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Unlikely Mentors

Banes at 12:00AM, March 25, 2021
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the cruel tutor himself, Pai Mei

One of my favorite character types is the gruff/grizzled old mentor. Tough as nails, mean or cranky on the outside but with great knowledge or support to offer when you know them, or when they know - and trust - you.

I've talked about them before but some of my favorites are Pai Mei from Kill Bill, Stick from Daredevil, John from Supernatural and Wade Garrett from Roadhouse. This character is past their prime, allegedly, with their powers (natural or otherwise) in decline, and don't come across as the most pleasant or personable. Actually Wade from Roadhouse is an exception to that: as tough and gruff as he is, he's pretty zen and does his business as a bouncer with a friendly smile, keeping things calm.


blind assassin Stick - just the kind of warm, understanding teacher a young boy needs!

In my life I've known a few of these types. Barflies, hilbillies and scrap collectors who can come across as intimidating, but also have an earthy wisdom to offer. They tend to be free of a lot of the anxieties of younger or more civilized people, and they have an honesty and purity in a way that is inspirational. They have the power to recognize a good person as well, and effortless B.S. detectors.


Oh, and they - and their exaggerated fictional counterparts - have a toughness to them forged from long experience, and have seen things many of us can only imagine. They can - sometimes surprisingly - throw down at a level that leaves other characters - and audiences - slack jawed and stunned!

Sometimes this happens when the Protagonist has to fight them due to some betrayal - the Mentor-turned-villain is not the trope I'm talking about, though. My favorite version is when the Tough Mentor saves the Protagonist's skin! I also like it when the Mentor doesn't die - although that can be a powerful moment of course, and is very common to send the Protagonist into their final challenge.


Wade Garrett's getting old? He's still the best!

It's a wonderful type of character who I always like to see.

What you think of these types of mentors? Got a favorite?

Have a good'n,

Banes

comment

anonymous?

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:24AM, March 26, 2021

I loved the Kill Bill reference and instantly clicked on this because of my love for Quentin Tarantino Films (and the writing of Banes). :)

marcorossi at 7:08AM, March 25, 2021

Not exactly the same thing, but the mentor role is very similar to the donor role in Propp's fairy tale structure. In fairy tales, though, the "donor" is very often evil: e.g. Ivan has to fight a dragon, on the road to the dragon meets a nice old lady who need to fill a pot from a nearby spring, Ivan fills the pot and the old lady geves him a magic dragon killing horse (this is the friendly donor); option 2 Ivan has to kill a dragon and on the road meets an old witch who wants to kill and eat him, Ivan kills the witch and steals her magic dragon killing horse. I think that this happens because the donor/mentor part of the story is where the hero gets his maturation, or gets magic powers/magic trinkets in fairy tales, so the mentor part is still a sort of trial.

Ozoneocean at 1:52AM, March 25, 2021

Rip Torn in Dodgeball, throwing spanners at people's heads. Love him.

Ozoneocean at 1:51AM, March 25, 2021

Ones Punch Man. Genos wants him to be a mentor and copies everything he does, but mostly he just plays videogames and makes ramen... He basically lives with him as a young 20 something slacker room mate and that's all the mentoring consists off. XD

Corruption at 12:47AM, March 25, 2021

I like a range of mentors. There is the Trickster Mentor, who teaches people via trickery to make them do things to learn. There is the Crazy Mentor, who seems totally bonkers, andmost probably is, but the Protagonist has to follow him and learn (Like in Drunken Master). A third I like is there the mentor is bone lazy and knows how to get other people to do the training for them. A fourth one I find interesting is where the mentor has no idea what they are doing and faking it. This can lead to the protagonist learning a new style of doing things that the established antagonists don't know how to oppose. A fifth is where the mentor expects the student to try to cheat and learn things forbidden to them. Hmm, the forbidden spells are in books in that secured room? Have to learn different ways to break in! Think up the strangesrt things you can. There are a few Harry Potter fanfics where Harry time travels to the past and trains his younger self.


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