Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


Since our sighting of the biker with the white cockatoo last month, Jeremy and I have observed that the "badass with big white bird" seems to be a well-established media trope.  

Two cases in point:
  • Iron Man 2: The villainous Ivan Vanko, Russian prison alumnus, brilliant (but deranged) scientist, and energy-whip wielding foe of Iron Man, owns a white cockatoo.  Despite being an unrepentant sociopath, Vanko has a deep and abiding affection for his bird.
  • Sons of Anarchy: Jeremy and I just finished watching season one of this FX series about a gunrunning California bike club.  Jeremy calls it "Hamlet on bikes," which makes total sense if you watch the series. (And you should.)  It's full of wonderfully flawed and human characters, including Katey Sagal (who did the voice of Leela on Futurama) as the stone-cold brood mother of the bike club, Gemma Teller Morrow.  Gemma is a character who has no qualms about ordering her own son's junkie ex-wife to commit suicide by overdose after her drug habit causes their baby to be born prematurely.  Also, [SPOILERS] conspiring with her current husband and leader of the club to have her previous husband murdered?  Not a problem.  What kind of pet would someone like this have?  A six-foot python? A Rottweiler? A man-eating grizzly bear?  No, it's a white cockatoo.

Maybe it's the contrast between the pet and it's master that makes this such an appealing convention.  White birds conjure up the image of doves flying around with olive branches in their beaks.  Or maybe it's a way to humanize our villains, by giving them such a normal pet.  After all, your sweet Aunt Linda can have a cockatoo for a pet, and she's most likely not building a weaponized mech suit in her basement.  Probably.

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