This week’s entry: Fictional characters without a name
What it’s about: The Man With No Name. He Who Must Not Be Named. Ol’ What’s-His-Face. Throughout history, storytellers have been giving certain characters an extra bit of mystery by not giving them a name.
Biggest controversy: We do eventually learn the Cigarette Smoking Man’s name. When The X-Files premiered in 1993, it quickly vaulted from spooky cult hit to pop culture juggernaut on the strength of its complicated web of mysteries. Chief among them was the identity of the series’ main villain. William B. Davis’ tobacco-dependent government agent only speaks four words in the entire first season, and is referred to by other characters with euphemisms like “our chain-smoking friend.” But in season six, Agent Dana Scully uncovers his real name—C.G.B. Spender, along with a wife and son who share his surname. Except in the show’s current reboot, CSM (who inexplicably survives being blown up by a missile in the original series finale) gives his name as Carl Gerhard Busch. So he has a real name after all maybe? (Feel free to argue whether or not the reboot seasons are canon in the comments.) Give the Well-Manicured Man credit—we never found out his name, and when he blew up, he stayed blown up.
Strangest fact: Samurai Jack is an unnamed samurai… named Jack. Granted, we never learn his real name. In the animated series of the same name, someone addresses the character as Jack in a generic “Watch it there, Jack!” sense, and it sticks. But a name someone adopts and uses regularly seems like it should still count as a name. Likewise, Batman villain Bane has a name, it’s Bane. We just don’t know his secret identity. (Oddly, the Joker doesn’t make the list despite being in the same situation, outside of Tim Burton’s 1989 film. Feel free to argue whether or not “Jack Napier” is canon in the comments.)
Thing we were happiest to learn: You don’t need a name if you have a good enough degree. Fourteen or fifteen iterations of everyone’s favorite time lord have gone only by The Doctor, as did the medical hologram on Star Trek: Voyager. (Cue hacky joke about “my boyfriend doesn’t have a name or corporeal form, but he’s a doctor!”) Doctor Who adversary The Other appears here as well, though The Master is inexplicably absent. (Feel free to argue whether Peter Cushing’s big-screen Doctor is canon and whether Voyager’s medical hologram is a time lord in the comments.)
Elsewhere in the medical profession, Juliet Capulet’s servant and protector in Romeo & Juliet is only known as Nurse. And in a less prestigious line of work, Mary Elizabeth Ellis’ character on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is only ever referred to as “The Waitress.”
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: Being the president might get your name in the history books, but it doesn’t get your name in any others. Nameless fictional presidents abound in literature, from The Stand to The Pelican Brief to Fail-Safe (especially surprising since, in the latter, the president is the main character!). Film has its share of nameless presidents, from Armageddon to Escape From New York to the greatest film of all time, Atomic Train. Two years before The West Wing, Martin Sheen played a nameless president in made-for-TV movie Medusa’s Child, in which a nuclear scientist driven to madness by his wife leaving him rigs a gigantic nuclear bomb to go off if she gets too far away from it. Surely this prestige project was what convinced Aaron Sorkin that Sheen had what it took to play Josiah Bartlet.
Also noteworthy: You might be able to name all seven dwarves, but the Brothers Grimm never got around to naming any character not in the title of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, as the King, the Huntsman, and of course the Evil Queen all make the list. Even the dwarves weren’t given names by the Grimms—they only got them in a 1912 Broadway version of the story, and then were given different names by Walt Disney in his groundbreaking animated feature.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: The Cigarette Smoking Man’s page links to one of America’s most iconic fictional brand names: Morley cigarettes. Morleys seem to have originated in 1960’s Psycho (a play on “Marleys,” a nickname for Marlboro), and they immediately became the go-to brand for fictional smokes, appearing in an episode of Perry Mason that same year. Since then, Morleys have been smoked by the likes of Jack Bauer, George Constanza (unconvincingly), Shane from The L Word, the soldiers in Platoon, the guards on Orange Is The New Black, Afroman in the “Because I Got High” video, and Courtney Love in, appropriately, 200 Cigarettes. Agents Mulder and Scully even visited Morley’s headquarters once, and the company was sued for causing emphysema on an episode of Judging Amy.
Further down the Wormhole: Maybe we’ve been watching too much of The Masked Singer (so, any amount of The Masked Singer), but we’re going to stay on our anonymous kick, and follow the link to unidentified people next week.