the same name?  I give you the wikipedia entry:  Note the choice of the words "semi-autobiographical."

95. Wilhelmina from Ugly Betty

No ... particular ... objection.

94. Truman from The Truman Show

Objection.  I understand the relevance of The Truman Show in the sense that pre-dated the explosion of reality TV, and that Jim Carey performed some amazing work.  But best character of the last two decades?  Pfhp.  Pshaw.  Other noises of derision.

93. Game Boys: Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series; Kratos from the God of War series; and Niko Bellic from Grand Theft Auto IV

No objection, though I really, really want to.  But I'm saving that for later ...

92. Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time

Haven't read it, no objection.

91. Hancock from Hancock

Holy balls, are you kidding me?  HANCOCK?  As my friend Pedro (hee hee, Pedro ...) pointed out, Hancock isn't even the 91st best character Will Smith has played, much less the 91st best character of the last two decades.

90. Marge Gunderson from Fargo

No objection.

89. Wikus van de Merwe from District 9

No objection.

88. Napoleon Dynamite from Napoleon Dynamite

No objection.

87. Tony Stark from the Iron Man series

Objection.  I love the Iron Man movies.  I love Robert Downey Jr.  But Iron Man as a character did not originate in the last 20 years.  So sorry, try again.

86. Karen Walker and Jack McFarland from Will & Grace

(I would object, but I have a feeling that I'm swiftly running out of challenges.)

85. Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood

I'm an oilman, but in my free time, I like to travel around the country, sampling milkshakes.  


No objection.

84. Dr. Gregory House from House, M.D.

No objection.  Also, rawr.

83. Jen Yu from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

No objection.

82. Tracy Flick from Election

No objection.

81. Amanda Woodward from Melrose Place

No objection.

80. Gorillaz, the animated rock band

Really?  Gorillaz?  Remind me, what is the story behind Gorillaz?  Easier question -- what are the names of the individual Gorillaz?  You don't know?

I rest my case.

79. Elphaba from Wicked

No objection.

78. Patty Hewes from Damages

No objection, other than a vague sense that characters less than three seasons old are still generally questionable.

77. Mimi Marquez from Rent

No objection.

76. Tyler Durden from Fight Club

No objection, other than desiring clarification between the book and film.

75. David Brent from The Office (original version)

No objection, other than annoyance at the insistence that the British version is superior to the American version.

74. Don Draper from Mad Men

No objection.  Also, rawr.  (That's two rawrs now, for the record.)

73. Catherine Trammell from Basic Instinct

No objection.

72. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from Battlestar Galactica

No objection.

71. Det. Alonzo Harris from Training Day

Objection.  The only thing that makes this character memorable in any way is that Denzel Washington was, for once, the bad guy.

70. Mary Katherine Gallagher from Saturday Night Live

No objection, but curiosity as to whether Mary Katherine Gallagher is really the best SNL character of the last two decades.

69. Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada

Isn't this character basically Anna Wintour?  I love Meryl, but for realsies.

68. Effie White from Dreamgirls

No objection.

67. Borat from Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

No objection.

66. Allie and Noah from The Notebook

No objection ... I guess.

65. Lorelai and Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls

No objection.  But am pretending the last few seasons didn't happen.

64. Maximus from Gladiator

No objection.

63. John Locke from Lost

No objection, and a hearty "hear, hear."

62. Jimmy Corrigan from Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

I have no idea what this is.  So I object on principle.

61. Vic Mackey from The Shield

No objection.

60. Mary Jones from Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

I don't even know where to start with this.  But no.

59. Master Chief from the Halo series

No!  No no no no no no no no.  You cannot create a list devoted to the greatest CHARACTERS of the last twenty years and give the number 59 spot to Master Chief, a character real people PLAY and whose main characteristic is "Clint Eastwood-like."

58. Thelma and Louise from Thelma & Louise

No objection.

57. Clayton Bigsby from Chappelle’s Show

No objection.

56. Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother

No ... wait for it ... objection.

(Ok, that joke didn't work so well.)

55. Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock

Objection.  Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy or even Kenneth are clearly superior choices.

54. Juno from Juno

No objection.

53. Edward Cullen from the Twilight saga

Ugh.  Ugh ugh ugh.  If you must pick someone from Twilight, just pick all the characters in Twilight.  There is no way to argue that Edward Cullen is more dynamic or important than Bella, Jacob, or any of the other vampires.

Also, stop calling it a saga.  It's a series.  SERIES.

52. Annie Wilkes from Misery

Objection - again, it's cheating to use a character who was originated before the time limit.  Misery was first published in 1987.  You don't just get to pick the movie and call it good.

51. Omar Little from The Wire

No objection.

50. Pearl the Landlord from

Surprisingly ... no objection.

49. Vivian Ward from Pretty Woman

No objection.

48. Red from The Shawshank Redemption

I hate to object over a movie I dearly love, but once again, Red is not a post-1990 character.  He's from a 1982 novella.

47. Corky St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman

Haven't seen it, no objection.  (I know, I know, I keep meaning to Netflix it.)

46. Jerry Maguire from Jerry Maguire

No real objection.  Vague sense of disquiet may result from my current feelings toward Tom Cruise, which is unfortunate.

45. Stewie Griffin from Family Guy

If you MUST pick someone from Family Guy, Stewie is the one.

44. Jack Bauer from 24

No objection.

43. Cal Stephanides from Middlesex

(Eye roll.)

(That is all.)

42. Sydney Bristow from Alias

No objection.

41. Harold and Kumar from the Harold & Kumar series

No objection.

40. Ron Burgundy from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

No objection.  Plus a smiley face.

39. Gob Bluth from Arrested Development

I've made a huge mistake ... actually, no I haven't.  Fantastic choice, EW people.

38. Elmo from Sesame Street

No objection.

37. Keyser Söze from The Usual Suspects

No objection.

36. Gollum from The Lord of the Rings

I repeat my Iron Man, Misery, Red, etc. objections.  Gollum as a character was created well before 1990.

35. Dexter Morgan from Dexter

No objection, but want to point out that Dexter Morgan from TV and Dexter Morgan from the book series are two different characters.

34. Cher from Clueless

No objection.

33. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2: Judgment Day

No objection.

32. Beavis and Butt-Head from Beavis and Butt-Head

Seriously?  Beavis and Butt-Head, but not Hank Hill?  Travesty.

31. Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump

Again, with the whole book/movie conundrum.

30. “Stephen Colbert” from The Colbert Report

No objection.

29. Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction

No objection.

28. Madea from several Tyler Perry films and plays

No objection.

27. Frasier from Frasier

No objection.

26. Kavalier and Clay from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

No objection.

25. Woody from the Toy Story series

No objection.

24. Felicity Porter from Felicity

No objection.

23. Austin Powers from the Austin Powers series

No objection.

22. Eric Cartman from South Park

No objection.

21. Roseanne Conner from Roseanne

No objection.

20. Ally McBeal from Ally McBeal

No objection.

19. Morpheus from The Matrix series

Delete the word "series," and you've got a deal.

18. Sue Sylvester from Glee

Ok.  The madness must stop.  I like Glee, but a character who has only appeared on screen 20 times does not beat Eric Cartman, Cher, Dexter, Tyler Durden, Don Draper, Gob Bluth, John Locke, Dr. House, etc.

17. Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider franchise

Quietly ... suppressing ... rage ...

16. Bridget Jones from the Bridget Jones series

No objection.

15. Shrek from the Shrek series

Shrek from Shrek  and Shrek 2, no objection.

14. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski from The Big Lebowski

No objection.

13. Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series

Mild confusion, but no objection.  Jack Sparrow was an interesting character in that he was an INTERESTING CHARACTER in a fairly boilerplate movie, but truly memorable?  And not annoying through two unnecessary sequels?

I take it back.  A big, fat OBJECTION.

12. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from The X-Files

No objection.

11. Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld

Kramer over Elaine, George, Soup Nazi, Jackie Chiles, etc.?  When you just barely nominated Mulder and Scully together?  Okay ...

10. SpongeBob SquarePants from SpongeBob SquarePants

Ugh.  When will this obsession with SpongeBob end?  ARTHUR foreva!

But no real objection.

9. Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City

Again, I don't think you have Carrie Bradshaw without Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.

8. Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs and its sequels

No objection, except to point out that Red Dragon is the prequel.

7. Edward Scissorhands from Edward Scissorhands

Ummmm ... no objection, but seriously, how are these characters ranked?  Edward Scissorhands over Hannibal Lector?  For some reason?

6. Rachel Green from Friends

Really?  Just Rachel?  Of all the Friends?  If you nominate one of them, just nominate all of them.

5. The Joker from The Dark Knight

Again, The Joker didn't originate in 2008, even as great as Heath Ledger's performance was.

4. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos

No objection.

3. Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

No objection.

2. Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series

No objection.  Slight qualm at the No. 2 spot, since Harry sustained his badassery for seven books, six movies and ...

1. Homer Simpson from The Simpsons

... sigh.  Seek to clarify that the nominee is Homer Simpson from seasons 3 - 12, and you shall have no objection.

So where does that leave us?  Quite a few empty slots, wouldn't you say?  How ever will we fill them, you ask?

Well, I'm going to suggest (in no particular order) Veronica Mars, Belle, Drs. McNamara and TroyCaptain Malcolm Reynolds, Andy, Derek Zoolander, Harry BoschThe Giver, and The Father.

(For the sake of honesty, I'll admit I came thisclose to saying Rorschach and Farmer Hoggett and nearly making the pre-1990 book/post-1990 movie character mistake which annoyed me so greatly.  So maybe this is tougher than I thought.)

Do you all have any suggestions?

(Oh, yeah, that bar studying thing is going great.)


  1. EW people should just leave video games out of it. Here is my reasoning- You can't pick a character that the controller plays exclusively because the player IS the character (exactly as you pointed out in your objection). But also, average movie length 1.5 hours... average video game length 20+ hours. So really video games should almost always trump movies due to the time you are allowed to spend with the character. It's kind of like books versus movies... why is the book better? Well the book is 500+ pages of depth, the movie is shallow and streamlined (this same argument can be made for a TV series versus a movie). Only the rarest of movie characters that go on to become quasi-dictionary definitions would ever trump a book character or video game or tv series character. Thus I object to EW's list entirely on the basis that they are not putting these characters on level playing fields. Example: Jack Sparrow- the only reason people didn't get up and walk out of all three movies cannot remotely compare to George Costanza of Seinfeld, because Jack was a pirate we saw for 5+ hours. George we spent 7 years watching his shenanigans and loving every minute of it.... thus I OBJECT to EW.

  2. Supplemental: I also want to know what the definition of "greatest" is. Is it most recognizable? Likeable? Influential on society? I mean haven't like 3 billion people seen or heard of Harry Potter- (I'm not a huge fan of him as a character he's kind of stale, but I guarantee he's easily recognizable). But I'd say Homer Simpson has influenced society more over the last 20 years is that why he's #1 over Harry? But if it is likeable why isn't Jack Handy #1- I mean, who doesn't like Jack Handy......

  3. Hm. Those big lists of bests are always interesting because you don't always (usually?) know why they ordered them and how they picked them. I agree that they shouldn't have used characters who originated before 1990 when the main point was "of the last two decades."
    FYI, in case you might care-
    92. Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time: a 14 year old autistic boy who finds the neighbor's dog dead one night and sets out to find out what happened. Ends up learning lots of things about his family that his dad kept quiet. Very much a character, sort of like Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory but younger and with autism. He's a very well thought-out and written character, and I hate to say this because it's not fair to autistic kids to be annoyed by them, but being inside that character's mind for 200 pages was difficult at times.