UPDATE: I've broken down the color-coded index into the index itself and the breakdown of the names, hopefully improving readability of the piece. Give it a look!
I have spoken here at great length about my admiration for the Austrian Oak. While it is unlikely that Arnold Schwarzenegger will ever be canonized as a great actor (or even a mediocre one), it can't be denied that he is a MOVIE STAR. What he lacks in, well, the ability to convey human emotions, he makes up for with raw charisma and screen presence. And having grown up with the movies of the 1980's and 90's, Arnold was unquestionably a huge presence in my life.
Considering myself to be a Student of Schwarzenegger, I find that one of the more amusing aspects of his film career tends to be the names of the characters he's playing. Sure, I can believe that he is a Cimmerian barbarian or a killer robot, but when he steps into the roles of doctors (which has happened with alarming frequency), dads, and actual human people, it gets a little silly.
I'm sure that many of his films were written with Arnold specifically in mind, and so the character could be tailored to his, uh, strengths, as an actor. However, it seems pretty obvious that many of them were written by unsuspecting screenwriters who never guessed that the dialogue they'd written for a Los Angeles fire fighter would someday be grunted through the clenched teeth of our favorite language mangling murder monkey.
So, I bring you the Arnold Schwarzenegger Character Name Improbability Index. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being "Most Believable" and 10 being "I refuse to believe that this mush-mouthed bodybuilder is a scientist", we shall assess the likelihood of the name and character in question being attached to our beloved, yet less than articulate Arnold.
BEHOLD THE INDEX!
BELIEVABLE to ACCEPTABLE
|Conan the Barbarian - Conan the Barbarian/The Destroyer||A a mono-named, largely non-verbal barbarian who grunts, mutilates, and screws his way through the Hyborian Age? Yes. Arnold IS Conan. What is best in life? Conan the Barbarian. That is what is best in life.|
|T-800/Terminator- The Terminator Films||A souless killing machine with no discernible personality and a letter/number combo designation instead of a proper name? That sounds about right.|
|Dutch Schaefer - Predator||Absolutely. This is the most realistic "normal person" name in Arnold's oeuvre. Also one of his best roles.|
|John Matrix - Commando||"John" is fine, because it's not totally out of the realm of possibility. Lots of people are named "John", and I assume at least a decent percentage of them are musclebound thespians who will go on to govern large states. But "Matrix"? No one in the world has the last name "Matrix". And yet, in this single instance, that works in Arnold's favor, as this is one unbelievably silly yet somehow amazingly awesome movie full of unlikely things. Once you've seen Vernon Wells in chainmail, "John Matrix" goes down a lot easier.|
|Capt. Ivan Danko - Red Heat||In the 80's (and to some extent, even today) as far as movies and television were concerned, Austrian/German/Russian characters were all pretty much the same thing. These people are humorless and talk funny. Arnold is your man.|
|Kalidor - Red Sonja||While I appreciate that "Kalidor" is more sword and sorcery mumbo jumbo, it's a little more "wizardy" than "warriory", at least to my ears. But it still sounds like a He-Man character, so I'd say that fits our boy just fine.|
|John Kruger - The Eraser||This one seems fairly innocuous. "John" isn't outlandish (as we've noted above, Arnold doesn’t really strike me as a "John", but it's not beyond the realm of possibility) and "Kruger" sounds vaguely Teutonic. We'll let this one slide.|
|Trench - The Expendables||Trench is less of a name and more of a hole in the ground. I am willing to accept that Arnold is the human equivalent of a hole in the ground, especially a hole in the ground filled with bullet-riddled corpses.|
|Doug Quaid - Total Recall||This one works on the power of suggestion. The movie keeps TELLING me that his name is "Quaid", so eventually I believed it. "Doug", not so much, but you can't have everything.|
|Harry Tasker - True Lies||Ok, "Harry Tasker" sounds like the name of a particularly hirsture porn star. (Shame on you, Jim Cameron). Since both porn stars and Arnold communicate primarily via indistinct grunts, I'm going to allow this one.|
|Mr. Freeze/Dr. Victor Fries - Batman & Robin||Do you believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger could become a brilliant scientist? No, you don't. Do you believe he could be named "Victor Fries"? Maybe. Do you believe that whatever he is named, you should learn it well, for it is the chilling sound of your doom?|
|Jack Slater - Last Action Hero||Eh, he trades "John" for "Jack" in the non-descript name dept. "Slater" seems unlikely, but it's certainly not the worst moniker that's been hung on him.|
|Det. John Kimble - Kindergarten Cop||Again with the John! He just can't escape it. But "Kimble"…something about that seems off. Maybe because "Kimble" reminds me of "Keebler". I'd like to see Arnold making cookies in a tree…a tree made of human limbs!|
|Ben Richards - The Running Man||When I think "Ben", I think of three things: a pet rat, a gentle bear, and Sir Kingsley. Arnold resembles none of these things to me.|
|Prince Hapi - Around the World in 80 Days||For one thing, I don't believe Arnold as a "Prince". A King, sure. King Conan, in fact. Secondly, "Hapi". Prince Hapi?? No, no, no.|
|Mark Kaminsky - Raw Deal||Hmm…this one is tough, because "Kaminsky" falls in that "vaguely ethnic" category that Hollywood likes to use. But "Mark"? I can see Arnold rescuing a guy named Mark. But Arnold will never BE Mark.|
|Howard Langston - Jingle All the Way||You know, this one should rank higher on the list because it really is awful. Arnold is no "Howard", and he sure as hell isn't a "Langston". Of course we're also supposed to believe that he's some sort of overworked executive, as well as a suburban dad, so there's already a lot of crap to swallow here. PUT THE COOKIE DOWN!|
|Dr. Alex Hesse - Junior||Again we have the Doctor Conundrum. No one would ever believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a doctor. However, "Hesse", I'd buy that. But "Alex" throws a monkeywrench in the works, landing him further down the list than you might expect.|
|Adam Gibson - The 6th Day||I assume the "Gibson" thing is a nod to sci-fi legend William Gibson. He should definitely be offended by this.|