Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 124

120 Populär Culture Review O f course, such meaning can come mainly from the viewer. For example, in Once Upon a Time in the West, the villain’s name, “Frank,” is widely considered to be homage to the High Noon villain named Frank Miller. Considering how much Once refers to previous westems, if the villain’s name had been “John” it would probably be considered a hat-tip to John W ayne or (perhaps more likely) John Ford. Had it been “Steve” we may think he was invoking W ister’s ill-fated character. In fact, by the year o f the film ’s release, almost any common name could be seen as homage to some prior film or story regardless o f Leone’s intent. “M istaken identity” and historical stories, along with those that have clever thematic reasons for characters’ names, are a drop in the bücket, however. They are far outweighed by those tales where names are simply a way o f sorting characters. In The Virginian, Judge Henry refers to “the man they call Steve”— not the man named Steve, but the one called by that label (Wister 57). Once a character is labeled “Steve,” we know to whom other characters are referring when they say that name. He has no special quality o f “Steveness” because there is no such thing. H e’s Steve because w e’re told so, and that is all there is to his being Steve. He could easily be Bill, Peter, or Simon for all the reader cares— as long as his name remains the same throughout. Ultimately, character names are mainly usefiil as simple devices to help us keep the characters from becoming confused with other characters. Still, it should be noticed that even when a name is easily replaceable, it still must make sense in the story’s context. “ Frank” might just as easily be named “John” or “W ill,” those are considered normal names for the 19,h Century American west, names that audience members can identify with. He could not be named “Keyser Soze” or “Jar Jar Binks” without confusion, nor could he terrify a town with a silly name like “Cookie Forbush.” The name itself may not be important, but the style o f name will be in any genre. W h a t’s Not in a Nam e? “This short cigar belongs to the M an with No Name,” Starts the trailer for A Fistfiil o f Dollars. “This long gun belongs to the Man with No Name. This poncho belongs to the Man with No Name. The Man with No Name—{langer fits him like a tight black glove. He is, perhaps, the most dangerous man who ever lived.” Harping repeatedly on the fact that the man has no name for vehemence— the rhetorical ploy known as palilogia — the trailer sells an image: a cigar, a poncho, and a gun. He is a