Dr. Seuss Would Have Supported Amon: A Comparison Between Legend of Korra and The Sneetches

September 4, 2012

Contributed by Nathan G.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the Nickelodeon animated show Legend of Korra and the Dr. Seuss short story The Sneetches are actually very similar tales. Though they are meant for different age levels and possess very different levels of sophistication, both stories are about the tragedies and horrors of institutionalized racism, and the way to combat it. The main point of divergence between them is that while Dr. Seuss writes about the downfall of racism, Legend of Korra celebrates its survival.

 Let us first examine The Sneetches. As the doctor tells us, Sneetches are creatures that live on beaches. They enjoy a simple life; barbecuing, playing ball, toasting marshmallows, and generally having a wonderful time. But this lovely life is not enjoyed by all Sneetches, not all! You see, some Sneetches have stars on their bellies, and some Sneetches are without. And no Star-Bellied Sneetch would ever even dream of having fun or spending any time at all with a Non-Starred Sneetch. So while the Starred Sneetches enjoy themselves day and not, those lacking chest ornaments are left out in the cold. So as it stands we have a classic case of racism in action. One group, possessing something that another group lacks, uses this advantage to persecute and de-humanize their fellows, keeping them segregated and oppressed. Because they don’t recognize them as equals, the Starred Sneetches have no need to share their good fortune with the Non-Starred Sneetches. Convenient for them perhaps, but not so good for their poor, plain-bellied neighbors.  And this tragic situation continues, until one day a mysterious man appears with a marvelous machine. His name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean, and he is the Fix-it Chap. And he has a wonderful deal for the Non-Starred Sneetches. For only a few dollars, he can add stars to those plain bellies. In a word, equalization. Though the original Starred Sneetches try and maintain their power by erasing their stars, the Newly-Starred Sneetches merely follow in a chaotic cycle, until no one can remember who was originally what. By the end of the story, all distinction between Starred and Non-Starred is completely gone and a new era of equal campfires and volleyball games begin.

Now, Legend of Korra is much more complex, and does not mirror The Sneetches exactly. However there are more than enough similarities to warrant an examination. The setting for the show is Republic City, a place where “benders and non-benders can live in peace.” Bending, it should be noted, is a special ability that a large segment of the population possesses that allows them to manipulate one of the Four Elements: fire, water, air, and earth. Now this slogan sounds great on the surface, and up to a point it’s even true. After all, there is no official discrimination against non-benders. No, this is much more subtle than the Sneetches.  Watching the show, you begin to realize something. The entire government is composed of Benders. The entire police force is composed of benders, as is the Armed Forces. The most popular form of entertainment in the city is barred to all but Benders. By and large, non-benders seem to have little say in public affairs, and their concerns are treated as less important by the show. Or to put it differently, non-benders weren’t allowed to attend barbecues or a marshmallow roasts. But a McBean is coming. Early in the series the character Amon is revealed. The mysterious leader of a group called the Equalists, his goal is simple. The eradication of Bending, and the equalization of all people in Republic City. He plans to accomplish this through the use of a most singular power that he possesses; the ability to strip someone of their bending. Of course, the establishment doesn’t stand by and let their power vanish without a fight. They quickly enact highly discriminatory laws designed to punish all non-benders, even those who are not Equalists. It should be noted that these are passed by an 80% margin, with less than a minute of debate. Over the following half-dozen episodes or so, the main characters struggle with the Equalists and become embroiled in numerous subplots too complicated to be related here. But finally, in the series climax the Equalists seize power in a bloodless coup and prepare to implement their agenda. But it is here that the series changes direction. Unlike Dr. Seuss, the creators of Legend of Korra do not have the courage to advocate the overthrow of the established order. No, instead Amon is disgraced by the plucky young heroes and ultimately murdered by his own brother. The Bending elite declare victory, and things continue on as they always have.

Now that we’ve familiar with the basic structure of the two stories, I’d like to draw special attention to several of the most important points. First of all, neither McBean or Amon is who they say they are. McBean claims to be looking out only for the Sneetches best interest, but throughout the story he displays only contempt for them. In fact, the harmonizing of their society was only a side effect of his real aim, which was to make as much money as possible. It would not be overly harsh to accuse him of being a con man. But his trickery is forgiven, as he has wrought much good. Amon claims to be a non-bender, one who was severely burned by a fire bender in his youth. In reality, he is an extremely powerful bloodbender, and the son of Republic City’s most notorious criminal. Though he truly did believe in the Equalist cause, he built it on a foundation of lies and half-truths. Is this ethically correct? Not really. But does it change the reality of what equalization would bring? No! Another point, and one that is closely related is that in both stories, the destruction of racism must come about through profoundly unethical processes. Amon’s stripping of bending makes many people uncomfortable, and with good reason. It is an incredible violation of someone’s soul, and something hard to countenance under any circumstances. Compared to the ongoing and fundamental inequalities of life in Republic City however, it begins to look a lot less bad. And though what Mr. McBean was doing wasn’t as bad, it was certainty not proper behavior that we would expect from a hero. He quite handily scams the Sneetches out of a very large sum of money; by my calculations at least $1,000. This figure should be regarded as a bare minimum; the true number is almost certainly much higher. For folks whose entire occupation is hanging out on a beach, this is not a insignificant amount! The final point that needs to brought up is that the evil is not in the people but in the system. When discussing Legend of Korra, one of the most frequent defense of Bender elitism you encounter is the character defense. Not all benders are bad people! they say. Look at this example, or that person, and so on and so forth. And to a point, they’re right. The series is full of Bender characters such as Tenzien, General Iroh, Korra, and Bolin who would never dream of intentionally oppressing an entire segment of society. But the key word is intentionally. A fundamental truth that these two stories illustrate quite well is that a good person will always be defeated by a bad system. Korra and Tenzien are blinded by the positions of privilege they occupy, making it impossible for them to realize how cruel the system they prop up is. Similarly, on the last page of The Sneetches, you observe people living in harmony who only five or six pages ago had despised each other. This is possible because once the Starred Sneetches have been broken out of the system that perpetuated their supposed superiority, allowing their better natures to become dominant.

At this point the parallels between the two stories are obvious, which begs the question: why is the reaction to them so different? The Sneetches is known by all as a great way to teach children about the wrongness of racism while the vast majority of Legend of Korra fans were delighted by the death of Amon. The answer to this question is quite simple. McBean was able to finish his work, and Amon was not. Think about the struggles against discrimination and racism in our own world. Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist for several decades, and the FBI classified Martin Luther King Jr. as a threat to the state. It was only after they’d achieved victory that their achievements were recognized. Sadly, Amon was never given this chance.

(Per)version of the truth: The decline of pursuit towards convergent truth

June 6, 2012

Submitted by Danny T.

The underlying theme to the Pokémon film, Mewtwo Strikes Back, is philosophy vs. complacency. Mewtwo, the antagonist in this film, represents philosophy. He is constantly searching for the meaning of his artificial existence; whereas, the Pokémon trainers, Pokémon, Giovanni, and Mew all represent the complacent approach to life. As the film begins, the narrator explains to the audience, “Life: the great miracle and the great mystery. Since the beginning, humans and Pokémon alike have searched for its meaning.”  This illustrates a bygone philosophical pursuit that has long been abandoned, as we soon come to understand.

The film brings the audience to Mewtwo’s sudden conception into the world. “Who am I? What am I? Why?” We can see the underlying philosophical theme being demonstrated in this scene. When Mewtwo is brought into the world of Pokémon by the hands of science, it represents the ignition of philosophical awakening sparked by the frustration of undervalued truth. Mewtwo hears scientists outside his stasis chamber commenting on his mental prowess. “His brain waves are surging”, Mewtwo then shatters the glass prison that holds him, and is now free; symbolically breaking the chains of the antiquated rhetoric that breeds intellectual complacency. Immediately following this scene Mewtwo begins to make inquiries to the circumstances of his creation, thusly revealing his introspective nature. The scientists’ insubstantial partial answers are typical of the sophist manner of complacence with half-truths. Mewtwo, seeing beyond the veil of lies, transubstantiates his curiosity with indignant rage, and then annihilates the laboratory he was given birth in. Emerging from the ashes, Mewtwo declares the magnitude of his power, thusly acknowledging the nigh-limitless potential of philosophy.

Immediately following Mewtwo’s liberation, a helicopter arrives, and we are introduced to Giovanni, who, in comparison to Mewtwo, sees the foolishness and folly of the sophistic scientists whom Mewtwo has murdered. Recognizing Mewtwo’s power, Giovanni extends his hand to Mewtwo as a supposed equal. No sooner does he offer his partnership to Mewtwo than does he begin to indoctrinate him into obedient complacency with his own brand of dogma. This establishes, in contrast with Mewtwo’s sincere intentions, Giovanni as a representation of the complacent institutions that pervert philosophical aim with antiquated doctrines, and supplanting that aim with complacent obedience.

Mewtwo, who is now taken under Giovanni’s wing, is given a protective suit of “armor.” This “armor” represents the control that modern institutions take over philosophical drive and the complacent attempt to “protect” the masses from their own curiosity. Mewtwo is now seen in a blackened room. Wires, which resemble puppet strings, now bind him. Mewtwo, who has become disenchanted with Giovanni’s doctrine, finally confronts the sanity assassin about his purpose in the world. Giovanni simply states, “To serve your master.” Giovanni, who has blinded Mewtwo with false hopes and dreams, is now revealed to be a master of puppets. Mewtwo becomes enraged by Giovanni’s sophistic answer. Now frantic, Mewtwo becomes a violent saint of anger, severing the wires that were bound to Giovanni’s never ending will. When Mewtwo says, “This cannot be my destiny; I was not born a Pokémon! I was created! My creators have used and betrayed me, so I stand alone!” he is rejecting the doctrine of the sophist institution that breeds complacency. When he sheds his protective “power suit” he sheds himself of his reliance on the dogma that has been binding his potential.

After his rejection of Giovanni’s doctrine, he returns to his philosophical pursuits, asking once again the questions “Who am I?” and “What is my true reason for being?” upon his return to the point of origin where he was created. Upon further introspection, he resolves to find his own purpose. And in doing so, Mewtwo comes to the resolve to purge the world of humans and Pokémon alike.

In contrast to the introspective undertakings that seem to concern Mewtwo, we are next introduced to the carefree Pokémon trainers, Brock, Misty, and the film’s protagonist, Ash.  These Pokémon trainers occupy themselves with far less abstract matters: food, work, and Pokémon battles. Such is the significance of frivolity, complacency, and triviality in their world. The trainers live in a world that thrives on monotony. We can observe a clear example of the Pokémon trainers’ carefree and insipid lifestyle when a Dragonite knocks over all their food that they just spent a great deal of time preparing while delivering mail and they seem relatively unbothered by that fact. The Pokémon trainers are invited to attend a Pokémon gathering with other select trainers, which is to be hosted by “The world’s greatest Pokémon trainer” True to their carefree and credulous natures; they readily accept this suspicious invitation. The only question any of them thinks to ask about this implausible proposition is “Is there a rewind button?”

Transitioning back to Mewtwo, we witness Mewtwo using his mental abilities to cause a massive storm, perfectly embodying the philosophical tide being created in the Pokémon universe by Mewtwo’s awakening.

Predictably, Ash and his companions rush for shelter to escape the danger of Mewtwo’s storm. They find their shelter inside a Pokémon center with a crowd of other trainers and their Pokémon. When a large crowd gathers at the gate, Ash and his companions learn that due to the storm, the ferry to New Island has been canceled. Upon further explanation, the harbor manager begins to explain her belief that the storm is connected to a prophecy based on ancient writings. She mentions legendary “Winds of Water” that are prophesied to wipe out all but “a few” Pokémon and then goes on to describe a cryptic verse in the ancient writings that says “in their sorrow… the water of their tears restored the lives lost in the storm” At this point, she cautions the Pokémon trainers that “There are no Pokémon tears today. Just waters no one can survive.” These statements acknowledge the general indifference and complacency in the world the Pokémon trainers live in. They also serve to foreshadow the grim consequences of this complacency.

In reaction to the news of the canceled ferry, a few of the Pokémon trainers decide that they will forego the harbor manager’s ominous warnings and make their way to New Island using their Pokémon. Ash manages to obtain transport to the island through Team Rocket, who disguise themselves as Vikings and offer to give Ash and his companions a ride in their wooden boat.  Being the ever complacent and charmingly indifferent protagonist that he is, Ash feels no need to ask any questions as he takes them up on their offer. As they go into the water, the harbor manager comments on how the Pokémon trainers will make great Pokémon masters for “following their hearts” against her own grave warnings. This makes clear the level of cocksure certainty that the acceptance of complacent methodology brings in the world of Pokémon.

Shortly after the protagonists and Team Rocket set off in their wooden boat, the boat is then capsized by a massive wave, and they are sucked beneath the tides. Caught way down in the undertow, the protagonists instinctively release their Pokémon in an effort to survive. This demonstrates how the Pokémon function as an enabling crutch for the Pokémon trainers’ acquired inability for self reliance, which they have complacently come to accept as being natural.

After Ash and his companions trudged Mewtwo’s storm, they arrive miraculously at Mewtwo’s island. There, they meet three other Pokémon trainers. After briefly introducing themselves to one another, Mewtwo makes a theatrical entrance, levitating himself down a spiral slide. This is important because the downward spiral that Mewtwo was descending down the middle of is a very clear foreshadowing of his eventual downward spiral into complacency. After making his grandiose entrance, Mewtwo declares himself to be the greatest Pokémon trainer in the world.  He does this despite clearly being a Pokémon. This defiant act of standalone counter-culture clearly demonstrates Mewtwo’s will to break away from the complacent codes of conduct imposed upon him in the world of Pokémon. The perceived audacity of such an assertion incites not only anger, but indignation from the complacent Pokémon trainers. One such Pokémon trainer even states outright that “A Pokémon can’t be a Pokémon master!” Mewtwo responds to this philistine’s outburst with a vulgar display of power, and tosses him aside. But before he does so, he states that he is now the one that makes the rules. This demonstrates Mewtwo’s lack of patience with the complacent humans of the Pokémon world, as well as his newfound desire to replace their institution with one of his own. The trainer responds in the only way that he knows best: He sends his most powerful Pokémon to fight for his damaged pride. Mewtwo also tosses this contender aside. In doing so, he asserts his lack of hesitation or compromise against any opposition which may serve as an obstacle to free himself from the binds of complacency.

Mewtwo declares that humans are a dangerous species and that they created him as a slave. He then goes on to state that he has found his own purpose in destroying their world to create his own. Mewtwo’s desire to destroy, and break free from the complacent and oppressive reality that he sees as dangerous, and yet is forced to live in, has motivated him to liberate himself with extreme aggression. In contrast to Mewtwo’s view of the complacent human world as oppressive and dangerous, Pikachu steps forth to defend the traditional way of life by stating that Pokémon are not the slaves of humanity, but friends. Mewtwo promptly rejects this complacent and credulous notion and states that believing such naïve concepts makes him “as pathetic as the rest” right before telekinetically throwing him into his “friend,”  Ash.

After Mewtwo tosses aside Pikachu, another trainer states, “If you are Pokémon, there’s no reason I can’t capture you.” Here we see another attempt to control, undermine, and suppress Mewtwo’s philosophical will using the ways of the pre-established institutions which he is complacently accustomed to. Mewtwo effortlessly tosses the Pokémon aside and says, “Fools, your Pokémon attacks won’t weaken me, my power too great! No trainer can conquer me.” This statement reflects how Mewtwo has broken free of the traditional ways of the Pokémon world. He cannot be bound by the establishment set in place by the static and underdeveloped inhabitants within the current Pokémon universe. Ash, who has witnessed Mewtwo’s power, comes to the arrogant resolve that if challenged to a traditional Pokémon battle, he might have a chance at defeating Mewtwo. Mewtwo whole-heartedly accepts Ash’s cocksure challenge.

Mewtwo then uses his psychic power to wake the clones he has artificially created. The clones become clearly observable in a clone machine that Mewtwo rebuilt. This clone machine represents Mewtwo’s own doctrine being formed from his philosophical drive, and is an indication of the seemingly inevitable transition that takes place from philosophical inspection to new rhetoric and doctrines. From this revised version of the previous devices of the complacent, we see new creations being formed: cloned Pokémon. And in their spawning from Mewtwo’s poison god machine, we see the enemies of reality; the reality that the Pokémon trainers and their Pokémon have all complacently grown accustomed to. These are the Pokémon Mewtwo has chosen as his answer to the complacent doctrines of what he sees as an antiquated world. From this answer, he has developed a new level of confidence and power. When introducing this newly developed war party to the Pokémon trainers, Mewtwo makes note of how he has fashioned an improved version of the traditional starter Pokémon. This clearly illustrates Mewtwo’s intention to realize the potential of philosophical thought by replacing the complacent Pokémon with “superior versions” that are strong enough to handle change and conflict. In comparison to Mewtwo’s self-assured sense of new found power, the trainers view the clones as nothing more than fake; they are certain of what has already been established.

They begin a traditional Pokémon tournament, choosing to fight fire with fire by pitting their starter Pokémon against Mewtwo’s clone equivalents. No matter their choice of tactics, the Pokémon trainers’ starter Pokémon are easily overwhelmed, further validating Mewtwo’s disdain for the complacent rhetoric as being a confining hindrance to personal development.

Once the original starter Pokémon and their trainers have been effortlessly dealt with, Mewtwo decides to claim their Pokémon as a prize, in order to clone them into “superior” versions, which he plans to repopulate the Pokémon world with. With a stubbornness to match Mewtwo’s tenacity, Ash defiantly tells Mewtwo they won’t “let” him do it; adamantly refusing to discard his obsolete system of hierarchy between trainer and Pokémon. His futile attempt at asserting authority over such an aggressive perfector is answered with an imposing declaration: “Do not defy me. This is my world now.” Domination has now consumed Mewtwo and calls him a friend.  Despite what the Pokémon trainers do, they cannot prevent Mewtwo from enacting this edict.

In the scene where Ash blindly throws himself into the cloning machine to save his Pikachu, he once again displays the false sense of security that has been instilled in him from years of complacent acceptance of the traditional arrangement. The cloning machine is then broken. This shows how unquestioning adherence to traditional rule can eventually destroy philosophical potential, if it is unyielding and tenacious enough. In the destruction of this cloning machine, the original Pokémon are free to persevere and challenge the newly developed clones that embody Mewtwo’s vision of philosophical enhancement.

In comparison to how humans use Pokémon, Mewtwo used humans as pawns to build his new world, by possessing Nurse Joy and by stealing their Pokémon. This foreshadows Mewtwo’s eventual decline from being a dissident aggressor towards enacting his own inevitable form of complacent design, because he is beginning to undermine his philosophical drive towards freedom with the same oppressive methods used by those that preceded him.

As Mewtwo prepares for total war, intending to take no prisoners, Ash once again continuously asserts that he will not “let” Mewtwo enact his plans. As Mewtwo responds with an expected blast of homicidal force, Mew interjects with a defensive bubble to protect Ash from damage. Mew acts as an embodiment of the old methodology, cushioning Ash from the harsh impact of Mewtwo’s revolutionary intent. In contrast to Mewtwo, Mew starts off as rather passive, fleeing from Mewtwo’s adversarial onslaught and trying to avoid the conflict, as is the typical initial reaction from those that would rather be complacent. Mew does not want to have to deal with the conflict of opposition. Mewtwo, however, is unafraid of this conflict. Mewtwo is driven to prove the superiority of his radical new paradigm changing vision to the antiquated arrangements of the past.

After enough confrontation, Mewtwo finally provokes Mew into facing him. When this happens, Mewtwo finally faces a challenging opposition which he can use as a decisive symbol of his dominance and superiority. Believing himself to be a sort of indestructible master of war, Mewtwo makes note before the final confrontation that Mew’s Pokémon are weak and spineless, perfectly capturing the main fault that Mewtwo finds in complacency. When Mew argues that special abilities mean nothing, and that a Pokémon’s true strength comes from the heart, what Mew really means is that what one already knows is what is truly right and valuable. Mew believes that all the power and potential that Mewtwo has harnessed with his philosophical introspection is pointless and cheap. In a defensive rage, Mewtwo obliges to play at Mew’s game and win by blocking his Pokémon’s special abilities, failing to realize that in playing Mew’s game of self imposed constraint, he undermines his aim to unleash the true potential of philosophical pursuit. This is his true beginning down the path of complacency. We can see this being demonstrated in how he and all his “super Pokémon” begin to mirror their opposition after suppressing their own potential. At one point, original and clone become practically indistinguishable from one another.

Now staring into the reflection of their own complacent ideals, the trainers begin to lament the conflict between both sides, commenting that nobody can truly win this fight. This indicates the complacent nature of those who refuse to weather the turmoil of philosophical pursuit under the pretense that nothing can possibly be gained in the end. Their constant lamentation of “fighting” is a stunning display of their adamant aversion to conflict and the cost it takes to endure such conflict. Their inability to recognize the hypocrisy of condemning Mewtwo’s coercion of other Pokémon into violence is a clear demonstration of their refusal to explore the conflicting turmoil of introspective pursuits. Their initial statements of distrust at the Pokémon who are “made differently”  from themselves is an indication of their refusal to accept things that are different from what they’ve complacently come to accept as part of their world scheme. With the will to fight slowly draining from the clones as they begin to mirror their original counterparts, one of the clones begins to point out the many similarities which are now apparent between the two, and his original begins to note that since the two are so similar, they should end their hostilities. This depicts the willingness of those who are medicated with the intellectual numbness of blind complacency to co-exist with others, only once those begin to parallel what they themselves are accustomed to.

Ash watches the hostility and conflict between these two forces that are becoming more and more like each other and finally decides that he needs to end their fighting. Ash realizes that their mutually assured destruction could cause a rift in the idyllic reality he has grown accustomed to, now that the opposite side has reached a state of familiarity. True to his complacent nature, he does not question his impulse to “sacrifice” himself in order to preserve the status quo. This marks his adamant and total unacceptance of any possible change, and once he becomes petrified from the blast, this refusal to accept change becomes symbolically set in stone.

If Ash had taken even a slight moment to question his course of action, he may have come to the realization to his own death would result in a drastic and unacceptable change in the reality of those around him, which in turn, would also spark emotional and intellectual turmoil in the world of Pokémon. Because of this, Pikachu first tries to resuscitate Ash with thunderbolts, but to no avail. It is at this stunning realization that something has drastically changed in the reality of the Pokémon world, and seemingly for the permanent, that all the Pokémon begin to weep. This weeping is their expression of longing for comfort, safety, and familiarity in a world where the status quo is more important than anything else. With the ideal of safety and familiarity no longer merely threatened, but destroyed outright, and their aversion to change now symbolically set in stone, their tears become a cohesive agent to help heal and repair the shattered existence they once knew. In the outpouring mass of healing tears, the Pokémon express their sense of longing for the comfortable, safe and familiar. With this, their adherence to the complacent doctrine is firmly unified and Ash is resurrected, symbolically representing the return of complacent lifestyle in the world of Pokémon.

Mewtwo now realizes that these frail beings cannot truly endure or withstand the harsh reality of change when he sees them weeping.  With his newfound sense of pity for them, Mewtwo comes to realize that it is for the best to set aside his differences and allow them to live in their delusional certainty. Upon this realization, he comes to the conclusion that it is not only for the best that he leave, and take his superior Pokémon with him, but erase their memories in order to fully restore the status quo as it originally existed before he got involved with their world. He mentions that he still intends to exist in a way where he and his stronger Pokémon can continue to live as they originally intended, but separately from the others so that the others can continue living life in their persistent vegetative state. However, in his acceptance of their inability to cope with a change in their fantasy state of reality, Mewtwo has unknowingly become something he once despised: complacent.

The Pokémon trainers are now warped back to the Pokémon center they had taken shelter in to escape Mewtwo’s storm. Having no memory of how they arrived at the Pokémon center in the first place, Ash displays a glimmer of hope for philosophical potential by asking, “Hey, how did we get here in the first place?” This almost compares to what Mewtwo very first asked about:  his existence in the Pokémon world. His question is shut down by Misty’s complacently sophist answer, “Well I… guess we’re just here because we’re here” Such is the manner of answering every million dollar question, in the world of Pokémon. Hope for Ash and the others ever achieving any sort of philosophical potential seems lost as Ash promptly shrugs it off and says: “Yeah, let’s eat” returning their full attention to mundane and practical matters such as simple hunger. On cue for this denial of intellectual growth, some random person calls out to look outside, which they do unquestioningly. As they go outside to see what was so important, they see that a “miracle” has happened. The tides have subsided and are replaced by static tranquility. The philosophical tide in the Pokémon world is dead, and this is the final product. The inhabitants of the world of Pokémon are free to continue living life in the same manner they always had, with no sign of change, for better or for worse, anywhere in sight.

Ex Situ: How Much Money You Need To Realistically Recreate The Scrooge McDuck ‘Gold Coin Swim’

May 8, 2012


After executing smart mortgage derivatives and diversifying high yield stocks, cash should start flowing freely, leaving the smart investor with even more questions, like “how do I protect my municipal bonds?” and, “should I invest in a C-Share or blend fund?” and, “how much money do I need to create giant floes of gold in a private vault and dive into it like Scrooge McDuck?”

How Much Money You Need To Realistically Recreate The Scrooge McDuck ‘Gold Coin Swim’
> Catena Ex Situ

Open Letter to Nickelodeon, Re: SpongeBob’s Pineapple under the Sea

January 25, 2012

by Vi Hart

Dexter and Deedee’s Sibling Dynamic

December 2, 2011

-Contributed by Amanda H.

I was watching the Dexter’s Laboratory episode “Dream Machine” and for those unfamiliar with how the episode opens, here is a summary: Dexter is taking a test with the time running out. There is only one question: 2 + 2=____. Even though the question is easy for a ‘genius’ like Dexter, he can’t answer it. He hears a sound like a ink-jet printer running and looks over to see his sister Deedee also taking a test but the only question on her test is “What is the purpose of meaning?”, which she answers easily with a streaming of mathmatical equations. Sure, it is played for comedic effect that Dexter, a boy who actually looks forward to things like tests and quizzes to show off his intelligence like the big nerd he is, unable to answer an easy question and feeling inadequate compared with his ‘stupid’ sister but that made me think: Does Dexter actually fear that Deedee might be smarter than him and fear losing his only defining characteristic; his intelligence? According to Dream Moods.com, the dream (or nightmare, in this case) of taking a test, the circumstances (in this case, Deedee taking a test right beside Dexter and breezing through a complicated and somewhat philosophical question) of the dream highlight fears in the waking life, of competition and a percieved feeling of inadequacy. Because the logic of science is Dexter’s only comfort, he feels possessive of that quality and cannot accept the thought that Deedee could be as smart as or even smarter than him. In the episode “Come Back Sassy” when Dexter and his family go camping, he complains that there is nothing scientific about being outside and among nature, which makes Deedee bring up Gregor Mendel, the scientist who was considered the Grandfather of Genetics. Dexter yells at Deedee that he knows this, muttering to himself on how Deedee could know something like that. In “Old McDexter”, Deedee says Dexter “would know ‘cool’ if it was tattooed on your retina’, which causes a similar reaction: a hostile and annoyed “I KNEW THAT!”, while questioning why and/or how Deedee could know something like that. I was trying to categorize Deedee intelligence in its own way and I think she might be closer to an idiot savant than an actual idiot. In the cartoon, she shows a tremendous imagination (not getting into the separate topic of whether her imaginary friend, Koosalagoopagoop is real or not) and a gift for storytelling, so much so that when Dexter shrinks down and sneaks into Deedee’s room to spy on her in “Doll House Drama”, he gets sucked into Deedee’s soap-opera style story she concocts with him and her Darby doll. In his mind, he has already defined Deedee as stupid and cannot see it another way that maybe she doesn’t invent things like Dexter but may still be smart. Back to the episode, Dexter brings Deedee to man the Dream Machine to make sure he says in the Dream state and doesn’t cross over into another Nightmare. (why he brings a sleepy Deedee and doesn’t give the job to his computer is a bit confusing but for my theory, it works) His dream goes swimmingly, dreaming of achieving a state of accumulating all knowledge until Deedee invades his dream and calls into question his intelligence. She brandishes her test on the purpose of meaning, representing the one thing Dexter doesn’t know and he seeks out the Grandfather of All Knowledge who is: Dee. Deedee’s intrusion into Dexter’s fantasy of being smart and successful mirrors his waking life: Deedee invading his ‘mind’ (his laboratory) and causing discord.

Pony Personality Disorders

May 25, 2011

Found on reddit. Reposted with permission. Link to original source.

All right, after watching the latest episode and not having overthought anything in a while, I felt like writing something. So why not write about ponies? Here’s my hypothesis: every pony of the mane cast represents a personality disorder according to the DSM-IV. To be diagnosed with a particular disorder, you have to fulfill at least four and in some cases five criteria that are typical for that disorder. All statements listed with a bullet point are taken directly from the DSM-IV’s definition. So, let’s get diagnosing.

Histrionic Personality Disorder: Pinkie Pie

Ponies suffering from histrionic personality disorder have one and only goal in life: being the center of attention. As the most recent episode has shown, behind everypony’s favorite fun-loving, good-natured, party pony lurks a deeply troubled and disturbed soul that can only be herself when she’s the focus of everybody’s attention.

  • is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention

That’s Pinkie Pie all right. She has a tendency to burst into the scene and disregard anything else that might be going on. In Applebuck Season she took center stage during the award ceremony for Applejack and had to be reminded that she wasn’t, in fact, the reason everyone gathered in the town’s square.

  • displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions

Remember how during the finale of the second episode she burst into tears and IMMEDIATELY went to announcing a party? Remember how she went from being scared to being excited to being indifferent in Bridle Gossip?

  • consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self

Her costumes, her uncanny ability to appear anywhere at any time, take your pick. This is Pinkie in a nutshell.

  • shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion

See above; also, everything about her is theatrical. Remember her song that started a war?

  • considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.

Remember how she “frisked” Hairity during Bridle Gossip? Yeah, she has no sense of “personal space”, which is why’s she always in everybody’s face. Also, she tried to befriend a dragon in Dragonshy by simply being… Pinkie. She believes her personality is enough to warrant trust and intimacy.

  • has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail

Her silly willy dilly filler words just serve as packaging for her outbursts.

Also, the story of her childhood she told in Cutie Mark Chronicles was, apparently, horse apples. Yet her transformation into her old Pinkamena persona hints at this part being true: she used to be someone else. This could potentially hint at dissociative personality disorder: delusions, false memory, paranoia etc. are all signs of what is colloquially known as a “split personality”. Maybe she constructed her Pinkie identity as a kind of defense mechanism, to distance herself from a truly traumatic event in her childhood and the attention she receives helps her maintain that defense by legitimizing it. So there may still be some truth in that tall tale she related to the CMC.

Her tendency to mess with the fourth wall could also be considered a sign that she’s not who we think she is. Pinkie remains a mystery.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Rarity

Named after Narcissus, some dude who pops up in Greek mythology who was so obsessed with himself that he fell in love with his own reflection. This can be considered the more “introvert” version of histrionic personality disorder; narcissists don’t compete for other people’s attention because they know how godlike they are.

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance

Welp, that’s a freebie.

  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

This is too easy.

  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

Rarity does not associate with the riffraff as evidenced by her problems with Applejack’s conduct during Look Before you Sleep and glorifies Equestria’s high society in The Ticket Master.

  • Requires excessive admiration

c.f. her Icarus-like story in Sonic Rainboom

  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

The dogs in A Dog and Pony Show even enabled her sense of entitlement by conforming to it.

  • Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

They devoted an entire episode to this.

  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

I really oughta stop here. Seriously Rarity, go see a shrink.

  • Predominant “name dropper” boasting or suggestion association with people or affiliations of importance.

Just because I’m not a big fan of Rarity, this one’s just for fun. Or petty vengeance: Photo Finish? Hoity Toity? Sapphire Shores? You name it, she’s named it. And associated with it.

Not much to say here. Rarity is what the scientific community refers to as “totally fucking nuts”. Of course, her calling being something entirely superficial only makes it worse. I don’t have much hope for this one.

Paranoid Personality Disorder: Rainbow Dash

Pegasus society is, apparently, much more competitive than any other pony society. We get to see how boastful and brash flying ponies are so Dashie took this competitiveness to its logical extreme: everyone’s your enemy. Trust nopony.

  • suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her
  • is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates

Those are both pretty similar and both of course apply to Dashie. “Are you a spy?” is probably the most obvious hint; Dashie is quick to doubt the loyalty of others. This may have something to do with her representing loyalty: unless another pony conforms to her idea of loyalty, that pony has to be disloyal.

  • is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her

Dashie tends to get uncomfortable when the situation gets emotional. And of course she refused to tell anyone about her being nervous (if not outright scared to death) during Sonic Rainboom. She also denies being scared of dragons after almost having her rump kicked by one. She must maintain her tough pony persona.

  • persistently bears grudges, i.e. is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights

Applejack beating her almost made her obsess about defeating AJ (to be fair, the obsession was mutual). And she didn’t intend to rest until she’s beaten AJ; losing is an insult to her.

  • perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or to counterattack

She’s quick to consider any offhand remark a challenge. Not to mention that she’s quick to become defensive in general but to her credit, this extends to other ponies.

Despite her initial reluctance, she gladly and warmly accepted her friends’ group hug at the end of Cutie Mark Chronicles. So the treatment regimen is quite simple: more group hugs.

Obsessive–Compulsive Personality Disorder: Twilight Sparkle

See how obvious this all is? Twi’s a perfectionist and an organizational genius. A born bureaucrat. Like Hermes Conrad. Sorta. Well, let’s get going:

  • is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost

Is there anything Twi hasn’t learned from a book or made a list for? She consulted a book for a sleepover for crying out loud.

  • is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships

Oh yeah, this is just, you know, the entire point of the show. Anybody know if Lauren Faust happens to have a degree in psychology?

  • is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things

Most obvious in Bridle Gossip when she completely disregards Spike’s suggestion of a “supernatural” remedy.

  • shows rigidity and stubbornness

How she dealt with Pinkie Pie’s paranormal (yet somehow very much real) capabilities.

  • shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion

Granted, the latter part doesn’t apply as much but… hey, you only need to fulfill 4 criteria to be diagnosed with OCPD according to the DSM-IV and the other traits are utterly obvious. Also, the show is her treatment: she learns lessons, realizes the biases in her thinking/perception and becomes a more relaxed, stable pony.

Schizoid Personality Disorder: Fluttershy
Interestingly, within the context of the show, she DOESN’T exhibit enough symptoms to be diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, so this’ll have to do.

  • neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family

She left Cloudsdale behind, lives in a tree and almost turns to stone when being introduced to Twi. She’s a lone wolf pony.

  • almost always chooses solitary activities

As far as I’m aware, animals don’t count. Also, when she was asked why she wanted to attend the Grand Galloping Gala, she didn’t care about the actual event and was more interested in the otherwise inaccessible garden.

  • appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others

She actively loathed praise in Green isn’t your color, due to it putting her in the spotlight. She doesn’t want to be a part of any of it.

  • shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affect

I’m so angry I could just scream!
Granted, she’s mostly reserved because she doesn’t want to upset anyone but she may be a little out of touch with her emotions.

  • lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives

Having 5 friends is probably a lot but still. She’s never really seen mingling with anyone else, is still shy and reserved (even among her friends, as seen in Dragonshy) but is certainly getting better.

Fluttershy may be an interesting argument against classifying a “schizoid” personality as a disorder. She’s happy, enjoys what she’s doing and found a way to be solitary and still help her surroundings. There’s a gradual scale between introversion and an actual disorder, she may be one of the borderline cases – or simply an example why disorders shouldn’t always be determined by the majority’s consensus. Anyway, she can be quite open with her friends so unless she self-identifies her personality as a constraining or impairing, I’d say she’s fine.

Uh… I got nothin’: Applejack

Well… Applejack’s fine. She was the first to realize her obsession over the ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala; she keeps everyone grounded and comes closer to the “only sane pony” stereotype than Twi. Sadly, I foresee some problems with her physical health in the future: like Granny Smith, she’ll sooner or later have to get a new hip. All that applebuckin’ must be hell on her body. She is sturdy, no doubt about that but ponies weren’t built for this kind of excessive physical activity. Coupled with the fact that she comes from a cultural background that apparently values hard work as an end in itself (typical of early capitalist, religious society; c.f. Calvinism and Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) she’ll most likely work herself to death and consider it a positive, virtuous thing. Her rejection of Manehattan society at an early age could’ve made the antithesis – i.e. farm life – seem like the only possible alternative to pretentiousness and alienation, thus solidifying her belief in the absolving nature of physical labor.

Hanging out with other ponies (especially unicorns) could turn out to be a positive influence. Particularly Twilight could be her “savior” – they’re not too different personality-wise, their relationship is based on a deep mutual trust and respect and maybe by associating with her, AJ can learn a thing or two about the benefits of intellectual pursuits and simply seeing life from a different point of view.

Well, that about wraps it up. In general, I’d suggest some cognitive behavioral therapy, an SSRI for Dashie, maybe lithium for Pinkie and more friendship. Much more friendship.

Ex Situ: Solidarity is Illusion: The Political Economy of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

May 25, 2011


But the strong feminist themes of the series are built on a foundation of political contradictions. The most fantastic element of the show is not that ponies can talk or that dragons exist; it is the illusion that an egalitarian society can be maintained among groups with massive biologically inherent gaps in ability and economic utility. By even the most cursory of sociological and economic analyses, the society in MLP: FiM should be highly stratified along class and racial lines. And there are clear signs of that stratification, except they are obscured by a propagandistic focus on the power of “friendship”.

Solidarity is Illusion: The Political Economy of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Catena Ex Situ


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