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Oswald's Tower

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The Marx Brothers [Apr. 15th, 2007|01:55 pm]
Oswald's Tower


I was commenting to Amber the other day that the story structure of an Orange Group session is basically the same as the structure of a Marx Brothers movie. You have your collection of NPCs who more or less present a plot and then act like Margaret Dumont: delivering straight lines and being shocked and confused while the protagonists spout nonsense and drive the plot in ridiculous ways. Often, the original plot is forgotten in favor of something more entertaining: compare Harpo and Chico in Duck Soup harassing a street vendor instead of waging war to, well, Three and Mugwump harassing a street vendor instead of fighting the latest threat to survival.

In such a comparison, Claude falls squarely in the role of Zeppo: half the time Zeppo acts as a straight man to the other Marx brothers, and then some of the time joins in lampooning the secondary characters (particularly during song and dance numbers). This seems to be Claude's role, as well.

Other correlations vary in how obvious they are. Mugwump and Three seem to fall squarely into Harpo territory: exaggeratedly wacky. Madcap. Mugwump also has a penchant for prop gags, as the silent Harpo did.

Chico's character was basically a broadly stereotyped Italian, which clearly doesn't translate directly to a setting with Elves and Dwarves instead of Frenchmen and Australians (or whatever). But Alka's character is, in large part, a combination of orc stereotypes and the deconstruction of those steretypes. And like Chico, Alka often runs wild and causes havoc with the Harpo characters.

That leaves Mr. Levesque in the Groucho role, which ideally he would fulfill perfectly. Groucho was, of course, the most verbal of the Marx brothers, who spouted off so many jokes per line you were lucky to catch a third of them, though they were all funny. His comedy largely came from this, rather than Harpo's physical humor. Groucho was also the leader of the group, though rarely actually able to control the others. And that sounds like a perfect fit, if only Steve were actually able to deliver the kind of humor Mr. Levesque is truely supposed to be capable of.

I'm not really sure where Gavin or Geoff's character (whose name I am totally blanking on) fit into that analysis. It's the same role for both, but I don't know what it is, exactly.

You can also interpret Orange Group in terms of a Five Man Band a la Voltron and a host of others. Go read that link (and the rest of the TV tropes wiki) for the full breakdown, but you have five roles:

# The Hero - Mr. Levesque, who is in charge of the Tower and holds everything together
# The Lancer - Gavin / Geoff's character. This is a nearly perfect fit for either.
# The Big Guy - Alka, duh.
# The Smart Guy - Claude
# The Chick - NPCs probably don't count (though Tellura and our friendly neighborhood librarian/bard/kitten both fit really well), and Three probably doesn't either. Three hit the marks of Unusual lineage and unnatural powers, but more often is the Kid (q.v.) The Chick is, of course, a dying archetype, as gender equality increasingly allows females to occupy other roles, unlike in Voltron, Power Rangers, etc.

And some optional roles:

# The Pet - Mugwump. He even has the "Wizard's Magical Pet" prestige class.
# The Tagalong Kid - Three, definitely. Though Three is not nearly as bad as most examples of the archetype (Scrappy Doo, Wesley Crusher, Dawn from Buufy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)

Like all D&D groups, you get the Multinational Team going, a trope that is directly descended from Tolkien in this genre. The group never hits the Five token Band because the characters are, you know, actual characters, not assemblages to appease market segments or racial watchdog groups.

[User Picture]From: scholarinexile
2007-04-15 09:57 pm (UTC)
Wonderful analysis...it sumes things up quite well, actually. I hadn't thought of the comparison till you voiced it, but it makes total sense. Although a quick survey of the quotes from Orange Group history shows that Steve as Mr. Levesque does get in a fair number of amusing one-liners.
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