By Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders. It's Monday, the day when we all recognize how powerless we are in the face of a cruel, unbending cosmos. But what if we could have a best friend with the power to reshape reality, or work miracles with the snap of a finger? Our lives would still suck, according to science fiction and fantasy.
It's one of the weirdest tropes out there — the ordinary, powerless, pathetic human who gets a best friend with nearly limitless power. And yet, the ordinary working stiff still can't catch a break. Why don't we fantasize about having a genie or alien show up and fix everything? Maybe because that would be boring. But maybe also because we want to believe that power doesn't change anything, and the only way to change your life is with hard work and character — even though real life is full of counter-examples.
In any case, a huge swathe of our escapist fantasies are aimed at teaching us that if we had a friend who could fix everything with the shake of a nose or whatever, we'd only be worse off. Because life just sucks. It's an uplifting message. Anyway, here are some of the most obvious examples!
Astronaut Tony Nelson is either a man of unshakeable moral fortitude or man that lacks imagination and desire by being so put out by the appearance of a beautiful, all powerful and eager to please genie. He spends the first four seasons attempting to hide her very existence in fear of it jeopardizing his career at NASA, seemingly missing the point of having an all powerful reality-warper at his beck and call. Instead Jeannie's over eager hijinks cause him nothing but close calls and hair pulling frustration, while she does things like inadvertently assisting bank robbers and getting locked in a safe being sent to the moon.
And then there's the classic story of an ordinary guy whose wife has magical powers — and just like Jeannie, all she does is cause Darrin grief.
From the moment Haruko runs over Naota with her Vespa and whacks him on the head with her guitar, opening a portal in his forehead, things just disintegrate into a weirder and weirder state. She not only disrupts the boy's life by encouraging giant mecha to come out of his head but also insinuates herself into his home — causing all kinds of bizarre rivalries between him and his father for her affection, culminating into a duel involving robots and nazi uniforms. While Haruko's antics make Naota's life more interesting, they aren't especially good for him or the surrounding scenery as a large portion of the town is destroyed in the process.
The appearance of The Great Gazoo might be the moment that The Flinstones, a show about dinosaur powered appliances, jumped the shark. Gazoo is banished from his own planet and time for creating a doomsday device that would wipe out all existence. Though he insists he was never going to use it and just wanted to be the first person on the block to have one. In punishment he is sent to serve Fred and Barney with his genie-like powers. Fred and Barney soon find having and all powerful, condescending prick “serving” you isn't all it is cracked up to be. When Gazoo isn't busy insulting the pair, he's fulfilling their wishes in the most unhelpful and literal way.
Timmy Turner is not shy about making wishes from his fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda, and they are more than happy to help out their beloved godson. The problem with this threesome is nobody is, really thinking about the consequences of their goofy actions. The standard story arc of each episode is: Timmy makes a wish to overcome some rather mundane problem, like a mean babysitter, but instead of helping the situation, the over-the-top responses require damage control. Maybe time travel is not the answer to a melted bowling trophy?
Poor Grim, It must be hard to be a greater power enslaved by two kids. The avatar of death is forced to become Billy and Mandy's best friend after he loses a limbo competition for the soul of Billy's hamster. Even if Grim had the inclination to improve the lot of Billy and Mandy, he is limited by Billy's rampant idiocy and Mandy's can-do attitude. She fully plans to control the world someday, but only by her own merits and skills, until then she is happy to use Grim for menial labor and chores. Grim's supernatural day trips to places like “The Circus of Fear” also tend to endanger the kids on a regular basis.
Knowing up front that your relationship is going to end with your side kick carrying you off to death has got to put a strain on your friendship. Of course as a Shinigami, a Japanese style Grim Reaper, it's in Ryuk's nature. Ryuk becomes Light Yagami's monstrous roommate when the high school student obtains the Death Note, a book that brings about the death of anyone whose name is written in it. Ryuk, suffering from boredom in the Shinigami lands, dropped a Death Note into the mortal realm solely for his personal amusement. Though he is bound to Light while he possess the book and takes immense joy in egging him on, Ryuk feels no loyalty to him and will help or hinder Light as whim takes him. Ryuk actually enjoys watching the drama, as Light digs himself in deeper and deeper.
Thanks to the popularity of Bewitched, the early sixties was awash in television shows about supernatural creatures hiding out in suburbia and causing wacky hijinks. My Favorite Martian's spin on this was to make the unnatural visitor an alien who uses “science”, a power interchangeable with magic. Uncle Martin lacks the sex appeal of Samantha or Jeannie, which might explain why the show only lasted three seasons. Martin's crazy inventions — like a machine that split him into three separate bodies — created wild scenarios that courted detection or they did whacky things like throw him and his room mate Tim O'Hara back in time. You think with all this inventing, Martin might have gotten a patent and a business plan that would help set up himself and his ever-suffering human Tim in a nice house without a nosy landlady.
Sewashi Nobita was such a screw up in life, he ruined his family's future up to his great grandson's time. In a hope to improve the family luck the great grandson sends the robotic, earless, cat Doreamon back in time to Nobita. Doreamon has a fourth dimensional pocket that allows him to pull out all kinds of “future science” gadgets that are again indistinguishable from magic. Pretty much every issue of the manga is Nobita harassing Doreamon into giving him a gadget to get out of some work or responsibility. His laziness is always punished when the gadget causes him intense embarrassment, often involving public nudity or farts. In theory the idea seems to be to shame Nobita into better behavior, but as he seems to never learn his lesson everyday is one hellish moment of embarrassment after another.
Bat-mite has been around as a super powered fanboy and pest from the fifth dimension since the 1959 comics. He is a being of seemingly limitless power with stalker-like fixation on Batman. The really creepy kind of stalker, that fantasizes about wearing your skin and taking over your life. In fact he is so thrilled by his hero he likes to create monsters and villains just to see him in action. Needless to say, Batman has not been amused. In the 1977 series the New Adventures of Batman, the wannabe sidekick got his wish to be a regular character in the Batman world. He continued to annoy Bats and grate on his last nerve with his whiny catch phrase "All I wanna do is help!". As <ahref=”http://io9.com/10-omnipotent-…”>recently pointed out the only thing that separates him from Mr. Mxylztpk is his intentions are well meaning.
Robin got his own fanboy stalker from dimension 498, Larry the Titan, in the Teen Titan episode “Fractured”. His magic finger bends the rules of reality, and he pops over to help while Robin is injured. Nobody but Starfire seems particularly amused by this turn of events.
Hapless college student Keiichi accidentally calls a goddess helpline number and jokingly wishes for a the goddess Belldandy to stay with him forever. You'd think living with a goddess would raise your social situation by some degree. Instead he is immediately kicked out of his dorm and has to seek shelter in an old temple. Sure, Keiichi ultimately finds love — but dating a goddess turns out to be a serious pain in the ass. They have interfering family and vengeful demons after them. The poor guy has to deal with getting kidnapped and/or possesed on top of the normal tropes of hiding his supernatural girlfriend from curious college co-eds. All that goddess power never seems to translate into an easier life.
And last but not least, there's our favorite trenchcoat-wearing angel. Dean Winchester is basically the ultimate guy who can't catch a break, for years — he gets kicked around by life, and stomped on by every monster in the world, while trying to save his brother from his inevitable cruel fate. Until at last, Dean gets a best friend, who's an angel. Castiel can basically heal any wounds, travel through time, teleport, and deal with just about any problem using his angel magic. So once Dean and Cas actually become friends and Cas starts coming whenever Dean calls him, does this solve any of Dean's problems? It does not. Mostly because Cas is kind of a weirdo.