In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities in their counterpart (the term derives from the practice of backing gems with foil to increase their brilliance). In some cases, a subplot can be used as a foil to the main plot, particularly in metafiction (‘breaking the fourth wall’) and the ‘story within a story’ motif. A foil often differs drastically from the lead character, but can also be extremely similar, with only a key difference setting them apart. Foils generally serve one or more of three broad functions: contrast (‘this is different than X’), exclusion (‘this is not X’), or blame (‘X did this’).
In ‘Frankenstein,’ by Mary Shelley, the two main characters of Dr. Frankenstein and his ‘Adam of your Labors,’ his ‘creature,’ his ‘wretch,’ are both together literary foils. Both are hungry for knowledge, but whereas the doctor is selfish and arrogant, the monster is compassionate and gentle. In ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ Mary’s absorption in her studies places her as a foil to her sister Lydia Bennet’s lively and distracted nature. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ the naive Brutus has foils in Cassius and Mark Antony, who are ambitious and experienced politicians.
A sidekick is a close companion who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies. Some well-known fictional sidekicks include Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza, Sherlock Holmes’ Doctor Watson, The Lone Ranger’s Tonto, and Batman’s Robin.
The origin of the term is unknown. It was originally ‘side kicker’ (as seen in the short stories of American writer O Henry), having grown from the 1850s term ‘side partner.’ Contrary to popular folk etymology, it is unrelated to the early-20th century British pickpocket slang ‘kick,’ referring to a trouser pocket. One of the earliest recorded sidekicks may be Enkidu, who adopted a sidekick role to Gilgamesh after they became allies in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ (an epic poem from Mesopotamia). Other early examples include Achilles’ Patroclus from the ‘Iliad,’ and Moses’ Aaron from the Bible.read more »
Jar Jar Binks is a fictional character from the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas for his prequel trilogy. He was the first lead computer generated character of the franchise, he was portrayed by Ahmed Best in most of his appearances. Jar Jar’s primary role in ‘Episode I’ was to provide comic relief for the audience, and was generally met with extremely negative comments from both critics and viewers. He is often acknowledged as one of the worst and most hated characters of all time.
Joe Morgenstern of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ described him as a ‘Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen.’ Race theorist Patricia J. Williams suggested that many aspects of Jar Jar’s character are reminiscent of blackface minstrelsy, while others have suggested the character is a ‘laid-back clown character’ representing a black Caribbean stereotype. George Lucas has denied any racist implications. Ahmed Best also rejected the allegations, saying that ‘Jar Jar has nothing to do with the Caribbean.’read more »
The Mule is a fictional character from Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series (first appearing in 1955 under the title ‘The 1,000-Year Plan,’ it is the story of scientist Hari Seldon’s effort to preserve knowledge as the civilizations around him begin to regress). One of the greatest conquerors the galaxy has ever seen, the Mule is a mentalic, a psychic mutant, who has the ability to reach into the minds of others and ‘adjust’ their emotions, individually or en masse, using this capability to conscript followers for his cause.
Mentalics are not capable of direct mind-control, but can subtly influence other’s subconscious; individuals under the Mule’s influence behave otherwise normally – logic, memories, and personality intact. This gives the Mule the capacity to disrupt Seldon’s plan by invalidating the assumption that no single individual could have a measurable effect on galactic socio-historical trends on their own. Seldon’s discipline, called psychohistory, relied on the predictability of the actions of very large numbers of people.read more »
Black Pete (‘Zwarte Piet‘) is the companion of Saint Nicholas (‘Sinterklaas,’ from which the English term ‘Santa Claus’ is derived) in the folklore of the Low Countries (primarily Belgium and the Netherlands). Like Santa Claus, Zwarte Piet is a hybrid stock character of pagan origin.
The characters of Zwarte Pieten appear only in the weeks before Saint Nicholas’s feast, first when the saint is welcomed with a parade as he arrives in the country (generally by boat, having traveled from Madrid, Spain). The tasks of the Zwarte Pieten are mostly to amuse children, and to scatter pepernoten, kruidnoten and strooigoed (special sinterklaas candies) for those who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools, and other places.read more »
Ernest P. Worrell is a fictional character that was portrayed by Jim Varney (1949 – 2000) in a series of television commercials, and later in a television series (‘Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!’) as well as a series of feature films. Ernest was created by a Nashville advertising agency for local television ad campaigns. The first Ernest commercial, filmed in 1980, advertised an appearance by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at Beech Bend Park, an amusement park near Bowling Green, Kentucky. The format of the commercials seldom varied. The rubber-faced Ernest, almost always dressed in a denim vest and baseball cap, appeared at the door of an unseen and unheard but seemingly unwilling neighbor named Vern.
The spots were structured in a way to allow the viewer to be ‘Vern,’ as Varney looked directly in the camera whenever Vern was addressed. Ernest’s seemingly pointless conversations with Vern – which were actually a monologue due to Vern never responding – inevitably rambled around to a favorable description of the sponsor’s product, followed by his signature close, ‘KnowhutImean?’ It is implied that Vern finds Ernest to be an unwelcome pest due to him trying to slam his door in his face on a few occasions. Vern also shakes his head ‘No’ whenever Ernest invites him to do something. Ernest, despite having good intentions, is utterly oblivious to Vern’s apparent distress and regards him as his closest buddy and confidant.
Mothra is a kaiju, a type of fictional monster who first appeared in the serialized novel ‘The Luminous Fairies and Mothra.’ Since her film début in the 1961 film ‘Mothra,’ she has appeared in several Toho tokusatsu films. Mothra is a giant lepidopteran with characteristics both of butterflies and of moths. She closely resembles an Inachis io, or a European Peacock Butterfly, but it is said that the Atlas moth is its inspiration. The name ‘Mothra’ is the suffixation of ‘-ra’ (a common last syllable in kaiju names (e.g. ‘Goji-ra’ [Godzilla]) to ‘moth’; since the Japanese language does not have dental fricatives, it is approximated ‘Mosura’ in Japanese.
She is occasionally an ally to Godzilla but more often than not engaged in conflict due to his anger toward the human race. Despite having wrought destruction worthy of any Toho daikaiju, she is almost always portrayed as a kind and benevolent creature, causing destruction only when acting as protector to her worshipers on Infant Island or to her egg, or as collateral damage while protecting Earth from a greater threat.read more »
Balrog is a character from Capcom’s Street Fighter fighting game series depicted as an African American boxer wearing blue trunks with white trim and a torn white shirt under a blue tank top. He wears red boxing gloves and boxing shoes. His hairstyle consists of short hair cut in an odd pointing style in the front, similar to Mike Tyson’s haircuts from the time ‘Street Fighter II’ was made. A character named Mike, who was also an African-American boxer, appears in the original ‘Street Fighter.’ Although recognized as a separate character, Mike is considered to be a prototype of Balrog.
In Japan, the character of Balrog is named M. Bison, with the letter being an initial for ‘Mike,’ and is intended as a parody of real-life boxer Mike Tyson. However, to avoid litigation, the names of the three boss characters were rotated for international releases. Capcom executives felt the name ‘Vega’ was better suited for the androgynous bullfighter, so they gave his name, ‘Balrog,’ to the boxer character. In ‘Street Fighter Alpha 3,’ Balrog tells some of his defeated opponents that he’s going to ‘bite [their] ear off,’ a reference to Tyson’s infamous biting of Evander Holyfield.read more »
Gil Gunderson, a.k.a. Ol’ Gil, is a character on ‘The Simpsons’ voiced by Dan Castellaneta that first appeared in the ninth season episode ‘Realty Bites’ as a real estate agent with Lionel Hutz’s Red Blazer Realty. He is a spoof of actor Jack Lemmon’s portrayal of Shelley Levene in the 1992 film adaptation of the play ‘Glengarry Glen Ross.’ (Lemmon himself voiced a character similar to Levene in the eighth season episode ‘The Twisted World of Marge Simpson’). Show runner Mike Scully said that the writers thought that Gil would be ‘a one-shot thing’ ‘Dan Castellaneta was so funny at the table read doing the character,’ Scully elaborated, ‘we kept making up excuses in subsequent episodes to put him in.’
Writer Dan Greaney said that it was a great take-off on Levene to make Gil more desperate than he was. Even so, the writers like to write Gil with ‘a little bit of the old sparkle’ left in him. With the retirement of the character Lionel Hutz (after voice actor Phil Hartman’s death), Gil has been working as the Simpsons’ lawyer in later episodes. He had several jobs but inevitably fails at any endeavour, often tragically. For example, he was shot on his first day as a security guard in the bank. As revealed in ‘Natural Born Kissers,’ he lives in a balloon..
Saul McGill, known almost exclusively by his professional alias Saul Goodman, was a character on the TV show ‘Breaking Bad’ on AMC. He was portrayed by comedian Bob Odenkirk and was created by Peter Gould, a writer of the series. Saul is a criminal lawyer and can be easily found in the yellow pages of Albuquerque. His made up surname ‘Goodman’ is a play on words to better attract clients: ”S’all good, man!’ becomes ‘Saul Goodman.’ (Additionally, he claims his clients feel more comfortable with a Jewish lawyer instead of a generic white guy.) He is also known for his low-budget commercials in Albuquerque, where he advertises mainly under the tagline ‘Better Call Saul!’
He has a highly stylized office in a cheap strip mall. With a repertoire that includes small-time drug busts, insurance fraud, class actions, and his overbearing manner, he might seem disreputable to police and certain other lawyers. Despite his shady appearance, Saul is indeed a highly competent extra-legal operator, adept at sniffing out legal loopholes and able to negotiate excellent deals on the behalf of his clients. He has a strong familiarity with the criminal trade and has connections to some of its most influential distributors. He also employs the services of a veteran private investigator named Mike for such things as cleaning up crime scenes and bugging homes. Goodman is also not without integrity as he is shown to honor the ethics of his profession, particularly the attorney-client privilege, and is reluctant to involve himself with violence or murder.
Shylock [shahy-lok] is a fictional Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ who lends money to his Christian rival, Antonio, setting the security at a pound of Antonio’s flesh. When a bankrupt Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock demands the pound of flesh as revenge for Antonio having previously insulted and spat on him.
Meanwhile, Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, elopes with Antonio’s friend Lorenzo and becomes a Christian, further fuelling his rage. She also takes money and jewels from Shylock. During Shakespeare’s day, money lending was a fairly common occupation among Jews because usury, charging interest on a loan, was a sin for Christians at the time.read more »
Veronica Lodge (first appearance ‘Pep Comics’ #26 in 1942) is a fictional character in the ‘Archie Comics’ books series. She is called both by her name Veronica and her nickname Ronnie. Bob Montana, creator of the original Archie characters, knew the Lodges, because he had once painted a mural for them. Montana combined that name with actress Veronica Lake to create the character of Veronica Lodge. Her character was added just months after Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, and Jughead Jones debuted, and just a few months before Reggie Mantle.
Veronica is the only child of Hiram Lodge, the richest man in Riverdale, and his wife Hermione Lodge. She is tall, slender and attractive with long black hair. Veronica favors expensive, up-to-the-minute fashion. In some comics, Mr. Lodge claimed that he moved his family to Riverdale in order to avoid Veronica becoming spoiled, like many of the children he knew and grew up with. His plan did not succeed as well as he had hoped. Veronica is often seen going on spending sprees and pretty much shopping until she drops and burning major credit cards in the process. (Once she bought out an entire shoe store to prevent any other girl from buying a pair of shoes that she herself wanted!) At times, Veronica’s vain and conceited attitude infuriates her father to the point that he has to somehow ‘teach her a lesson’ and Veronica is forced to get a job of some kind or loses access to Archie.read more »