Mathematically speaking, I suppose that an anti-apple would be exactly that: the absence of an apple. Just as the opposite of the number 22 would be exactly that many ticks away from zero on the number line to the left — or, put more plainly, the number –22 — the obvious answer would seem to be “not an apple” or “the lack of an apple.” However, that makes for a shitty chunk of syntax. “Oh, Herman. You just can’t use the same logic for ice hockey and you do for ultimate Frisbee. You’re comparing apples to the absence of apples.” Also, while the addition of 22 to -22 equals zero, one apple plus the absence of an apple doesn’t equal nothing. It still equals one apple, or possibly one apple and an empty spot next to the apple. “Was I supposed to have another apple?” you’d ask.
No, there has to be a better answer.
The notion of an opposite is tricky. Aside from numbers, the only things I can think of that have demonstrable opposites are directions — left and right, backwards and forwards, probably others — and colors — though I’m told that a shade of brown containing perfectly equal parts of the three primary colors as well as equal amounts of black and white would have no complement. When in comes to more complex subjects, I find that people often claim one thing to be another’s opposite when they actually mean that the two things actually are quite similar, with only one or two important differences. For example, if you ask even a novice comic book nerd to name the opposite of Superman, they’d probably tell you it’s the Bizarro Superman. However, Bizarro is a lot like Superman. Similar builds, for example, excluding the gray skin that marks most denizens of Bizarro World. Similar outfits. Both live in large cities, Metropolis or Bizarro Metropolis. And both have superpowers. Should not the opposite of Superman be a weakling? And female? Decidedly Un-Superwoman?
There’s a Seinfeld episode, “The Bizarro Jerry,” in which Elaine attempts to refute the notion that Bizarro is, in fact, Superman’s opposite. Jerry explains Bizarro’s characteristically contrary speech patterns, noting that Bizarro would say “hello” when leaving and “goodbye” when arriving. Elaine’s response: “Shouldn’t he say ‘badbye’? ... Does he live underwater? … Is he black?” Bizarro doesn’t really qualify as Superman’s opposite, when you think about it, yet the logic appears elsewhere. The Flash, for example, has a nemesis who functions as his opposite — the infuriatingly stupidly named supervillain Reverse-Flash — but has more in common with Flash than does, say, Marcia Brady. Taking a step outside the DC comics universe, I’ll point out two more: Darkwing Duck has an archenemy named NegaDuck, and Mario has Wario, and yet both work more as differently colored versions of the hero, with key personality aspects twisted toward evil.
More often, I feel like a thing’s perceived opposite could serve just as easily as its double, depending on your perpective. Take Twin Peaks, for example. As hinted at in its very name, doubles populate this show. In nearly every episode, characters must confront others who work simultaneously as both opposite and double. Most obviously, there’s the introduction of the Cooper doppelganger in the series finale, who looks and acts like Cooper but commits acts of evil and insanity when Cooper would act heroically and logically. On a more subtle level, Twin Peaks offers us Audrey and Donna, the former a spoiled rich girl and the latter a sweet-natured girl next door. However, in the pilot that introduces them, they look enough alike that new viewers often have trouble telling them apart at first. As the show progresses, you begin to notice that beneath her bratty exterior, Audrey is motivated by good intentions, whereas Donna exhibits more and more of a dark side. Notably, at the end of the series, the two learn that they probably share the same father, which, in the context of this discussion, couldn’t a more appropriate revelation.
But I’m off subject. I’d intended for this essay to focus on apples and whatever their opposites might be.
If one were to find a better candidate for the position of “anti-apple,” I suppose, one would have to avoid the logic that has created the Bizarro effect. I think this could be accomplished by making a list of a given thing’s most important attributes, then making a list of qualities that could constitute opposites, and then thinking of something that has all of the qualities on this second list.
So what, then, are the qualities of an apple?
- It’s edible.
- You can hold one in your hand.
- It’s a product of a living thing, even if it’s usually not living when you’re eating it. (Unless you’re a squirrel living in an apple tree, in which case I look forward to the comments you may leave on this post.)
- It’s spherical.
- It promotes health of its consumer.
- And it’s generally a thing that people have positive associations with.
So, then, following my logic, these would be the following the characteristics of the anti-apple:
- It’s inedible.
- It would not be able to be held in your hand, either by virtue of too harmful, too large to pick up or simply intangible.
- It’s inorganic.
- It has sides, I guess. Or it’s covered in spikes. It’s just not smooth?
- It’s not particularly healthy.
- People generally don’t like it.
The three finalists:
A grease fire.
Because you wouldn’t classify one as organic, per se, though they can thrive on such elements. You certainly can’t eat it. You can’t hold it, in the sense that it would horrifically burn your hand to do so. It lacks any definite shape, which I feel would make it more an opposite of a near-sphere than anything else. And grease fires are both unloved and unhealthy, likely the former as a result of the latter. Possible disqualifications: I’d bet you’d be more likely to find a grease fire in your kitchen than in any other room of the house. And, if pressed to imagine what room you’d most likely find an apple in, I feel like post people would say “kitchen” as well.
An army tank.
Although some military nuts might light up at the sight of an army tank, I feel like the vast majority of humans wouldn’t. Army tanks make an awful lot of noise and, worse, can blast you into smithereens in an instant. It’s has a varied, irregular shape. You can’t pick it up, as a result of its size, and you can’t eat it, as a result of its components. And, you can’t neglect the verbal zing of the sentence “You’re comparing apples and army tanks.” Possible disqualification: You could debate how unlikable they are, especially if the United States were engaged in a more popular war.
A mine, but specifically the kind that floats in the sea.
This might seem like more of stretch than the others, but I think it’s my candidate of choice. Marine mines do have a basic round shape, I’ll admit, but I feel like they more often are covered in spikes or at least protuberances, at least. They have variable size, probably, but you can’t hold them in your hand, because they would blow it off. It’s probably the one of these three that you’d least likely encounter, especially in a familiar setting. (Like, I’ve seen army tanks before but I’ve never seen a marine mine outside of a movie of that one episode of Baywatch.) Finally, they’re highly unpleasant. Possible disqualifications: Something I’m missing because I actually know very little about marine mines.
So there you have it. I’ve taken the matter this far. Now, please tell me: Which of these three do you feel best deserves the title of “opposite of an apple”? Or am I completely off-base on this one and some other thing better deserves the honor?