A Lazy Thursday Tod-centric Brain Teaser…


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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51 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Martin Luther King Jr is the only one who actually did anything that couldn’t be reduced to “goofing off” by someone sufficiently grumpy?Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    All are: a) smart and clever, b) audacious, c) pioneers or explorers in various realms, and d) male.Report

  3. Avatar Maribou says:

    There is a maverick or civil-disobedience quality to most of these. “Forget about the law/custom, and do what is RIGHT!” Or, perhaps “border crossers” would be more broadly applicable? (Thinking, for eg, of Wynton Marsalis, who doesn’t fit into the first category for me, but does fit into the 2nd.)

    And, well, Kazzy’s got a point. (FWIW, my list of heroes at that age would’ve been mostly men too, with the exception of my grandmother and Birute Galdikas.)Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

      Also, as more or less alluded to by Burt, they’re all hypercompetent at something. I think I missed that because I expect heroes to be hypercompetent… but there is definitely a Heinleinian quality to the list as a whole.Report

  4. Avatar Scott Fields says:

    I saw the pattern once you’d acknowledged one was there, but I don’t know that I would have caught it otherwise. I’ve tried to think of a way to signify that I’ve seen the pattern without giving away the game for everyone else, but I can’t.

    I think it is telling, though likely only about your high school self and the influences on you at the time.Report

  5. Avatar zic says:

    Ohh, the real-life ones are not white; the cartoon ones are.Report

  6. Avatar Chris says:

    Is it weird that your real life heroes are black, and your fictional heroes are white? I assume that’s not the pattern you meant, but after their gender, it was the first thing I noticed.Report

  7. Avatar Anne says:

    Zic and Chris beat me to itReport

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Yeah, that was pretty fast.

    zic, Chris, and (I assume) Scott Fields are all correct: In a list pretty evenly divided between white men and African-American men, all of the white heroes are entirely fictional, and all of the African-American ones are real-life people. (My friend actually took it one step further and noted that the white heroes were fictional men people created by white men, but I’m not sure that’s a necessary step.)

    As I said, I’m never entirely sure exactly what or how much to read into this.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      It means you’re a fictional racist!

      (I’m kidding, in case someone takes that seriously.)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      That the only white men better than the greatest black men are make-believe?


    • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Perhaps it points to a dearth of fictional black heros on a par with fictional white heros?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        Conversely, and slightly more serious than my previous answer, it might speak to how we lionize those black men (and perhaps women) we do elevate to hero status.

        For instance, most portrayals of Dr. King are almost cartoonishly shallow. He’s a man who had a dream that kids would play together and argued that racism was bad. It is almost verboten to speak ill of the man, but it is also almost as verboten to speak about him as a complex, nuanced figured (or at least was in many circles, likely the ones you found yourself in during that time of your life). This limited his criticism, but also reduced his greatness.

        I think Rosa Parks is actually a more informative example. She is often portrayed as a black woman who was tired so she sat in the front of the bus regardless of the rules. The reality, as I’ve come to understand it, is that her actions were purposeful and deliberate, intended to provoke the sort of reaction and change they ultimately did. But to make her that, to make her a political figure, to give her intellect and purpose and intent… that was too much for many people. It was easy to make her the old lady who didn’t want to move seats than to make her a determined fighter for justice.

        This is sort of a long way of saying that, based on your age, you probably saw real world black men lionized one-dimensionally while traditional white heroes were getting raked over the coals in some circles (e.g., Columbus).

        I hope this makes sense. If not, I blame Mayonnaise.Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

          History is so littered with white, male heros that they’re cheap on the ground. And so the modern heros don’t receive the accolades they deserve.

          The difference between Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

          And the reality is that Rosa Parks was chosen as a symbol. And was not the first to sit such.

          I fault not her courage, as it takes something indeed to be the spotless face — to be the hero,and sign up for it willingly.

          But it takes a different courage to be the first one, to do what is right when no one else will.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kimmi says:

            But we don’t talk about Rosa Parks in that way because to empower her with those traits is to make her a far more formidable agent of change. That was hard for the white power dynamic to do, and they were still the ones writing the history books, even if they themselves were not active practitioners of racism.

            So they’ll give us Parks and King, deny us Malcolm, and allow room for debate on “controversial” figures like Columbus. There aren’t many “controversial” black heroes, since those who the white majority embrace simply become heroes and those who they reject simply become villains. Ultimately, they are denied their nuance and their full humanity, reducing them ultimately to little more than fictional representations of real people. Which is why their presence on a list of white fictional men makes sense in a weird sort of way.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        This is almost certainly the reason.Report

    • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Thanks for the credit, Tod. That was the pattern I saw.

      As others have noted, I do think the pattern reveals an absence of black heroic figures in fiction, especially fiction geared toward high schoolers.

      Why none of your living heroes were white is harder to parse. Zic’s idea that they are so numerous as to become almost commonplace is an interesting one I’ll have to think about.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I think it says more about our media than it does about you specifically – there aren’t an awful lot of black main characters in media. I’d say this is something that’s problematic.Report

  9. Avatar Plinko says:

    Not looking at the comments, before writing (trust me) but in addition to all being men, all the actual human beings are black. All the fictional characters are white.Report

  10. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Well, they’re all male.Report

  11. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    The pattern:

    All of them should’ve been portrayed on film by either Denzel Washington or Harrison Ford.Report

  12. Avatar zic says:

    Tod, I hope you don’t mind my using this as an open thread, for here’s another brain teaser that I quite approve of:

    profanity and nudity warning.Report

  13. Avatar Russell M says:

    Wow missed that. I had seen all of them as men who seem to be in some fundamental way alone. solo hero’s even when in a crowd. semi-outcast at the hard edge.Report