It’s insipid but allowable to draw a link between Lena Headey‘s 300 hot-bod character being named Gorgo (i.e., “Queen” Gorgo) and Kal Penn‘s character in The Namesake being named Gogol. Especially with both films opening on March 9th…what are the odds?
Lena Headey, Kal Penn
Both names imply some kind of ogre-ish appearance or essence, but which is more problematic? I can roll with Gorgo, actually — Headey and director Zack Snyder have made her into a strong but sexually ruthless character, and the name is obviously similar to “Gorgon,” a Greek mythology term that refers to a “vicious female monster with sharp fangs and hair of living, venomous snakes,” according to Wikipedia, so I guess it half-works.
But Gogol (taken from Nikolai Gogol, a respected 19th Century Russian writer) is a frightfully coarse and lumpy-sounding first name for any kid growing up in America, and this alone turned me off Mira Mair‘s film, frankly. Penn’s character is given this name by his Indian-immigrant dad (played by Irfan Khan). He does this out of admiration, we’re told, for the Russian writer.
The film is obviously about ethnic identity and the factors that sometimes dilute or degrade this, but I was very soon asking myself what kind of father gives his son a name like that? Only a sadistic or collossally ignorant parent living in the U. S. of A. would name his son “Gogol.” That’s worse than naming him “Ezekiel” or “Sue” or “Hortense.”
The likely motive for Khan’s Indian immigrant probably isn’t too far from the one that motivated that ne’er-do-well dad in Johnny Cash‘s song “A Boy Named Sue.” Khan is looking to obnoxiously (you could almost say brutally) impose an ethnic apartness upon the kid, and thereby instill a sense of native character. He doesn’t want the boy to flow and groove with materialist WASP culture as he grows up. He wants him to have to deal with constant shit from his peers all of his young life. That’s a pretty loathsome thing for any dad to do. It’s certainly not a pleasant or informative thing to watch or contemplate.
The offshoot is that I’d rather sit through 300 a second time than watch The Namesake again….and that’s saying something.