Episode 522: Cocktail Party Knowledge Of The Highlander

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle mentors in work and movies, and pay tribute to a real-life mentor of ours.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather recount happy memories of Catholic chaplain Fr. Robert Beloin and wish him well in his illness. They are led to consider the topic of mentors in life and fiction—what makes a good one, what makes a bad one, and when do you need one the most?

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5 Comments on “Episode 522: Cocktail Party Knowledge Of The Highlander”

  1. John #

    Controversy: Other than “that’s where it goes in the monomyth,” is Kenobi really a mentor? The man lies repeatedly (not knowing the droids, Stormtroopers being great shots, the scumminess of Mos Eisley, the elegance of lightsabers, the identity of Luke’s father…) and all the “training” seems to be just shoving Luke in the equivalent of a batting cage with an unlicensed weapon so he could watch some other guys play space-chess and spouting a couple of aphorisms.

    I’m not saying he’s a bad guy (though his comments about a diverse town and the cracks about Sand People makes me think he’d vote for Making the Old Republic Great Again), but he kind of seems to be seriously half-assing the mentorship to the point that I have to wonder if he’s only on Tattooine to point Luke at Yoda and hoping to not get involved. Leia calling him out by name presumably spoiled that.

    As mentioned in the podcast, Highlander is maybe a better example overall, but is a weird franchise that seems to be primarily about changing its mind. It’s about winning the final battle…except that they’re all aliens. Except that…never mind all that alien talk, there’s just one more immortal, so it’s the real final fight. Except that…none of that ever happened and there’s a whole series full of immortals where bunches of them hang out. Except, there’s…that whole season of Zoroastrian prophecy, probably. And a child-friendly cartoon about another MacLeod that nobody has ever seen but I’m assured existed. And then the TV movies where…things…happen, I guess? I wasn’t able to follow them when they were on.

    And maybe weirdest of all, it’s one of the few franchises where (for most of the run) the protagonist is mostly the mentor, Duncan training his boring sidekick at the start and later drawing immortals together who don’t quite get how to get along, but want to. There are occasions when Duncan has a mentor, but it’s often (as far as the story is concerned) Methos giving exactly the wrong advice and needing Duncan as his mentor. (Just…why was super-Scottish Sean Connery’s character, in a movie where the protagonist’s community are all Scottish, Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez?)

    I’m surprised the franchise hasn’t been rebooted, yet. The world was a very cyberpunk kind of space, aside from the almost complete lack of computers, and the show’s tension between being forced to compete by invisible powers (that might just be blind tradition, for all anybody knows) and wanting to put down roots and form communities supplies a lot of useful allegorical directions. Highlander all but screams to be Hulu-produced, with a runaway budget that forces it to lop off the heads of Runaways, the Path, and the Handmaid’s Tale with a katana to receive the hypothesized prize.


  2. John #

    Oh, unrelated addendum (because the last comment wasn’t nearly enough, I guess), I’ve been watching Popfixers. I’m out of date, I realize, but great stuff and a shame if understandable that it didn’t become ongoing. “X Solutions to Y Problems” would almost make a fun game show on its own.


  3. Margo #

    What, no mention of the Karate Kid or Cobra Kai ?


  4. Three Act Destructure #

    As far as pop culture mentors go, I tend to gravitate towards Agent K from the original Men In Black. He’s one of the few that I can remember whose actual goal is to be replaced by his protégé, which feels like it should really be the ideal relationship; at least in fiction where things don’t have to be as messy or as dependent on branching employment paths and lateral moves between departments/companies as in real life.

    Even though he’s at the top of his field he spends his time acting as a talent scout, looking out for both the future health of his organization and trying to maximize the potential that he sees around him. He understands his job intimately enough to recognize which tasks can be trained on-site and which will require some specific attitude or aptitude to accomplish.

    And he successfully manages an A-list celebrity level of ego in 90s Will Smith while rarely losing his patience, which I argue is much more challenging than anything we see Mr. Miyagi or Obi-Wan do on-screen.


  5. hedgesNquills #

    I think Henry Rollins’ character from “He Never Died” is a possible answer to thought experiment posed on this episode: What would Highlander have been like if the main character didn’t have a mentor.

    We see him grappling alone with immortality, the inability to have a real family life, and the periodic need to kill people


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