I’m Sorry I Spat on Your Dog… Terrible Friends Across Movies and TV
By Brad Pike
Everyone has that one terrible friend, the one you can’t seem to shake despite their being sadistic, socially stunted, or just plain dumb. While in real life they’d probably rob you or make out with your girlfriend, in movies, they tend to make you a better, patient, less uptight person. Sometimes it’s also fun to just watch two completely incompatible people come together like water and baking soda.
In Koldcast TV’s comedy series Old Friends, Tim has a chance meeting with an overly exuberant old high school friend named Nick. Their companionship seems poised to fail from the start. Nick, as he cheerfully reveals, is the one who took Tim’s wife’s virginity, and he seems intent on stealing her back over Tim’s protests. As the awkwardness escalates, he tries in vain to get rid of Nick, who is slowly but surely edging his way into Tim’s happy life.
You are watching the Pilot episode of Old Friends
Let’s examine seven other mismatched friendships from movies and television.
Ethan Tremblay from Due Date
Peter Highman, played by an uncharacteristically straight-laced Robert Downey Jr., just wants to fly home to his pregnant wife in LA, but Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), an aspiring actor and weirdo, sabotages him at every turn. He sideswipes his car, gets him kicked off the plane, steals his wallet, and induces many more “hijinks” that might be better described as a campaign of cruelty. While Ethan may think of Peter as a friend, if a friendship leads to an inordinately high number of hospitalizations or unjust police imprisonment, that’s a bad friend. In fact, Ethan seems to be less a friend than an instrument of the sadistic godless universe the characters inhabit. This one was funny, but didn’t hold a candle to its inspiration, John Candy and Steve Martin classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Dog from Catdog
All Cat wants to do is read a book or drink some tea in peace and quiet, but Dog, his conjoined brother and best friend, is simply too sloppy and ADD to allow this. Like Pinky and the Brain, Zim and GIR, or Dexter and Dee Dee, Catdog is an animated tragedy about an intelligent character’s activities—gardening, listening to classical music, etc.—being perpetually ruined by his dumb friend. For Cat, his attempts to attain fame and fortune are Sisyphean in their agonized futility thanks to Dog. If only some surgical procedure could free him from this nightmarish hellscape of a life, but alas, cartoons don’t work that way.
Tyler Durden from Fight Club
At first, Tyler Durden seems like a cool guy: smart, funny, full of wisdom about the futility of materialism, the failures of American capitalism. He inspires Ed Norton’s character to quit his oppressive office job, exercise, and reprioritize his life through, um, beating himself up in bar parking lots. But then, before you know it, he transforms into the leader of a cult of anarchic terrorists out to wreak havoc. Plus, Tyler’s a figment of Ed Norton’s character’s imagination, and, as everyone knows, imaginary friends tend to lead to disaster (just ask John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, Mort Rainey in Secret Window, or Jack Torrance in The Shining).
Magneto from X-Men
It’s safe to say Charles Xavier and Magneto’s friendship is a troubled one, especially considering all the attempted genocides, assassinations, and militant mutant-centrism. Political disagreements, after all, are perfectly normal in any healthy friendship, but not when someone poisons a friend’s brainwave amplification machine over it. Even after Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants attempts to murder every human being on earth, Charles Xavier continues to call him a friend, and even after he tries it again, he still calls him a friend. They play chess and speak to each other in polite English accents, but when one objectively examines Magneto’s behavior, he’s little more than a super-powered Bin Laden—not a good friend to have if you’re a wheelchair bound man of peace.
Roger Greenberg from Greenberg
Following a nervous breakdown, the titular Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) arrives in LA from New York to housesit for his brother’s family. He begins reconnecting with old friends like his former band mate Ivan (Rhys Ifans), but Greenberg, being solipsistic and neurotic to the extreme, is a terrible friend. He refuses to admit fault for the breakup of their band, doesn’t care about Ivan’s family, and exploits Ivan’s vulnerability following a separation from his wife in order to relive the past. In his worst moments, Greenberg tries to convince Ivan to leave his wife permanently just so he can further control his life. In a climactic scene toward the end, Ivan finally stands up to a drunken drugged up Greenberg, hopefully dissolving this poisonous friendship.
Shane from The Walking Dead
As in any worldwide apocalyptic event, when hordes of flesh eating zombies attack, you discover who your true friends are (hint: real friends don’t sleep with friends’ wives). In AMC’s The Walking Dead, Rick’s fellow cop Shane fails the friendship test almost immediately. Rather than rescue Rick from presumably being eaten alive on a hospital bed, Shane tells Rick’s wife he’s dead and swiftly steals his role as husband and father. When Rick eventually catches up to Shane and the gang, Shane constantly questions Rick’s leadership and undermines him at every turn, growing steadily more jealous and homicidal. Remember: friends don’t point guns at friends.
Walter White from Breaking Bad
While watching the exchanges between fellow friends and blue meth cookers Walter White and Jessie Pinkman, one might think, ‘Why can’t Walt be nicer to Jessie?’ or ‘Who treats people this way, much less friends?’ Typically, friends don’t call each other idiots, manipulate each other, or very nearly murder each other’s loved ones. The list of horrors resulting from this relationship with Walt is long and terrible including: manipulating Jessie into committing cold blooded murder, letting Jessie’s girlfriend choke to death on her own puke, and poisoning Jessie’s girlfriend’s son. As Mike Ehrmantraut pointedly tells Walt, “You are trouble. I’m sorry the kid here doesn’t see it, but I sure as hell do.”
Brad Pike is a writer and standup in Chicago. He also writes for Thought Catalog.
Twitter: brad_pike; Blog: ieatfoundthings.blogspot.com