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I'm Cathy Leamy, a Boston cartoonist and medical writer. Check out my comics! They're mainly about health care and autobio stories.

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Saturday, February 28, 2004

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You know how Star Trek has the "redshirts" - the just-introduced-that-episode characters whose sole purpose is to end up the victims of whatever space fungus attacks that week because you can't do anything to the main characters? "The away team will be Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, and Ensign Joe Expendable"?

I'm trying to come up with a term for a similar type of character for mystery and suspense stories. I noticed it very obviously in Fake, but I've seen it used in other stories as well (can't think of any off-hand right now). These are the characters who are just-introduced-that-episode for the sole purpose of being the villain, the baddie, or the murderer. The new intern in the forensics lab who turns out to be the serial killer. The new substitute teacher who happens to be the mad bomber. Those guys.

I was going to call them "blackshirts" at first, but that's a bit of a loaded term.

recent media intake
I've been reading Battle Royale, and oh my god it's insane. Originally I had the goal of watching the movie afterwards. Dunno if I'm still going to do that ... the book is bad enough. I don't know if I could deal with some of those scenes in color, like the bit with the pickaxe, or that one girl's nails in that other guy's eyes ... oh, I'm not kidding anyone. I'll probably watch it and then whine about it for a year afterwards.

2 comments!     click to join in

1 mike abbott   (8:28pm - Jul 26, 2005)

I think 'red shirt' as a disposable character is firmly ensconced due to a consistent popular culture reference. The 'black shirt' name requires one to extrapolate from the , very concretely demonstrated, red shirt meme without any support in popular culture that I'm aware of. The idea of a name for 'Mr. Obvious Badguy' is a good one but I can see some reasons why you might dislike 'blackshirt' ( which is better then anything I've come up ). What in popular culture is even close? I don't know. How about some 'butler' as in the butler did it?

2 Kitty   (3:52pm - Jul 27, 2005)

Yeah, "blackshirt" is definitely too much of a derivation.

I wish I could come up with a singuarly stellar example that would make people say, "Oh yeah! That guy is a great illustration of this sucky phenomenon." Damn! This is the kind of thing that develops organically and meme-ishly.

Although I am liking "Mr. Obvious Badguy". Hey, on a similar note, that reminds me of the whole recent trend of making fun of people by describing them as "Something McSomethingElse." Maybe it's been going on for a while and I'm just out of the loop. ANYWAY. Something like "Newbie McObviousvillain" or something, something.

That was a whole lot of chatter for me to say "Yeah, I agree. New name needed. Hard to think of one."

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