(illustration: Nick Wanserski)
AVQ&AWelcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences.  

This week’s question is from Senior Editor Marah Eakin:

What two fictional friends—or groups of friends—would you like to see face off?

Alex McCown

I think it’s long past time that America got the superhero showdown it deserves. I refer, of course, to a knock-down-drag-out between Chris O’Donnell’s Robin and Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl from 1997’s Batman And Robin. The widely excoriated exercise in camp that gives camp a bad name (reportedly, director Joel Schumacher would yell out right before calling action, “Remember, everyone, we’re making a cartoon!”) has two main villains, and neither one is a bad guy from the narrative. Rather, they’re the bizarrely infantile Robin and Batgirl, both of whom manage to make an embarrassingly childlike film even more juvenile through characters who seem genetically engineered to make you want to defenestrate them both. Ergo, what better way to kill two birds with one stone (hopefully) than by forcing them into a steel-cage death match? No form of violence would be off limits, they’d be allowed to bring whatever weapons they wanted, and while it’s possible one would walk away—I’d begrudgingly back Batgirl, were I forced at gunpoint to pick a side—the cheerier thought is that they’d take each other out, if not from breathing, than at least from the rest of that movie. More time is always needed for additional one-liners from Mr. Freeze, anyway.

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Becca James

Kevin Arnold is a dick. There’s even a Tumblr dedicated to this fact, which includes such gems as Kevin asking, “Wait a minute. This hippopotamus was kicking us out of our own woods?” about a bunch of trees he hasn’t cared for since Winnie Cooper kissed him among them years earlier. And if you’ve watched The Wonder Years, it shouldn’t be difficult to come up with your own examples of his general disregard for those around him, which is almost always paired with a melodramatic look of smug indignation. Cue poor Paul Pfeiffer, Kevin’s best friend—how does Kevin have any friends?—and go-to punching bag. Although the two squabble at times (and once, in season three’s “Odd Man Out,” briefly called quits on their friendship), I want to see Paul fuck Kevin up. For Paul, though, I think that would mean something that focuses on a slow and torturous process. Yes, I’m okay with Paul using his elevated intelligence to slowly kill Kevin. Then Jack could live. He didn’t really deserve that heart attack after all.

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Erik Adams

As a kid, one of the first TV formulas I ever picked up on was the relentless Möbius strip that makes up every episode of Inspector Gadget. With the Get Smart and Mission: Impossible allusions flying over my head, I fixated on the fact that Gadget gets all the credit for foiling Dr. Claw and the agents of M.A.D., when it’s his niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain, doing the actual work. Surely, the other members of the Gadget family—along with Chief Quimby, a regular victim of his employee’s carelessness—would eventually get fed up with this lack of appreciation, and put their own technological know-how to the test against the inspector’s go-go-gadget arsenal of bionic enhancements. As depicted in the property’s inevitable reboot as a grim-and-gritty big-screen tentpole, this skirmish wouldn’t just be the expression of a child’s frustrations with repetitive TV storytelling. Taking some thematic cues from the RoboCop franchise, the ultraviolent dismantling of Gadget at the hands of those he trusts the most would be all about reconnecting the character with his basic senses of humanity and respect. Can’t you already hear a downtempo, spooky lullaby version of the Inspector Gadget theme song playing over the end of the trailer? And then, the kicker, delivered by Quimby (Nick Offerman, crammed into a metal trash can Oscar The Grouch style) as he leaves a crumpled piece of paper on Gadget’s limbless torso: “This message will self-destruct.”

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Leonardo Adrian Garcia

Sure, there’s the homoerotic overtures, and the chomp heard ’round the locker room, but how could it be that we were never treated to a showdown between the two supposed best pilots at Top Gun, Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky? Mind you, I’m not proposing a bare-knuckle brawl (which I’m almost 100 percent certain Iceman would dominate), rather a proper mid-air dogfight. Both Maverick and Iceman proved plenty adept at blowing faceless Russian MiG pilots out of the skies in their F-14 Tomcats, but how would the buttoned-up and by-the-book Iceman fare in a one-on-one (or two-on-two, if you’re including radar intercept officers Slider and Goose/Merlin) against the unpredictable, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Maverick? Would Maverick’s reckless nature get the best of him or would Iceman’s need for perfection be his undoing? My best guess: Iceman would take far too long to take his shot, allowing Maverick to hit the brakes, letting Iceman fly right by, and providing the perfect position for good tone and a kill shot.

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Drew Fortune

I’ve always wondered how Pee-wee and Francis would have fared in an honest, drag-out fight. In the Buxtons’ gigantic indoor pool, villainous Francis is caught off guard during his bath by a hot-headed Pee-wee, so PW clearly had the element of surprise on his side. Their short-lived aquatic throw-down is pretty much a draw, however. If faced mano a mano on neutral fighting ground, how would the duo fare? Francis has bulk and evil cunning on his side, a foe sure to use any kind of advantage available, no matter how low or devious. Pee-wee seems to have a fairly sophisticated code of street ethics, evidenced by his refusal to ever turn in mattress cutter Mickey or put the moves on Simone once he learns about her vengeful boyfriend, Andy. PW has a dark side though, and if cornered, you never turn your back on a loner or rebel, especially one with access to Mario’s gadgets.

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Caroline Siede

There are some acts that are unforgivable and one of those is burning the sole copy of a manuscript your sister has spent her entire life working on. And since that unspeakable act is one of the most memorable moments in Little Women, it’s high time for a knock-down, drag-out fight between Jo and Amy March. The two sisters are at odds with each other for most of their childhood and while, yes, they grow up and realize they really do love each other and all that wholesome shit, there’s got to be some unresolved tension there (like that fact that Amy wound up marrying Jo’s pseudo-ex-boyfriend, even though Amy was clearly his second choice). So stick ’em in the ring, have Meg serve as referee, and see which March sister comes out on top (obviously, it’s gonna be Jo). This could even kick off a whole trend of literary sister battles: Lizzy vs. Lydia Bennet, Elinor vs. Marianne Dashwood, and insufferable Sweet Valley High twin vs. insufferable Sweet Valley High twin.

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Gus Spelman

Let’s put the “civil” in civil war and have some fun imagining what it would be like to see the two aristocrats from the Grey Poupon commercial duke it out. No, not the original, hunky aristocrats from the very first “Pardon me” ad, but the older, distinguished aristocrats from the later comedic variation, starring noted British character actors Ian Richardson and Paul Eddington. Okay, so it’s never really established that these guys are friends, but come on, they have to become friends later on, right? Sharing a roast-beef sandwich and a bottle of chilled white wine, laughing about some sort of polo-related pun? And wouldn’t it also be fun to see them getting into a total knock-down drag-out? Tearing out hair, gouging eye sockets, bleeding all over each other’s tuxedos? The hapless one finally tearing the mustard from the meaner one’s hand and forcing all that spicy ambrosia down his opponent’s nose? And then he’d step on the mean one’s back and mutter, “One of life’s spiner pleasures.” Right, guys? We’d all like to see that, right?

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Mike Vago

One of the great pleasures of the Harry Potter series was seeing the rock-solid platonic male-female friendship at the heart of the story. While Ron’s always good for an encouraging word and is quick to be roped into a scheme, it’s Hermione Granger who’s Harry’s closest confidant, emotional center, moral compass, and strongest source of intellectual and magical firepower. But what if she wasn’t? Harry vs. Hermione would be a duel Hogwarts students would talk about for generations. Would Potter’s luck, nerve, and knack for being rescued by powerful allies be any match for Hermione’s intelligence, discipline, and encyclopedic knowledge of magic? Probably not. In fact, a duel would most likely lay bare exactly how reliant Harry is on Hermione having his back at all times. But that’s another one of the joys of the Potter series—Harry isn’t a chosen one who’s automatically better at everything than everyone. In fact, apart from being ideally suited to exploit the poorly written rules of Quidditch, Harry’s not a terribly talented wizard, as the books suggest, but he comes out on top because of one all-important power: his friends.

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Jesse Hassenger

I don’t know what it is about my generally comics-loving brain that tends to resist superheroes-who-should-be-on-the-same-side-fight-each-other stories, but I do find them tedious in my old age (though I am looking forward to a new Captain America movie). I prefer to see those kinds of fights with a comic slant, which brings me to the idea of the movie incarnations of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) from The Hunger Games really throwing down. It’s not realistic, because despite their romantic rivalry, Peeta is written as a nonviolent guy, and Gale generally seems to be in some kind of boredom coma. So I admit I’m really picturing imaginary actor personas—Hutcherson the skateboard-trick-pulling goof, Hemsworth the poor-man’s-Chris himbo—beating the shit out of each other, as Hutcherson’s shenanigans continue to irritate Hemsworth, who just wants to beat him up and go home. As extraneous as the love triangle stuff in The Hunger Games is, I think that would have added a much-needed spark to the final film.

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Molly Eichel

I really hated The Newsroom, but somehow ended up watching all three seasons of it because I apparently have too much time on my hands. While I would have appreciated anyone on the show beating the shit out of Jeff Daniels’ Will McAvoy, I would have particularly appreciated a smackdown coming at the hands of Jane Fonda’s Leona Lansing. McAvoy is so self-important, and weaved into such an inherently sexist character, that I would love to see him taken down a peg by an older woman. And Leona would clearly triumph. She has already verbally reamed him out so many times that it only makes sense she would eventually throw a drink in his face and roundhouse kick him in the head for insubordination. Making all those workout videos had to have paid off, right?

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

One day, I’ll answer an AVQ&A with something that has nothing to do with UnREAL’s Rachel Goldberg and Quinn King, but today is not that day. Rachel and Quinn have a real fight-or-fuck dynamic, and if I’m never going to see the two of them act on their obvious attraction toward one another, then I at least want to see some punches thrown. The irony of Rachel and Quinn—who spend their professional lives manipulating women into fighting each other—getting into a girl fight of their own is too perfect. Rachel and Quinn are just the right kind of unhinged so that they could easily go back to being best friends/work wives once the fight is over. I imagine the fight would start over something comically simple, fueled more by emotional exhaustion and sleep deprivation than actual ill will. Maybe Quinn lent Rachel a hair tie that she never returned. I hate when that happens.

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Dennis Perkins

It might sound odd to want two of my favorite characters in recent TV history to go at it, but my wish for Troy and Abed to clash once again is a several-birds-with-one-stone situation. Naturally, such an epic battle between true soulmates could only be contained by fulfilling the #sixseasonsandamovie hashtag prophecy of yore—so, Community feature film. Next, it would also mean that Donald Glover agreed to return to the fold, that Dan Harmon and his writing staff (no “gas-leak season” movie this) would take on the monumental task of wrapping up the Community universe on the big screen, and that some studio and/or foolhardy, benevolent billionaire was as much of a fan of the show as I am and decided to do the right thing. And, apart form all that, since Troy and Abed’s first conflict turned into a two-episode, multi-genre epic of hilarious, feathery proportions, the big-screen sequel could only mean the campus of Greendale would be home to the most escalatingly silly, ultimately warm-hearted friend fight in movie history. Naturally, Harmon will have former-Community-directors-turned-Marvel-superhero mavens the Russo brothers direct, turning Troy and Abed’s boundlessly loopy imaginations to life. Will there be paintball? Pillows? Lava? Dungeons? Dragons? A multiverse-spanning near-friendship apocalypse of all those? Now, that’s a civil war.

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Alasdair Wilkins

Over its incredible seven-season run, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gradually explored, questioned, deconstructed—and more often than not ultimately championed, albeit with some key caveats—just about every important value and idea of Gene Roddenberry’s mythos. One logical endpoint for this would be to pit the crew of Deep Space Nine against that of The Next Generation, the franchise’s most high-minded and nakedly idealistic incarnation. The narrative building blocks for this are already there: The DS9 pilot established that Benjamin Sisko held Jean-Luc Picard responsible for the death of his wife, and both Worf and Chief O’Brien would face potentially divided loyalties in a showdown between the two crews. What’s fascinating about this is that each crew could very plausibly appear, if not truly villainous, then at least dangerously misguided to the other, and there’d be all the space that hardcore Trek fans could ever want for some deep philosophical wrangling about the true meaning of the Federation’s ideals. Do Sisko and company too easily compromise their principles and undermine the very values they fight to save, or does the Enterprise’s ability to zip from one corner of the galaxy to the next mean they never really have to engage with the consequences of their actions? I’d see this as a three-part miniseries: the first from the Enterprise-D’s perspective, the second from Deep Space 9’s, and then the third where the crews come together and realize that, whatever differences there may be in their situations and approaches, they’re really not so different. I’m sure the respective fan bases would come together just as easily.

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Genevieve Valentine

I had issues with The Force Awakens, but probably none of the other in-universe “Wait, what?”s could top the fact that Luke vanished after the debacle with Ben Solo, leaving Leia behind not only to run a government and the government’s secret attack branch but also to mourn the fact that her son was being groomed by the galaxy’s biggest Sith creep and Luke Skywalker the Jedi never even noticed. (I won’t even get into the diva move of leaving behind a giant secret map to your location that ends up costing a death toll of anywhere between hundreds and billions, depending on how much you count as direct causation.) Thankfully, Leia is Force-sensitive, and in the Star Wars universe, genetic talent trumps training any day, so whenever Luke deigns to rejoin the party, Leia will have no problem grabbing the nearest heavy object/convenient-plot lightsaber and getting some of her own back in a Luke and Leia free-for-all. Honestly, though, that sounds more fun than it would actually be. Likely, it wouldn’t last long—conveniently, she has no one else in her life to rely on, so it’s not like she can get rid of her only living support system, and those years of diplomat training have taught her to stop a fight before the killing blow. Plus, I don’t think Luke would do a lot of fighting back. You don’t run off to a gorgeous island and stand gloomily facing the sea spray for 15 years unless you have guilt issues. He’d calmly climb his way out of the pile of rubble she dropped on him, and they’d move on like nothing happened. (Or the First Order attacks and they have to set it aside, because Star Wars is always happy to interrupt one fight with another fight.)

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Will Harris

It’s the battle royale that nobody but me has been waiting for, but I’d like to see a showdown between The Banana Splits and The Skatebirds. If you’re unfamiliar with the latter, it’s because The Banana Splits had the advantage from a pop-culture standpoint, thanks to their still-delightful theme song, but The Skatebirds were just one of many instances of Hanna-Barbera performing a bit of imperfect cloning of one of its existing properties in order to create a new series. The Skatebirds premiered on CBS in September 1977 and was off the air by September 1978, leaving behind only vague memories of most of the segments that accompanied the series: The Robonic Stooges, Wonder Wheels, Woofer And Whimper: Dog Detectives (a shortened take on Clue Club), and Mystery Island. Clearly, The Banana Splits was far superior in every way, and yet one wonders—and I mean that literally, it’s just me—if Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky could beat the combined efforts of Knock-Knock, Satchel, Scooter, and Scat-Cat (as opposed to Skat Kat). I feel good about The Splits’ chances, if only because you have to imagine that they’re pissed off about having their live-action schtick ripped off, and yet the roller skates are a real X factor for The Skatebirds, so I’d like to see how it’d play out. Either way, it’ll be a mess of fun… and, yes, lots of fun for everyone.

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