TV Characters and Their Literary Counterparts


When you spend your days writing about culture, broadly defined, the strangest juxtapositions start to present themselves. Here at Flavorpill, where we might hop from Katherine Mansfield to Katy Perry in the space of a single post, we’re always noticing the ways in which high culture and pop culture complement each other. That, perhaps, is why it recently occurred to us that Ron Swanson and Ernest Hemingway must have wildly similar personalities — which led us to the thought experiment below: TV Characters and Their Literary Counterparts. Follow along with us after the jump, where we compare modernist authors to fictional teenagers and great humorists to fake-news hosts, and add your own pairings in the comments.

Ron Swanson and Ernest Hemingway

Is there anyone more alike in the cultural realm than Ron Swanson and Ernest Hemingway? Yes, each has some rather notable facial hair, but the similarities go far beyond that. Both are rugged individualists with gruff manners who — though they have desk jobs — prefer such manly pastimes as hunting and fishing. Just as Hemingway’s prose style is terse, Swanson hates to waste time on small talk. And both are sweeter and more cuddly than they’d like to admit. Isn’t that right, Papa Bear?

Liz Lemon and George Sand

So, they’re no Hemingway and Swanson, but Liz Lemon and George Sand have a lot in common. First and foremost, they are pioneering women in professions dominated by men; while Sand was a 19th-century writer, Lemon is one of the few 21st-century ladies to hold a position of power in the comedy world. At least partially as a result, neither seems to care much for the traditional trappings of femininity. Sand was known for wearing men’s clothes, because she said they were heartier and cheaper — a justification we wouldn’t be surprised to hear from Lemon, who we’re not sure we’ve ever seen in a skirt or dress. Finally, both women are sexual rebels within the context of their own society. For Lemon, who would generally rather avoid sex, the best part of a relationship is eating takeout together in front of the TV. Sand, meanwhile, lived at a time when women weren’t supposed to like sex and caused a stir for running through so many lovers (some of whom may have been female).

Don Draper and James Frey

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s creative genius and the bestselling author of A Million Little Pieces are both very successful at what they do — but, of course, both had to do a lot of lying about themselves and their background to succeed. And, to a certain extent, while James Frey’s name is a punchline in some circles and Don Draper had a pretty rough Season 4, each man has held onto that success even after being found out. Draper’s true identity has been revealed to various characters, and although it lost him his marriage, the last time we saw Don, he still had his fancy job and had scored a brand-new, beautiful, young wife to boot. Frey, meanwhile, scored yet another bestseller with 2008’s Bright Shiny Morning, which came out after his A Million Little Pieces fabrication came to light. Now, he’s got his own YA “fiction factory.”

Angela Chase and Virginia Woolf

Yes, Virginia Woolf is known for penning several of the 20th century’s greatest novels before marching to an early, watery grave, while Angela Chase was the prototypical ’90s high schooler. But look beyond the surface and you’ll see two women who were almost always the smartest person in the room, both of whom had a talent for pulling universal meaning out of specific, mundane occurrences. Angela’s voiceovers may not quite stack up to Virginia’s dilated moments of reverie, but it’s not like Woolf wrote Mrs. Dalloway as a teenager.

Chuck Bass and Oscar Wilde

You could make the case that the beautiful and corrupt Chuck Bass is more similar to Oscar Wilde’s greatest character, Dorian Gray, than to the author himself. But consider that Bass and Wilde are also both well known for their dandy wardrobes — can’t you see Chuck in Oscar’s fur-trimmed coat or Oscar bundling up in one of Chuck’s many flashy man-scarves? Aside from being clotheshorses, Bass and Wilde are always good for a pithy one-liner (although we’re not sure how “I’m Chuck Bass” stacks up to any given Wilde classic). Moreover, lest you protest that Wilde was gay and Bass is straight, kindly recall the infamous Chuck Bass Gay Kiss and his subsequent mention of having tongued dudes in the past, as well as the fact that Wilde was married.

Constance Langdon and Tennessee Williams

Well, they look nothing alike, but we’re pretty sure that if you took a look inside Tennessee Williams’ substance-wrecked subconscious, you’d find something quite similar to Jessica Lange’s bizarre American Horror Story character, Constance Langdon. Constance, like many of Williams’ heroines, is an aging southern belle type who can’t escape from her lonely, miserable existence and, as a result, tends to cause drama. (Also, she’s probably dead.)

Al Swearengen and Hunter S. Thompson

Loud, controversial, and unpredictable, Hunter S. Thompson and Deadwood‘s Al Swearengen could be difficult guys to deal with — just ask the poor soul who received this rejection letter from Thompson (or, you know, Swearengen, who isn’t afraid to bust a few heads to get his way). Both men are also known for enjoying and promoting the more decadent things in life; while Swearengen is a one-stop shop for prostitutes, liquor, and gambling, Thompson never met a mind-altering substance he didn’t like. And, of course, each is renowned for his fabulously dirty mouth. We would also add that there’s more dignity and substance to both Thompson and Swearengen than meets the idea.

Stephen Colbert and Mark Twain

Yes, Stephen Colbert is a real person — but Stephen Colbert, conservative, egotistical, and insecure host of The Colbert Report is most definitely a character. Both Twain and Colbert are known for their humor, and while the former created characters whose adventures often served as left-leaning political commentary, the latter is a character who functions as a progressive satire of all things right-wing. It’s impossible not to see some of Twain’s wit in Colbert, and we imagine that, were he still alive, Twain would be tuning in every night.

Jerry Seinfeld and Jack Kerouac

We can already hear fans on both sides protesting, but hear us out for a moment. Jerry Seinfeld, the character, was created by Jerry Seinfeld the comedian. Jack Kerouac, meanwhile, was almost always the protagonist of his own novels, although he liked to give himself a pseudonym. Despite the fact that Seinfeld’s work is pretty light and Kerouac’s is all spiritual and liberating and stuff, both appear in their narratives as fairly normal guys and draw inspiration from the stranger antics of their colorful friends. You could also argue that Seinfeld and On the Road both defined an era, albeit in very different ways.

Jonathan Ames and Jonathan Ames

The similarities are just eerie, if you ask us.