The Huffington post recently published an article by Otto Penzler about the true stars of noir fiction. Penzler argues that noir is not concerned with the heroic, but with the imperfect – the losers, the dupes. The trod-upon, the simpleton, the exploitable…the fool who is squashed by their own greed or thrown beneath the rollers for another’s benefit. In their honor, we recite the hymn to the Patsy.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Nick Papadakis takes in fresh-from-the-hay-truck drifter Frank Chambers and loses his business, wife, and cranial integrity for his troubles. Not long after the Greek hires penniless Frank at his diner, Cora Papadakis uses her feminine wiles to convince Frank to take advantage of the Greek’s trusting nature. With the Greek’s death, she muses, the two can live together with the sizable life-insurance payout, diner, and, most importantly, wanton sexual expression. The two scheme, drive the Greek out on the vertiginous California highways, drown him in booze, and cave his head in with a tire-iron. A true patsy, the Greek is trusting til the end…
The Big Lebowski
Closer to Penzler’s notion of the “loser as noir-hero” idea, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is the hero of his story because he is the perfect dupe. Manipulated by wealthy misanthropes, Nihilists, modern-art mavens, and porn producers, The Dude is maneuvered into dangerous situations by the schemes of the wealthy, all the while unaware of his role in the larger drama. So perfect is Lebowski as a patsy that his final lines maintain his blasé passivity, “The Dude abides…”