Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Most Fun Failures in Pop Culture

Failure is one of our biggest fears.  The worry and repercussions of failure are present in all of us.  So it does make sense that pop culture would reflect that.  Looking at fictitious characters, some of the most beloved ones are constant failures.  Certain art forms are designed around this, sitcoms for instant.  The characters need to make a new mistake every week.  We love losers because we relate to them and have empathy towards them.  These are the characters that have everything working against them and are structured to not succeed.  So here are ten of the best and biggest failure characters in pop culture.

10. Fozzie Bear
It is hard to call Fozzie a failure.  He has friends and is the happiest character on this list.  However professionally, he really is a failure.  He performs a lot and we the audience love him but in the universe of the Muppets he is never going to be a good comedian or tell a funny joke (which really is the joke).  He has his own personal relentless hecklers who are funnier than he is.  Part of the reason why I am considering Fozzie more of a failure than the other Muppets is that he cares so much.  He is aware he is failing onstage and still tries hard.  Definitely don't think he is a loser by any means but he works best when isn't succeeding.

9. Dave Seville

He only looks out for the three rodents he welcomed into his house and raised as his own.  He is caring and supports their artistic endeavors.  But he always gets in trouble, somehow the Chimpunks will do something to him or do something that will come back and bite him.  It is never a good sign when your catchphrase is exasperatedly screaming your son's name.

8. Fred Flintstone
It is hard to say whether Fred is an agitator or a victim.  He can be lazy and deceitful but he often gets worse punishment than deserves.  Fred works hard at a difficult job that has no room for advancement.  And at home his appliances talk back to him and he gets locked out of his house once an episode.  He isn't even allowed to keep HIS cereal that is named after HIS daughter, his best friend always steals it.  He is the butt monkey in the franchise that he is a star of.  There is plenty of good in Fred's life.  Despite how difficult they can be his family and friends are loyal and helpful.  But usually he spends a great deal of time in anger, you want to give the guy a break.

7. The Predators
Everyone needs to eat.  Coyotes need to eat birds, cats need to eat mice and canaries, Galactus needs to eat planets.  It is just the order of things.  However this being fiction, we like our stories to continue.  If any of these predators ever succeeded there would be no more cartoons.  Road Runner, Jerry, Tweety and others are easier to make protagonists as they are the victims.  But whenever Wile E. Coyote, Sylvester and Tom get their comeuppance it is extremely sadistic and excessive.  We have seen these characters injured worse than a burglar in Home Alone.  Yes they are trying to kill and eat cute things, but after a few cartoons you feel for these poor hungry creatures.

6. C-3PO
No matter how many times he has helped others or saved the galaxy he always gets the worst of it.  He loses his head, gets his memory erased, captured by Jawas, blown up, forced servitude to a mobster, gets his eye eaten.  And he never gets any glory.  Despite being needed by the heroes of the story they treat him poorly and are rude to him.  Sure the Ewoks worshipped him as a deity, but you know that won't last forever.  He is forced to help and gets taken for granted.

5. Eeyore

In some ways Eeyore chooses his lifestyle.  He only knows how to be miserable and despite constantly complaining about it, he does not seem to try and change it.  But still just look at the guy: constant frown, gets bounced on his birthday, house always falls down, tail always gets lost, rainclouds even follow him around.  I am ranking him outside on the lower end of the top five because the bad things that happen to him really aren't overly cruel.  In fact he embraces all of this.  He really is the most natural, pure failure ever created.

4. The Three Stooges
The structure of a Three Stooges short is that the trio is down on their luck, they fall into good fortune by complete accident, they mess it up and end up running away with their tails between their legs.  That is how every one goes.  They struggle, the mess up accidental success and they get in trouble for it.  Even when they are enjoying success they won't let each other enjoy it.  All six of the Three Stooges' existence is to make things difficult for the others while attempting to help each other out.  They seem to be cursed in any setting, be it modern day, the civil war or the middle ages.

3. Spider-Man
Superheroes, Marvel superheroes, in particular are failures.  Cyclops, Hulk, Iron Man, Henry Pym and a majority of the Marvel universe can not keep a good thing going.  Spider-Man is the best example of this.  He was bullied at school and never knew his parents.  Then when he became Spider-Man he was directly responsible for his uncle's death just by being a little self-centered.  He is connected to the deaths of George Stacy, Gwen Stacy and countless others in his life.  He never has any money, his aunt is always sick, girl problems are nonstop and his cheap boss turns everyone against him.  Peter Parker's life is a constant battle with supervillains, friends, family, the general public and his own guilt.  Spidey is the most successful superhero because he is the most relatable, he is the best reflection of us and deals with everything that we fear.

2. Donald Duck
Donald always starts out with the best of intentions.  He begins almost any cartoon signing and in high spirits.  Then life throws something at him.  A bum job, antagonizing rodents, nature, whatever he has to contend with all of it.  Donald being only human (or rather only duck) has the capacity for frustration, pettiness, and obsession.  Unfortunately he has no off switch.  His negative and dangerous behaviors always escalate until life wins.  He keeps getting angrier and life keeps pushing back until he is utterly defeated.  Sure Donald has an occasional happy ending, a kiss from Daisy every now and then, but the short-tempered fine-feathered one is destined to encounter and unfortunate situation soon.

1. Charlie Brown
I cannot picture any other character who is better at failing than Charlie Brown.  He tries so hard at the simplest tasks: talking to a girl, flying a kite, kicking a football, fitting in, etc.  And it never works.  Peanuts has been called the great American unsuccess story.  There were fifty years of character development on this poor soul and he speaks to everybody.  Unlike Donald, Fred, or the Stooges Charlie Brown does not really do anything wrong.  He is honest, sincere and a good person.  Even Spider-Man is responsible for a lot of the mistakes in his life.  But this does not make Charlie Brown a victim.  He keeps on going, no matter what he will never quite and while life can be exasperating he still always find happiness somehow.  Charlie Brown has spoken to the world in a way that nobody else does.  He is the perfect role model and we all love him.

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