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8 Best Frenemies in Pop Culture

Batman – The Telltale Series just dropped its second episode, “Children of Arkham,” earlier this week. We’ve been loving the game so far, especially the way Teltalle is focusing more on Bruce Wayne and his complicated personal relationship than just punching bad guys. We see the beginnings of Bruce’s friendship with Harvey Dent, for example, and his antagonistic romance with Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman).

Telltale has also introduced a new dynamic to Batman’s world with their retooling of the Penguin. Unlike the comics, Telltale gives us an Oswald Cobblepot who was a close childhood friend to Bruce Wayne. The two seem to genuinely care about each other, even though they now share a clear animosity as adults.

In that spirit, we thought it’d be fun to look at some of our other favorite “Frenemy” relationships in pop culture.

Angel and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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Angel and Spike had a long, complicated history together centuries before Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned them into the vampire equivalent of Archie‘s Betty & Veronica. Angel was actually the one who turned the human Spike into a vampire, which is always going to cause some lingering resentment. While they were both “bad guys,” they spent years as friends killing and feasting their way across Europe together. Even after they both turned good, their mutual animosity is hilarious to watch throughout both Buffy and Angel, usually with Spike teasing and tormenting the stoic Angel.

That animosity reaches peak form in the final season of Angel, when (SPOILERS) Spike returns from the dead as a ghost basically just to piss Angel off.

Batman and Two-Face (Batman)

There’s been a lot of space dedicated to the idea that Batman and the Joker are actually some sort of twisted friends, but we’ve always found Batman’s relationship with Two-Face much more interesting. Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent have a friendship that is very rare for someone like Bruce. He does not have a lot of kindred spirits, at least not that early in his career. Harvey’s descent into madness and Batman’s inability to help him is a weirdly more personal tragedy than most of what Batman deals with.

We’re used to Batman fighting villains without sympathetic backstories. But Two-Face stories though are never just about another killer on the loose. They’re about the impotent rage of trying to help a friend who is way beyond your capability to help.

Yes, Two-Face has tried to kill Batman many times, but deep at the core of their relationship, they are still two men who have a great deal of reverence and respect for each other.

Col. Hogan and Col. Klink (Hogan’s Heroes)

Normally, we focus on pop culture that’s relevant in 2016. But we can’t resist including these two from the 1960s TV comedy Hogan’s Heroes. The classic “sitcom nemesis” has always been a beloved trope, but nobody has ever done it more perfectly than this show.

If you’re not familiar with the premise, Hogan’s Heroes was a show set during World War II about Allied prisoners who ran a spy network out of an incompetent German P.O.W. camp. It is as perfect a sitcom premise as you could ask for. (Granted, it helps that all of the actors lampooning incompetent Nazis were Jewish themselves, with many of them having also fought in the war.)

Most plots revolved around the charismatic Col. Hogan attempting to charm and manipulate the pompous commandant Col. Klink while his men pulled some ridiculous scheme. Klink always knew that Hogan was up to something, but he could just never resist Hogan’s flattery. And of course, Hogan could only run his operations under someone as incompetent as Klink, so he was constantly forced to bail Klink out of danger in order to keep him in charge.

Goku and Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z)

The long-running anime Dragon Ball Z had a lot of great rivalries, but none ever got more intense than the one between Goku and Vegeta. The last two pure-blood Saiyans around, they shared a natural bond over their mutual love of fighting. Vegeta spent most of his time deriding Goku for not taking things seriously, usually while getting his butt whooped by Goku’s superior skills.

They eventually did become friendly enough to work together (or at least on the same side), but it wasn’t until the Majin Buu Saga later in the series that we learned how much Vegeta really respects Goku.

Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders (The Simpsons)

While watching Homer hate on Flanders in The Simpsons is always good for a laugh, it’s even funnier when they get along, because it highlights just how irrational Homer’s hatred of Ned is. There’s no logical reason for it!

Clearly, Homer has a deep-seated jealousy of everything he sees as “perfect” in Ned’s life that he wants for himself. The way Homer turns that self-loathing into an externally focused rage without a shred of self-awareness makes him extremely relatable to those us bitten by the jealousy bug.

Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute (The Office)

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We’ve gotten into a lot of debates about the morality of The Office — specifically whether Jim Halpert is indeed a lovable goofball or just a smug jerk with no concern for others. We’ve seen people paint Dwight as a victim in this scenario, constantly on the receiving end of Jim’s pranks while doing nothing to provoke him other than being “annoying.”

To us, it’s pretty clear: Dwight Schrute is a borderline sociopath who presents a constant and deliberate danger to almost everyone he comes into contact with. He has regularly assaulted people. He staged a fake fire that lead to a coworker having a heart attack. He fired a gun in the office. He tried to cut everyone’s healthcare for no personal gain. He trapped a co-worker inside a trash bag with a live bat. Putting his stapler in Jell-O is a perfectly reasonable retaliation.

Despite his sociopathy, Dwight does show occasional moments of decency to Jim and Pam. Jim, in turn, has come to have a surprising amount of respect for Dwight. A lot of the show’s most touching moments involve Jim and Dwight standing up for each other when you wouldn’t expect it, like Dwight saving Jim from Roy, and Jim saving Dwight from losing his job.

Professor X and Magneto (X-Men)

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Professor X and Magneto have a long-standing and complicated relationship in the X-Men comics, but I think what really cements this one is the real-life bromance of Ian McKellen’s Erik Lehnsherr and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier from the movies. The chemistry they had on screen, and that they continue to have when they hang out in real life, really made this friendship pop for a generation of people being exposed to the X-Men for the first time. It helps that the writing for these two characters is phenomenal.

They’re a perfect example of two very similar people who should be the best of friends, except for one teeny political difference that makes it impossible.

Perry the Platypus and Doctor Doofenshmirtz (Phineas & Ferb)

We saved the best one for last because we truly believe that Perry the Platypus and Doctor Doofenshmirtz had the greatest relationship of any two characters on television.

If you didn’t watch Phineas and Ferb, here’s what you need to know: Perry the Platypus is a secret agent and Doctor Doofenshmirtz is the mad scientist he battles against on a daily basis. Perry often did nice things for Doofenshmirtz, like helping him decorate his daughter’s birthday party, but once the show built stream it committed fully to treating them like a couple.

This includes an episode where Perry “caught” Doofenshmirtz going behind his back to cheat on him by fighting with another secret agent. It also led to a full episode of thinly veiled love songs and breakup metaphors. How the writers were able to wring so much genuine emotion out this ridiculous story about a cute marsupial secret agent is beyond us, but we’re glad they did.


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