what’s an accomplice? an accomplice is a helper especially in committing a crime or doing something morally wrong. (2 people or more)
what’s an alter ego? an alter ego is a part of someone’s personality that is not usually seen by other people. (1 person)
What’s an avatar? This is a tricky one as it has two meanings. First, the word avatar comes from the Hinduism: it’s a manifestation of a deity or a released soul in a bodily form on earth, an incarnation (divine mostly), a personification/embodiment of an abstract idea (charity, wiseness etc.). The second meaning appears more recently, an avatar is a figure representing a person in video games, internet forum and so on. This is interesting as at first some abstract concept becomes physical and in the second one a physical person become something abstract.
Here are a few examples. Some will be obvious, and others will be more tricky as the delimitation between these three words can be quite blurry. I will explore and do my best to find an example where the three are reunited in one character.
Vincent Freeman and Jerome Eugene Morrow from Gattaca:
The two characters agreed to work together to archive each other’s goal. Therefore they are accomplices. At the beginning of the movie, Vincent is presented as Jerome until he tells us his secret. He introduced us to his word at Gattaca which is very neat, and then we go back in time to discover how he came to change identity. He splits his personality intentionally. When he is Vincent who pretends to be Jerome, this makes him an alter ego. I would say that Vincent is the alter ego of Jerome Morrow as no one sees him when he uses Jerome’s DNA.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (The Strange Case of):
No need to introduce you to this famous novel which had numerous adaptation. Jekyll and Hyde must be the most well-known example of alter ego. These are two drawings I did a few years ago as part of my character design course. This is a case of passive alter ego as Dr Jekyll has no control over Mr Hyde, but he remembers a few things from when he is Mr Hyde. Dr Jekyll is conscious that Mr Hyde exists even if he tries hard to hide it from his friends.
The narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden from Fight Club:
I know. The first rule about Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. But I just realise something important… the main character who narrates the story is real, and we don’t even know his name! In opposition, we know a lot about his alter ego, Tyler Durden, who is everything our main character does not dare to be/do when he is himself. This is a case of passive alter ego as the Narrator had no control over Tyler until the end when he realised that Tyler is not real. The Narrator is also schizophrenic, he can see Tyler. Tyler is a hallucination, and his alter ego.
Norman Bates and his mother from Psycho:
Another, great example of alter ego is Norman Bates who thinks his mother is still alive. First Norman hears voices and becomes his mother from time to time. This is a case of passive alter ego, as Norman is not conscious of his split personality and he keeps the corpses of his real mother in his house. This is sick… but such a great movie. The last scene where everything is uncovered is great too, the wig that falls on the floor, the mother dress that is ripped open and you see Norman’s clothes underneath, and the light bulb moving and creating weird shadows on the mother’s corpse.
Kaiser Söze and Roger “Verbal” Kint from The Unusual suspects:
This is a great one. I still don’t know what to think. Who is Keyser Söze? Does he even exist? I think at one point in the movie one of the Sailor mentioned him. So my theory is that our character (the Narrator) plays roles all the time, he can be the crime master Keyser Söze or the petty Roger “Verbal” Kint whenever he wants. This makes him a kind of supervillain, we don’t know who he is. He got at least two alter egos who are very different from each other. This is probably an active alter ego as our Narrator knows he has different personalities, he controls them and remembers what he does when he is one of them. This doesn’t solve the problem of what really happened and what was invented by the Narrator. This might be a theme for another post, but I will just focus on the alter-ego-side-of-things.
Superheroes and their public alter ego:
Well, I have to talk about superheroes. I am just going to pick a few which I think are interesting. First, are Thor and Loki avatars or even alter egos? I think neither one nor the other as they are always themselves no split personality and they are called by their God’s names by the humans on Earth. They are not abstract concept/idea, even if they’re inspired by Nordic mythology, they are no incarnation, just gods on Earth.
Hulk is interesting. He is Bruce Banner’s alter ego. Bruce has no control over him and does not remember what he does when he is Hulk. He transforms into Hulk when he is subject to stress or rage. There are almost different Hulks, more or less destructive. It happened that people reached out for Banner or Banner’s memories which are sometimes present in Hulk. Banner is conscious that Hulk exists and desperately tries to find a cure (very close to Jekyll and Hyde’s alchemy relationship).
We need to talk about Doctor Strange too, he is very tricky as once he becomes Dr Strange, there is no come back to Stephen Vincent Strange, the surgeon. First, because his hands are too damaged to practice surgery again, secondly being a superhero and protecting the world is a full-time job. Doctor Strange know who he was before and has no extreme split personality. He was more selfish and arrogant before his training with the Ancient one than after but the character is quite similar so I don’t think he has an alter ego. He also has an amulet (Eye of Agamotto) which allows him to draw powers/abilities from mystical entities. As the mystical entities as quite an abstract concept even if there is a logical cosmology to Doctor Strange universe, I would say that he is more like an avatar. These abilities conducted through the amulet can change the reality, for example, Doctor strange can create a mystical shield (act like a real object).
What about Iron Man (from the movies)? Tony Stark’s ego is so big that the line between his alter ego (Iron Man) and his public identity is blurred…
Gollum / Sméagol from Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit:
Well here is another example of alter ego. Sméagol becomes Gollum after the Ring, and the thirst for power has driven him made. Sméagol kills his friend to get the Ring and then runs away. Living in solitude, he loses his mind and becomes Gollum. Sméagol lost control at a point of himself, and then he disappears as Gollum is taking over. To Gollum the Ring has a personality too, he calls him “Precious” and talks about it/him. Would this make the Ring an accomplice of Sméagol as they both get what they wanted? Sméagol commits murder to get the Ring which/who wanted to be found.
Stanley Ipkiss and The Mask:
Stanley Ipkiss becomes everything he does not dare to be when he puts on a special mask. He is conscious that he becomes The Mask when he puts it on, a humanlike creature with a green face which has a very cartoony way to act with exaggeration. Stanley knows he looses control but gets addicted to it. It a tricky case of active and passive alter egos, as Stanley always decides to transform even if he loses control afterwards.
Voldemort and Tom Marvolo Riddle:
Yes, I am a Harry Potter fan, and I just had to talk about Voldemort. It is quite complex as Tom Marvolo Riddle transforms through different things in Lord Voldemort. First, he grows up and gets a magical education. Lord Voldemort hates the fact that he is half Muggle he wants to get rid of this part of him: he changes his name (no one should know his real name and discover about his relatives), and he splits his soul. He denies he has been Tom by trying to erase all traces of his past for example by killing his father and letting his uncle take the blame for it. He also physical splits his soul six-times and seventh time accidentally. This means that at a point there were 7 parts of his soul and personality in the word while his 8th (and original) part became close to nothing after the killing spell rebounded on him. So if he (the 8th part) is nearly nothing and there are 7 parts more or less alive (Harry is alive with a part of Voldemort in him), and Tom from the diary has its own consciousness, does that make all the Horcruxes some kind of avatars? Voldemort struggles to explain what he was before Peter Pettigrew nursed him back to “health” and gave him back his bone and flesh during the ritual (4th book). Voldemort says he could possess small animals like rats and of course snakes. He doesn’t feel when the Horcruxes are destroyed as he has to go and check each of his hiding places to know how much Dumbledore had discovered.
Could we also say that all the Horcruxes are accomplices of each other as they’re aiming for the same thing, get their/his body back? It is difficult to say, for example, Nagini is a living Horcrux and is there to help her master and herself to get back to power. But the other Horcruxes a too independent to act in such an organised way. I think I have no answer for that one.
Calvin/Spaceman Spiff/Stupendous/Tracer Bullet/ and Hobbes:
Calvin is a super smart kid full of imagination, he creates intentionally a few alter ego to escape or better cope with reality. These are active alter egos as they are parts of Calvin personality, Calvin decides when he is who even if it comes naturally to him, he knows what he is doing when he is one of them. Calvin applies a kinda filter to reality to make it more fun. Watterson often juxtaposes frame with Calvin vision of reality and the grown-up version of the same frame.
Is Hobbes and alter ego too? I don’t think so, as this would mean that Calvin has a part of the personality which is Hobbes and that the boy is also schizophrenic as he can see his Hobbes as a separate part of him. Hobbes is a real soft toy we can see that in some strips. Hobbes could be more like an avatar as he is an incarnation of Calvin imagination, he could also be an accomplice as their making mischief together.
Ava from Ex Machina:
At one point in the movie, Nathan confesses to Caleb that Ava was created from date based on Caleb’s internet history/research. She was designed so that he would like her and fall in love. Ava is an avatar, she’s an incarnation of all the data you can collect about Caleb.
Theodore and Samantha from Her:
This is a great movie, I loved it. Samantha is an artificial intelligence system which is there to help people (a kind of Alexa device). Theodore shares so much with Samantha that they fall in love. Samantha is data collected from every corner of the internet. Theodore is real, he forged Samantha by answering her question, describing his world as he sees it. Samantha is an avatar created from data at one point she chooses a girl who is suppose to act like her. The girl is supposed to embody Samantha so she can interact with Theodore.
Bianca from Lars and the Real Girl
Weird and fun movie. I think Bianca is an avatar of Lars’ ideal woman. Lars has a split personality as he becomes disconnect from the real world after a traumatising childhood. Maybe he’s got Asperger as he is not good with a human relationship. He is so detached from reality that he created/build a dramatic story day by day for Bianca. This affects his relationship with Bianca. Everyone in the town is helping to make Bianca feel at home, but Lars is the one that imagines all sorts of problems. At the end when he “let her go”, I feel like he has a disillusion about what relationship are and what they’re not. This event snaps him out of it (split personality where he does not recognise Bianca as a doll), I suppose he is going to start a relationship with Margo … So for me, Lars has Asperger or something similar, once he orders the doll, his personality splits for a time, probably because of stress and excitation on unpacking/meeting Bianca.
Turbo and King Candy from Wreck-it Ralph: