The Odd Couple: Carole and Tuesday

When I look at couples I tend to classify them as complementary or parallel.

A parallel couple is one whose strengths and weaknesses are similar. As a narrative device device, a parallel couple is usually composed of rivals. Because their strengths and weaknesses are similar, they are evenly matched as opponents, meaning conflict between them isn’t resolved simply. Parallel couple? How about Lupin III and Fujiko Mine?

Complementary couples have strengths and weaknesses that offset each other. Look at Kobayashi and Tohru. Kobayashi is familiar with this culture. She is logical. She is small, has no figure, has a bad back. Tohru is unfamiliar with this culture. She is intuitive. She is large and powerful, has enough curves for three humans, is physically strong.

See it? If there’s a problem, Kobayashi can solve it using her brains or Tohru could solve it using her brawn.

The classic complementary couple was Yuu and Chi from Girls Last Tour. Yuu is bigger, stronger, more athletic. She even carries a rifle, so she is more deadly. But Chi is smarter, makes better plans, is better organized. If Yuu can’t muscle their way out of a problem, Chi thinks their way out and vice versa. Perfectly complementary.

An odd couple is one where the two are simply different, without considering strengths and weaknesses.

The original odd couple was The Odd Couple, Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, as created by Neil Simon. Oscar is a slob, he’s rude, he’s grumpy. Felix is neat, polite, inoffensive. None of these is a strength or a weakness; they are just differences.

The trick to an odd couple is that they have to have something in common, something that ties them together. Oscar and Felix are tied together financially; they are apartment mates splitting the rent in New York City. BOOM. They are sharing an apartment because they can’t afford separate apartments (they each have alimony to pay). That FORCES them to stay together despite their differences, and so forces them to be in conflict because of their differences.

Seriously. Think about a slob and a neat freak that HAVE to live together. Poof. Instant conflict.

Which brings us to Carole and Tuesday.

Carole and Tuesday are both tropes. Carole is the Gamin, the streetwise child. She is independent, hard-working, streetwise (der), smart, tough, an orphan with nobody else in the world. She helps police her world (as we see right off when she issues a little “Street Justice” to a shoplifter at the beginning of the first episode).

The Gamin is a trope you don’t see much of anymore. It was a lot more prevalent back before there were child services and a foster family system. Back in 1936 Paulette Goddard was billed as “Ellen Peterson – A Gamine” in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Gamins swirl through the world of Horatio Alger (roughly 1880-1900) like grains of sand on the seashore. Dickens had a bunch of them, starting with the most famous gamin of all, The Artful Dodger.

Nowadays we have kids who are smart before their ages, the Admiral Babies. (I’ll talk more about the Admiral Babies someday, but think of Jim Hawking from Outlaw Star.) Back in the last couple centuries there were kids who were mature before their ages, the Gamins.

Carole is a gamin.

Tuesday, on the other hand, is The Poor Little Rich Girl. That’s another trope that goes way back. How about the Prince in The Prince and the Pauper? Yeah, he’s not a girl, but it’s the same trope. You want a poor little rich GIRL? How about Misaki, from Welcome to the NHK?

Tuesday comes from a family of plenty, a family of political power. But in that family she is unhappy, because she is treated as a prop by her mother and because she is not allowed to express herself. So she runs away.

I mean, seriously. That’s the first episode of Carole and Tuesday. Tuesday runs away from home.

Carole and Tuesday 2

The Odd Couple: Tuesday (left) and Carole

When they hook up, their nature as an Odd Couple is clear. Carole is assertive. She works hard, hustles for a living. Tuesday is passive. She sleeps late, does little around the house, does nothing to contribute to finances.

Carole is black. She dresses like she shops at Target. Tuesday is white. She wears fancy dresses.

Notice that these are differences and not strength/weakness, unless wearing a pretty dress is inherently strong or weak, and I don’t see that it is. They aren’t complementary. They are just different.

For the Odd Couple trope to work they have to share something that forces them together, and what they share is musical talent. Carole is a keyboard player and a fine singer. Tuesday is a guitarist and a fine singer. They make beautiful music together, literally if not figuratively. (I’ll leave the question of whether “They make beautiful music together” figuratively, i.e. have sex, to someone else.) BOOM. Regardless of how they feel about their personal characteristics, to know that they can fulfill themselves creatively by working together forces them to stay together.

Their differences create tension/conflict between them. But the conflict is overcome by the mutual need they have for one another.

Later on they start to get into a more complementary sort of relationship, I suspect because the needs of plot demanded one of them be active and one be passive. (For spoilerific reasons I won’t get into it more deeply than that. But you can probably guess which of them is active and which passive.) We’ll have to keep an eye on that through the second half of the series. Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator, has a record of avoiding simple relational tropes, especially with female characters (see Valentine, Faye; Fuu; Mishima, Lisa), so that may evolve.

But there you go: complementary couples, strengths offset weaknesses. Odd couples: just different. Both of them have their uses in creating narrative. Carole and Tuesday are an Odd Couple.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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