Rehabilitating Walter

by wjw on October 1, 2013

I don’t have much to say about the final episode of Breaking Bad, not least because I haven’t seen it yet, but I have one thing to be grateful for, which is that the series has completely rehabilitated the name of Walter.

Walter is a Germanic name meaning “wielder of the armies,” which I have to say sounds pretty studly and awesome.  But in recent decades the name has suffered a decline, at least in popular culture.  If someone named Walter turned up in movies or TV, you were guaranteed that the character was a nebbish.  Take, for example, the character played by Bill Pullman in Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle.  Walter was Meg Ryan’s fiancé, but he didn’t even have a last name.  Instead he had some kind of obscure sinus condition which made it impossible, by the Iron Rules of Hollywood, to be the romantic lead.  Despite his being devoted, kind, financially independent, and basically a nice guy, Meg Ryan dumped him without a moment’s remorse, and ran off with a stranger from Seattle whose sole known ability was to cry on the radio.

Everyone else left the movie happy that Meg Ryan had met her soulmate.  I left feeling I’d been dumped by the prom queen during the spotlight dance.

Who else?  Well there’s Walter, the henpecked husband on Maude.  Big role-model there.

And how about Walter Kornbluth, the character played by Eugene Levy in another Tom Hanks vehicle, Splash.  His big line is,  “I’m really a nice guy. If I had friends you could ask them.”

Doesn’t this phrase “nice guy” tell you all you need to know?  Nice guys finish last, as far as Hollywood romance is concerned.

About the only formidable Walter I know of was Walter Neff from Double Indemnity, and he was just Barbara Stanwyck’s patsy.

I knew it was possible for the name of Walter to make a comeback, if there was a right vehicle.  After all, what kind of name was Arnold until there was Schwartzenegger?

And for that purpose, I’ve considered writing an action film titled Walter the Assaulter.

But now, thank God, there’s Walter White.  I know that he was named Walter because it was a name appropriate for a nebbishy chemistry teacher, but his five-season metamorphosis into a supervillain brought a respect to the name that’s been absent for at least the last eighty years.  And if you don’t offer the respect demanded by the name, you’ll end up with ricin in your tea!

“Wielder of the hosts.”  Doesn’t sound so funny now, does it, Miss Ephron?

TRZ October 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Walter? Some bunch of crybaby girly movies?

Not Walter Kowalski, veteran of the 10th Army at Chosin, played by Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino?”

“I used to stack fucks likes you five feet high in Korea… use ya for sand bags. “

DensityDuck October 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Well, there’s Walter from “The Mask”. But he was only in comic books so I guess he doesn’t count.

Max Kaehn October 1, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Walter Bishop, on Fringe, is also formidable.

Travis October 2, 2013 at 2:29 am

You beat me to it Max!

Jerry October 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I fully expect Walter Jon Williams to do for the name “Walter” what Bruce Lee and Bruce Willis did for the name “Bruce.”

John Appel October 3, 2013 at 2:36 am

Now when I hear the name “Walter”, I think either of our esteemed host, or NFL great Walter Payton. Neither of these conjure images of nebbishness. And the latter was certainly master of a host.

Jim Janney October 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

It’s probably all James Thurber’s fault.

wjw October 3, 2013 at 9:34 pm

By God, you’r right! It =is= the fault of that bastard Thurber.

And now with a remake of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” about to hit the theaters, all the fine work of Walter White & Co. may be undone!

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