Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bête noire

The Office, Fued
Toby Flenderson: Actually he is kind of annoying!

BÊTE NOIRE

Foreign. Noun phrase. Plural bêtes noires (pronounced same). Mid-19th century.
[French 'black beast'.]

The bane of someone's life; an insufferable person or thing; an object of aversion.

If ever a co-worker sends you a rock as a gift with a note saying 'Suck on this!', then congratulations -  you can properly consider yourself someone's bête noire. This is also true if they take the time to egg your house, suggest that you're an animal rapist, say that you're the worst human ever or that they'd shoot you (twice) over Hitler and Bin Laden. With any one of these, you're firmly in bête noire territory.

Toby Flenderson of The Office suffered all of these indignities and more at the hands of Michael Scott, the Scranton branch manager of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Michael hates the fact that Toby, as the corporate HR representative, is not really under his authority, that Toby is often the first one other staff approach with their problems and that it's his job to object to and curtail Michael's frequently unethical, offensive, illegal and downright dangerous actions. Remarkably, Toby never reciprocates Michael's aggression or contempt, but rather remains ever calm and almost frustratingly mild.

Many memorably flawed characters have their bêtes noires - Homer Simpson has Ned Flanders, for example, and Frasier Crane has Cam Winston. What's interesting about all of them is that, in different ways, they all serve to expose in even greater contrast the failings of their haters. One can't help but think that this is probably a common theme in real life too. Those people out there that really irk us, that really get under our skin and make us want to egg their house or send them a rock as a present - there's probably something about them that shows up something in ourselves that we don't like or, perhaps far worse, something about us that others don't like.

Have you ever had (or do you have) a bête noire? Do you think you are a bête noire? If so, do please tell us all about it!

7 comments:

  1. I had a co-worker at my last job who, while competent, had the most annoying voice. Having to listen to it day in and day out definitely brought out the worst in me.

    I'm not so fond of my current job, but at least I don't have to hear that strident whine anymore.

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    1. Do you have an annoying voice, Nick? Could that be the root of your animosity? I'm often irritated (though not to bête noire proportions) by pretentious know-it-alls, which is a charge often leveled at me (as if they'd know what they were talking about).

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    2. Well, I recorded a Cake song for you after our discussion on my Green Lantern post from last week. You could judge for yourself using that, or with one of my many ridiculous mashups.

      I couldn't stand the sound of my own recorded voice for quite a long time, but I've gotten more used to it of late. I don't think it's more annoying than most.

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  2. Interesting! Sadly my brain is too tired to form coherent comments... Just know I enjoyed this!
    Tomorrow I shall reserve the bus ride to a track meet for contemplating who my bête noire is and whose I might be!

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    1. I think you're too nice to either have or be a bête noire, Kara. And dare I say, if you have to have a think about who is your bête noire, the very bane of your life, then it suggests strongly that you don't have one. Sorry Kara - this is a club of hatred and intolerance that you're just not a member of! : o )

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  3. I have a horrible feeling I am the bête noire of a lot of people who, thankfully, haven't commented here yet.

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    1. Yes, that's frightening. I don't know that I'm a bête noire to anyone, but what if I'm just that damn insufferable that I am and I don't know? There could be hordes of haters, maybe everyone I've ever got close to in my entire life, who find me insufferably odious. I feel a bit depressed now - I'm going for a lie-down.

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