Staff Recommends: Unsung fictional characters

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

E. Keogh, Liam, Cahal and Doireann defend who they see as the most unsung fictional character!

E. Keogh - Sydney Novak

For me, it has to be Sydney Novak from Netflix's I am Not Ok With This (2020). She was the representation I desperately needed as a teen, and that many teens still need today. Netflix didn't market the series very well, and because of Covid, this show and many others were cancelled due to “budgetary constraints”

Sydney Novak is one of only a handful of characters that is actually portrayed by a teen the character's age. Sydney is a 17-year-old trying to find her way in the world, cultivating her powers, while also trying to be a normal teen. With the help of her friends Stanley and Dina, Sydney navigates being a poor, queer teenager in a boring town in Pittsburgh. 

The superpowers part isn't relatable, sadly, but being a queer teen in a small community with only a couple of friends definitely is. Sydney, as all teenagers do, points out all faults she perceives in herself. I am not okay with this demonstrates to teenagers that they’re not alone in struggling to become young adults. It's definitely a comfort show for me, the characters feel so authentic, and they deal with issues in a constructive way, rather than being portrayed as gorgeous mid-20-year-old actors with no problems.

Along with Sydney giving viewers representation, and being authentic, she’s also a badass queer superhero with telekinesis. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the show was cancelled, and fans were left with a massive cliffhanger. It's unlikely that we’ll get a season 3 due to Netflix’s decision, and alas, Sydney will continue to be the unsung hero truly appreciated by few.

Cahal Mc Auley - Chewbacca

In a franchise with a pantheon of characters as rich as that of Star Wars, there are bound to be a few characters who don’t receive the recognition they deserve. The standout one, however, is surely the long-suffering Chewbacca, who’s contributions are underappreciated in not just one but two trilogies.

It all began back in A New Hope where even after infiltrating the Death Star and returning to save Luke and the rebellion as a whole, Chewbacca doesn’t receive a medal, even when Luke and Han do. 

A reasonably plausible explanation has been given that Chewbacca refused a medal as Wookiees do not like to receive material rewards for deeds done. 

This is undone in The Rise of Skywalker, however, as what reward does Chewbacca receive for being overlooked for a second trilogy? The very same medal that he should have been awarded for saving everyone the first time around.

The plight of Chewbacca is summed up in The Force Awakens where soon after seeing his best friend of several decades be impaled by his own son, the grieving Chewie is roundly ignored by Leia she runs to hug Rey, someone she has never met before. 

Though a beloved and valued character, Chewbacca surely deserves better than this, and in an era where every second character seems to be getting a spin-off film or show, we can only hope that our favourite Wookiee can finally take centre stage at some point in the future.

Liam Ferguson - War Machine  

A character I feel is criminally underrated is James “War Machine” Rhodes (also known as Rhodey) from the MCU. Rhodey, played by the always delightful Don Cheadle is often tossed aside as a simple Iron-Man clone, but he’s so much more than that. 

Rhodey is the only character to have suffered any real consequences from the team breaking squabble that occurred in Captain America: Civil War, getting paralysed from the waist down. He offhandedly mentions this in Infinity War as he now is only able to walk using mechanical braces, but without any kind of apology from his team members who caused this, he takes it on the chin because he is a champ. He’s Marvel’s only disabled Avenger and gets no credit for continuing the save the world despite this.  

On top of this, Don Cheadle is great. He has amazing comedic timing and an elegant presence on screen, often landing some of the best jokes in these movies. He’s a genuinely great character that just is barely given the time of day in the public conscience or the movies themselves. Luckily, he is set to star in his own Disney Plus series, Armour Wars, sometime in 2022 so hopefully this will properly allow the potential of Rhodey to shine as Don Cheadle is able to absolutely go off and steal every scene in his own show. 

Doireann de Courcy Mac Donnell - William Thacker’s friends

Notting Hill has to be one of the best rom-coms going. First released in 1999 (the golden age of the rom-com in my humble opinion), it stands the test of time. To be perfectly honest, the “rom” part of the rom-com is so not the reason to watch this. Starring Julia Roberts as Anna Scott, the misunderstood beautiful Hollywood superstar, and Hugh Grant in his classic foppish, boy-next-door, quietly-‘I’m actually really sexy’-type as William Thacker, from the outset, you know where we’re going. 

However. Go Tobann. Until. A stellar diversion from the overplayed whirlwind romance appears in the form of a dinner with William’s friends. The friends are presented as a group of pretty standard people; with problems, and embarrassments, and normal characteristics. Eating dinner with people I like and hanging out afterwards, letting the food and liquid accompaniment envelop you in a food coma, is my favourite thing to do and it’s here where the movie excels. It is pleasant, and funny, and poignant, and in a haze of the usual romcom heartache and long looks and lust, it is a welcome intervention. It feels human.

The unsung characters of the movie are really the entire ensemble cast (here’s bizarre housemate Spike’s shoutout). Notting Hill is cheesy, and predictable, and oh so unrealistic, and if the film were to be made today it undoubtedly would look very different. But don’t let your takeaway from the movie be the classic (and bleugh) “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy” but its spot-on portrayal of dinner and a couple of gloiní with good pals.