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Characters / The Fly (1986)

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WARNING: Spoilers for this film and The Fly II are unmarked.

Dr. Seth Brundle/"Brundlefly"

Played by: Jeff Goldblum

A brilliant thirty-something quantum physicist, Seth has spent at least six solitary years working on teleportation technology. Out of loneliness and lust, he impulsively, awkwardly offers to show beautiful magazine reporter Veronica Quaife his project — and she is impressed enough that, after a false start, she agrees to follow his work for a book. When their professional relationship turns deeply personal, it gives him the Eureka Moment he needs to perfect the telepods. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding involving Veronica's editor/ex-lover results in Seth thinking he's being cuckolded, and one too many glasses of champagne later he decides to go ahead with the finale of his project — teleporting himself as the device's first human subject. But he doesn't notice that a housefly is in the telepod with him when the fateful moment comes. The computer that controls the pods fuses the two beings on the molecular-genetic level, and in the days that follow Seth begins to transform into something else from the inside out...


Seth's Slow Transformation, which may be the Trope Codifier for visual media and currently provides the trope's page image, unfolds over distinct physical stages numbered by the filmmakers and referenced below.

  • Stage 0: Pre-teleportation, when he is fully human.
  • Stage 1: The days that follow, marked by odd hairs growing from scratches on his back and later facial lesions.
  • Stage 2: After the night with Tawny the lesions are worse and his fingernails begin to peel away.
  • Stage 3: Four weeks later; skin is completely disfigured and Primal Stance is beginning to develop.
  • Stage 4: At most a few days later; Primal Stance is complete, hair is thinner, and teeth are corroded.
  • Stage 4B: The "monkey-cat" deleted reel (see certain non-Vanilla Edition releases); body is noticably lumpier.
  • Stage 5: Final humanoid form, resembling nothing so much as a mass of cancerous growths.
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  • Stage 6: Brundlefly proper, completely insectoid and literally emerging from Stage 5.
  • Stage 7: "Brundlebooth" — the result of accidental merger with broken pieces of a telepod.

  • Adaptational Villainy: The original short story and 1958 film has No Antagonist; the titular Doomed Protagonist Tragic Monster is also a Non-Malicious Monster who manages to put himself out of his misery before his Split-Personality Takeover. In this version, Seth does undergo a Split-Personality Takeover and becomes a Villain Protagonist in the third act.
  • Adorkable: Being a scientist played by Jeff Goldblum, it's pretty much a given. The whole movie begins when Seth awkwardly attempts to flirt with Veronica by teasing his amazing invention and inviting her back to his lab to see it. (On top of that he promises to make her cappuccino.) His sweetness is a key reason Veronica finds him endearing...but his insecurity has a dark side in that it makes him susceptible to jealousy. Upon believing he's being cuckolded in favor of someone more confident and powerful than he is, he ends up getting drunk and making a Tragic Mistake. That he stops being sweet and awkward in Stages 1 and 2 — becoming aggressive and boastful instead — tips Veronica off that something went wrong during the teleportation. Once he realizes what's actually happening to him some of the dorkiness returns, but it only serves to highlight how grotesque and tragic his transformation is...especially in his final humanoid moments, as his sweet enthusiasm is now in service of a deranged, desperate mind.
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  • Alas, Poor Villain: The completely transformed Seth ends up in a much more pitiful state after being painfully spliced with the remains of the telepod thanks to his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Bad Liar: When Tawny asks him who Veronica is upon the latter's just-in-time arrival at the loft, he is so surprised, flustered, and embarrassed that he all he can think of to say is "Oh, I forgot to tell you — I live with my mother too. Mom, meet Tawny." Tawny doesn't buy it and takes the opportunity to leave.
  • Character Tics: He bites his fingernails when he's nervous, most prominently during the successful baboon teleportation, and this eventually helps him realize that something went wrong when he teleported when one of them comes off in his mouth. Post-teleportation, he develops a lot of tics foreshadowing his final form:
    • Stage 1: The first noticeable change in him — just before the audience sees the strange hairs growing from the cuts on his back — is that his kisses are lustier than they were in Stage 0. From there, whenever he's in heat his breathing and voice tend to be lower and raspier. That rasp becomes permanent come Stage 3. Come Stage 5 it's clearly difficult and even painful for him to talk and breathe in a human manner and his computer no longer recognizes his voice.
    • Stage 2: He begins clutching the left side of his abdomen. Come Stage 4 he reveals to Veronica that there's a growth there, but he doesn't know what it is. The deleted Stage 4B stretch had a payoff in which an insect leg emerged from it, whereupon he bit it off; in the finished film its right-side counterpart emerges during his One-Winged Angel transformation. Back to Stage 2, when he first broaches the idea of Tawny being teleported, he's also rubbing his forehead (just above his left eyebrow); this turns out to be a sign of his skull changing shape. Also, when Veronica talks to him he takes a bite out of a candy bar and makes a face as if it tastes bad, indicating that his taste buds and digestive tract are starting to change as well.
    • Stage 4: He has fully developed a fly-like twitch, which begins to show in Stage 1 during the arm wrestling match.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: At the end, thanks to a Villainous Breakdown he ends up getting fused with part of a telepod, left helpless and in terrible, dying pain — although it's clear that he was already physically and mentally unstable.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Downplayed. During the month Seth spends alone he is fearful and repulsed by what he's becoming, but adjusts to it because he has no choice. This results in embarrassment when Veronica returns and he doesn't think to warn her about how he now eats before helping himself to a doughnut. In Stage 5 his reaction to several teeth tumbling out of his mouth and onto the keyboard is not horror, as he displayed when his fingernails started coming off, but mild annoyance and resignation.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Even though the transformation makes Seth a diseased mutant, he gains wall-crawling skills, corrosive vomit, and superhuman strength and stamina as well. It's unclear what the absolute end result of Seth's changes would be; the state he ultimately reaches (where he wordlessly begs for death by placing the muzzle of a shotgun to his own head) has at least as much to do with being caught partially outside the telepod when it activates as with having genetic problems.
  • Drink Order: His preferred tipple is apparently Scotch — he has a glass of it at the Bartok event and, much later, at the bar. That he approaches a woman in both situations helps add to the Tawny interlude serving as a grotesque Foil to how he and Veronica got together. (The opera adaptation has Veronica suggest he needs Liquid Courage to approach her.)
  • Evilutionary Biologist: In Stages 1 and 2, Seth believes that his enhanced strength, stamina, etc. are the direct result of teleporting himself. Thus he starts pressuring Veronica to "go through" — "And I won't be able to wear you out; we'll be the perfect couple! The Dynamic Duo!" When she objects he declares her a coward and sets out to find "someone who'll keep up with me", leading to his tryst with Tawny. Only Veronica's timely arrival stops him from forcibly teleporting her; shortly after this he realizes what's actually happening to him, which smashes this trope to pieces.
  • Evil Plan: He ultimately intends to genetically splice himself with a healthy human being "to reduce the percentage of fly in Brundlefly". As if that weren't bad enough, the human subject he chooses is Veronica, and it's implied that it's partially because she doesn't want to keep his child.
  • Face–Heel Turn: By the end, his desperation to retain his humanity combining with his mind becoming more selfish and instinctual like that of a fly's leads him to forcefully trying to merge Veronica and their unborn child with him. Seth himself is fully aware that this is in effect, and urges Veronica to leave him before he hurts her, but that's before he learns she's pregnant, and that's when his mind completely snaps.
  • Famous Last Words: His explanation of the upside of Romantic Fusion with the terrified Veronica: "We'll be the ultimate family! A family of three... joined together... in one body. More human than I am alone!"
  • Fatal Flaw: Desire (or Lust in the traditional Seven Deadly Sins). He must follow things that fascinate and matter to him — his work and his relationship with Veronica — to their ultimate conclusions. His fateful teleportation arises from his response to Veronica leaving to confront Stathis just as they were celebrating his successfully teleporting a baboon, a major breakthrough in his work. The careful, patient scientist gets drunk — loosening his self-control, whereupon he throws caution to the wind for his ultimate professional goal ("What are we waiting for? Let's do it!"). Fusion with a creature that operates purely on instinctual urges causes his self-control to slowly vanish. He's initially euphoric, making the most of his new abilities and energy, and desperate to teleport Veronica believing it will put their relationship on equal terms. When she refuses, he seeks another woman...until he realizes what's actually happening. Faced with the prospect of a painful, awful metamorphosis and death, he still takes comfort in becoming something that never existed before — and that he accidentally invented a "very good" gene splicer. He's fascinated and even delighted by the process (as when he shows off his Wall Crawl skills to Veronica), but still seeks a way to retain his humanity. In the climax, with his mind almost completely ruled by insect instinct, he decides using the pods to fuse himself with her and their unborn child — creating "the ultimate family" and making her part of him forever by way of his work — will do that. Instead, he ends up only wanting death and accepts it, having seen an incredible experience through to a logical end, a triumph of sorts as Cronenberg points out in his DVD commentary for the film.
  • Genius Cripple: Played with. When he allows Veronica to see him again (Stage 3), he is using two canes to slowly walk because he's now hunched over and cannot maintain his balance otherwise. At this point he believes he is dying. By her next visit (Stage 4), he has not only adjusted to the Primal Stance but is downright jumpy and spry — having discovered an ability to Wall Crawl and realized that he isn't dying but becoming something else.
  • Gibbering Genius: He is a cheerful chatterbox from the start — if there's a role that cemented Jeff Goldblum with this trope, it's this — but post-teleportation becomes much more so because his metabolism is working a lot faster and the resultant exponentially surging energy is affecting his brain. In Stage 5 this disappears; his speech is slower and more halting, likely because his vocal cords are decaying.
  • Greater-Scope Paragon: He, or at least the good in him prior his Split-Personality Takeover Face–Heel Turn, becomes this in the sequel. His son Martin ends up carrying on and redeeming his legacy by not only figuring out how to make the telepods work again, but also finding a cure for the mutation he inherited from his father.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Upon realizing that the smug, confident Stathis is an ex-lover of Veronica's as well as her editor, Seth jumps to the conclusion that she's cuckolding him and bitterly drowns his sorrows even though she's promised to return to the loft in a few hours (which she does). The resultant loosening of his self-control is what sets him on the path to becoming a literal monster. When Stathis comes to rescue her from his clutches in the climax, Seth cruelly maims him before attempting to Murder the Hypotenuse, only stopped by Veronica's desperate pleas.
  • The Grotesque: Once his Drunk with Power "high" has ended and he realizes what's actually happening to him, his sweet Adorkable self re-emerges in Stage 3 but is now laced with Gallows Humor, fear, and shame as he continues to deteriorate. Upon re-establishing contact with Veronica, he initially tries to avoid physical contact with her (concerned he might be Patient Zero), sadly saying in passing "You look so pretty..." at one point. When he finally reaches out to her for an embrace — after he has vomited upon a doughnut and his right ear has tumbled off — she returns it without hesitation. Even though it's upsetting and exhausting for her to be witness to his unfolding tragedy, she loves him too much to abandon him altogether. Ultimately he decides to send her away upon realizing that, due to his mind and morals fading away, he will hurt her if he doesn't.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Brundlefly is this, and in his final "natural" form he does not bear an obvious physical resemblance to either a human or a fly as a result.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: He's not seen wearing the brown leather jacket Veronica purchases for him until after his trip through the telepods, and then it's specific to his Drunk with Power stretch — especially his setting out to find another partner after she refuses to be teleported. For bonus points, that she bought him a leather jacket ties into Seth's growing understanding of and fascination with flesh.note 
  • Hidden Depths: Gibbering Genius though he may be, he's eloquent when it comes to explaining his work, and he retains this gift even as the rest of his humanity fades away. Losing his ability to speak (when Veronica accidentally rips his decayed human jaw off) is tellingly the moment he moves from Stage 5 to 6.
  • Hollywood Nerd: He's quite muscular for a scientist who doesn't get out much. (Not that any of the female viewers are complaining, or anything!)note 
  • Humble Hero: While the plot does get rolling by way of his wanting to impress Veronica with his marvelous telepods, after his demonstration he freely admits that he didn't create them from scratch, saying "I'm really a systems management man" in that their individual components (lasers, molecular analyzers, etc.) were commissioned from people "much more brilliant than I am [...] and I just stick them together." Moreover, Veronica apparently only learns of his noteworthy past (he was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in physics at the age of 20) from Stathis. Seth loses this humility in the Drunk with Power stage of his metamorphosis, becoming a braggart in the wake of his belief that his invention has made him a superman.
  • I Am a Monster: Seth basically warns Veronica of this in his "insect politics" speech.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: In the end, seeing the pathetic creature that was once Seth Brundle crawl out of the third telepod, fused with pieces of machinery and in horrifying agony, is probably sadder than watching the end of Old Yeller. This can obviously end only one way, and in one final display of humanity Brundlefly silently begs a shotgun-armed Veronica to end its life, and after some painful hesitation, she does.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Trying to convince Veronica to chronicle his work for a book, he notes "I don't have a life, so there's nothing for you to interfere with." Stathis learns that Seth's been working on the telepods for six years, which implies he's been alone at least that long, though earlier in his career he successfully worked with others. However long it's been, by Seth's own admission it's been "too long."
  • Ironic Name: Crossing over with Shout-Out, his surname is that of a famous British racecar driver (Martin Brundle), which is completely unsuited to someone who has suffered from motion sickness his entire life. (The sequel carries on the reference by simply naming his son Martin.)
  • Irony: A situational case: It's implied that a key reason Seth has devoted his life to teleportation technology is his chronic motion sickness and resultant hatred of vehicles. His Teleporter Accident results in him having to constantly vomit just to survive, as he cannot digest solid food and must use vomit drop to dissolve whatever he eats.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded! After Veronica mentions he apparently wears the same outfit every day — charcoal grey suit jacket, white dress shirt, red necktie, black trousers, and brown Oxford shoes — she learns that it's actually one of five identical sets of clothing. He explains to her that he got the idea from Einstein, who supposedly had five sets of clothes to avoid wasting mental energy on deciding what to wear. Of course, Einstein likely didn't have five jackets and five pairs of shoes!
  • Mad Scientist: Subverted. He is a driven scientist, and doesn't have great social skills, and is working on teleportation, but he is a sane man working for the greater good. His decision to teleport himself is an impulsive choice he makes only after getting drunk, and his morals only loosen due to a Split-Personality Takeover (which he becomes desperate to hold back) and the initial Drunk with Power feeling that comes with it. In an interview John Landis did with Cronenberg for the book Monsters in the Movies, they argue over whether Seth can be called this trope or not: Landis says yes, Cronenberg no.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: He has lively hand/arm gestures in Stage 0, but in Stage 1, as he rants to the increasingly distressed Veronica about the wonders of diving "into the plasma pool" via teleportation, his gestures are extravagant — particularly when he points.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Implied if one knows from coffee culture. As Emma Westwood's book on the film notes, "no one had a cafe-style coffee machine in their home in the late 1980s", but Seth does. (He specifically identifies it as a Fiamma, which is espresso-specific; from there, he also knows how to prepare cappuccino.) This trope also applies, albeit downplayed, on a meta level: Jeff Goldblum used coffee as an aid in playing Seth's post-fusion, hyper and unstable scenes.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Seth's eyes widening in horror as he learns from the computer that he was genetically fused with the fly is this trope expressed without words. (The fade to black that follows, helping to establish a four-week time jump between this and the next scene, is one of only two such fades in the film — the other being at the very end.)
  • Nerds Are Sexy: He is presented as attractive (though he doesn't realize it) even before his fateful teleportation, whereupon he becomes noticeably more alluring for a time — but also dangerous.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: It's not stated in-universe but according to David Cronenberg Seth is a virgin before he meets Veronica. Thus his relationship with her marks a crossing of a metaphorical threshold into maturity...and with that, the sorrows of aging, disease, and death when it inadvertently leads to his Teleporter Accident.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Once he becomes The Grotesque with Stage 3, he also becomes this...for a while. Because he is also undergoing a Split-Personality Takeover, he cannot hold himself to this trope forever and come Stage 5 tells Veronica I Am a Monster in hopes of keeping her safe. It doesn't work since he learns about her pregnancy (and her intent to abort it) as he watches her leave with Stathis, and this pushes him over the edge. It's worth noting that in the shooting script he stopped being this trope sooner: A storyboarded but unfilmed scene had him vomiting on a homeless woman and preparing to eat her before he realized what he was doing.
  • No Social Skills: Downplayed and justified. He's spent his entire adult life — and probably much of his adolescence, given he was shortlisted for a Nobel Prize at 20 — consumed by his work in physics, and has worked alone for at least six years as the film begins, so while he is polite, pleasant, and okay with social cues, he's initially at sea dealing with others on a personal level. He regrets this, and post-teleportation is excited that he can finally work on personal growth now that he's achieved his professional ambition. But that's before he realizes the real reason he feels so great...
  • Phlegmings: By the time he reaches Stage 3, poor Seth can no longer digest solid food and must eat the way a fly does — via "a corrosive enzyme, playfully called 'vomit drop'" as he puts it, resulting in this trope whenever he has to consume anything. (The vomit drop stains his face and clothes too, and is a key reason he ends up with Scary Teeth.)
  • The Power of Love: The original HBO plot rundown of this film called him a man "transformed by love", and indeed he is in a myriad of ways. Love Hurts, indeed:
    • His succumbing to The Power of Lust and approaching Veronica at the Bartok press event starts the story.
    • In an inversion of Love Makes You Uncreative, the Eureka Moment that points him towards solving the riddle of teleporting living matter via the telepods comes via Veronica's playful pillow talk.
    • His mistaken belief that Veronica is cheating on him with Stathis leads to him getting drunk out of jealousy. In his compromised mental state he decides to jump ahead to the climax of his experiments and teleport himself, which ends up being his Tragic Mistake.
    • Upon realizing he is succumbing to a Split-Personality Takeover that is eradicating his human morals and reason, he sends Veronica away — despite her being the only person he has — so he won't hurt her.
    • Immediately afterward, however, he learns that she is pregnant with his child and intends to have an abortion. His heart and mind break together, rendering him crazed and wicked: he kidnaps her and upon realizing he cannot convince her to bear the child decides he will create "the ultimate family" and retain what remains of his human self by forcing her to undergo Romantic Fusion with him.
    • On top of this, when Stathis arrives at the loft to rescue her Seth attempts to Murder the Hypotenusepiece by piece, by using his vomit drop to dissolve first Stathis's hand, and then an ankle. He only stops short of dissolving his face because Veronica begs him not to.
    • When Laser-Guided Karma renders him a Clipped-Wing Angel, he uses this trope to end his suffering (and, perhaps, atone for his crimes) by silently communicating to Veronica that he wants to die by her hand.
  • Primal Stance: He starts developing this by Stage 3, and come Stage 4 has fully adjusted to it.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: A rationalized version of this trope. Seth admits early on that he intends to teleport himself as the Grand Finale of his experiments, but shortly after the first time he successfully teleports any living organism he gets drunk and decides he doesn't need to wait on making sure the process doesn't have any aftereffects or anything like that. In fact, he's having a "conversation" with that baboon and tells it "I'm sorry I killed your brother...but he didn't die in vain, if that's of any comfort. And as the general said, 'There's nothing I'd ask you to do that I wouldn't do myself, boys.'"
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: His character arc, and his attempts to resist it only end up furthering it. He spends most of Act One as the most Adorkable of men...then comes the Teleporter Accident. Most of Act Two sees him as a would-be Übermensch who rages at the woman he loves, gruesomely maims a man in arm wrestling just to win an evening with another woman, and tries to put each woman through the teleporter in turn. The Internal Reveal deals a much-needed blow to his ego, but in Act Three he realizes his mind is still losing its human reason and compassion; the selfish ruthlessness that began to show in Act Two will eventually consume him. Come the climax, it does and he becomes a monster in every possible sense of the word.
  • Sanity Slippage: Brundle's gradual transformation and his futile attempts to reverse it eventually drive him insane, to the point where he decides that the best way to reclaim his humanity is to fuse himself, Veronica, and their unborn baby into "the ultimate family." He lampshades this earlier in his "insect politics" speech, describing himself as "an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over... and the insect is awake."
  • Scary Teeth: His teeth in Stages 4 and 5, the result of being corroded by vomit drop and sugar. Several of his front teeth gruesomely tumble out when he pulls a pencil he's been idly chewing on from his mouth.
  • Second Love: As far as the audience can tell, he is this to Veronica, whose first love was Stathis. Seth is her true love as well, to the point that no one working on the film was satisfied with the two epilogues shot in which Veronica and Stathis ended up a couple again after Seth's demise.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: He initially has a nice but very Limited Wardrobe because he doesn't like expending mental energy on choosing what to wear; never mind he's a recluse and it wouldn't matter what he wore most of the time. Veronica decides to change that after learning this and buys him some new wardrobe pieces — a plaid shirt, a brown leather jacket, etc. The next time he's seen he's wearing said shirt and coordinating pants, suggesting he adopted the new look immediately; the suits are never seen again. It's a sign of how his relationship is transforming his entire life; in fact in the same scene he finally successfully transports a living being through his telepods, which he couldn't have done had his relationship with her not led to a Eureka Moment. But later that night he teleports himself...and the early stages of the Slow Transformation that results have him become more virile, sensual, and aggressive. That's when the audience starts seeing him in that leather jacket — first with a shirt, but later without.
  • The Sleepless: Post-fusion. Before he realizes what's actually happening to him he's happy about it: "I hardly need to sleep anymore, I feel wonderful!"
  • The Speechless: Come Stage 6, he is this. As Cronenberg points out in the DVD commentary, Seth's final metamorphosis into Brundlefly only comes after Veronica accidentally rips his decaying human jaw off. Since he's no longer able to communicate with others, there's a tragic sense in the rest of his body giving itself up to the insect form.
  • Stages of Monster Grief: He goes through all of them in his one-month-plus transformation.
    • Denial: He initially denies anything is wrong with him even as his skin develops lesions, strange hairs grow, and his temper grows shorter and more explosive. Once the fingernails start coming off, though...
    • Acceptance: He realizes the true nature of his condition, resigns himself to his eventual fate of disintegration and death, and comforts himself with Gallows Humor and by exploring what he's becoming in the meantime. Veronica's love and presence also helps. However, he does long to be human again as he realizes that he's also losing his mind and morals, resulting in...
    • Defiance: He starts formulating a plan "to reduce the percentage of fly in Brundlefly" at the very least. But it requires him to fuse himself with another human, and with his insect survival instincts starting to kick in he moves to...
    • Betrayal: With his sanity cracking upon learning Veronica is pregnant and intends to have an abortion, he decides to fuse her and the fetus with him. He also maims Stathis — who indirectly set Seth on the path to his Tragic Mistake — when he tries to rescue her, only for Stathis to get a second wind. The result is that Seth, now completely Brundlefly, gets merged with parts of a telepod. Now in horrible pain, he is...
    • Driven to Suicide: Except he's unable to kill himself, so he manages to convince Veronica to finish him off with Stathis's shotgun.
  • Super Strength: Merging with the fly gives him a mild form of this — enough to perform impressive gymnastic feats, rip open a strongman's arm in an arm-wrestling contest, and Bridal Carry objects of his affection/lust over long/steep distances. It's implied he's also capable of Roofhopping, and the script outright showed him doing so.
  • Sweet Tooth: Flies love sugar, and one of the first signs of Seth's transformation is that he develops a serious case of this, apparently unaware/uncaring of how strange it looks to others (perhaps he thinks the subtrope is in play?). At the sight of him putting spoonful after spoonful of sugar — the audience sees at least six — into his cappuccino:
    Veronica: Do you normally take coffee with your sugar?
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Played with. Initially, his Adorkable nature downplays his attractiveness, as does the fact that Veronica is also tall. When she tells him he's cute, his response is "Am I?" In the first days after he's merged with the fly, the trope is played straight as he explores his new strength and virility and Veronica is more attracted to him than ever...only for his personality to become uglier as the transformation slowly works its dark magic on him. Once it kicks into high gear, Seth's beauty is decimated piece by piece — he succumbs to a Primal Stance, his dark hair gradually falls out, and his face becomes a ruin.
  • That Man Is Dead: When he explains his Teleporter Accident to Veronica he tells her "Now I'm not Seth Brundle anymore...I'm the offspring of Brundle and housefly." Later, having realized he's becoming a new lifeform rather than merely dying, he starts referring to himself as "Brundlefly".
  • Tragic Monster: Alas, poor Seth! Probably one of the most profound examples of this trope ever.
  • Tragic Villain: He becomes a Tragic Monster who desperately tries to regain his humanity — even if it means harming his love.
  • Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: He's rather tidy in his appearance and the upkeep of his apartment/lab, going so far as to wear a clean set of clothes (one of five identical sets, down to the shoes) every day. As his mutation progresses apace and his mind begins to go as he tries to find some way to hold the inevitable back, he gives up on taking care of himself and his apartment entirely, the latter becoming a wreck of discarded garbage (especially empty food and soda containers) — which is fitting in a sad way, flies being commonly associated with garbage and rot. He even turns his medicine cabinet into a museum for his falling-off appendages. In Stage 2 Veronica even notes that he looks and smells bad compared to how he was before, but he brushes off her concerns with "I've never been much of a bather."
  • Villain Protagonist: Becomes this upon deciding to forcibly merge himself with Veronica (and her unborn child) into a single entity, since that would be "More human than I am alone!" On top of that when Stathis comes to rescue her he maims him with vomit drop, clearly getting some enjoyment out of the process as he does so, and only Veronica's plea stops him from finishing him off.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In the climax, Seth/Brundlefly's reaction to seeing Veronica's telepod disconnected from the other two is to smash the glass door of his open so he can at least have vengeance on Stathis. But just as he's partially outside it the countdown ends and the result is not pretty.
  • Was Once a Man: His loss of humanity is such that he describes himself to Veronica as "an insect who dreamt he was a man" when he turns her away for the final time. He currently provides the trope's page quote. He's also an atypical example of the trope in that the audience fully gets to know him as a human before his Tragic Mistake transforms him.
  • Windows of the Soul: No matter how mutated and diseased Seth's body becomes, his eyes remain human. Only when they melt away into pus in Stage 6 — with new, gigantic, opalescent ones revealed beneath — does he become the Brundlefly in mind as well as body. And those eyes still bear more resemblance to a human's than a fly's. After his inadvertent merging with the telepod, what pushes the reluctant Veronica to fulfill Brundlefly's request for a Mercy Kill is his looking up at her to meet her eyes, suggesting Seth's personality is overriding Brundlefly's survival instinct.

Veronica "Ronnie" Quaife

Played by: Geena Davis (original), Saffron Henderson (The Fly II)

A reporter for Particle Magazine, Veronica's initial skepticism of Seth's claims of an invention "that will change the world and human life as we know it" is quickly dispelled when she sees them in action. Beyond the lure of a career-making story, she becomes drawn to Seth's passion for his work and his sweet charm, and elevates their relationship to a romantic one. At first merely puzzled by (and to an extent attracted to) Seth's changing nature post-teleportation, she comes to realize something is wrong with him but ends up being turned out of his loft/lab for her trouble. Four weeks later her worst fears for him are exceeded when he contacts her again and reveals the truth about his condition. Her love for him is so strong that she is not willing to abandon him, even as her own mind threatens to crack under the stress...but what will she do when she learns she is pregnant with his child?

  • Audience Surrogate: She is the film's principal audience viewpoint character.
  • Brainy Brunette: She writes for a science magazine, after all. In passing she notes that in college she was a science major, and it was Stathis who got her into journalism. Her intelligence and intuition help her realize something is dangerously wrong with Seth even before she gets confirmation from a lab that the odd hairs growing out of the scratches on his back are not human.
  • Damsel in Distress: Ends up one in the climax when Seth not only kidnaps her but, it turns out, intends to force her into Romantic Fusion. When he reveals his intentions to her, she tries to escape his grip but ends up only triggering his One-Winged Angel transformation; this is justified as his Super Strength has become enough to overpower her and ultimately toss her into the telepod. Stathis saves her by disconnecting her pod from the other two before the countdown reaches zero.
  • Deadpan Snarker: She is this from the get-go, with her response to Seth's opening claim of working on something that will change the world being "Change it a lot or just a bit? You'll have to be more specific." This trait is a stark contrast to Seth's Adorkable nature, speaking to her being far more worldly than him. However, as she realizes what's happening to him she drops the snark entirely while he indulges in Gallows Humor about his situation.
  • Deuteragonist: Seth may be the Doomed Protagonist, but Veronica's role and perspective on events is so important that she edges him out in total screentime. This is especially clear in the third act as she struggles with both Seth's transformation and the realization that she's pregnant with his child. As his Protagonist Journey to Villain becomes complete she brings the tragedy and film to an end by killing him at his request. Given how much of the plot she instigates/furthers, Seth could even be seen as a Decoy Protagonist with her as the true one.
  • Foil: Just as Seth has one in Stathis, she has one in Tawny. After Veronica refuses to undergo teleportation, the Drunk with Power Seth seeks out another partner and — after gruesomely defeating a rival via One-Sided Arm-Wrestling — returns to his loft with a looser, flightier, grungier woman who doesn't take their night together very seriously and takes his strange behavior mostly in stride rather than questioning/fearing it the way Veronica did, although she also refuses to be teleported. Tawny's also significantly shorter than Veronica, reflecting the unbalanced power dynamic she has with Seth. In fact, it's Veronica's arrival and warning to her ("No. Be afraid. Be very afraid.") that effectively saves her from Seth forcibly sending her through and allows her to leave. The entire interlude is a grotesque foil to how his relationship with Veronica began: Where he used the prospect of a wonderful invention — reflecting his intelligence — to convince her to go back to his loft, and she was the one who made the first move in the escalation of their relationship, he is much more forthright in his flirting with Tawny and uses brute force to claim her. And where he freely, humbly admitted to Veronica he couldn't take all the credit for his breakthroughs, when the awed Tawny asks him "Are you some sort of magician?" after he demonstrates the telepods by sending himself through again, he declares in a harsh whisper "Yes." as he makes the first move in the resulting tryst.
  • Intrepid Reporter: She goes to the Bartok press event looking for a good story, and she soon finds one. Seth is so blinded by attraction to her that he forgets she's this until after his initial demonstration of the telepods, and asks for the interview audiotape she's recording. She stands her ground — after all, everything he did and said was on the record — and storms out. He visits the Particle offices the next day and, upon learning that her editor thinks the telepods are "an old nightclub routine", is happy that she can't yet find a taker for the story. Over lunch he explains to her the reason he doesn't want the story to get out right away (he hasn't figured out how to safely teleport living things), and tells her that she should cover his work for a book instead. She agrees to this — after all, being the sole chronicler of a world-changing technology is the ultimate scoop — and matters snowball from there.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: An unusual take on this trope in that, after their relationship has become a personal one, she expands Seth's very Limited Wardrobe by purchasing clothes that are more casual rather than less, though they are still nice.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: She becomes this to Seth in Stage 3. He sends her away in Stage 5 upon realizing that she won't be able to hold him back, much less help him, much longer due to his Split-Personality Takeover. When he realizes she's kept the secret of her pregnancy from him, though, he snaps and decides to literally make her part of him.
  • Love Martyr: A justified example. When Seth starts treating her badly in Stage 1 on top of the physical changes she's already noticed in him, she realizes that it's all due to a Teleporter Accident, meaning he's sick and needs help. When he turns her out of the loft in Stage 2 in spite of her pleas, she leaves in tears, knowing that he's too angry and aggressive to reason with. She tries to contact him by phone over the next four weeks, but never returns to the loft. When they finally meet again, he is no longer dangerous (although he and Stathis initially fear he might be Patient Zero) in the wake of realizing what's actually happening to him. She knows he needs her support, since he has no one else and her love for him has never flagged, but it is draining for her emotionally. Come Stage 5, he tells her that she must never see him again (and thus stop being this trope) because his mind is going and Love Cannot Overcome.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Her surname is never spoken onscreen, leaving movie podcast presenters wondering how it's supposed to be pronounced three decades later.
  • Screaming Woman: She spectacularly screams three entirely justified times in the third act: first during her Nightmare Sequence as she sees she's giving birth to a giant maggot, second when Seth jumps through the window of the operating room to kidnap her, and third when she accidentally rips his decayed jaw off and triggers his One-Winged Angel transformation.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She is initially interested in Seth for professional reasons but his gentle, Adorkable personality and passion for his work is genuinely attractive to her. When she acts on this he — isolated and lonely for so long — eagerly and tenderly responds in kind, having desired her from the moment he met her. He's a sharp contrast to her ex-lover and current editor Stathis, a seemingly confident but Clingy Jealous Guy who is constantly heedless of her wishes and feelings, and even stalks her to figure out the true nature of her relationship with Seth. When he does, his attempts to sabotage it inadvertently lead to the Tragic Mistake that slowly undoes Seth.
  • Stocking Filler: When Seth is ready to show her how the telepods work, he asks for a personal item of hers to send through. She peels off one of her garter stockings, much to his awkward interest. ("I don't wear jewelry.") After their argument over his belated realization that he should not have shown the pods to a journalist, she leaves without putting it back on, brushing off Seth's concern with "Keep it for good luck."
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: The opening sequence of The Fly II has her suffer Death by Childbirth. Geena Davis was not interested in doing a cameo under those circumstances — especially as her career had taken off in the interim — so another actress was employed. (Earlier concepts for the sequel gave Veronica a much larger role.)
  • Tsundere: Her tsun side initially dominates, and with good reason. With Seth she is initially skeptical of his claims about the telepods, and then frustrated that he doesn't realize she agreed to visit his lab because she was interested in getting a story (he was trying to woo her, not become a subject for an article). Moreover she answers to an editor who is also a very pushy ex-lover and lords his higher position over her by planning to jump her on the story — she has to stand up for herself. Love for Seth brings out her dere side, but as she realizes before he does that something terrible is happening to him the tsun side becomes a sort of protection for her, though by the end it can only go so far when put up against what Seth becomes and what's happening to her as a result.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: In sharp contrast to Seth's initially Limited Wardrobe, by the end of the movie Veronica's outfits number in the double digits. One sign of how drained she is after she revisits Seth at Stage 3 of his transformation is that she's seen wearing the same outfit and hairstyle through that visit, her subsequent consultation with Stathis, and her next visit to Seth, by which point he's already reached Stage 4 (which would have unfolded over, at most, a few days).

Stathis Borans

Played by: John Getz

Veronica's editor at Particle Magazine was also, prior to the events of the film, her live-in lover. Smug and confident to a fault, he did not take her choice to leave him well and is desperate to use their working relationship to maintain some kind of personal one. Upon learning (via stalking) that Veronica and Seth are lovers, he decides to use his connections to scoop Veronica on the telepod story — unwittingly setting the stage for Seth's fateful teleportation in the process.

  • All There in the Manual: The shooting script reveals Stathis goes skeet shooting, which is why he has a shotgun on hand for the film's climax.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Gets his hand and foot dissolved with fly vomit. He lampshades this in the sequel.
  • Artificial Limbs: In the sequel, he's acquired prothetic limbs to replace the hand and foot he lost.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: He tells Veronica "I don't want you to disappear from my life" during their confrontation over who has the rights to the telepod story; he wants to at least be her confidante, and she is willing to grant him this. However, it means that he ends up privy to the horrors of Seth's transformation and the crisis of her pregnancy — and is the only person who can save her when the climax looms.
  • Benevolent Boss: Though not initially (see Mean Boss below). He edits the magazine his ex Veronica writes for, which technically makes him her boss. Although he tries to use his position to scoop her on publishing a story about the telepods, he turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who shows sincere concern for her well-being and even comes to her rescue when she gets kidnapped by Brundlefly.
  • Career-Ending Injury: The sequel implies Stathis lost his job as an editor at Particle Magazine in that he's forced to receive a disability retirement due to losing his hand and foot at the end of the first film.
  • Clingy Jealous Guy: Stathis does not take Veronica moving on from their breakup well. In addition to attempting to sabotage her and Seth's relationship, early on he invites himself into her apartment to use her shower when she's away and repeatedly makes lascivious comments towards her. When Seth abducts Veronica from the abortion clinic, rather than calling the police, Stathis shows up to Seth's lab with a shotgun! However, the last note is justified as Seth has become a dangerous monstrosity by that point and time is of the essence. In the sequel, he even tells Martin and Beth that Seth stole his girl.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Shares this trait with Veronica; his response to her trying to explain Seth's suffering is "I'm sure Typhoid Mary was a very nice person too when you saw her socially." Just like it does for her, this trait evaporates upon seeing (via the video she records of Seth's eating habits) just how horrible the situation is. It returns in the sequel, albeit in a much more bitter manner.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Following the events of the first film and the opening sequence of the second, he's turned to drinking heavily.
  • Expy: Vincent Price's character François from the original 1958 film, for being a male character who also has feelings for the female protagonist, who in turn confides to him about what is happening to the Doomed Protagonist. Also, both characters have facial hair in contrast to the male protagonist's clean-shaven face — and are the only characters to return for the sequel and be reprised by their original actors! In Charles Edward Pogue's original script, his equivalent character (Harry) was even more this trope, serving as the protagonist's supportive best friend and colleague rather than a Crazy Jealous Guy actively trying to meddle in romantic affairs, only openly trying to act on his desires once it was clear the protagonist was too far gone to be a legitimate option anymore. (The upshot of this was that his being maimed by vomit drop didn't seem as fitting as it does for Stathis, for whom it's a sort of karmic Disproportionate Retribution for his jealousy accidentally setting the stage for Seth's transformation.)
  • Foil: His smug, bullying, confident, and selfish nature makes him this to the Adorkable, shy, gentle, insecure Seth. By the end of the film their roles have reversed, with Seth a Villain Protagonist and Stathis a Hero Antagonist, each demonstrating crueler or kinder sides as a result of the former's transformation.
  • Handicapped Badass: Despite just getting his hand and foot dissolved, causing him to go into horrified, painful shock to the point of rolling up his eyes, Powered By Love for Veronica he manages to keep himself from completely fainting and saves her from being forcibly fused with Brundlefly. Bonus points for resting his shotgun on top of his bloody stump on his left wrist where his hand used to be as he fires the shotgun to disconnect Veronica's pod — and after that manages to crawl to her pod to unlock the door and let her out.
  • Hero Antagonist: Initially a typical Crazy Jealous Guy antagonist but gradually begins to play this role straight, especially when he comes to Veronica's rescue after she gets kidnapped by Brundlefly.
  • It's All My Fault: In the sequel, Stathis being reduced to self-pityingly Drowning My Sorrows following Veronica's death on top of the first film's events may be layered with this, since he was the Unwitting Instigator of Doom for it all (see below).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He appears to be just a total jerk who's still bitter about Veronica leaving him, but he doesn't hesitate in helping her get to an abortionist when she decides to get rid of Seth's baby, and he comes to the rescue when she's kidnapped. Also, in the sequel's prologue he begs Bartok's cohorts to put more effort to save Veronica as she gives birth to Martin. Even though he transitions to being a straight Jerkass (though understandably a pitifulinvoked one) in the sequel, Stathis still carry a degree of sympathy for others as gives his last words of encouragement towards Martin and Beth to find a cure after he makes it clear the Telepods are his only chance for one and offering his jeep to them to prevent them being easily tracked down by Bartok as he tells them to Get Out!.
  • Mean Boss: He uses his position as Veronica's editor to try and interfere with her and Seth's relationship, with unintentionally disastrous consequences. However, he goes on to be a supportive confidant/Benevolent Boss when he learns what's happening to Veronica as a result of Seth's transformation.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The only time something very bad happens to Stathis is when he nobly comes to Veronica's rescue after she gets kidnapped and get his hand and foot dissolved with Seth's vomit drop. This gets worse for him in the sequel with Veronica's Death by Childbirth after saving her in the first film's climax. The former situation is more complex than usual for this trope because it can also be read as Laser-Guided Karma for Stathis being the Unwitting Instigator of Doom to begin with, all because he was bitter about Veronica choosing Seth over him.
  • Sole Survivor: The only one of the three principal characters who lives to the end of the sequel.
  • Stalker with a Crush: He spends the first act as this: He stops off at her apartment just to take a shower — he still has a key and she hasn't changed the locks — and secretly waits outside the warehouse where Seth lives and works to monitor her comings and goings. When she stays there an entire night, he realizes they are lovers and proceeds to follow her to a men's clothing store (where she's looking to expand Seth's Limited Wardrobe) to confront her. After a further confrontation with Veronica over his intent to scoop her on the telepod story, during which she agrees to at least treat him as a confidante, he drops this behavior and indeed isn't seen again until the third act.
  • Survivor's Guilt: In the sequel, he is reduced to Drowning My Sorrows following the deaths of Seth and Veronica.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: He can only watch in stunned silence and remorse at both the pitiful end to his romantic rival and Veronica's grief.
  • Tritagonist: Downplayed — he is the third important character but most of his scenes involve his interactions with the other two. The only stretch in which he's absolutely alone is when he arrives at the loft to rescue Veronica.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Just after Seth successfully teleports the second baboon and they're beginning to celebrate with champagne, Ronnie finds a package Stathis left at the loft that's addressed to her. In it is a mock-up of a Particle cover about Seth and the telepods. This sends the message "Break up with Seth or I break the story." Ronnie abruptly leaves to confront Stathis without telling Seth why...and Seth, who knows Stathis is her editor, realizes from what little she said as she left that he was also her lover. Believing he's being cuckolded, Seth gets drunk and, with his self-control loosened, decides that there's no reason not to become Professor Guinea Pig right away...

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