Color Pie Friday: The Gang Gets Colorized
Last week I promised an origin story. It starts a few months ago, when I was trying to think of television shows with five main characters that each represent one of the five colors of Magic. Mark Rosewater always points to The Simpsons, but surely there had to be another. I stumbled upon one that had a funny quirk to it: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. A lot of people forget that Always Sunny has been running since 2005. Season 10 starts next year, but 11 and 12 have already been purchased. It’s going to go down as one of the longest running comedy series in history. If you haven’t seen it and are totally OK with black, edgy, politically incorrect comedy, treat yourself.
So what does Always Sunny have to do with Color Pie Friday? It was the inspiration for the whole column. I knew I wanted to write an article about how Mac, Dennis, Frank, Dee, and Charlie each represent a piece of the color pie. But it’s not something I just wanted to jump into with no context. I wanted a well-established foundation to pull from. My thinking was that I would write articles about each color and each color pair, and it would all culminate in an article that showcased the application of color pie thinking.
So here’s what’s happening. I’m going to go through each character and talk about how they represent the color that they represent. But I’m going to talk about the aforementioned quirk: every one of these characters is also part Black (pretty obvious if you’re familiar with the show). So you can see why I wanted to talk about the color pairs before writing this article. Let’s just get on with it, shall we?
Mac Gets Ethical…
“How could a character on Always Sunny be White?” you may ask. But Mac displays many White qualities. First, Mac fills his life with a moral code. Homosexuality is a sin. Abortion is a sin. Lots of things are sins. That’s because Mac is Irish Catholic. Ah, religion! Another of White’s staple features. The best place to look for color pie signifiers is in an argument. Mac is the one who stands for these moral positions that he subscribes to from a higher power. That’s about as White as it gets.
Mac’s White properties exist on a smaller scale too. His martial arts training (a White thing) makes Mac believe that he is a warrior of justice (another White thing!). There is nowhere that this is more evident during his fantasy sequence in “The Gang Saves the Day.” Mac’s fantasy is that he saves the convenience store from evil ninjas before dying a tragic death (and ascending to Heaven after). How honorable (and White).
…But Not Too Ethical.
Ah, but these characters are also all part Black. So Mac isn’t mono-White, but White/Black. As you may recall from my article on this color pair, White/Black is about making rules that benefit you and may only apply to others. That’s Mac all over. “Homosexuality is a sin.” Except when Mac wants to bang Carmen, a transexual woman who frequents Paddy’s Pub. “Abortion is a sin.” Except when Mac wants to avoid siring a child with a woman he met at a pro-life rally. Mac wants everyone to live by the rules he decides are ethical, but tends to be hesitant to follow them himself. And while Mac does want to be the hero, part of that motivation is the selfish desire to be cool.
Dennis Craves Information…
Dennis is the brains of the Gang. He often touts his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He’s a thinker. A planner. This all follows Blue’s philosophy of using the mind to overcome problems. Blue is also seeking self-perfection. Well, that’s Dennis, who is obsessed with being a perfect human specimen. Everything in Dennis’s life is planned out (by Dennis) so that he (Dennis) looks as good as possible. In “The Gang Saves the Day,” Dennis’s fantasy plays out as a series of perfectly constructed scenarios in which Dennis’s life goes perfectly to plan.
A key part of Blue is the lack of emotional input when making decisions. That’s also Dennis, who is always looking for the rational solution to a problem. Even if Dennis’s thought process is woefully inept (you can be Blue and not so smart!), it’s still how he chooses to solves problems. He’s the least likely to let anger or lust sway him. It’s this quality that makes Dennis bossy and controlling when it comes to Gang dynamics.
…When It’s Helpful.
And that’s the key, isn’t it? Dennis is all about planning and perfection, but rarely for the benefit of others. Dennis is all about Dennis. He’s probably the most selfish member of the Gang, as even his helpful advice is usually given out just to stop others from being annoying. To really see the selfish lack of emotion that rules Dennis’s life, just look at the D.E.N.N.I.S. system. In a classically Blue/Black fashion, Dennis has constructed a rigid system in which he manipulates women into sleeping with him. It’s even though lies and deceit, the key weapons of Blue/Black. With a desire for absolute knowledge, absolute power, and absolute control, it’s no wonder Dennis has a god complex.
Frank is in Charge…
Black is about power at any cost. Frank used to be a ruthless businessman, undercutting the competition at every opportunity in order to pocket more cash for himself. He was the stereotypical selfish industrialist, out for his own gain at the expense of others. When Frank enters the show in Season 2, however, he decides to give up the life of big bucks and live like a regular schlub with Charlie. Of course, none of this changes his superiority complex, and he often flexes his financial muscle in order to stay on top. Whether he’s taunting Dennis and Dee with Christmas presents or buying the land the bar sits on in order to own it, Frank wheels and deals to get his way.
…Except When He Isn’t.
You can’t make a color pair with Black/Black. That’s still mono-Black. Thankfully, Frank is still mono-Black. He suffers the consequences of the color too. Black is about the individual, so it’s not very trusting of others. This has gotten Frank into plenty of trouble over the years. He’s usually the number one suspect when Mac, Dennis, Dee, or Charlie think a conspiracy is afoot. Many episodes break down into a Frank vs. the Gang plot, with the rest of the cast members resenting Frank for something he has done. It’s appropriate, as Frank isn’t a member of the original cast.
Dee is an Emotional Rollercoaster…
Deandra (AKA Dee (AKA Sweet Dee (AKA Bird))) is the Red member of the Gang. She’s the one most governed by her emotions, characterized by her short temper and rebellious nature. Mac and Dennis have made it a habit to put Dee down, always eliciting an outrageous response from bird-girl. Dee is also the most artistic member of the Gang (which isn’t saying much), always going on and on about acting and comedy and how wonderful her nonexistent career is. The trickster personality is also a Red thing (when it’s for entertainment), and Dee is a big believer in pranking and sticking it to others. Ideally, there’s nothing that should be able to stop Dee…
…of Self Destruction.
…But she’s pretty good at doing that herself. As a Black/Red character, Dee’s always looking out for her own wants above anything else. That includes her own needs. In “Charlie Rules the World,” Dee can never make any progress in the game because she’s too focused on the things she thinks are funny (making the Gang look like asses). Later, she wastes real-life money on six-inch acrylic nails because she thought they would look cool. It’s a common pattern for Dee, whose anger and desire for cheap thrills usually prevents her from accomplishing her goals. She’s also easily sidetracked by revenge, deviating from any current plan in a moment’s notice simply out of spite.
Charlie is Charlie…
Charlie does “Charlie work.” That’s as Green as it gets. He spends his time at Paddy’s doing what he’s inherently good at: “cleaning” toilets and killing rats. Charlie forms a predator/prey relationship with the rats, something that he accepts as perfectly normal. When this system is upset in “Charlie: King of the Rats,” Charlie resists the niceties of life and just wants to be left alone with his Charlie work. He’s the character most resistant to change, not even leaving Philadelphia because other places are too not-Philadelphia. If one thing guides Charlie more than anything else, it’s instinct. Charlie rarely has a rationale for what he’s doing. He just does “Charlie stuff.” And hey, he’s even Green Man.
…and Will Always be Charlie.
Charlie is almost feral. But every now and then he shows his humanity, and that’s when the Black in Charlie’s personality shows up. Like any good Black/Green character, Charlie is effective at worming his way through the big picture to get what he wants. In “Charlie Rules the World,” Charlie is able to quickly and effectively figure out how to bend the rules of the online game to his advantage. You might say, “But isn’t Charlie also Red because he spends so much time pursuing the Waitress?” If it was a normal sitcom romance, sure. But Charlie is a crazy stalker, and the Waitress hates him. This is a good example of Black love, as Charlie loves the Waitress because it would be great for him. Charlie is totally aware of the problems he causes the Waitress, but he doesn’t care about her feelings. Thus, Black love and not Red love.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a rare breed of television show, which is part of why it’s lasted so long. While each character is funny in their own right, this is really an ensemble cast. The fuel of the comedy is the characters interacting with each other. Why does it work so well? Magic characterization says it’s because each character represents a different color. That means that every character pair has shared values and seething conflicts that erupt in fireworks of comedy at every turn.
I’d like to close today by commenting that this is just my personal analysis. I’ll be doing more articles like this in the future, and I’d like them to be jumping-off points for discussion rather than an encyclopedic resource. Some people may agree with me, others won’t. Speak up! If you enjoy the color pie and enjoy other media, this is exactly the kind of thing that’s fun to talk about.
If you fall behind, planeswalkers, I’ll come back for you.