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Watch: All of Sterling Archer’s Literary References: A Video Essay

Watch: All of Sterling Archer's Literary References: A Video Essay

Secret Agent. Asshole. Book nerd? Sterling Archer, the modern take-down of James Bond on Adam Reed’s cult animated show ‘Archer,’
is many things, but that last detail has always been a quirk in the
show, with literary references spouted out almost as often as jokes
about oral sex. Often, these references in V and films don’t stick as
well as they should, coming off less as wit and more as self-indulgent
name-dropping–it never made sense to me that Buffy Summers lamented
that her slaying duties got in the way of her social life, yet was still
able to stay on top of her pop culture references. Reed has admitted
that the show’s many literary references, including the many from other
characters not included for time, are the remnant of his tenure as a
frustrated English major, yet their contrast with the more deplorable
aspects of Archer’s personality was probably the first indicator of his
humanity, his intelligence when he chose to use it, and maybe even an
indication of his lonely, friendless childhood and adolescence. Plus, of
all the mixed-up characters on Archer, Reed seems to know that
it’s most fun to hear the debonair, narcissistic spy mention an obscure
Herman Melville book at gunpoint, read 10 Babysitter’s Club books
in preparation for guarding his daughter, or wonder out loud if he’s gay
for Tolkien. You won’t find Sean Connery or Daniel Craig saying that
with a straight face any time soon.

Serena Bramble is a film editor whose
montage skills are an end result of accumulated years of movie-watching
and loving. Serena is a graduate from the Teledramatic Arts and
Technology department at Cal State Monterey Bay. In addition to editing,
she also writes on her blog Brief Encounters of the Cinematic Kind.

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Peter Kovar

and also, wasn’t Lana’s act as a maid "Calpurnia" a reference to "To kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee? :)

Ben Wrobel

This would have worked just as well without the comic book references. Sure, some of the XMen series might have been graphic novels, but that hardly qualifies them as "literary".

David Sparkes

There’s another ‘Of Mice and Men’ reference in S02E03, "The Blood Test". Ray says to Lana "Give her the rabbit, Lenny".

Andrej Panjkov

Hi, I think the Fantastic Four reference needs fixing. When Sterling refers to Johnny Storm as the Human Torch, he is referring to the incarnation that first appeared in the Fantastic Four, in 1961, by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The attribution in the video gives ‘Carl Burgos, 1939’, but that would refer to an earlier, similar but different character also called the Human Torch. It’s the ‘Johnny Storm’ that points to the 1961 character.


he also made a reference to Ozymadias by Shelley in a season 6 episode. Not Archer himself, but Pam’s back tattoo is the third verse of the Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron. Fun super it.


You also skipped "The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man" reference in "Midnight Ron." Pretty good overall, though.


In the Cujo reference you miss that the dogs name is Kazak which is a reference to Vonnegut in Sirens of Titan.


Crediting Fantastic Four to Burgos (1939) because of the Golden Age Human Torch is a stretch of Richardsian magnitude.

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