Matthew Fox, Lost, George Clooney, The American, Johnny Depp, Pirates, Keifer Sutherland, 24

ABC/Mario Perez; Giles Keyte/Focus Features; Peter Mountain/Disney Enterprises; Kelsey McNeal/FOX

Why must every major film hero be named Jack? There's a new George Clooney movie out, and I won't see it because—guess what his name is!
—Cordie, via the inbox

Oh don't stop there. There was Jack Shephard in Lost. Jack  the hero of the video game Bioshock. Jack Ryan from the Tom Clancy books and movies. Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack Bauer from 24. Jack Welles from the new movie Takers. And on and on and on.

It's not the only name out there, but it is the most hackneyed. Here's why:

It's safe.

Americans are almost hard-wired to respond to "Jack" as a hero because of its connection to protagonists since the days of fairy tales. Fairy tale heroes are always named Jack, too, and they're always—such as the giant killer—a bit of a badass.

The word Jack is also, literally, generic.

At some point in its English origins, "Jack" became a shortcut for the word "guy" or "dude." So—again, literally—Jack is a shortcut reference for an everyguy. Which, in turn, makes it an ideal name for a typical movie protagonist.

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