On one of the zombie fan groups that I’m in, someone mentioned the movie Train to Busan. It’s a Korean film about a father and his daughter who are trapped on a train with a horde of incredibly dangerous zombies, and questionable humans who may prove to be worse than the zombies.
I’m normally fairly skeptical of foreign films, and it’s a drag for me to have to plow through subtitles. It’s really hard to be on my phone when I have to read every word. It’s not even like Spanish movies, where I can limp through the dialogue without having to read. But I gave it a shot, because everyone seemed to like it, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a startling 95%, and I know the Pacific Islands are masters at horror.
We start with a guy in a cargo truck stopped at a biological checkpoint. Men in hazmat suits spray off his vehicle, as he is coming out of bio research area. Since this isn’t a normal occurrence in America, at least, I’m interested.
The man drives off but smacks into a deer. It looks like the deer’s totaled. But after the truck continues down the road, Bambi hops up. We get a close-up of its eyes, which look like they have cataracts. I know people have different opinions about a zombie virus that can jump species to infect animals and vice versa, but I rather like the idea. It’s a good spin on the old human-only zombie, it’s like real-world zombies, and it’s very dangerous for the characters. Continue reading
The movie the void has been all over the Facebook groups that I’m a part of. One of them is a Lovecraft interest group that focuses on everything from the Cthulhu Mythos. So I decided to devote an hour and a half of my life to this movie.
If you want to know what it’s all about, go watch it on Netflix.
It starts out with a couple of guys burning a woman after they shoot her in the back. Another guy flees the attackers. There’s also a guy or possibly a girl standing off at the edge of the woods wearing a white outfit reminiscent of the KKK. On the front of the person’s mask is a black triangle. Triangles going to be a motif throughout the movie. This is a rather interesting way to open the movie, because you really don’t know who the good guys or the bad guys are at this point. Continue reading
Imagine going through your whole life looking like him!
Depending on the context and inflection, that statement can mean two very different things. At its heart is a question: What is normal? In the X Files episode Humbug (S2:E20), Mulder and Scully find themselves on the other side of normal.
That’s right, we’re time jumping to 1995! Do you feel the nostalgia? Or maybe the heartburn? Humbug was the first X Files ep Darin Morgan wrote. He’s a comedy writer first and foremost, a trait that shines through in this ep and helps the story make important points without getting preachy.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show. Please step inside.
Humbug! It’s not just for Christmas:
Humbug is a Monster of the Week episode that gives us a breather from the show’s linear, overarching plot. This is the X Files, though, which means a breather equals an investigation of grisly murders instead of aliens and/or world-controlling secret societies. This time, the killings happen in a trailer park town of side show freaks. It’s in Gibsonton, Florida, cuz everything crazy and strange happens in FL…or California.
While we X File fans know to Trust No One and understand that things aren’t always as they seem when watching the show, the episode opener still surprises us. It starts with a shady guy, who really needs a dermatologist or maybe a burn unit, watching 2 boys playing in a swimming pool at night. No parental supervision is evident. Mr. Skin Condition slips into the pool – and bursts up to grab one of the boys. We’re all set for a shocking monster attack, only to find that…yes, he’s their dad. He sends them back into the house while he swims.
Now we have the Monster Perspective (low, shaky) on him. In the background we see a trailer with an alligator painted on it. The text “The Alligator Man! Is he a man, is he an animal, or is he a monster?” So he’s a carnival performer!
Monster cam #2 plops into the pool. Alligator Man goes down in blood as something hits his midsection.
Cue the traditional case briefing in Mulder’s basement office. Mulder is all excited and referencing similar killings where the victims died of mutilated midrifts. Status quo. He shows Scully a picture of the Alligator Man. She reacts with, “Can you imagine going through your whole life looking like him?”
They ship down to the swamp and crash his funeral. There they see the residents of sideshow town USA. Two of the main characters of the ep are real-life performers: Dr Blockhead (Jim Rose, who runs a famous real life freak show and has toured with Nine Inch Nails and Manson) and The Conundrum (The Enigma, who works with Jim Rose). The agents are as much an oddity to the residents as the residents are oddities to Mulder and Scully.
Then they visit the Gulf Breeze trailer court, a reference to the 1987 Gulf Breeze UFO incident mentioned in episode 1. There they meet park landlord Mr. Nutt. He’s Michael J. Anderson from Carnivale and Twin Peaks. They also meet Lanny (Vincent Schiavelli from Dorf).
Mr. Nutt is the voice of the episode’s theme when he says that people judge others based on appearance, forgetting that everyone is a unique person.
People think no farther than stereotypes. As an example of stereotyping, he types Mulder and Scully as FBI agents based on their drab clothes and lack of personality. Mulder deadpans that they are FBI agents. Mr. Nutt remains rather hostile to them for the duration of his life, which isn’t long.
Then they meet Lanny, who has a conjoined twin named Leonard. Leonard is the size of a 2 year old and basically a vestigial appendage. His head end is, um, jammed in Lanny’s abdomen.
While they’re getting settled in the park, the local fun house owner dies of an acute case of indigestion – or rather not having a stomach anymore with which to digest.
In their questioning of the residents, our daring agents talk with Dr. Blockhead, who can pound nails into his sinuses and escape straight jackets. He’s a self-made freak, meaning it’s not genetic mutation. He is a fan of the Other, the Odd, the Off. He sees the beauty in and value of abnormality.
His sidekick is the Conundrum, who eats anything, and I mean anything. His mouth is basically an entrance only, though, as he “never answers questions, only poses them” by his behavior. The agents ask if he eats human flesh. Who knows?
The agents get no leads. They end up suspecting the sheriff, who was the dog-faced boy before going bald, and exhuming a potato in his yard.
Things go from bad to crap as Mr. Nutt becomes the next to have his guts chewed out. Mulder thinks it may be an ape of some sort, maybe even some sort of Fiji Mermaid. If you don’t know your PT Barnum history, that’s a monkey’s upper half sewn onto a fish tail. It was actually billed as a fake, yet people still wanted to see it! Scully thinks it’s “humbug” – a hoax.
The clues point to Lanny, whom the sheriff locks in the drunk tank. Lanny is at this point pretty much dying of alcohol-induced liver failure. He starts screaming as Mulder and Scully wander in.
Surprise, surprise, Leonard can detach himself from Lanny and go for a stroll. Or a crawl. Leo is looking for a new…brother/home. Sadly, even freaks can’t tolerate something chewing through their stomachs. Bet you didn’t think the belly bump was the real villain! Now that’s what I call a good antagonist. You suspect everyone else in the park because you judge them on face value. It’s the same reason you don’t suspect Leonard.
The gig is up, though, when Leonard attacks the Conundrum. We find the Eater of Everything lying in the ground rubbing his stomach. Two guesses what happened.
The residents are pretty freaked out (ha!) at this point and many start to pack up. Blockhead and Enigma are among the deserters. Blockhead and Scully talk. He bemoans the advent of genetic engineering, which he feels will soon make mutations a thing of the past. He says, “Nature abhors normality. You can’t go very long without creating a mutant.”
What will happen when there are no more mutations? He doesn’t know. But he’s not thrilled about everyone looking like “that guy,” meaning Mulder, who’s posing Captain-Morgan style 30 yards off. Blockhead echoes Scully’s line from the ep’s beginning: “Imagine, going through your whole life looking like him.”
What do side shows show?
It’s said that people fear what they don’t understand. It’s been my experience that people mock and dislike what they don’t understand. We also love staring at what we don’t understand. Why do you think The Learning Channel (aka the Voyeurism Channel) is still around? Side shows give us a chance to satisfy our visual hunger for the bizarre.
Why is the abnormal so fascinating? In the words of Dr. Blockhead, “Who knows?” I can guess, though. First, we like to feel good about ourselves. As any 3rd grade bully knows, one of the easiest, if the most base, way to do this is to bring somebody else down so we look better. We’re quick to say, “At least I’m not like that person.” Or, “At least I don’t [insert objectionable activity here].” No need to change ourselves to increase our confidence and self image! Instant self esteem: Just add scorn! Even if you’re the bottom of the barrel, you can still feel superior to some unfortunate Legless Wonder or Bearded Lady.
Second, normal is boring. Anything that happens a lot becomes, if not boring, then routine after awhile. We crave the new, the novel, the notorious (what? I needed a third N). What makes anything normal is its prevalence. That means if a trait or activity is common in society, it’s viewed as normal. In fact, many behaviors are only considered “crazy” or symptoms of a mental disorder if they occur more or less frequently than they do in an individual’s society. In the freak trailer park, abnormality was the norm because every resident was an aberration of some sort.
Third, there’s a chance for us to expand our imaginations by living for a seconds vicariously through the abnormal. We wonder what it would be like to look like an alligator or to have flippers. Then when we’re done imagining life like that, we can sigh in relief that it’s not our fate. See the bit on superiority through putting others down.
Wow, freak shows really bring out the best in humanity, eh? That’s another benefit: seeing how base we really are despite being “civilized” and “normal.” I don’t know how many people are self aware enough to realize it, though. It’s usually only apparent when we see other people gawking like yokels in front of a snake-oil salesman.
But it’s also encouraging that despite our technology and knowledge, we still line up to see a nutria that the carny bills as a giant rat. It proves that curiosity is still strong in us, even if our imaginations and work ethics have slipped as we couch and channel and internet surf. Curiosity is what drives innovation – in all fields. The drive to answer What If? is capable of powering us through setbacks and challenges in research. Curiosity drives us to explore new worlds. In a more every-day use, it encourages us to try new things and meet new people.
Another up side to side shows is it provides income for people who otherwise have challenges there. Many freaks were put out of work with no way to earn their usual income back when freak shows died (mostly) out.
The biggest point of the episode is as Mr. Nutt said, judging people by their exterior denies that everyone is a unique human with their own special value. How many people do we write off as being nothings without considering more than their appearance? I agree that I’m always beating the drum of “dress how you want to be treated,” but I also stress that we should try to find value in everyone. You never know what a person can do if you assign them a value without doing your research. People who are different are often quite interesting, and not just to stare at.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
Perform your own villain assessments with the Villain Matrix. Use the Villain Matrix spreadsheet that comes free when you join the Research Team, where you’ll also get our newsletter with its exclusive updates and content.
What’s your deepest desire? Would you trade your soul for it?
When Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show rolls into town at 3 am, its mysterious leader Mr. Dark will force the locals to answer. Two 13 year olds named Will and Jim learn that getting what you want has a cost when…Something Wicked This Way Comes.
What can this tale of darkness, danger, and despair show us about succeeding in life? Let’s take a walk through the carnival and see.
That’s right, it’s the satisfyingly dark movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. I watched it as a kid and loved it, partly because it didn’t pull any punches and partly Mr. Dark is the quintessential Modern Devil. He doesn’t wear red, or have horns, hooves, and a tail, or carry a pitchfork. No, our modern era has hit close to the truth when it portrays Satan and his lieutenants: handsome, suave, powerful, and most of all, appealing.
Ticket counter: Count the cost
Mr. Dark offers you the world with one hand while holding the bill behind his back. Everything and everyone has a price.
“Pay a man enough and he’ll walk barefoot into Hell.” – David Xanatos, Gargoyles
The bill in Something Wicked This Way Comes is higher than what we face in real life. The most we face in our world is psychological misery, legal action, and physical suffering when we fulfill our lusts. We can often feed our desires by legal, socially acceptable methods and not experience any repercussions…for a while.
In Something Wicked This Way Comes, the consequences are instantaneous and devastating. Example: The largest temptation for our protagonists is the carousel, and not just because they like wooden horses. Depending on what direction you ride it, it can either speed up or reverse aging. Ride it too far or too fast, and you realize there’s no failsafe.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the other little price: If you give in to the temptations of the carnival, you become part of it. Your soul now belongs to Mr. Dark. Ah, well, you weren’t using it anyway. Your face becomes a tattoo on Mr. Dark.
Carousel of dissatisfaction: Going in circles
The idea of a carnival that grants wishes is a takeoff on the old “run away and join the circus” idea. Anyone dissatisfied with their current life, particularly kids with more sense of adventure than common sense, considered running away and joining the circus. Why hanging out with people who don’t know you and who have no reason to help you would be better than your family, I don’t know. But that’s what dissatisfaction does: it warps your thinking so you believe anything is better than what you have. At the very least, it makes you jump at any chance of escape. Only afterward you realize you’ll be stuck doing actual work with mucking out the elephant stalls.
If you take Mr. Dark’s offer, you won’t be alone. Hundreds if not thousands of people succumbed to its siren song. Mr. Dark sets the bait, the carnival, and waits for people who are dissatisfied with life to take a bite. Because it offers them what they want, it has control over them. If a person is content, the carnival has no power over them, because it has nothing to offer them.
This is true in real life too: anything capable of granting your desire is capable of controlling you in proportion to the strength of your desire. In Buddhism, they say desire brings pain. Yes, it can, but pain isn’t bad if it helps you grow as a person. (That’s something Jim’s mother tried to teach him.) What’s bad is if that desire makes you sacrifice what matters in life and if it steals your joy. Control your desires and make them motivate you. Don’t let them and the things that can fulfill them control you.
Slingshot of despair: Take a shot at happiness
Will’s dad Mr. Halloway learns the desire = control lesson first hand. He was depressed because he was a 50-something janitor in a small town. By the end of the novel, he’s come to accept his place. He destroys the carnival by laughing at it and its futility because he’s become content with his life.
True happiness in life doesn’t come from achieving one’s dream, according to him. He says,
“Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin.”
Happiness shouldn’t be the goal. Being good should be the goal.
“He’s had his fun and he’s guilty. And men do love sin, Will, oh how they love it, never doubt, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells.”
Being good is a difficult job, one that often causes people to be sad. There’s some truth in this, but only some. They don’t mention that happiness comes from the word happenstance, which means it is reliant on your circumstances. Real joy isn’t. That’s what comes from being good. It’s implied though.
Continuing his bright, optimistic outlook, he believes that empathy and compassion in humans began because,
“I suppose one night hundreds of thousands of years ago in a cave by a night fire when one of those shaggy men wakened to gaze over the banked coals at his woman, his children, and thought of their being cold, dead, gone forever. […] And for a little bit next morning, he treated them somewhat better, for he saw that they, like himself, had the seed of night in them.”
Consciousness of mortality, of impending death, makes people treat each other with empathy because they see they’re in the same boat. …Okay then.
I’m really thinking Mr. Halloway should’ve been called Mr. Dark, because he’s about as pessimistic and depressing as a German/Norwegian Midwesterner. Oh, wait, I guess he is one, eh?
Right, so that’s the good guy’s take. Want a Xanax or tub of chocolate-chip ice cream to console yourself yet?
Fun-house of villains: Don’t believe your eyes
Let’s get to the fun part: the antagonists and villains!
There are a number of them to choose from. There’s Mr. Cooger, Mr. Dark’s partner who rides the carousel to return himself to childhood. Why so small? All the better to tempt you with, my dear. He ends up riding forward on the carousel and the boys accidentally up the speed, aging him hundreds of years. Oops.
Then there’s the Witch, who Mr. Dark has sway over. He orders her to kill Mr. Halloway, but she fails when Halloway laughs at her just before he would’ve died. Then she dies when he shoots her with a wax bullet “marked with is smile,” a crescent. How thin skinned! Well, not really. Laughter is a weapon against evil, as it shows true happiness, true acceptance of life. We laugh because we see that something is out of place, but we don’t let it get us down.
Laughter helps us heal after a traumatic event. You know the saying, “We’ll laugh about this later”? It makes you want to punch whoever says it, but it is true. A lot of bad experiences make us laugh afterward. It’s not laughter because the situation is inherently funny; it’s more a show of relief and evidence that we’ve grown from the experience.
Evil wants people to be miserable. When a person genuinely laughs, it shows that they are not miserable. The situation has not consumed them; they see what’s beyond. Evil wants to bog people down with the troubles of the here and now. Then it wants to depress us by painting a dismal future devoid of hope. Laughing also puts us in a different state of mind, one where we can think clearly. The last thing an evil overlord wants is for people to think clearly and act on their thoughts.
“Not words, old man,” said Mr. Dark. “Not words in books or words you say but real thoughts, real actions, quick thought, quick action, win the day.”
Somehow Mr. Halloway, AKA Mr. Eeyore, the guy who thinks death is the only reason people act halfway decently toward each other, who says people who smile are probably guilty of a butt load of sin just because they seem happy, has decided that laughing and being happy are weapons against evil. No, really, Sherlock! That’s what we call character growth in a character arc, folks.
Ferris wheel of Darkness: Mr. Dark takes us higher
But enough with the little leaguers. Time for the heavy hitter Mr. Dark himself. While not a direct representation of Satan, he’s at least quite powerful in that…circle. We don’t know how he became leader of the carnival. Perhaps he was one of its victims who rose to power, or maybe he was a magic-worker whom the forces of evil recruited. There are a lot of different options. Are there any fan fics out there dealing with his origins? Probably not. Too bad.
In the book, he’s the Illustrated Man, who has tattoos of all the people who’ve…joined the carnival. He holds sway over people, sometimes by pictures of them that cause physical pain, sometimes by threatening to take something from them, sometimes by bribing them. He’s a master manipulator who can discern what your deepest desire is. With the boys, he offered Jim, who was the easiest target, a ride on the carousel to become an adult (don’t do it, kid! It’s a trap!) and become his partner in the carnival to replace Mr. Cooger.
One of the most striking features of Mr. Dark, especially in the movie, is his appearance. Wearing a top hat and a black suit that make his tall frame even more striking, he certainly turns heads on the street. Then there’s his charisma. He’s confident and classy. Looks + Charisma = instant leadership credibility. You want to trust him.
He can also make you feel important. This is a great tool to convert people to his side, because everyone loves to be recognized and even valued by a person in power.
His favorite method, though, is working step by step on people, building up to reach conversion. What I mean is that he’ll offer someone a “free gift.” This softens them up and makes them feel obligated to return the favor. This is the Law of Reciprocity. Then he’ll ask them to do little things like come with him to the carnival. This is a different strategy from the more accepted method of asking for a big favor, then asking for a smaller and hoping the person feels guilty enough about turning down the first that they’ll give in to the second. Both methods work, but to different levels on different people. Mr. Dark evidently knows how to choose the right options, considering how high his conversion rate is.
Basically this is a funnel approach in marketing: Give the customer something free, then ask them to buy a cheap object or sign up for a newsletter, then increase the price of the next products/services until at the end of the funnel you have the queen mother, big ticket item.
As with modern marketing techniques, M. Dark’s greatest success comes when he points out a customer’s problem/need and then presents the solution. The solution is always simple, too. In fact, you’d be a fool to turn down his offer! For a limited time only, get the fat loss secret the stars use! Make your skin look like a twenty year old’s with this strange fruit! Three easy steps to making a million dollars in a month! …He just needs you to send $10k to Nigeria to get you started.
A sucker’s born every minute, but everyone who exists has a need. He fills the need. Now, he might have to point out what that need is, but once he does, you’ll agree with him. Since the carnival is only in town for a few days, you better act now! The more time people have to think about the pros and cons of an action, the more likely they are to decide against it. Usually, anyway.
Now, Mr. Dark is so invested in the darkness of the carnival that he can’t stand love or affection. That’s how he meets his end: The Halloways basically hug him to death. Not exactly an impressive end, huh. I’m not a hug person either…
Exit: Don’t get your hand stamped
So ends our stroll through the carnival. Do you still have your soul? Take a look at yourself and your desires. Take a look at how people want to use them to control you. How often do you give in and let them roll you?
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
Perform your own villain assessments with the Villain Matrix. Use the Villain Matrix spreadsheet that comes free when you join the Research Team, where you’ll also get our newsletter with its exclusive updates and content.
Puck – Gargoyles
“Heeeeere’s Puck!” – Puck, Gargoyles*
Shakespeare called Puck “that merry wanderer of the night,” but this fae is far more than that. Though the”shrewd and knavish sprite” was court jester for Lord Oberon, lord of the fae, Puck also acted as Oberon’s servant in the mortal world outside Avalon. Puck is among the most powerful and versatile of the Children of Oberon.
When Oberon exiled the fae from Avalon in order to teach them humility, Puck passed the time by interacting with the humans. But he didn’t become truly interested in them until he saw Queen Titania, Oberon’s wife, marry scientist and businessman Halcyon Renard. What was so fascinating about these mortals? He had to know. So he had the brilliant idea to play a part he’d never played before: the straight man. He chose a character nearly the exact opposite of his personality: Preston Vogel. Renard’s personal assistant and “the most wooden man on the face of the planet.” The new character? Owen Burnett.
In the guise of Owen, Puck began working for Renard in order to watch Titania. Unfortunately, Renard bored Puck to tears. Titania and Renard’s daughter, Janine, was a different story. Janine changed her name to Fox and hooked up with a business rival of her father: David Xanatos.
Puck ditched Renard and threw in his lot with billionaire and self-styled trickster Xanatos. Xanatos so pleased and enthralled Puck that the fae revealed his true nature to the Magnificent Bastard. I really wish they’d given us a flashback of this. It would be priceless. Puck gave him a choice: one wish from the Puck, or a lifetime of service from Owen. Xanatos is as wise as he is cunning, at least when it comes to dealing with wishes. Maybe he read 1001 Arabian Nights? He chose Owen. This impressed Puck even more. He keeps his promise, with Owen acting as Xanatos’s majordomo and head of security.
His secret didn’t stay between him and Xanatos, however. Somehow Demona discovered Owen’s true identity. She summoned Puck through Titania’s Mirror in an attempt to destroy the humans and knock sense into Goliath, her former lover. Puck has other ideas. Then he “thanks” Demona by swapping her stone-by-day nature for a human-by-day form.
All went swimmingly until the Time of the Gathering arrived, when “Big Daddy Oberon” ushered his wayward Children back to oh-so-boring Avalon. After a failed attempt to trick Goliath into giving him the Phoenix Gate (a handheld TARDIS) as a bribe for Oberon, Puck tarried with the mortals.
Puck spent his time well, though. When he learned Fox, Titania (aka Anastasia) and Renard’s daughter, was pregnant, he knew the lords of the fae would come for the child. So Owen commissioned defenses for the Eyrie Building, Xanatos Enterprises’ HQ and House Xanatos’s home.
The fateful day arrives when Oberon ventures into the mortal realm to track down his servant. Instead of Puck, he finds Titania, who is at the Eyrie Building in the guise of Anastasia. She’s getting her first look at her grandson, Alexander Fox Xanatos. Besides boasting genes that will make him one fine looking man, he also has magic in his blood. When Oberon arrives, she reveals her true identity and asks Oberon to take the child back to Avalon to “train him in his magical heritage.” Talk about overprotective grandma!
Out of his league, Puck abandons ship, but not before Owen tells Xanatos how to operate the fae defenses. But despite the defenses, the gargoyle clan, Halcyon Renard’s airship, and the best efforts of the Xanatoses, Oberon is on the brink of victory.
Owen arrives against his better judgement. Puck is loyal to his friend David and to his new family, House Xanatos. Revealing himself to be Puck – a surprise even to Oberon – he fights the Lord of the Fae while explaining the history of the Puck and Owen. It’s a losing battle, but his devotion leads Goliath to suggest that Puck stay behind to train and protect Alexander. Oberon and Puck agree. But Oberon ups the ante by exiling Puck from Avalon forever and binding his power “save when training or protecting the boy.” Puck pleads, but Owen accepts.
Puck is now Alex’s guardian and tutor. Alex is a quick study and Puck is a willing teacher.
Using shape-shifting to confuse his opponents.
Manipulation of others’ behavior by changing situations, surroundings, and even the species of his opponents.
Talking in rhyming metre.
Executing plans largely for entertainment value.
Animating inanimate objects into cartoonish things that will fight for him.
Offering bargains that may be quite detrimental to the recipient if they don’t act wisely.
Faking weakness and innocence.
Playing tricks on people who he thinks lack a sense of humor.
Associating with people who fascinate, entertain, and challenge him.
Outwitting his opponents.
Shape Shifting, Rhyme, Childcare, Invisibility, Conjuration, Animation, Illusion, Manipulation, Comedy, Flying, Music (Flute), Soul Transference, Education, Protection, Magic, Annoying Enemies, Sarcasm, Witticisms
Iron, like all fae.
More powerful fae, like Lord Oberon.
Failing to understand his own feelings.
Loyalty. (This is only a weakness in that Oberon used it against him, or rather it cost Puck Avalon and freedom.)
Titania’s Mirror, which can summon him.
Diverting situations, which distract him. Shiny!
Oberon’s law: no interfering with mortal affairs.
Bargain with Xanatos: he can’t use Puck’s powers to help Xanatos.
Oberon’s decree: Puck can’t use his powers now except when training or protecting Alexander Fox Xanatos.
♦ Notable achievements:
Becoming David Xanatos’s personal assistant in the form of Owen Burnett.
Transforming the entire populace of NYC into gargoyles.
Animating inanimate objects.
Making Demona transform into a human in the day, rather than becoming stone like the other gargoyles.
Giving Goliath a dream that leads Goliath to throw the Phoenix Gate into the time stream.
Defying and then hurting Lord Oberon.
Accepting exile and restriction of power to protect Alexander and to remain outside Avalon.
Training Alex how to perform a soul transference that shifts the three souls inside Coldstone into other vessels.
♦ How Puck can help us succeed in life:
Be loyal to your friends. They deserve it. Usually, anyway.
Associate with interesting people. Your friends and colleagues should challenge you. They should also be able to think outside the box.
Don’t be afraid to leave boring people. You don’t need that negativity in your life.
Try something different. You never know if you’ll enjoy something until you try it. Within reason, of course.
Play different characters when given the chance. Role playing is a great way to learn how to problem solve better. It also builds teamwork.
Think outside the box. Do the unexpected.
Defy authority when it’s for a good cause. Even if the authority is stronger than you, and you’re probably going to lose, there are some things worth fighting for.
Have fun! Life is what you make it, so make the most of it.
Play practical jokes. It lightens the mood. Just don’t hurt anybody!
♦ Puck Quotes:
“Did you say that human or that human? Oh, never mind, I’ll figure it out. This just might be fun after all.“
“Does this look like Aladdin’s lamp? I have limits, after all. .”
♦ Further reading/reports:
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. Perform your own assessment with the Villain Matrix. Use the Villain Matrix spreadsheet that comes free when you join the Research Team, where you’ll also get our newsletter with its exclusive updates and content.
(*Affiliate link, meaning you get a movie/DVD/book/whatever, I get a few pennies, and everybody’s happy!)
“I am he who is called Ra’s al Ghul.”
“The Demon’s Head. I thought you were only a legend.”
“I am quite real.“
We wrap up independence/dystopia month with a look at one of the villain greats: Ra’s al Ghul. He’s one of my favorite Batman villains, and not just because he can keep the Dark Knight shirtless for long periods. His intellect, skills, and longevity make him one of the most independent villains around. He manipulates people and circumstances to suit his ends. He runs his own secret society. He’s practically immortal. He goes toe to toe with the Batman. Why? All to free nature from man’s destruction and to free man from its addiction to technology. (And if I have to trip over one more PokemonGO player, I might agree with him.)
But what really makes him independent? What makes anyone independent? Hint: it’s not unlimited data or mounds of money, though Ra’s has both.
Origin of the Demon
Since his first appearance in the 1972 Batman comic #232, Ra’s al Ghul (pronounced Raysh Al Gool and meaning “Demon’s head” in Arabic) has proved to be a nearly indestructible villain. But all Batman’s villains are that way, you say. They all have Joker immunity! Ah, but the nice young men in their clean white coats don’t come to take Ra’s away to Arkham, ho ho, he he, ha ha. No, he suffers DM lightning and usually “dies” from falling masonry. No matter how much debris drops on him, though, he always comes back. I’m focusing on his incarnation in Batman: The Animatd Series primarily, so it’s up to you to discover his…intriguing future.
His durability may be due to the Lazarus Pits that restore his youth. Or maybe he just plans really well. He is a genius, after all. For a quick background, check out Watch Mojo’s slick origin recap:
I’m serious! Watch it! Okay, basically he was a Chinese nomad in Arabia 600 years ago. The allure of science wooed him from his tribe and led him to discover the Lazarus Pits, which restore the body after it takes damage. That includes damage from age. Think Herbs/Healing Potions on steroids. He shared the knowledge with the prince of the country, who used them but suffered the madness that is a semi-temporary side effect. He kills Ra’s’s wife. The king blames Ra’s, not the prince. The sentence: death in a cage in the desert, with his dead wife beside him. Nomads rescue him. He uses the pits and also suffers the madness for a time. But he recovers (mostly?) and goes on to fight in wars and amass a great fortune. The only thing most people would amass over 600 years would be debt, so props for not only his intellect but also his wisdom.
During all those 600 years fighting, training, and studying in many martial arts, he became a master swordsman and formidable warrior. He’s good enough to take on Batman, who became a master martial artist in 30+ years of life – in addition to being a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist – because he is the goddamned Batman. Ra’s doesn’t fear anyone, as he can win against almost any opponent.
In addition to superior combat abilities, he leads a powerful criminal/eco-terrorist organization called the Society of Shadows, and its League of Assassins. Those are ninjas. Cool, I know. His network of contacts is vast, partly due to his long life and varied pursuits and partly due to his accumulated wealth. When it comes to masterminding schemes to save the earth from man’s destruction, his only limitation is his imagination. Given his genius-level intellect and touch of mental instability, sky’s the limit!
Mind of the demon
What’s the psychology of Ra’s al Ghul? You know it’s going to be far from normal when the man calls himself “the Demon’s Head.”
He is, above all, devoted to restoring the earth to its pristine state. All his plans revolve around protecting or restoring nature’s beauty. No doubt he’d get along great with Cat Woman.
His deep concern – his obsession, really – stems from the 600+ years he’s been around to watch people wreak havoc. A common theme in fiction is that great age/immortality breeds bitterness because the person has witnessed so much hell. Writers ignore the fact that the same destruction that can cause PTSD in one person can cause another person to grow stronger and more mature.
In some ways, Ra’s bucks that norm. He wants to help the world with complete global saturation in Lazarus Pit fluid. I’m sure he and Albert Wesker would happily share a drink as they toasted that scheme! He isn’t so much embittered against the human race as he is tired of seeing the destruction of nature. It’s not revenge he seeks, it’s revival.
This goal is so grand that he will happily sacrifice 2 billion people on its altar. In The Demon’s Quest episode of Batman: The Animated Series, he planned to bomb the Lazarus Pits of the world, causing them to erupt and flood parts of the earth with their fluid. The details are sketchy, but the global upheaval that would ensue would pretty much cause the end of civilization as we know it. With the elections and general state of chaos in the world right now, I can see where he’s coming from. After the worldwide cluster, somehow the earth would shake it off and return to its original perfection. Look, he had computer simulations and a PR video, so it’s gotta be viable.
I’m sure he would be the god of this new world, even if he doesn’t admit it when he monologues to Batman.
Batman and the Demon’s Head
After Batman foiled Ra’s attempt to liberate a sonic drill from its owners in Off Balance, and after Batman met Ra’s daughter Talia during the adventure, Ra’s took a special interest in the Dark Knight. Bats impressed him so much that Ra’s decided to make him his successor.
To make the deal official, Bruce would marry Talia, who in addition to being Ra’s offspring is also his most loyal follower. The plan after that was for the happy couple to have a son to carry on the Demon name. Sexist much? But what can you expect from a man 600 years old who spent his formative years in Asian and Middle-Eastern cultures? It’s actually a nice bit of continuity as for as the character writing is concerned, since a person born in that time period would likely hold sexist views. People rarely change their beliefs as they age, so why would 600 years vs 60 change that? Being a woman of good taste, Talia doesn’t have any complaints about wedding Batman. Heck, Ra’s even gets him half undressed for her. Thanks for the fan service!
Unlike Cat Woman, who had a crush on Batman but didn’t know his true identity, Ra’s discovered not only Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, but also the location of the Bat Cave. If there’s one thing Ra’s knows, it’s how to make an entrance, and he made one of the best entrances of any Batman villain: he walked out of the shadows of the Bat Cave, taking the Great Detective by surprise.
While Ra’s respects Batman’s prowess in battle, he is more impressed by Bruce’s intellect. As a fellow genius, Ra’s feels a kinship with and genuine respect for Wayne. Ra’s doesn’t call him Batman, instead titling him Detective.
What makes Ra’s even more interesting is how he turns Bruce’s skill in detecting against him. Ra’s has his own daughter and Robin kidnapped, then comes to Batman and pretends that another group did the evil deed. This was a multi-faceted plan to test A) Batman’s suitability for marriage to Talia, B) his suitability to succeed Ra’s, C) Batman’s skill in general, and D) Batman’s loyalty to his young ward, Robin.
What other villain chooses Batman to be their successor? Props for thinking outside the box. Ra’s does what he wants, independent of the unwritten rules that other antagonists follow. He’s so convincing that Batman actually considered assuming the mantle, even if the thought was fleeting.
Ra’s isn’t a narcissist, but he does think highly of himself. He might join Wesker in saying, “The right to be a god is now mine.” While he lacks Wesker’s superhuman abilities, Ra’s has a right to feel superior to the average human. Independently wealthy, independently heading a secret society, independently controlling the Lazarus Pits… When it comes to reasons for pride, it beats being employee of the month.
Declaration of Independence
1. Ra’s is a fierce, unique, tenacious villain, we see that with no problem. But why is he a good example of independence? I could cite the obvious reasons, such as his long life, genius IQ, massive wealth, and perfect facial hair, but his independence goes beyond those attributes.
2. One of Ra’s greatest abilities is thinking outside the box. Ra’s doesn’t let other people’s standards and methods constrain him. He doesn’t worry about what others worried about. After all, he tried to make Batman his heir! How much more out of the villain rut can you get? Ra’s has a vision. He sees what others don’t. That sight enables him to achieve – or at least come very close to achieving – his vision. Even when the odds are stacked against him, he turns strengths against his enemies and weaknesses to his benefit. His imagination knows no bounds.
3. He’s also able to adapt. When Batman began to foil the plot to blow up the Lazarus pits, Ra’s stepped in personally. This wasn’t a last ditch attempt; he knew his skills and Batman’s. Then he used the pits as a way to fake his own death and escape scot-free.
5. He holds the absolute loyalty of his followers. People in his organization will die for him. He doesn’t abuse people, though, so this loyalty isn’t from fear. Odds are that like Gustavo Fring from Breaking Bad, he doesn’t consider fear an effective motivator. The people around Ra’s share his vision, even if they don’t share his blood.
Independence isn’t about being alone; it’s about being with the right people. He may be the demon’s head, but a head isn’t much good without a body.
6. He takes stock of the situation and makes plans accordingly. Not much catches him by surprise. While other villains launch into action without thinking, he does his homework. A little surveying can prevent a world of chaos, especially in unfamiliar situations. Organization will set you free.
7. He sees his goal with perfect clarity. Yes, I’m going to harp on having goals again. Because Ra’s’s goal is clear, he knows what to do. He’s free of indecision.
In summary, it’s the inter-working of many aspects that give him the full measure of independence that he enjoys. And he knows it. Self assurance radiates from him as he strides into the Bat Cave like he owns it, or as he fights Batman shirtless, or as he details his plan to end civilization. He wasn’t always rich and powerful, but he was always intelligent, wise, and creative. The latter often leads to the former. If nothing else, they make you live more successfully.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
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A month theme of independence and its villainous opposite, dystopia, wouldn’t be complete without an examination of two classics in the genre of warped worlds: Brave New World by Aldus Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. Both are stark worlds that offer a vision of what our life could be like if we swung to one of extreme of the spectrum or the other. In Brave New World, people’s pleasures keep them peaceful and pliable. In 1984, people’s pains and persecutions keep them plowed under. Toys vs torture. They can both work.
What’s similar about the books is that – SPOILER! – the villains win. Though the protagonists struggle wholeheartedly, face trials, and gain allies, they can’t fight city hall…especially when city hall is about to put a cage of starving rats on the hero’s face. The power of society, not just the government, proves too much for the protags, who perish in body, soul, or both. Villainous victory isn’t something we see often. Heck, you’re about as likely to see unicorns in a Tom Clancy thriller as you are to see the villain win. Never mind that villains are almost always more powerful, cunning, and capable than the hero.
This terrible triumph alone is worth looking at, independence/dystopia aside. Ready?
The classic dystopian world! And oppressive, tyrannical government keeps its citizens under its jackboot heel. Resistance is building, but things aren’t what they seem.
Inciting event: Nuclear war
Dystopian world structure:
Three superpowers: Oceania, with its Ingsoc (English Socialism) ideology, includes Western Hemisphere, the British Isles, Australasia, and Southern Africa.
Eurasia, Neo-Bolshevism, and including Continental Europe and Russia, including Siberia.
Eastasia, with “Death worship” ideology, is unsurprisingly China, Japan, Korea, and Indochina.
Oceania is the country of our protag and by extension our villains. Its society includes three parts:
(I) Inner Party, the elite rulers, 2% of the population.
(II) Outer Party, middle class, 13% of the population.
The Party rules the government and has instituted four main branches:
Ministry of Peace for the perpetual war with the other superpowers
Ministry of Plenty for rationing and starving the populace into submission
Ministry of Love for torturing and brainwashing dissenters
Ministry of Truth for editing the news, entertainment, education into propaganda
Freedoms: Free from thinking, using common sense, using discernment, voting, taking action against evil, trusting others. Free to turn in people for dissent.
Origin of dystopian rulership: Need for stability, desire for power. Nuclear war provided instability, during which the Party took power. It keep society stable but in stagnation as it rules with an iron fist.
Summary/synopsis: Winston Smith is our protagonist. He’s middle class, Outer Party, which means he’s quite restricted in what he can say and do. The Inner Party lives fairly free lives as long as they toe the line. The lower class paradoxically have freedom to think and speak because they’re judged too dumb to make good use of said freedoms. The middle class, the Party believes, is the instigator of rebellion, while the lower class is just white noise.
Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, or the Minitrue, editing any media that contradicts the Party line at the time. He has memories of a time before the Party and its leader Big Brother. He’s not disloyal, he just begins to…think and question. Gasp!
Then he runs into Julia, a woman who seems to be in the Brotherhood resistance. Enter: love interest.
He also meets a O’Brien, who will become the main antagonist of the book. That means he’s also the most interesting character! He’s a senior member of the vaunted Inner Party. He gives the Party a face, other than the dark eyed, mustachioed Big Brother. In his words and actions we receive a glimpse of what those who perpetuate totalitarianism and support tyrants believe.
Like any good antagonist or villain, he is the hero of his own story. While on the surface he appears to be a “normal” Inner Party member living in relative comfort (still not up to our standards though), he’s actually a member of the Thought Police. This agency hunts and arrests thought-criminals – any person they suspect thinks something unapproved by the Party. This is his calling, his niche, and he’s bloody good at his job.
The Thought Police don’t wait around for a resistance to form; they make a false-flag group to trap the “weak sisters” who aren’t 110% committed to the Party. O’Brien works in this sting. His grasp of human psychology is impressive, though it ends at the brink of sanity. More on that later. His cunning and his ability to read people help him cultivate a friendship with Winston. Winston doesn’t suspect a thing. O’Brien invites him and Julia to O’Brien’s flat, which is comfortable by their standards. There the would-be rebels swear allegiance to the Brotherhood. (hey, nobody accused them of being smart.) Little do they know they’re signing their own arrests warrants.
When O’Brien first comes to Winston in prison after Winston’s arrest, O’Brien states, “They’ve got you too!” Then he adds, “They got me a long time ago.” We don’t know if he was like Winston at one point or if he just means they won his complete loyalty many years ago. I would love to see a book about O’Brien’s back story. Guess I should look around fanfiction.net.
Winston interests O’Brien. O’Brien says Winston’s mind is like his except that Winston is insane. Makes about as much sense as anything in this society… In an effort to “cure” the insanity, O’Brien employs electroshock on Winston. It’s torture, plain and simple, but O’Brien is convinced he’s helping this poor creature come to the glorious realization that there is no reality apart from the Party.
This also reveals how completely convinced O’Brien is of the Party’s legitimacy. He says the cure for the “insanity” of seeing reality as it is is simple: believe that reality is whatever the Party says it is. This becomes part of the torture O’Brien inflicts on Winston. “2+2=5” is the phrase they drill into Winston’s head. This is a reference to a part of USSR’s plan for world domination, but here it is an example of how the Party ignores reality even when it’s standing right in front of them. The Party is a master of controlled manipulation of perception. People accept its truth because…it’s easier than getting tortured to death. Instead they choose to die as prisoners of a different sort.
O’Brien explains that the Party just wants power for power’s sake, victory for victory’s sake. It’s addicted to the thrill.
Under torture/treatment, Winston confesses to crimes he never committed but that O’Brien says he has. But that’s not good enough for O’Brien. The cure eludes him! What could be the last straw to break Winston’s will? Betrayal of Julia, his love.
Goal in sight, O’Brien brings Winston to Room 101, where prisoners face their worst fear. O’Brien uses a cage of starving rats and the promise to leave it on Winston’s face to extract a confession that Julia is guilty of treason. “Do it to Julia too!” he screams.
Ah, eureka! Now O’Brien has the cure he wanted for poor deluded Winston. When we see Winston again, he’s back in society, but he’s changed. When he sees a crowd celebrating a supposed Party victory in the never-ending war, he sees himself as one of them. In relief Winston feels he has ceased his “stubborn, self-willed exile” and accepted the love of Big Brother. We end with Winston looking lovingly at a portrait of Big Brother.
Thus he has traded independence for other comforts: The approval of the group. The lifting of the mental burden of striving against an insane system too big to shift. The safety of toeing the line. He feels the comfort of complete surrender and loss of will. It’s a lobotomy of the will.
At last Winston sees what O’Brien has been trying to shock into his brain: Freedom is slavery. Slavery is freedom.
Pro tips for dystopian dictatorships:
Leave no evidence! Change history to suit you.
If you say a lie enough times, people believe it.
People will believe anything, given the proper motivation.
Use dissenters as examples.
Don’t let dissent grow.
Keep communication controlled. Control the language and you control the thoughts.
It’s easier to follow the rut than buck the system.
People will avoid pain and discomfort at all costs.
People will tolerate and even support evil as long as those they consider to be their rulers say it’s okay.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
Shakespeare’s Miranda gushes after seeing men betraying each other and generally being unsportsmanlike and uncivilized. Irony, irony everywhere. And that sums up Brave New World.
Inciting event: Humanity’s need for stability.
Dystopian world structure: Ten World Controllers head the benevolent dictatorship/oligarchy. The populace is conditioned to serve the state and remain peaceful thanks to artificial wombs (jars, basically) and brainwashing since “birth.” The society is broken into classes: Alpha (intellectuals) through Epsilon (stunted slaves). An individual’s place is assigned before conception and ensured via adding alcohol to the womb jar if a lower grade human is desired.
There are a few “reservations” where people maintain the old order of giving live birth and valuing life.
Critical thinking, moral standards, and initiative are discouraged, but pleasures and luxuries are encouraged. Have sex with whoever you want as much as you want, get high off Soma, ride the theme parks (bumblepuppies), go to the movies (feelies), but don’t start wondering about the purpose of life.
Consumption of goods is encouraged to keep the economy humming. Newness is more important than intrinsic value, and classics in art and music must be suppressed to make room for the new. Struggles and accomplishment are obsolete, traded for social stability.
Hedonism is the state religions, the letter T (Model T) has replaced the cross, and the name Ford (as in Henry Ford) is used instead of Lord.
Freedoms: Pleasure all you want! Free to consume, be narcissistic, have sex wantonly, waste time, get high, die through euthanasia, have orgies, be shallow, be hedonistic, live in comfort, avoid critical thinking.
Origin of dystopian rulership: Need for stability, desire for power.
Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx work in London at a “hatchery” where human embryos are raised into infants in jars. Lenina works in the hatchery, and Bernard is a psychologist in the Directorate of Hatcheries and Conditioning. She’s content and in the in crowd. He’s short and pissed off. His specialty is hypnopaedia, a form of hypnotism/brain washing used on people while they sleep. As such, he knows how society is sustained but disapproves of it. Amazingly, he makes no secret of it. But his ideas and vertically challenged condition lead to mockery from the other Alphas.
Eventually he and Lenina go to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico. The residents live like modern American Indians on a rez. While there, they meet Linda, a woman who also visited the village on holiday but became separated from her group. She stayed and had a son. This is a huge shame to those in the civilized world who look on parenthood as an abomination. The words Father and Mother are considered vulgar terms and the height of insult. I always said the F bomb would lose its punch if we used it too much!
The child’s father was a fellow vacationer. Turns out that fellow is Bernard’s boss at the hatchery. Not one to miss a chance, Bernard takes Linda and her adult son John back to London. Linda will confront the father of her son, while John will explore “the brave new world.” What could go wrong!
Lots. Neither newcomer finds acceptance. Linda drugs herself out permanently with Soma, while John becomes a celebrity in the freak-show variety. His notoriety doesn’t last long, as society loses interest. He responds by trying to help the people. First he tries to disrupt a Soma distribution, as he sees its true nature. To his surprise, the recipients are enraged. Not sure why he’s unfamiliar with drug culture if he’s from a rez.
Then he, Bernard, and Bernard’s friend Helmholtz try to stir up a revolt among the put-upon low caste. What they would do if it succeeded is beyond me. It fails miserably, with the low caste turning on them when the hypnopaedic recordings are played over the loudspeaker.
The police apprehend the troublemakers and bring them to…Mustafa Mond’s office. He’s one of the Ten World Controllers. He’s the face of the Brave New World. He’s the interesting one here, as he explains the thinking behind the State. He’s named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey who pushed it to modernisation and secularism; and Sir Alfred Mond, founder of the Imperial Chemical Industries.
The following chapters involve the philosophical discussion he has with John.
We don’t know much about Mond’s past, but it’s probable that he was a scientist who used the scientific method. The method is outlawed now, as it’s the search for truth. That search is deemed to cause strife and thus be opposed to the happy peace of the world. Ironic, since science is a part of their religion. Actually, no one has training in science, though they’re taught to revere Science.
We also don’t know how he rose to power. He’s above the laws of the land, wielding complete power. Yet he remains a quiet, calm, restrained man. It’s not clear if he actually believes what he’s telling John, or if he just knows it’s what keeps the status quo, including his power.
He says that newness and consumerism with instant gratification keep the peace and make people happy. Old, classic things promote thought and slow down consumerism.
Things we value today such as motivation and intellect cause pain, he says. Most people will spend their lives doing boring things, so why not make them stupid in the first place so they don’t care? It’s a mercy. It also keeps stability in society. On the other hand, science must take a back seat to keeping people employed. You can’t replace too many people with machines, because what would the people do?
Mond relates an experiment where Alphas populated an island. They soon fell into civil war because the didn’t agree with how they divided the work.
He explains to John that certain things must be sacrificed to ensure “happiness” and “stability.” Those sacrifices include feelings, passions, commitments, and relationships. They cause strife. He believes that feelings and passions arise from arrested impulses. And of course restraint means unhappiness, right? Right?
We already saw how equality (not being forced to be a low caste), truth in science, classic art are sacrifices too. In fact, anything deemed a struggle must fall away. How can you be happy if you’re facing difficulties? How will we keep stability if we have to go through tough times that make us anxious?
Mond is a persuasive speaker, but not enough to convince John. The Savage goes to an abandoned lighthouse and eventually kills himself when people won’t leave him alone. Bernard and Helmholtz are exiled. Bernard is horrified, but Helmholtz enjoys it.
Mond remains World Controller, presiding over a stable, happy populace of idiots and narcissists who profess the tenets of hedonism and bow before the T in the name of Ford.
Such a happy ending!
Pro tips for dystopian dictatorships:
The Romans had it right: bread and circuses keep people under your power.
Luxury can be a chain as much as torture is, but it’s one made of gold and covered in gems and velvet.
Be careful what you let rule you.
Pleasure is addictive and brings its own pain, but we numb it with more pleasure.
Struggle in life may cause strife, but it makes us mature human beings.
People will by the majority rule choose the easy route, even if it means slavery.
People don’t realize they’re cattle if you keep them fed and entertained.
Free drugs are awesome.
So is Six Flags, Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens…the bumblepuppy and the feelies.
Creating your minions to be idiots works sometimes, so long as you have some intelligent people watching them.
Too many intelligent people in one place will cause revolution.
The best way to keep order is to make people want to keep the order.
You can’t induce a happy, content people to revolt, especially when they’re brainwashed.
Promise safety and stability and people will bow down before you, giving up all freedom.
Torture and toys are both viable tactics to control the populace. Do you see any similarities between the books we looked at and our world? How about the villains and our leaders? How free are you, and how secure is that freedom? Only you can answer. Oh, and don’t say too much in front of your electronic devices. Big Brother is watching.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
It’s July, a month were the United States celebrates its independence with explosions! But what would life look like with the opposite of freedom? Or perhaps too much freedom? Or freedom in the wrong things? What happens when the villains’ plans for world domination work? And how could they have done a better job spreading their…benevolent dictatorship over the world?
Dystopian movies, books, etc explore these questions. Have you noticed the uptick in grimdark, post apocalyptic, hopeless movies lately? In the 1940s, war and humor movies dominated. The public wanted to either see us winning or to forget we were in a war at all. In the 50s and 60s, Hollywood gave us visions of sci-fi utopia. The 70s ushered in a swing toward “real-life” movies that could’ve cut 3 hours from their run time and actually improved. The 80s…let’s not go there. The 90s embraced families as a marketing target and used the new special effects technology to cater to them. The early 2000s saw on the one hand, superhero movies. On the other hand, it saw the rise of dystopian themes. In the 2010s we’re all about the undead, be it vampires or zombies. Mainly zombies. But zombies are a topic for another post.
People have seen that the promises of the 50s fell through. There is no utopia. There’s magical technology that is beyond anything our grandparents dreamed of, but what’s it brought us? There’s more war, violence, and unrest now than ever. There’s loss of connection among people. Our lives are complicated; our free time is non existent. You can’t trust anyone. People are popping anti anxiety and pain pills like they’re Skittles, then wandering through life like zombies.
We’re going to look at a few dystopian movies today and answer the questions we asked earlier. Most of the titles are from the 2000s, but a few are classics from earlier years. Ready?
Oldie but a goodie! Mad Max is arguable one of the biggest names in post-apocalyptic, dystopian movies. Who doesn’t like car chases through deserts, armor on everything, and a general feeling of hopelessness?
Summary/synopsis: In this episode of the Mad Max franchise, we meet Aunty Entity, founder and leader of Bartertown. The town runs on a pig-doodoo fueled methane refinery. A dwarf, Master, and his giant bodyguard, Blaster, run the facility. Master’s got his sights on Bartertown’s moth-eaten Lay Z Boy throne. Solution? Have Max kill Blaster in a gladiatorial duel in the Thunderdome.
While scouting the refinery, Max befriends a slave who tells him Blaster’s weakness: high-pitched noises.
When Max defeats Blaster via said weakness, Max discovers the bodyguard is developmentally delayed. Max won’t kill him. When Master discovers this was a plot to kill his guard, he threatens to shut down the refinery. Aunty responds by killing Blaster, locking up Master, and exiling Max.
Max survives, shockingly, and goes on to befriend and be-enemy others. Some of this friends lead him to go back into Bartertown and free Master and destroy the methane refinery. Aunty doesn’t take kindly to this. Cue action and fight scenes with an airplane and desert raiders. At the end, Max is at her mercy. But she doesn’t kill him, cuz he’s the hero. No, wait, it’s because she “respects” him.
Inciting event: Nuclear war
Dystopian world structure: City states, as far as we know, are the main form of civilization. If you’re not down with living at the mercy of whoever managed to claw their way to the top of the power ladder, you have two choices: join a gang or go lone wolf. Gangs can be crazier than towns. Lone-wolf status makes you a target.
Freedoms: Killing people, forming your own dictatorship, running methane refineries not up to code, speeding, running gladiator competitions. Pretty much anything except freedom from fear.
Origin of dystopian rulership: The need for stability in a chaotic world. Aunty and Master rigged up a semi-sustainable civilization upon a foundation of pig crap. Both people were cunning enough to come to power by ways other than their own brute strength. Not an easy feat in a world without equal opportunity laws.
Pro tips for dystopian dictatorships:
Don’t get an unknown quantity to perform a vital service for you. Who knows what his morals are?
Slaves are tempting, I know, but they’re a bad idea. They don’t like you. If you do go in for them, keep them ignorant of everything.
Exile = hero boomerang. Kill them! Don’t just send them off to an uncertain end.
Fixes: The biggest problem in a splintered society is forming alliances. Villages/city states/militias have their own power and independence, albeit all is limited. Why do you think the USA had such trouble uniting the colonies? Nobody wants to bow to or trust another. There are a few ways to unite people: force, bribes, enemies, fortune, leadership. You’d need a modern Bluetooth – the barbarian not the technology. You’d also need the right leaders. There’s no working with some people.
The best, longest-lasting way to unite people is to have them working toward a common goal. Of course, you’ll always have the power-hungry idiot who tries to take over. But that’s when the people have to stand up.
It’s the far off year of 2013, after “The Doomwar” annihilates technology. This classic is as dreary as it is long.
Summary/synopsis: A local militia shanghais a nomad, pressing him into the service of General Bethlehem, who runs the Holnists. The nomad escapes eventually and hides in an old mail truck. He gets the brilliant idea to impersonate a government employee and tell the next town over that the US gov’t is back in biz. They must be really desperate if they take this as good news!
The village people give him mail. Yay.
General Bethlehem believes the gov’t story and responds like any sane person would: he attacks the town the Postman’s in, kills people, burns things, and captures the Postman.
Postman escapes with a little help from his friends, then learns the postal service is up and running, as much as it ever was anyway, thanks to a boy he inspired with tales of slow deliveries, 9-5 hours, government pensions, and no Sunday service.
Bethlehem fights the postal service, which is mainly staffed by teens instead of surly Baby Boomers. Postman tries to call it off, but like all gov’t agencies, the postal service has spread beyond his control.
Eventually things come to a head. Postman challenges Bethlehem for Holnist leadership, one on one, rather than having all-out war. The Postman is the victor but gives Bethlehem a chance to build a new world. Ever the clear thinker, Bethlehem goes to shoot the Postman – and is shot dead by his former first officer.
Inciting event: “The Doomwar” annihilates technology. I’m assuming it’s an EMP? They never say.
Dystopian world structure: It’s the semi-dark ages again, thanks to the warring factions and general chaos. It’s hard to concentrate on getting the internet working again when some warlord is about to cut off your hands. Villages are your permanent establishments. Your other options are militias, which follow warlords. They’re glorified gangs who prey on the average citizen. Horses are dollars. Wallets are obsolete.
Freedoms: Killing people, forming your own militia, kidnapping, impersonating a government employee, establishing your own mail service.
Origin of dystopian rulership: The need for stability in a chaotic world. Force of arms and the threat of death work wonders for imposing iron-strong order.
Pro tips for dystopian dictatorships:
Conscription is a bad idea. In post-Doomwar Oregon, your soldiers kill you!
Check the facts before you believe a government agency.
Don’t burn towns. They’re how you get money!
Don’t run rampant all over the countryside. You don’t need more enemies.
If you’re beat and the hero offers you a chance, take a page from Sauron’s book and join him. Stab him in the back later, after he does your work for you.
Fixes: It takes a lot of resources and effort to stay on top by intimidation/force alone. Just ask Rome. Oh, you can’t because it fell because it tried to do the above. A little threat goes a long way. Also, if you’re going to deal with an enemy, do a good job of it. No capturing, only killing.
The best way to keep people loyal is to keep them happy. It might also help to make them rely on you. Make their lives so that their options if they ditch you are less appealing than the status quo.
Christian Bale in slick uniforms and gunslinging? What’s not to like about this movie!
Summary/synopsis: John Preston is a top Cleric (SS officer, basically). The gov’t killed his wife, as she refused to take the Prozium med that keeps people from feeling emotions. Preston also lost his partner Partridge – by executing him because Partridge took a book of poems instead of handing it over as evidence. Partridge wanted to feel again.
Preston accidentally breaks his vial of Prozium but doesn’t have time to get a replacement that day. While on a raid, he feels emotion. After this taste of freedom, he skips more doses.
Later, Preston’s new partner Brandt is surprised when Preston prevents him from executing a “Sense Offender” (someone who won’t take the Prozium), Mary.
Feelings of remorse over killing Partridge and also a love for Mary develop in Preston. Eventually he meets Jurgen, the Underground’s leader. Together they plan the assassination of Father, leader of the government. Somehow that’s always a solution, because there’s no way the corruption could’ve spread! Hah.
Meanwhile, the Clerics seem to have caught on to Preston. They tell him someone inside the ranks is a traitor…but then they let him go in order to track down the Underground’s leadership.
Jurgen allows some leaders to be captured and also tells Preston not to go to the execution of Mary. Preston doesn’t listen, instead trying to stop the funeral. He’s accused of being a traitor, but he manages to trick the Vice Counsel into believing Brandt is the actual traitor.
Preston then turns in the resistance leaders. Father grants him an exclusive audience. Preston plans to use this as his chance to kill Father, but he discovers that Brandt isn’t arrested and was part of a plan to expose Preston. The Vice Counsel is also a surprise: he’s masquerading as Father after the original man died. Guess what? He doesn’t take Prozium either. Rather a good idea I guess.
Cue fight scene with a gun kata allowing Preston to dodge bullets and kill guards. He kills the Vice Counsel, even after the man grovels. The Underground destroys the Prozium manufacturing plant and sends the revolution into high gear.
Inciting event: World War III
Dystopian world structure: Welcome to Libria, where Tetragrammaton Council with Father its leader is god and nobody cares. Why? The government requires them to take Prozium. The drug eliminates emotion, because the government decided emotion causes war and strife. If you don’t take it, they kill you. Simple. It’s a fairly safe life if you don’t cross the Grammaton Clerics, who are law enforcement with Matrix-like skills with firearms thanks to the Gun Katas. An underground is growing, however, as some people want to feel emotion again.
Freedoms: Feel no remorse, act with pure reason, report your neighbors for not taking meds, take mind-altering meds, execute prisoners on the spot if you’re a cleric. Freedom from emotions, including joy and happiness.
Origin of dystopian rulership: The need for stability in a chaotic world. Like Bhudism, which believes desires are the source of pain, the Tetragrammaton tries to eliminate the source of pain. We don’t want another war, right? So sacrifice freedom for safety.
Pro tips for dystopian dictatorships:
If you really want someone out of the way, just kill them. While destroying them in public seems fun, it’s a lot of trouble and can backfire.
Don’t reveal everything! Stop monologue-ing.
Don’t turn your best Clerics against you.
Be careful how you handle uprisings. Most grow when you try to stamp them out.
Fixes: For the love of sanity, don’t rely on people to take a med! Even if you threaten them with death, they won’t. In fact, that’ll probably make them more apt to skip it, since they want to see what happens. Instead, put it in the food and water and air. Even better, genetically modify them to not feel. Remember Brave New World and its vial babies?
People will always feel. A lot of times those feelings don’t accurately reflect reality, but that’ll never stop them. If you learn how to use those feelings, you can swing with the current of human loyalty and love instead of against it.
Masks and explosions. Nuff said.
Summary/synopsis: Vigilante V, who wears a Guy-Fawkes mask as his signature, stands against the police state. He rescues a reporter from being arrested as she’s out past curfew. He takes her to watch the product of his hard work: the destruction of a court building. He then takes responsibility for the destruction by hacking into the TV feed. Using this time to encourage the citizens to rise up, he then tells the Gov’t to meet him on Guy Fawkes day outside the House of Parliament.
The cops burst in, but the reporter helps him escape. She winds up knocked out. V takes her home, telling her she must stay with him for a year. Um, ok. Then he kills the chief propagandist and the Bishop of London. The reporter, Evey, offers to help. During her “helping,” she escapes to a friend’s house. Said friend is part of the resistance and even performs satire of the gov’t on his TV show. Not smart. Cops raid. Evey’s captured. They torture her for info on V.
They threaten to kill her if she doesn’t talk. She says she’d rather die than give him away. Then the curtain’s pulled away and we find that V was actually the one who captured and tortured her. But for a good cause! Namely, to free her from her fears and make her a stronger person. Um, ok, crazy masked man. I’m not sure it works that way. Hannibal actually knew how to do this, no torture needed.
We learn that V is the result of human experimentation. He’s now killing his experimenters. The research went on at a concentration camp on undesirables. Its result? The virus that caused the pandemic. The Norsefire Party released it in order to create an environment of chaos in which they could seize power.
V goes on a massive PR campaign, handing out Guy Fawkes masks to everyone. Unrest grows. On Nov 4th, Evey visits V, who shows her the train he plans to use to blow up Parliament. He gives her the choice to use it or not. Um, ok. V has made a deal or two with one of the political leaders, but after the leader holds up his end of the deal (killing another politician), V breaks the contract and kills him. Cue fight. V is mortally wounded.
Evey gives him a Viking funeral by putting him on the train and sending it to Parliament. Boom.
This leaves the military order-less, and they allow the civilians to pass. The tyrants have fallen.
Inciting event: Pandemic and civil war
Dystopian world structure: A fascist police state replaces the UK’s parliament. The Norsefire Party is its ruler, and they rule with an iron fist. Concentration camps for undesireables, secret police called Fingermen, curfews, propaganda… They do totalitarianism right!
Freedoms: if you’re with the Party, you can… Turn people in, experiment on people, imprison people, and terrorize citizens. If you’re not, you’re just SOL.
Origin of dystopian rulership:
The need for stability in a chaotic world. The Norsefire Party believed they were what the world needed. Plus…they really wanted power.
Don’t let the people become restless.
Make sure your test subjects don’t escape.
Stamping down and ridiculing unrest doesn’t work.
Don’t tell your backstory to people!
Fixes: Generally, the harder you hold to rule, the more irritated people become. It’s far better to fatten and weaken them with pleasures than force them to serve you. Bread and circuses work better than beatings and curfews. Letting people be ruled by their pleasure is quite easy. Just say it’s fine, and give them their desires. Make them dependent.
If outrage appears, use distraction. A hot-button issue blown out of proportion is a sure way to get people to forget what they were mad about. Most people have the attention span of a gnat anyway when it comes to fighting for a cause.
Unless you go to an third world country, odds are you’ll never be in or rule a dystopian world. But when you see the tactics and the failure of the villains here, you’ll be well equipped to avoid being taken advantage of in our first world society.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
What is independence?
We American’s celebrated our country’s independence from tyranny yesterday. We lit off explosives in honor of the rockets and their red glow during the war for independence. (And also because blowing things up is fun.) It’s an old victory, and one that’s grown to mean less and less as our elected leaders have become our masters instead of our servants.
Independence doesn’t mean just freedom from a king. It’s not just the ability to speak our mind and worship how we like. It’s freedom from paralyzing anxiety, nagging doubt, draining fear, burning anger. It’s freedom from stagnation and boxed-in thinking.
Responsibility with independence
Here in the West, and especially in the US, we have unparalleled freedom. But with great independence comes great responsibility. Having freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can yell FIRE in a crowded movie theater. It doesn’t mean you can insult or threaten others. Having freedom of religion doesn’t mean you can demand the entire population bow to your faith. It doesn’t mean you can abuse others in the name of your god. Having the right to bear arms doesn’t mean you can wave them about or shoot them off randomly. Having the freedom to buy what we want, eat what we want, and go where we want doesn’t give us the right to be irresponsible. Rights and freedoms are different. Neither should be abused.
Villains represent independence
As we’ve covered earlier, villains represent independence. We love them because they let us see what it would be like to act without regard for laws, norms, feeling, etc. We’d all like to do what we want without worrying about what people thought. We’d like to have to power to achieve our dreams. Villains can cut loose, kick butt and take names, with impunity – until they cross paths with the hero. Unless we want to be labeled a narcissist, ruin our reputation, and/or land in prison, we will never be able to do what villains do, so we settle for watching them. We live vicariously, and we’re better for it. Villains allow us to see the consequences – good and bad – of living without certain limits. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful to them for this “simulation” experience.
Villainous role models:
Maybe role model is the wrong word? Let’s go with examples instead. This is the fun part!
Norman Osborn/Goblin, Spider-Man (2002)
In Marvel’s first Spider-Man movie, the main villain is Norman Osborn, a filthy rich researcher who is working on some fascinating projects for the military. Basic purpose? Make super soldiers who ride hover board things that can blow stuff up. Yes, it sounds lame, because the whole movie was lame. Maybe if they’d stuck closer to the source material, we would’ve gotten a real villain instead of an eye-roller. Anyway, onward!
Predictably, Norman Osborn runs into financial trouble as the super soldier serum doesn’t work well. It has nasty side effects like making the subjects insane and violent. Nice. Also predictably, he tests on himself, because somehow he will be able to make it work…with force of will, I guess. Surprise! It doesn’t work. It does give him Disordered Identity Disorder, though. He talks to a goblin mask, which is a part of the flying suit for the hover board, which has great ideas about how to make him successful again. Too bad these idea involve killing, threatening, or destroying all competition.
Goblin, the alter ego, has the independence to simply murder anybody who gets in Norman’s way. He may not be the Goblin King, but Goblin is ruthless and cunning. He doesn’t care about the law or even collateral damage. Instead, he does what gets him ahead, fallout be damned.
Wouldn’t we all like to take the easy route and just off the difficult people in our lives? Be honest. If not offing, then at least threatening them so they get out of our way. A part of us rages against the morals and laws that keep us from throat punching idiots. What if that tiny part grew? What if it took over? Goblin and Osborn shows us what would happen. He’s a modern day Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Loki, Avengers and Thor movies
Loki is the son of the frost giant king, whom Odin killed. Odin adopted Loki, raising him with the rightful heir to the Asgard throne, Thor. While Loki could never match Thor’s strength, combat skills, or ability to wield Mjolnir, he made up for it by becoming an expert in the science and sorcery of Asgard. Oh, and let’s not forget he’s the Prince of Lies, Trickster of Tricksters. Only later did Loki discover his heritage. He’d always felt like he was scorned, a second-class citizen. Now he knew why.
In addition to mad skillz, he has the power of a god. He can shape shift, regenerate from fatal damage, wield magic, and pretty much live forever. His favorite activity? Wreaking havoc for his own pleasure. He’s a trickster, through and through. His dream is to rule Asgard, however. That happens to be Thor’s dream too. Oops.
Loki believes that slavery is freedom, in a very 1984 way. As long as he’s in charge, of course! Real independence is serving him. God complex much? Oh, wait… He says people want and need to be ruled. To an extent, that’s true, but only by a good leader. If there’s one thing he doesn’t understand, it’s independence. Let’s make sure we do understand.
Loki pulls pranks and stunts that would land anyone else on the execution block. But how do you kill a god, especially when he’s Thor’s adopted bro? Like all youngest siblings, he gets away with…well, literal murder. On a massive scale. And trying to take over the planet. He pulls his schemes with style and attitude, though, which somehow seem to make up for the destruction. If he’s locked up, he escapes and does it again.
Wouldn’t we all love to be able to get away with things like he does? Wouldn’t we like to just have his imagination!
Having his powers wouldn’t hurt either. …I mean, not that you’ve ever wanted to be the mother of a supernatural horse or anything. Or wolves. Or- Loki needs to just stop before things get even weirder.
But even if we had his power, would it make us happy? It hasn’t made him happy. He’s discontent, bitter, and envious.
Catwoman, Batman: The Animated Series
Catwoman is an antagonist, not a villain. She has a deep love of animals, primarily cats. Her other loves? Adrenaline and freedom. She’s an upstanding citizen by day, influential enough to hang with Bruce Wayne. By night, she’s a masked cat burglar who targets cat-related merch. I should add that she used the items she stole to fund projects to save wildlife. When she crosses paths with Batman, it’s infatuation at first strike. Batman isn’t amused.
Her charade continues for a few episodes but eventually the whole city knows she’s Catwoman. It’s sad, really, because she loses the freedom to be herself. She wants to be the graceful, independent cat, but instead she’s banned from donning the costume. This doesn’t last long, as soon she’s back in leather.
Wouldn’t we love to have her skills? How about her physique? Mmhmm. But I think what a lot of us would like just as much is to be able to be ourselves. She knew who she was. Do you know who you are? She pushed the limits, but Batman pushed right back. Do you push your limits?
I think we can all sympathize with her need for freedom from the rut.
Q, Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 1)
While he appears as a human dressed in garb from whatever time period catches his eye today, it’s unclear what exactly the Q is. He – or it or they – are far superior to humans in power. He’s practically a god, able to materialize at will, bend the laws of physics, control mental perceptions, teleport people and objects – the list goes on!
Humans are his prime interest: toying with them, mocking them, testing them, playing with them. The only way to counter him is with wits. The crew can usually out-reason or out-moral him. This I think is mainly because a living Enterprise crew entertains him more than a dead one.
Wouldn’t we love to have his powers? To have the right to be a god? Wouldn’t it be great to give yourself or your friends anything? Well, in Hide and Q (S1:E9), William Riker got to experience just that. He found that it wasn’t all it was made out to be, because he lacked the wisdom and omniscience to apply the power properly. Sometimes getting your dreams granted isn’t the best thing for you.
For all Q’s zany hi-jinks that could’ve killed everybody, his appearances always seemed to teach a deeper lesson and make the crew better humans.
Sauron, Lord of the Rings
The Dark Lord Sauron actually wants to make Middle Earth great again. But like Loki, he thinks he can do that by dominating the people. Controlling others so they make “right” choices was his solution to unruly subordinates. He has a good goal, but his execution could use work. Massive armies of orcs and goblins and evil humans don’t actually make people fall in love with you.
How many times have we wished we could just make other people do what we want? We know the best way! If only they’d do it, we’d all be happy. But do we? Or would we end up making a bigger mess? The only behavior we can control is our own, and we have trouble even with that. We need to fix our own lives -take the beam out of our own eyes – before we start picking on the speck in our brother’s eye.
Sauron’s power disintegrated, making him powerless. His strength became his weakness because of his pride. Don’t be that demi-god.
How to be independent:
It’s easy! Wait, no, that’s Staple’s Easy Button. Crap. Okay, so while being independent isn’t easy, it is possible. Here are a few ways to find independence without unleashing aliens on the world, mutating orcs, stealing cat artifacts, overdosing on super-soldier serums, or bothering Star Fleet crews.
Think outside the box
I’m going to keep beating this drum til I put a hole through it or get my point across. Whichever comes first. Open the box, tear your mind out of the shrink-wrapping, and get over keeping everything “mint in the box condition.” While thinking OotB takes practice, work, and endurance, its payoff is huge.
So how do you do think outside the box? Start small. Think of all the different ways to do something minor. Think of the optimal solutions, too. Like, wouldn’t it be great if people gave you a free lunch? Now, how can you set things up so it happens? How can you use your networks, opportunities, and resources in creative ways?
But it’s dangerous! Of course it is. Anything with a high payoff has a high level of risk. That’s life. You can either take the easy, mediocre, safe way, and get the easy, mediocre, safe result, or you can get out there and live dangerously. I don’t mean do stupid things like speed and/or binge drink. I mean travel, change jobs, change careers, meet new people, do new things, etc. Don’t feel up to it? That’s fine. Just don’t let me catch you whining on Facebook about your dull life.
The best way to be independent? Learn skills that will free you from relying on others. I don’t mean you have to get a master’s degree in everything. I mean you need to have a basic grasp of more skill sets. Knowing basic plumbing, carpentry, computer skills, automotive care, healthcare, cooking, etc. gives you more freedom to take on new projects and try new things. You gain confidence with every new skill!
Don’t listen to what your mom used to tell you about not talking to strangers – though you still shouldn’t take candy from them. Strangers are only strangers until you say, “Hi, my name is [whatever your name is]. What’s yours?” You’d be amazed how useful and interesting people can be if you give them a chance! Never ever write off people as being no use to you. You don’t know half as much as you think you do about them. Everyone has hidden talents, even if they consist of making you glad you’re not as crazy as that person. People can lead you to hidden treasure and new lands. Take a step of faith with them. Don’t rely on them, of course, but be open to the good things that come from social interaction. Come on, get out of that cave!
And I didn’t even mention how you helping them makes you feel fulfilled. Wait, I guess I just did,
The zompocalypse is coming! Quick, get in your self-sustaining bunker with its 10 years of food and armory fit for Fort Benning! You don’t have that? What have you been doing!
Hah, just kidding. But I am serious about being prepared. Have enough resources – food, fuel, money, water – to last a month if your outside sources for them go out. This is common sense. What if you lose your job and can’t afford things for a while? What if there’s a massive storm? How about a terrorist attack? Prepping gives you independence from the daily run to the store. It gives you confidence in your ability to provide for yourself and your family in times of hardship. It’s not about bunkers, it’s about safety.
Stop cringing! Self discipline is a great thing. You know how good you feel when you finish a task? When you defeat a challenge? That’s satisfaction. And the harder the job, the greater the satisfaction. Disciplining yourself isn’t self flagellation. No, it’s simply sticking to a system that gets the job done. That system is up to you. Self discipline frees you from the guilt you feel when you cave in to your desires and blow off your duties. Do you think villains get to super-villain status by slacking? No, they get there by killing- er, wait, I mean, uh… Well, you get my point.
In the end…
It’s all up to you. Don’t wait for a political leader, a significant other, or anything else to give you independence. You have a choice to make: go on with the status quo, or declare your independence. Beware: if you do declare independence, you have a fight on your hands. But it’ll be worth it.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.