Maybe this is the point when I lose some of you—when my odd nineties-geared proclivities prove just a little too much. Nevertheless, I have to be honest with myself and the truth is that this character had me from episode one: “Space. It seems to go on and on forever. But then you get to the end and the gorilla starts throwing barrels at you!” With his response to finding out he is “the most important person in the universe,” Philip J. Fry responds, “Oh, snap,” which somehow perfectly exemplifies my unrepentant fascination with him. Oozing with characteristic Matt Groening humor, Futurama is loud, endlessly thought-provoking and offers some of the most boorish, idiotic, endearing protagonists on television, with the cryogenically frozen delivery boy from New York being my all-time favorite.
NUMBER 2: Fry
Futurama (TV series; 1999-2003, 2008-2013)
First, I will go back to my definition of “fascinating” from the first article I wrote in this series, 10 months ago:
By fascinating characters, I mean interesting—in and of themselves. These characters attract as much attention—or more—than the plot, itself. They are like disco balls (or train wrecks in some cases)—you can’t not watch them.
These criteria are undeniably met in spades by the character who takes waking up from an accidental (actually not so accidental, as we learn from Lord Nibbler as the series progresses or just by watching the first episode very carefully) cryogenic sleep 1000 years later in stride as though it were just walking into the wrong room in his house. Much like Homer Simpson’s ineffable, counterintuitive charisma, Fry is attractive for his juvenile, wide-eyed innocence…and ignorance.
“People said I was dumb, but I proved them!” –from ‘The Day the Earth Stood Stupid’
Fry is also fascinating because he is immune to a severe problem in the 31st century, psychic attacks, like from “Brain Slugs” and “Brainspawn,” and not because he is soooo dumb. It is actually because he lacks the “Delta Brainwave,” as he is his own grandfather, (he went back in time, accidentally killed who he thought was his grandpa and slept with his grandma) making his very existence a space-time anomaly.
“I did do the nasty in the past-ee.”—from ‘The Why of Fry’
Another fascinating characteristic of Fry is his infatuation with the one-eyed, purple haired space pilot, Turanga Leela. One may imagine that someone from the 20th century would be, if not turned off, at least not attracted to a cyclops, but Fry’s affection for her begins in the first episode and continue throughout the series. There are many brilliant and extremely moving episodes geared around their relationship, including my favorite episode of the series, The Sting. In this brilliant, Emmy-nominated episode, the crew has to collect honey from giant bees and Fry is impaled and dies protecting Leela from the queen’s stinger. Leela goes mad with guilt, but it is (as in so many episodes) not as it seems. As far as Fry’s character goes, I think this episode perfectly illustrates his undying (literally) love for Leela and the surreal nature of the cartoon makes it one I can watch over and over and over and over.
Leela: Bees communicate by dancing.
Fry: Just like my parents! Oh wait, that was hitting.–from ‘The Sting’
I would be remiss in my duties defending my fascination with Fry if I never mentioned his best friend, Bender Bending Rodriguez. In the first episode, Fry walks into what he thinks is a phone booth, but is actually a suicide booth, and meets the friend he had dreamt of since he was six years old. Bender is a loud, self-absorbed, alcoholic robot who brings out the best and the worst of Fry, (as I think many of us can relate to in our own closest friends.) This scene is from I, Roomate, the episode when Fry moves into Bender’s “spacious” two cubic meters apartment. Fry tries not to hurt Bender’s feelings as he crams into the tiny space, but Bender’s nocturnal musings are just the beginning of the hilarious turmoil Fry faces in this episode:
Bender: [in his sleep] Kill all humans, kill all humans, must kill all humans…
Fry: Bender, wake up!
Bender: Wh-uh? I was having the most wonderful dream. I think you were in it.
Fry: Where’s the bathroom?
Bender: The bath what?
Bender: The what room?
Bender: The what what?
Fry: Never mind.
[Bender goes back to sleep.]
Bender: Hey, sexy mama, wanna kill all humans?
I could go on recounting my favorite Futurama moments for months, but suffice it to say that it is my favorite cartoon and Fry is my favorite character in it. I think Groening and company reached the pinnacle of their creative writing with this show, (not to take away from the hey-day of The Simpsons) only that I find the writing in most of Futurama to be exceedingly intelligent while maintaining a perfectly childlike cartoonishness. Billy West, the voice of Fry and many background characters in the show, gives Fry just the right amount of silliness, sincerity and stupidity, just as well as Dan Castellaneta did for Homer.
For me, the best way to end this is with more words of profundity from Philip J. Fry and to implore anyone who hasn’t enjoyed this far-out, sci-fi gem of a show to do so—now!
Fry: You can’t lose hope when it’s hopeless. You gotta hope more, then put your fingers in your ears and go, “Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!”
From Why Must I be a Crustacean in Love?
Professor Farnsworth: We—by which I mean you—will have to rush him to his ancient home-world, which will soon erupt in an orgy of invertebrate sex.
Fry: Oh baby! I’m THERE!
Leela: Fry, do you even understand the word “invertebrate?”
Fry: Nope, but that’s not the word I’m interested in.
From How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back
Morgan Proctor: Why is there yogurt in this hat?
Fry: I can explain. See it used to be milk, and…well, time makes fools of us all!
From A Taste of Freedom
Fry: Wait, I’m having one of those things…you know, a headache with pictures.
Leela: An idea?
Fry: [Nodding, grunts] MmmHmm…
From A Leela of Her Own
Fry: ‘Here’s your pizza,’ I’d say. ‘I didn’t order any,’ they’d say. And then I’d be off on my next adventure.
From The Luck of the Fryish
Fry: I may not know much about horses, but I know a lot about doing anything for one dollar!
From Mars University
Fry: [upon seeing his dorm room for the first time] Hey, pretty nice for a single. Two desks, two chairs, a couple of beds. [knock on the door] A woodpecker.
Leela: I think that’s probably your roommate.
From The Route of All Evil
Dwight: I heard alcohol makes you stupid.
Fry: No, I’m doesn’t!
From Put Your Head on My Shoulders
Fry: My folks were always on me to groom myself and wear underpants. What am I, the Pope?