I have a lasting affection for Fearless, a young adult series created by Francine Pascal. (Yes, that Francine Pascal.) For today’s addition to Pop Pedestal, a weekly column applauding our favorite characters in pop culture, I could write about many of the books’ inventions: Gaia, the ass-kicking titular fearless lady; Mary, the bright clubgoer with an unfortunate drug habit. Ultimately, though, my favorite of the books’ inventions is Ed Fargo, the best loverboy, sports fan, and devoted friend at Village High.
The Pedestal Profile: Ed is introduced early in the first book and has a strong presence throughout the series as Gaia’s best friend and on-again/off-again romantic interest. Both kept some distance from their peers before they met, Gaia since her mother’s murder and Ed since his skateboarding accident the previous year. Now that he uses a wheelchair, Ed’s friends have mostly jumped ship or become incredibly condescending. The two seventeen-year-olds bond over their mutual talent for wisecracks and disgust for the pretension of those around them. Oh, and they beat the crap out of a group of neo-Nazi muggers in Washington Square Park. Just your typical first day of school!
Admirable qualities: As might be expected of a series penned by ghostwriters, Fearless has some inconsistencies, but while the authors might not agree on, say, the color of Ed’s hair, his awesomeness is unrelenting.
First, the obvious: Ed is a terrific friend; in fact, he treats people terrifically in general. He’s loyal to and awfully patient with friends, family members, and dating partners who have plenty of convoluted problems lurking just under the surface, while also maintaining a good eye for people with shady motives. In the sixth book, Payback, he, Gaia, and Mary learn about a skeezy group of chauvinists at Village who are competing for “points” based on whom they sleep with. (Sounds familiar, right?) Ed’s response? He talks the school office into lending him the PA system for a few minutes, then turns it over to several of the posse’s conquests so they can tell the other students what’s going on—and what they think of the jerks. As you might expect, this doesn’t make Ed popular with some of his classmates, not to mention the faculty, but he couldn’t care less.
Then, there’s his immense amount of courage. Drug lords, CIA agents, gang members; the world of Fearless is not your average high school story, but Ed doesn’t hesitate to fight (figuratively or literally) for whom he loves and what he believes in. Gaia may be the one unable to feel fear, but, like she says, “The people with the most fear have the greatest opportunity to be brave.”
Plus, during an on-again moment, Ed sets up a parody of an über-romantic cinematic date and brings Gaia flowers and a wheel of cheese. C’mon, a wheel of cheese! How could I not adore this character?
Unfortunately, Pascal et al. made a major blunder mid-series with Ed, in a plot point I will utterly eradicate if my dream of writing for a TV show based on the original series ever gets realized. I’ll just say “experimental surgery,” and you can probably guess the rest. Grr. That storyline isn’t the only disability-related cringefest to appear, either; in particular, I’m thinking of how another main character’s type one diabetes is used against him by adversaries (usually in ways that don’t make a lot of sense). But while I sometimes am irritated with Fearless, my love for Shred never wavers. It’s nice to have someone to depend on in a series where nearly everybody is a double- or triple-agent, amirite?
His influence: WB did once make a pilot kind of-sort of based on the series, but sadly, no characters carried over besides Gaia. To make matters worse, the scads of fan art related to Ed, like the Fearless fansites I used to frequent, have largely gone all 404 on us. Oh, Photobucket.
A few creative folks have made fanvids, no simple feat when you’re working with a video-free source. You can also get “Gaia and Ed” shirts on Zazzle, as well as “Gaia and Sam,” “Gaia and Jake,” and “Gaia and Will,” but you can forget those guys. (Just kidding—well, kind of.)
That’s not all: *SPOILERS AHEAD!* The writers clearly knew that Ed was at the heart of Fearless’ story, as evidenced by its bittersweet conclusion. In the final book of the original series, Gone, Gaia flees New York after the wrap-up of another adventure and says good-bye to only one person. Guess who? Those of us saddened by the “farewell” part of their farewell hugs and kisses can take heart in the following miniseries, Fearless FBI, which finishes with the two of them getting back in touch. Sweet!
Think of him when: you find yourself amongst offensive folks who aren’t worth your time… before you leave with a friend or two to trade witticisms, polish off a box of donuts, and make your own party.