5 Hilariously Stupid Reasons Why Famous Characters Exist

We like to think that everything in our favorite movies and TV shows was the product of pure creative vision. And maybe some drugs. But mostly the creative vision part. Well, folks, that’s not how it works. Movies are complicated beasts with a lot of moving parts, and the demands of the marketing department, practical concerns around actors’ schedules, and much, much stupider issues can all radically change what you end up seeing on the screen. And sometimes that leads to iconic characters, like …

5

The Last Jedi‘s Porgs Were Invented To Cover Up Real Birds On Luke’s Island

The Last Jedi has somehow managed to produce more embittered opinions than the Treaty of Versailles, but everyone who isn’t a total monster can agree that porgs are cute. They’d probably be delicious if they were real, but they’re cute.

LucasfilmAccording to Wookiepedia, the consistency of the eyeballs is exactly like that of an avocado.

But while they 100 percent look like cuddly little critters invented solely to build hype and sell plush toys, porgs were thrust into this cruel world to cover up the very real puffins that live all over Skellig Michael, the island that served as Luke Skywalker’s pouty hermitage. Since the animals couldn’t be physically relocated, and murdering hundreds of puffins would maybe shave one percent off of the box office results, they simply filmed the suckers and then digitally altered them to porgs after the fact.

Rixipix/iStock

LucasfilmThis is like that time a guy in a gimp suit wandered into a shot, so George Lucas created Darth Vader.

“But wait,” you say, “wouldn’t it have been even easier to just edit the puffins out, rather than invent a whole new species to replace them with?” Well, according to one of the movie’s designers, “digitally removing them is an issue.” The issue presumably being that there then would have been no porg memes and toys to sell.

4

Batgirl Was Created So Batman And Robin Wouldn’t Seem Gay

Some Batman characters seem so simple that it’s almost impossible not to create them. Batman adopts a cat? Batcat! Batman’s dentist helps him fight crime for a bit? Batdentist! Batman, but a girl? Batgirl! A Batman writer could never run out of stories!

But while today’s Batgirl is a complex fan-favorite character, the original 1961 Batgirl, along with 1956’s Batwoman, were only introduced to deflect accusations that Batman and Robin were corrupting innocent children with their gay lifestyle. It … was a different time. Nobody is quite sure how they got that impression about the Dynamic Duo in the first place.

DC ComicsYeah, that’ll help.

It wasn’t exactly a coup for women. The characters were portrayed as ditzes who were largely useless at fighting crime and mostly interested in getting into Batman and Robin’s respective spandex. Plus, the fact that the menfolk didn’t seem too thrilled about their presence probably didn’t do much to deflect talk of Batpederasty. They were mercifully written out in 1964, and their long slumber is only disturbed whenever a Batman writer feels like doing a “Boy, comics sure used to be wacky!” issue.

But accusations that Batman and Robin were friends of Dorothy, and therefore probably communists or whatever, continued to dog the franchise. So ’64 also saw Alfred being killed off so he could be replaced by Aunt Harriet, a hitherto-unmentioned relative who shows up to both literally and figuratively straighten out the Wayne household.

DC Comics

DC Comics“Wait, how come you didn’t look after me when my parents died?”
“Well, you weren’t rich then.”

It’s unclear why an elderly aunt would be considered less gay than an elderly butler, unless you’re imagining some truly inappropriate threesomes, at which points accusations of homosexuality in Batman say less about the comics than the accuser. And once again, neither Batman nor Robin seem very excited about the arrangement. Then again, nothing does say straight better than an adult man who needs help taking care of his home.

Aunt Harriet’s time in the comics was short-lived, but she did become a regular on the ’60s Batman TV series, with a producer admitting that she was included “to keep [Batman and Robin] from looking like homosexuals.”

Man, eventually someone is going to have to write Batman and/or Robin as gay, if only to see the reaction after decades of hand-wringing.

3

Breaking Bad‘s Mike Was Invented Because Saul Was Busy Shooting A Sitcom

Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul‘s Mike Ehrmantraut is beloved by anyone who likes watching retirement-age men slowly and silently perform tasks with incredible competency. He first appears when Jesse’s heroin-loving girlfriend (incredibly obvious spoiler alert) overdoses on heroin, and Jesse needs help to hide any evidence of his involvement. Naturally, such a grisly task could only be carried out a stone-cold badass like Mike.

Sony Pictures TelevisionNot sure if he’s the baddest in the entire show, but he’s definitely the baldest.

Actually, nope, that scene was originally written for Walt and Jesse’s sleazy lawyer, Saul. However, Saul’s actor, Bob Odenkirk, was busy guest-starring on How I Met Your Mother, so they had to invent a new character who could be sent by Saul to clean up the mess. Mike the fixer was born, and Jonathan Banks kicked so much butt that the writers kept using him until he became a main character. And presumably, now that he’s in such high demand, he’ll be busy guest-starring elsewhere while a key moment in Better Call Saul is filmed, necessitating another stoic legbreaker and the entire cycle beginning anew.

2

Iron Man 3‘s Villain Was Created Because Marvel Didn’t Think A Female Villain Would Sell Toys

You might have trouble remembering 2013’s Iron Man 3 because two dozen Marvel movies have come out since then, but the big twist is that the villainous, heavily marketed Mandarin is in fact nothing but some goofy schmuck actor being controlled by the real villain, Aldrich Killian (played by Guy Pearce). Killian starts as a disheveled nerd whom Tony Stark dickishly ignores at a party back in 1999 …

Marvel Studios

… and eventually turns into a revenge-driven anime supervillain with the help of Extremis, the film’s magic plot juice.

Marvel StudiosThus earning his supervillain name: the Tangerine.

But Killian doesn’t invent Extremis; it was created by Maya Hansen, a minor character you’ve definitely forgotten. She had a one-night stand with Stark at that same 1999 party, then also resurfaces when stuff starts exploding in the present day.

Marvel Studios

So why are there two characters with what’s basically the same background? Because Killian wasn’t originally in the movie. Hansen was the secret big bad running the show. Director Shane Black thought it would be a good twist, but Marvel’s corporate office said that no one would buy an action figure of an evil girl. What would her accessories be, cooties? So Marvel insisted on the addition of a male baddie, because what child wouldn’t want to buy a toy of a man who looks like he’s exploding in the middle of a painful bowel movement?

Actress Rebecca Hall wasn’t thrilled that her initially substantial role was cut down, but she was at least able to negotiate for a noble death scene. And hey, we’re sure it was all worth it when action figures of Killian, iconic Marvel villain, flew off the shelves for all those years before Marvel finally used a female villain and got great press for it.

1

He-Man Only Exists Because Absolutely Nobody Cared About The Plot

He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe is fondly remembered by everyone who hasn’t watched an episode since they were ten, and it’s getting a movie reboot in accordance with international franchise law. He-Man and his He-Friends may look a little dopey by today’s standards, but they used to be huge, moving $400 million in toys in 1986 alone. And the franchise was invented with all the creative passion of someone desperately trying to find loopholes in their taxes.

NBCUniversal Television DistributionHe-Man has more clothes than artistic integrity.

It all began with toy giant Mattel passing on the rights to make Star Wars toys, then regretting it for the rest of human history. Mattel spent the ensuing years launching one failed toy line after another, all of them capturing the imagination about as well as toys that promised they came infected with chicken pox. So they started working with the devil, which in this case was the marketing department, to invent a new toy series from the ground up.

First, Mattel assembled a group of kids and made them watch a bunch of movies, from which they determined that Conan The Barbarian was all the rage. Then they watched the kids play for a while, presumably with good non-Mattel toys, and discovered that the boys were super into the idea of power. Rather than warn the future, they gave us this catchphrase:

Next, He-Man The Not Legally A Barbarian needed a sweet ride. Mattel wanted to give him a car, presumably a He-mvee, but they didn’t have the budget to design another new toy. What they did have were all the tools used to remake old toys, including a tiger. If you’re thinking that it makes no sense for someone to ride a tiger, here’s Mattel’s official response:

Netflix

NetflixThey almost put a saddle on Beast Man too, but then it was decided that Skeletor would ride him bareback.

And the result of this cynical cash grab was the mighty and beloved Battle Cat. Also, before He-Man, toys were based on cartoons, not the other way around. But the He-Man show set the dubious precedent of being created solely to tell kids that they should beg their parents to buy them He-Man toys. And thus was one of the most beloved franchises of the ’80s born. Capitalism is both very stupid and very effective.

Mark is on Twitter and has a brand new book.

Come on, go order a porg plushie. You know you wanna.

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For more, check out 6 Shockingly Dumb Reasons People Invented Famous Characters and 7 Famous Characters Whose Iconic Design Was A Total Mistake.

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