Science Fiction’s Most Complicated Rivalries

Posted Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 11:00 am GMT -4 by

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I suppose all rivalries are complicated, but the interesting feuds are the ones where you realize you both agree and disagree with the viewpoint of each side.

I think the intensity of a rivalry’s intricacy results from the construction of the hero and his or her enemy. The hero has a fatal flaw that annoys us and the villain has some element of his or her past that conjures up our sympathy. (Mommy issues, anyone?)

A truly complicated rivalry means that both the hero and the villain feel like they’re being pulled in different directions when they realize their ambitions are similar. Ever feel that way? You come to the realization that you may have the same goal your enemy? (i.e. You and that Toyota Prius want the same parking spot.) It’s your philosophy on the means of achieving it that differs. (Honking your horn versus giving the finger.)

The audience’s agony is an effective result of a tortuous rivalry. After all, we do live vicariously through these characters. Sometimes when I write in my journal I don’t know if I’m talking about my anger issues or the Hulk’s. Therefore, when both the hero and the villain are questioning their beliefs of good versus evil, don’t tell me you’re not stress-eating popcorn as you feel the world around you collapse.

Buffy versus Faith

Despite being forgiven for attempted murder on both on their parts, I still think a small rivalry continues to manifest between Buffy and Faith, especially as BTVS morphed from TV show to an outrageously fun comic series. I actually liked Season 8 and was especially moved as it came to a close in Last Gleaming.

[Spoiler Alert...]

Buffy destroys Twilight (ah! I love typing that phrase!) and ends all “magiks” that exist in the world. This leaves her army of slayers, and Willow, without powers and without a sense of identity. As loose ends attempt to be tied and the belongings of the late Giles (tear drop) are dispersed, Faith finds herself with Giles’ inheritance. The only item Giles leaves Buffy is his copy of Vampyre. It may not be much, but the gift is invaluable. It’s proof of Buffy’s slayer identity.

“You know what it says?” Faith asks Buffy. “It’s says you’re the slayer. You’re the only slayer. You always were.” (Whedon, Joss and Scott Allie. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8: Last Gleaming. 121- 122.) Though Faith continues to fight in the series Angel and Faith, she relinquished being THE slayer to the real Chosen One. There has to be some emotional baggage, right?

Hal Jordan as Green Lantern versus Carol Ferris as Star Sapphire

This teaches us a very important lesson about relationships. Don’t let your loved ones near a race of immortal female warriors who can take over your body and turn you into one of their supervillains. Though recently Carol Ferris has been able to use her ring powers for good, can her Star Sapphire abilities really be trusted? Maybe it’s just me…

Elena versus Katherine

What complicates this rivalry in The Vampire Diaries, is, among other things, they look exactly (and supernaturally) alike. As a viewer, what affects me about this rivalry is not any sympathy towards Katherine or an annoyance toward Elena. (Although, don’t get me started about this season.) This rivalry makes me puzzle over what exactly is going on in the minds of Stefan and Damon. Are they both really in love with Elena or are they in love with what they wish Katherine could’ve been? Is Elena just a representative of their subconscious Katherine fantasies? 

Now, I know the CW can’t show explicit sex scenes or foreplay scenes without a Florence and the Machine song in the background. However, I have to imagine, that at least once, nay twice, in the heat of the moment, Stefan and Damon must’ve accidentally called Elena “Katherine” . . . right?

Harry Potter versus Draco Malfoy

Though the Harry Potter series always transitions from ‘“Harry versus Draco” into “Harry versus Voldemort”, at least Harry doesn’t have to sit across from Voldemort in the dining room or have a class with him year after year. How irksome, though hilarious, would that have been?

 John Crichton versus Scorpius

I admire the way Farscape presented Scorpius as a “microchipped” voice inside John Crichton’s head. Because guess what? In every great epic (i.e. life?), the enemy is ALWAYS inside the hero’s head. The Scorpius inside Crichton’s head acts as an enhancement of his own fears and insecurities. Even though the enemy may not physically be in the same space as the hero, we know the hero is constantly anticipating how the enemy may exploit his or her weaknesses. This anticipation becomes obsessive. Heroes are way too hard on themselves.

Crichton faces a lot of obstacles trying to get Scorpius out of his head. However, like in life, there is never a cure that fully erases the negative voices in our heads, at least there’s never a cure that doesn’t involve addictive substances or questionable psychiatric experiments. What you can do is put these negative voices aside, or throw them into a metaphorical dumpster, and focus on the journey ahead.

Thor versus Loki

The saga of Thor is like Wuthering Heights with Loki being its Heathcliff who destroys familial relationships as a result of his jealousy of Odin’s real son.

In Thor’s many incarnations, the Son of Asgard is always giving Loki second chance after second chance. Thor will always have some sense of loyalty to his brother, making this rivalry not only complicated, but one of Thor’s tragic flaws. Frankly, I’m curious to see the session notes of Thor’s therapist…

HAL versus Dr. Bowman

I think in general what muddies the relationship between humans and A.I. is that humans engineered robots to have our thought patterns, intelligence and our code of ethics. I believe the human race will soon face a threat of being strangled by an emotionless, mechanized copy of ourselves, but that’s just me and my quirkiness. Artificial intelligence is the Frankenstein monster of the 21st century. It will always turn against us because A.I. is equipped with the ability to predict and not the ability to adapt.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL’s only “goal” is to let nothing get in the way of the Jupiter mission. Essentially, it’s Bowman’s goal as well, but HAL is programmed too perfectly. This makes a computer to be the scariest enemy mankind has ever encountered. Sure, fangs and tentacles can be frightening, but nothing is as chilling as a simple shot of a red light.

 

When Bowman finally disables HAL, the shutdown felt extremely emotional to me. Like a human death, HAL talks slower, moves slower and becomes confused. It’s almost as if Bowman is comforting HAL when he asks it to sing “Daisy”, as if to make HAL’s “death” easier. Above all, HAL sounded like he was scared and in pain, like a human. It was exceptionally scary. What if Bowman was disabling something that actually had feelings?

 

This is one of the many reasons why I become very emotional every time I shut down my MacBook Air…

Luke versus Darth Vader

What else is there to explore about the tragedy of Luke finding out Darth Vader is really his father? Books have been written on it and I’m pretty sure I have a maximum word limit.

Before Star Wars, the great heroic tragedy was probably Oedipus finding out he killed his father and married his mother. Thank goodness that doesn’t saturate our pop culture lexicon. (Unless it does and I’ve totally missed something…)

Now, because of Star Wars, I believe we, as a society, revel in father-son rivalries, not limited to the relationship between Tommy and Malcolm Merlyn in the current hit, Arrow.

Freud may not have named a complex after Star Wars, however, we as a culture believe the biggest tragedy a person can encounter is finding out that they are the offspring of who they should abhor.

(This is why I wanted to hug every character in Runaways.) In Vampire Diaries, we find out that Elena’s real mother is a vampire and wanted to be one. Elena struggles with this. In Alias, Sidney has a hard time accepting that her mother was Russian spy. In real life, I have a hard time accepting the fact that my dad had an afro. It’s tragic, yet, maybe a part of becoming a well-developed person is finding out your parents have a dark side. . . or an afro.

Let’s start some rivalries right now! What do you think are the best sci fi rivalries? Winston versus Big Brother? Marty versus Biff? Share them below!