The Ringo Syndrome

July 1, 2010 at 10:55 am 4 comments

My sister and I were sitting around slandering fictional characters some time ago, as we are apt to do when we run out of real people. The focus of our random insults were the Pandavas, mainly Arjuna and Bhima, for being, respectively, an invincible whiner and the Dwapara Yuga’s Infraggable Krunk. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being the Infraggable Krunk – I have a deep fondness for the Justice Friends. In fact, I now find that the Justice Friends correspond eerily with Kunti’s sons – Yudhishtra is clearly the bossy and pompous Major Glory, and Arjuna is so painfully similar to Val Halen that I now have grave suspicions of Vyasa’s affection for his step-grandsons. Ok, so I just linked you so you too could be annoyed by the weird way in which the tree has spelt the Kauravas’ names. Misplaced apostrophes make me all tooth-gnashy. )

I have always had a slight case of over-identification with Yudhishtra (indecisive, loves his dog, wimpy, older sibling, likes to argue, thinks of himself as occupying moral high ground, lacks hand-eye co-ordination, dislikes strenuous activities – it’s a terrifyingly long list), especially when my self-respect levels get low, and I start to wonder if a) I am really that pompous and if b)  I should take up gambling.

“Yudhishtra’s not bad,” I said aloud in a would-be-casual voice.

My sister said she preferred Nakula and Sahadeva ‘cos no one seems to like them, not even Vyasa.  (Karna has doomed tragic hero written all over his face in 50 point font, and gets so much pity we disqualified him. We like our heroes petty and mockable. Not that Karna isn’t mockable or anything. He’s just such a sympathy hound that we find him a bit tiring.)  “Pick one,” I insisted.  So she picked Sahadeva, saying “Everyone in the book is always going on about how that stupid Nakula is so pretty! Poor Sahadeva! I’m going to like him best!”

Mid-snigger it occurred to me that she and I had had that exact conversation before:

Me: John is such a smart-aleck!

Her: And Paul is always so cutesy! And smug!

Me: I like George best. Look at him all passive-aggressively ignoring the Lennon-McCartney hits and writing his weird sitar things and preaching world peace in a self-righteous way!

Her: Poor Ringo! Why does no-one like Ringo? I think Ringo is the coolest!

Several times before, actually. Us watching Justice League:

Me: Superman and Wonder Woman are so bossy!

Her: And Batman and Green Lantern are so busy over-compensating for their random issues!

Both of us: Poor J’onn J’onzz got knocked out again! Bwahahaha. Awww.

Us picking a pup:

Me: I don’t want the white furry one. So cute and smug!

Her: The dark brown one is all sleek and sophisticated-looking.

Me: The small black one looks sort of clever. Look how sneakily it bit Amma.

Her: Poor thing, it’s tiny! It must be the runt. I bet the big ones push it around all the time! It must be hungry, not vicious.

Both of us: We want THIS one!

In the matter of dog we were lucky to find one that was both George and Ringo, both clever-quiet-evil and paavam.

The Ringo Syndrome: The psychological tendency to identify with, or be excessively fond of, the most paavam and over-looked character in a group, out of sheer cussedness.  Symptoms include Beatles posters with John, Paul and George cut out of them; building altars to Bifur, Bofur and Bombur; and Brahma worship. Complications that may arise from the Ringo Syndrome include an obsession with all drummers, a fervid fondness for Branwell Bronte, and a passion for the Thomas Covenant books. (Thomas Covenant is a Stephen Donaldson hero whose primary characteristic is the ability to whine “Leper! Outcast! Unclean!” and writhe in his own pathetic-ness whenever he is called upon to do something plot-related. In his defense, he does have leprosy, and is therefore actually deserving of sympathy. )

My sister has a raging case of Ringo Syndrome.  Her favourite Zeppelin is John Paul Jones. When we play monopoly she always chooses the tragic little iron-shaped counter which we all shun. I also have mild Ringo Syndrome – as when I read the Ramayana, and spend most of it feeling sorry for poor Shatrughna’s lack of plot.

On a mildly less flippant note: G‘s theory is that Shatrughna is the remnant of a once famous folk character whose story has been literally suppressed by the Rama myth. What does that make Ringo I wonder? My – less plausible – theory is that the Shatrughna is a position, a blank blank chair upon which the reader (or listener or viewer) can inflict its own prejudices and personality. It is the empty chair upon which the reader seats themselves, from which she has an excellent ringside view of the action, the narrative equivalent of the filmic camera-narrator. If you are the sort of person who is neither Hero (Rama), nor Sidekick (Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman), nor particularly villainous that day, then you end up having to identify with Shatrughna, that blankest of slates.

When I read the Ramayana, for example, I imagine Shatrughna much like myself: he first suggests that everyone stop making such a big deal about the whole throne thing, then when they continue to angst he rolls his eyes at his family’s melodrama and spends the rest of the epic reading, walking dogs, and honing his sarcasm with Sumitra, his almost equally plot-less mother.

(I mentioned it to my sister. “I always think of Shatrughna as quiet and maths-y and domestic,” she said modestly, “Like me. He probably spends his time knitting hyperbolic surfaces.”)

Research (I asked some friends, ok. Several.) indicates that my sister and my combined ability to pick the most generally ignored person is like a force of nature. Hide your wimpiness and intellectual pretensions as well as you can, but we will sniff you out like neurotic bloodhounds.

But she is better at it than I am.


Entry filed under: books, pointless. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

birdie in which i am point-y

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gankhu  |  July 2, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    About the post – Funny and nice. Like you would say, very well written :)
    About the blog – No, it doesn’t look like orange peels. All match up to signify instead an orchard day look – sun through the leaves, grasses underneath and a bit of breeze.

  • 2. shalini  |  July 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

    i sort of liked thinking of it as marmalade blog, but this is definitely cooler :)

  • 3. chaosbogey  |  July 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    “fervid fondness” for branwell bronte? Really? Are you sure its not only for alliteration?

    Also, is the syndrome catching? Cos tul and you had me abandon cinderella for the ugly sisters way-back-when and I never went back.

  • 4. shalini  |  July 8, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Hee. What to do? Alliteration is hard to not do.

    Also, when you put it that way, I think the ringo syndrome might well be contagious. Have you been passing it around too?

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