Saturday, 28 May 2016

Vinnie

I don't usually do a full on critique of a future character like this, but because The Great Race has been shown in cinemas, and I don't think I can keep my feelings towards this character bottled up until September, here's what I think of Vinnie!

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Great Race, as well as strong language. Reader discretion is advised


I want to say from the get go that I'm not against the idea of a steam engine antagonist. In fact, with all of the goody goody steamers on the show, a dedicated antagonist would be a huge breath of fresh air. However, what I'm against is a villain (any sort of villain) doing evil deeds for little to no reason. That's why I've always thought that Diesel has been the best antagonist the franchise has had: nine times out of ten, his actions have solid reasoning behind them (Dirty Work and Diesel Does it Again being prime examples).

It's also why I've never been a fan of Diesel 10; his main antagonistic roles have either been stupid (if he'd have destroyed Lady, he'd have surely killed himself, too) or downright petty (The Missing Christmas Decorations). The only time he was a threatening villain was in Day of the Diesels, but that was stifled by so many other problems that he couldn't have been savoured there, either.

The only time they tried with a steam powered antagonist was Spencer in Hero of the Rails which was, actually, almost there. The only problem there was that we're never told anywhere why he wants Hiro scrapped, and his cold, calculating behaviour is only really there because the plot demanded it as they didn't want to put in more resources to make a new character to fit that role. At least Sailor John's vendetta was explained in his character bio on the official website.

And then we come to Vinnie.

I'm gonna be frank, Vinnie is an arsehole. Not the kind that you love to hate like Diesel, nor a comedic villain like Diesel 10. Every time I see him on screen, I just imagine him burning in a fire. No other character ever has gotten that reaction out of me, and the fact he's a one-off is a huge relief as I don't think I could handle any more of him.

Look, I hate characters who throw their weight around, bullying smaller ones constantly, as it is. But with Vinnie, the feeling surrounding him is much worse than any other character of this type. Simply put, he's an American stereotype that seems to have been written by a Brit whose opinion of Americans stems from bad TV shows and tabloid newspapers rather than actually talking to some real Americans. Only it was written by a man who was born in Florida.

Not only that, but his whole character arc leads to nothing. With the way he acts in the trailer towards Thomas, you'd think that he'd end up learning something about how useful smaller engines can be. But no. His nastiness in the trailer only leads to him bullying Philip. And it was their conflict that made me realise the problem with the little boxcab: he's been written so poorly throughout his time on the show, to the point where I feel sympathy for him. But I may end up doing a post about that in the future.

Anyway, at the show, Vinnie competes in the strength test (which means that the Wooden Railway line referring to him as "Racing" Vinnie is stupid, but that's beside the point) and, once that's over - by the way, we never know who won that competition, only that Henry came last - he ends up tormenting Philip and almost forces him into a turntable well. And it's here where the moral (which, in every other area, has great execution) loses some of its oomph, to the point where it could lead to some unfortunate implications.

Now I'm not going to say that Philip's reactions to Vinnie aren't understandable; the boxcab's almost ant-sized compared to Vinnie. However, if they wanted to teach kids to be proud of who you are and not let anything get to you, the logical thing to do would be to have Philip stand up for himself and, at the very least, try and force him back. But no, it had to be Thomas and Ashima doing all the work whilst Philip cowered and, once he was out of the way, trundled off taunting the huge engine despite doing nothing. What would he have done if they weren't there? Hell, what would that teach kids to do if they were in a similar situation when there's no one else around?

Yes, Vinnie does end up getting some sort of comeuppance (hitting an electronic pylon), but his attitude remains exactly the same, meaning he's learned nothing either. Then again, why should he? The only reason he left Philip alone was because two other engines saved him and the boxcab ran off. Maybe if Philip had been more brave, there would've been a better pay off than a slight tap into a pylon?

Overall, Vinnie is one of the worst characters the show has ever produced, if not the worst. At least Lady has some charm to her when you take a step back. Vinnie's just a hateful, American stereotype.

8 comments:

  1. At first I didn't really get why you hated Vinnie so much, but... yeah I get it now. Then again that's what a blog post should do. :P

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    1. It's hard to explain fully on Twitter, especially when you have some fans not wanting spoilers (which is fair enough) as well as only 140 characters to work with :P

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  2. Now I'm really intrigued, as a teacher (sort of) this kind of personality really pisses me off, your definitely right about Vinnie's actions being bad for kids to watch.

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  3. This post actually made me think of what would be good steam engine antagonists. And then I had a brainwave, instead of the steamie antagonist being a tender engine, what if it was a small tank engine like an SE&CR P class that was tired of being unimportant and so wants to take over Thomas' branch line?

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    1. That is a very interesting idea, especially for a special

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    2. That's exactly what I was thinking. The special could involve many other Southern Railway engines that could be Thomas' old friends (ideas I came up with are Callum the LB&SCR K class, Devon the LB&SCR D3 class [both in Maunsell green], Birch the E4 class [in LB&SCR brown] and then Chat the aforementioned SE&CR P class in the blue that Bluebell is preserved in)

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  4. Wow, THE worst? You hold Lady above him?! That must be pretty bad...

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    1. The more I think about it, the more I realise that the only reason to really "hate" Lady are the film and special she was in. Other than that, she's more of a forgettable plot device than a "character". Sure, Britt tried to give her personality in the re-worked script, but it a) wasn't enough and b) put more of an emphasis on what she was actually there for rather than giving her an actual character. CAE gave her a "guardian angel" kind of personality, but that was at the expense of what fans found appealing about her in the first place.

      Vinnie, however, brought out genuine anger within me. He wasn't an antagonist, no matter how much those who have seen illegal, badly filmed cinema recording want to say. Diesel 10 was an antagonist. Spencer was an antagonist in Hero of the Rails. Vinnie is just a bully akin to the kind of scum you'd see on a school playground. It's not pleasant and there's nothing to like about him. That's what makes a genuinely bad character rather than one that has little to them for whatever reason. Those kinds of "characters" are just pointless and forgettable.

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