Guest Post: Mind Control as a Metaphor for Abuse

Welcome back JeskaiAngel, one of our regular guest contributors here on Beneath the Tangles. Today, he takes a deep dive into an infamous episode of Code Geass (at least an episode this blog has been critical of in the past). Enjoy!

(Disclaimer: aside from taking general psychology in college years ago, I have no education or training in psychology, just a mix of personal experiences, counseling I’ve received, and books or articles I’ve read.)

On a couple of occasions, TWWK has included in his posts a link to a blog he wrote some years ago about why he quit watching Code Geass. (If he’s really nice, he might even insert a link to that post right about…[here].) He described an episode with such gratuitous violence that he couldn’t bear to keep watching the show. Reading his comments made me oddly curious about this over-the-top violence he found so off-putting. In a rather uncharacteristic move, I looked up the show on Crunchyroll and watched the episode he discussed, along with parts of few others. I followed that with some wiki reading to learn more about the characters and overall story. I found the episode deeply disturbing – more than enough to convince me I never want to watch the show – but it was not because of the violence.

Code Geass’s protagonist, Lelouch, has a magic eyeball that gives him the power to control anyone by issuing them a command. It only works once person, but whatever he says, they must obey him. In the twenty-second episode of the first season, “Bloodstained Euphy,” Lelouch winds up commanding Euphemia – one of the kindest, most goodhearted people in the entire show – to commit genocide. A heartbreaking (as in, literally brings tears to one’s eyes) scene follows Lelouch’s command, as Euphy tries to resist with every fiber of her being. However, she is overwhelmed by Lelouch’s power and goes off to cheerfully commit mass murder in obedience to the command (this leads to the gratuitous violence that troubled TWWK).

Lelouch didn’t intentionally command her to commit genocide, but I would argue that fact doesn’t make him any less responsible or guilty. In the scene where he brainwashes Euphy, he is boasting quite brazenly about his willingness to use his mind control power on her. As an example of what he could make her do, he jests that he could even tell her to kill all the Japanese and she’d do it. And then his power goes a little haywire and the command actually goes into effect. So, instead of taking his power seriously and treating it as the incredibly dangerous force that it was, he chose to treat the idea of forcing Euphy to become a mass murderer as a joke. The cherry on top of the whole wretched debacle is that he goes on to kill Euphy and exploit the deed to advance his own agenda. And so I found the episode nightmarish, not because of the violence, but because of seeing such a noble character have her thoughts twisted against her will in sickening fashion.

Mind control or brainwashing is a trope I find all too common in fiction and which I believe is treated far too casually. “Bloodstained Euphy” captured the horrifying nature of violating another’s mind in an exceptionally powerful and moving way. Oh, and it didn’t help my opinion of Lelouch to read that this incident didn’t change him – he went right on using his commanding power extensively all the way to the end of the show. Incidentally, shortly after my stomach-churning introduction to Code Geass, I watched Castle Town Dandelion. A character in that show, Aoi, has a similar power to make anyone do anything she commands, but in contrast to Lelouch, she finds this power horrifying and steadfastly refuses to use it, no matter the circumstance or how it might benefit her. At one point Aoi thinks to herself, “It’s true that if I were to use my real power, I could turn the tables. But I don’t want to use this power for my own self-interest.” Castle Town Dandelion’s sober and responsible treatment of mind control is unique (at least in my experience).

Why do I make such a big deal about this? Why is mind control incredibly evil? I suggest we compare it to rape. We regard rape, the violation of another person’s body, as among the most evil of deeds. Mind control or brainwashing is nothing less than the psychological equivalent of rape, the violation of another’s very self at the deepest possible level. Fiction ought to treat it with all horror and seriousness given to rape. And yes, this means I think Lelouch is the moral equivalent of a serial rapist. If it were possible in real life to deprive someone of free will in this manner, it would surely be among the most vile acts a person could commit. Finally, I find it quite notable that literally the only being who could possibly have the right to impose his will upon anyone is the almighty Creator of everyone. Yet God apparently treasures free will so greatly that he refuses to turn us into good, obedient robots, who do what he wants without choice. If even God refuses to exercise such power over a person’s mind, then no one ever ought wield it.

Of course, mind control isn’t possible in real life (with the exception of demonic possession, which I am exceedingly thankful doesn’t seem to happen much anymore). What is possible in real life are acts of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Thus, while I usually find fictional depictions of brainwashing horrifying and distasteful, I do think they can serve one useful role. Supernatural or super-technological mind control makes a disturbingly vivid metaphor for real-life manipulation and abuse because abuse, whether strictly psychological or also physical, is at its core about one person exercising control over another person. Through various forms of ill treatment, an abuser comes to dominate how the victim views themselves and how they understand the world, other people, and relationships. The victim is isolated and made dependent on the abuser. The victim even denies reality and rejects obvious truths (such as their own physical and/or mental pain) if those facts contradict what their abuser has taught them to believe. Abuse teaches shame: it tears down a person and leads him or her to believe he or she is wicked, unlovable, stupid, ugly, and/or otherwise loathsome, and thus deserves all the suffering they receive and more. It leaves the victim actively desiring to please and obey their abuser, so that they can avoid further pain. Abuse takes place over time and has a cumulative effect, unlike fictional mind control (which often needs very little time or even works instantly), but the outcome has strikingly similarities.

In real-life abuse, the victims drown in a sense of helplessness and loss of agency. They are dominated by and at the mercy of their abuser. Thankfully, unlike fictional brainwashing, abuse can be resisted. Poor Euphy might not have been able to overcome Lelouch’s evil eye, but victims of abuse can fight back successfully. They can learn to find allies, set boundaries, defend themselves, change their thinking, escape the abusive relationship entirely, and so forth. The essential first step is for the victim to recognize the truth that he or she is in fact being abused, that what’s happening to them is wrong. I hope that considering fictional mind control through the paradigm of real-life abuse can provide insight into how abuse works and what abuse victims experience, and that when you encounter fictional portrayals of mind control, it will remind you of the wickedness and horror of real-life abuse and fill you with determination to oppose it.

featured art by KL (reprints allowed by artist)

19 thoughts on “Guest Post: Mind Control as a Metaphor for Abuse

  1. *that feeling when something you wrote appears online and you see typos you missed the four times you proofread it*

    LOL

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  2. This episode of CG was what made me quit watching the series. Even worse, it made me quit watching *all anime* for years thereafter. Having only watched Haibane Renmei before CG, I was exposed to the absolute best. I mistakenly thought HR was a bellwether for the entire medium, rather than an anomaly, and dove naively into CG, only to come to the whiplash conclusion that anime was without merit. It took Puella Magi and a very persuasive friend to bring me back to the medium.

    Series creators should take the impact or their work more seriously. Stories are very powerful. Jesus used parables because stories have power to sway hearts and minds. Anime can be used for good and it can be used for evil, even if that evil is unintentional. Carelessly scripted episodes like this one kills fans and kills hearts, some forever.

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  3. Hum, fictional ethics. Well, I wouldn’t say that rape is the best analogue for mind control. But again, there are a lot of different kinds of mind control in fiction.

    1) There’s the “Jedi trick”, which is more of an illusion or, if you prefer, a lie: you send false info or sensations telepathically, and the simple or the distracted will think is theirs. I think it may be justified when a lie would be justified. More elaborate versions may include those illusions in which the world around you seems different due to the powers of the controller (typical Martian Manhunter), as long as only your perception, not your will, is affected. Some kinds of brainwashing, mostly those using memory erasure, seem to belong to this kind.

    2) There’s Harry Potter’s Imperius Curse or Chamber of Secrets (spoilers?) mind control, which is akin to hypnosis or a drug, putting you in a dreamlike state in which your body tends to obey without you noticing (you can resist a little, though). This is more akin to demonic possesion, I think, or a mental illness (that’s the reason temptation by the Devil is worst that possesion by the Devil: the second evil remains external, but the first may make you actually worst and less free). Your free will is not compromised here (you only lose control of your movements, voice, etc). I think it may be used in some extreme cases as a way to stop a extreme threat.

    3) A more extreme version is that in which your free will is not compromised, yet you’re fully conscious and your body doesn’t obey your thoughts. I haven’t watched Jessica Jones, but I think Killgrave had this kind. This brings more suffering and humiliation to the one subjected to it, but in the end it’s not very different from physically restraining and moving someone to make him do this or that. I think it could be used in extreme cases as a defense.

    4) There are also the “legeremancy” kind, with these complicated temptations/illusions where the controller has access to your feelings or memories and uses them to make you do something. Charles Xavier was closer to this, I think. That’s more similar to psychological abuse and manipulation, and I’d say it’s illegitimate per se, in but the most extreme of situations, and there, in a way that helps rather than break the attacker. Other than that, someone’s traumas, referents and personal story are probably off-limits, even as a defense.

    5) The last one would be the one portrayed here: you are given an order and you can’t disobey it, you’re in control of your body and know what’s happening, but not of your will, you have become a different person. Were this possible, to do it would be effectively blasphemous and akin to rape, as moral choice is in the end a matter of love. Yet, I think this would be impossible in real life: just as God doesn’t allow that we’re tempted absolutely beyond our forces, he probably would stop this kind of act if it were technically possible.

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    1. Interesting. I probably wouldn’t construct a taxonomy of fictional manipulation techniques quite the same, but I definitely think it’s useful to see different versions of mind control laid out neatly and compared.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a really fascinating post and I’m almost depressed I didn’t encounter it sooner. I guess there’s also an additional form of mind control besides abuse that’s available to humans. I feel most Christian retorts against the Devil don’t paint him as intelligent as he actually is. It isn’t as simple as merely making sin look appetizing, although there’s plenty of that. One of the easiest ways to brainwash someone is simply to acculturate them early enough in childhood. I dislike behaviorism for all sorts of reasons, but one of the very few things that’s true about it is that you can actually convince someone to believe or feel *anything.* Simply associate said thing with strong positive emotions enough times in childhood and your average human will eventually become nearly unable to question the assumptions involved. Because it’s too fundamental to their identity, too basic a part of their consciousness. This is *why* religion and sexual orientation are viewed as immutable characteristics. It’s not because they actually are innate or inborn, but they “might as well be.” The process of changing them, when not gradual and desired by the receiver, is inherently abusive.

    That’s actually how cults work, when they work properly. If you cut off someone from differing viewpoints early and repeatedly drill them on the beliefs of the cult in a socially positive context, especially if they’re young and primed to believe anything at all, people will believe it despite themselves. But of course you need to either have intense patience or experience time rather differently to do this for deliberately self-serving ends. Or you need to have such intense charisma that you can shorten the time frame involved.

    Which is why, although there are human examples of the phenomenon that involve utilizing it for selfish purposes, they are comparatively rare to the more common phenomenon of people indoctrinating their kids into what they themselves believe. Which is not inherently a form of mind control, but in a situation where the parents are in a leader-worshipping cult it can be.

    And if you’re a creature of virtually infinite patience and immortality (subject to a specific condition of sorts), and relative omnipotence in your sphere, brainwashing people into worshiping you therefore isn’t really that hard to do. Sort of a “Demonic possession probably doesn’t happen much anymore because the prince of the air is also the prince of the air*waves*, and so he’s got a much more effective, efficient tool at his disposal” situation. 😛

    Now with that aside over with, onto the rest of the post.

    “Mind control or brainwashing is nothing less than the psychological equivalent of rape, the violation of another’s very self at the deepest possible level. Fiction ought to treat it with all horror and seriousness given to rape. And yes, this means I think Lelouch is the moral equivalent of a serial rapist. If it were possible in real life to deprive someone of free will in this manner, it would surely be among the most vile acts a person could commit.”

    Well, there’s…kind of a reason Lelouch strikes me as what would happen if the protagonist of an anime was Teenage Idiot Satan. That’s kind of what the show intends him to be, to a degree. It goes through rather great pains to show that Lelouch is pretty much a villain protagonist in a universe where there aren’t any heroes to speak of except Suzaku— whose methods are shown to be ultimately dangerous, ineffectual, and equally hypocritical. The only truly Christlike character who stands a chance of bridging the gap between action and outcome is either Euphemia or Nunally. The former dies, and brutally. The latter may in fact succeed to a degree.

    As for Lelouch, having watched the whole show…there’s an element of “But what would you have had him do?” to me with that scene. Lelouch slowly breaks down the interpersonal barriers between himself and Euphemia there, being finally willing to admit that he’s lost to someone who can do him one better, only to find he’s lost control of his own powers to his horror…and they are defiling his half-sister. In that moment, he’s got basically two options: either do nothing at all and retreat and let Britannia itself come up with a narrative about what happened (which will inevitably harm both his rebellion and the Japanese people), or use the move on the board that he can see. And save both. He takes the move, and we watch the guilt drive him insane.

    R2 does squander the opportunity to create more longer-term consequences of this incident, but it’s completely in keeping with who Lelouch is (by the end of it, kind of a textbook sociopath) that there aren’t any. It’s honestly more revealing about Code Geass’ audience that when Lelouch’s final gambit is exposed in R2, the audience instantly switches back to his side without considering the insane cruelties he’s inflicted to get this result. Code Geass is a kind of moral bellwether, and while I respect the moral decision not to watch it (in a sense in having Lelouch as protagonist and Suzaku as rival the show is itself proposing that as a response to it), it’s still a shame. Because it’s a *ride.*

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    1. Woah, super meaty comment! A+!

      “I feel most Christian retorts against the Devil don’t paint him as intelligent as he actually is.”

      This piqued my interest. I’ve seen the devil portrayed as comical and/or ineffective in pop culture (watch The Devil Is a Part-timer just a few weeks ago, LOL). However, I can’t recall ever encountering that kind of depiction in Christian context, so I wondered if you have any examples? As far as what Christians SHOULD believe…

      “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” – Gen. 3 (and serpent later explicitly identified as Satan)

      “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ…so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” – 2 Cor. 11

      “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Eph. 6

      “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Pet. 5

      “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” – Rev. 12

      I’ve probably missed something, but just these passages that sprang to mind indicate the real devil is crafty, cunning, scheming, and trying to outwit us. He is the father of the lie (that’s in John, I forget where) and has, at least at time, successfully deceived most people. He is compared to a lion and dragon (both pretty dangerous creatures) and has rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces on his side, and so we need armor to defend ourselves. If Christians have all these warnings and still treat the devil like some sort of joke, well…something is seriously wrong. (And, of course, we don’t want to rush into the opposite error, either: the devil isn’t God, he’s not all-powerful or all-knowing or omnipresent, and we are capable of successfully resisting him.)

      “Teenage Idiot Satan” – LOLOLOLOLOL. This is an amazing turn of phrase. Because I’ve never thought of Satan in a trivialized way (I mean, the word “satan” literally means adversary!), I find the notion of putting “teenage idiot” in front of it bizarrely hilarious.

      As far as what Lelouch *should* have done, he should have avoided the whole situation by not using his power and not treating it lightly (i.e., if you know you have the power to compel a person to commit genocide, DON’T JOKE ABOUT IT). Once the command took effect, thought, what should he have done? Worked to capture and restrain her with killing her, and then publicly confessing that all the carnage and Euphy’s personality change were his fault. Those aren’t easy, by any means, but I think that’s what would have been morally right.

      “It’s honestly more revealing about Code Geass’ audience that when Lelouch’s final gambit is exposed in R2, the audience instantly switches back to his side without considering the insane cruelties he’s inflicted to get this result.”

      This is another fascinating point I hadn’t even considered. Code Geass, and Lelouch individually, is indeed well-regarded by many, and surely that does imply something about their own worldview or moral judgment. As part of my “research” for this piece, I actually did watch the final episode of the whole series, because I’d seen places where people suggested Lelouch actually became a sort of messianic figure and I wanted to see if he really changed for better by the end of the story. After watching the episode, I’d the Lelouch-as-messiah view is arrant nonsense. Ends don’t justify means, so doing a bunch of evil in the name of world peace isn’t justifiable. Plus, he doesn’t die making a noble self-sacrifice: instead, he effectively commits suicide by convincing his friend to murder him (how can it be noble to order your “friend” to murder you???). And by going out on his own terms, Lelouch avoids ever admitting to his wickedness or submitting himself to some other authority for judgment. Oh, and before that, he consciously decided that accomplishing his agenda is more important than treating his sister lovingly – the purportedly beloved sister for whose benefit he supposedly did all this stuff. You’re totally right: he doesn’t redeem himself at all.

      Now I’m curious, are there any “bellwether” anime? Ones where a person’s liking/disliking of the show reflects something deeper about how they think (as opposed to merely personal taste in genre, production values, etc.)?

      Again, thank you for the great comment!

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      1. I can think of a few bellweather anime.

        For example, the response to the second half of “Shiki” a horror anime about vampires is I think very illuminating. The second half of the anime is told from the perspective of the vampires, specifically how newly risen vampires are broken and coerced by the older vampires into murdering their still living friends and family. Furthermore, the humans finally figure out what is happening, and then ruthlessly and brutally kill every last vampire they can get their hands on.

        About half the viewers switched to favoring the vampires, talking about how merciless the humans were in “genociding” the vampires. The other half took the attitude that the only good vampire was a dead vampire.

        The half that favored the vampires saw this as evidence of the humans favoring viewers as being cruel and lacking empathy. The human favoring half saw the vampire favoring half as lacking basic instincts of loyalty to their fellow humans, and dangerously naive in their tolerance of evil. (Remember that the vampires are systematically murdering all the humans).

        I saw a similar reaction, though more muted, to Kyubey in Madoka Magica. Some saying that “Kyubey is right” while others responded that no, Kyubey is the enemy of humans, and if you can’t recognize that then you lack basic loyalty to your fellow humans, and are incapable of identifying evil.

        And of course there is the base breaker Madoka Magica Rebellion. With many saying that “Homura did nothing wrong” while others identify Homura as having done something very evil. This is rather fitting, considering that Rebellion has clear “Paradise Lost” overtones, and that Lucifer in Paradise Lost was often seen by readers as the hero for defying God, (in defiance of how the author thought he was depicting a tragic villain damned by his pride). And in fact I find that this tends to be a rather strong correlation. Those who support Homura also tend to at least sympathize with Lucifer, while those loyal to Madoka tend to view Lucifer as a villain who must be staunchly opposed.

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  5. Yeah, this episode… I stopped the episode right at that point and never watched an episode of Code Geass again. And I almost never leave a series uncompleted, even if I don’t enjoy it much I usually want to know what happens next.

    Thank you for describing so clearly why this was such a disturbing incident, and why I could never stomach all the praise Code Geass got.

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  6. Excellent response comment, Jeskai! Thanks for engaging with me here. :} As for this:

    “I’ve seen the devil portrayed as comical and/or ineffective in pop culture (watch The Devil Is a Part-timer just a few weeks ago, LOL). However, I can’t recall ever encountering that kind of depiction in Christian context, so I wondered if you have any examples?”

    I live in Maryland, and Maryland as a state is a weird mixture of hyper liberalism and conservative urban Christianity. You’ll constantly see these small book racks containing books with titles like “Spiritual Warfare for the Committed Christian Woman” or “Psalms to Live By” or any number of other self-help tracts. The vast majority of this material is basically the Christian equivalent of feel-good garbage. (One of them literally said that part of teenage rebellion involves listening to rock music. It was published recently! XD). But that’s just it. Pop-culture Christianity often makes really absurd and even ethically dubious statements. Like that you can heal anything with faith by praying to turn away Satan (maybe you can, but not because of Satan- he technically can but usually doesn’t actually cause illness in the strictest sense- It’s more that he seems to be able to affect the probability of something happening), that pestering your literally dying father to convert and getting him to while he’s drugged out of his mind is at all fair or a verifiable change of heart, that *liking alternative medicine* is against the will of God. (I think that’s really up to the individual Christian and God???)

    But that’s just the more dangerous or strange statements out of several of those books. A lot of them also talk about combating the Devil. And when they do, there’s this sense that, while they take him seriously as an opponent, they entirely lack imagination. Most of them make the typical, repetitive statements about making sin appetizing or convincing the world he doesn’t exist or convincing the Christian to behave or think in lazy or indolent ways. But all of those seem like much cheaper, simpler tactics easily fought off by anyone than the more complex variants, say, proposed by C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters. Or the warnings made by the Bible. They’re just kinda silly after a while, and don’t match people’s real experiences. They trivialize the very difficult act of wrestling with one’s own beliefs and assumptions to behave in ways that are just, and in keeping with God’s will. It’s just *not* that easy. It’s complicated.

    For instance, here is my own personal experience:

    Frankly, I’m not all that sure that the Devil tries to hide or mask anything about how evil he is, really, judging from how villains similar to him are depicted. Instead, to me, it feels like he just sort of straightforwardly *allows* humans to restate his goals and intentions over and over and over again, in at least a hundred forms, contexts, and situations. The resulting picture of a person that emerges if you take information from every particularly diabolical villain is, well…uncannily consistent actually. Doesn’t it seem as if Kiryuin Ragyo, Kefka, Myotismon, and Monokuma are, well…”the same person?” ….it’s always kinda felt that way to me. That they’re not “multiple characters”… they’re masks worn. You also get less clearly batshit depictions that retain certain weird similarities of personality and intention (Saint Dane of the young adult series Pendragon is a good example, but so too is Sanetoshi of Penguindrum). To me…they are all, obviously, “him.” Sometimes the piece of fiction itself even visually or allegorically alludes to this very blatantly.

    If God’s body of work, all of creation, reflects what kind of person He is (methodical, glorious, dangerous, unfathomably beautiful, richly intelligent and incredibly interesting, orderly and diverse at once), well…so too does Satan’s own, actually, through the human media he travels in like a cultural meme. And so there’s more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case more than one way to damn someone. So when I read these statements from well-meaning Christian authors that trivialize and try to make simple the experience of contending with one’s own inner demons, I always have that retort, drawn from these experiences:

    Sometimes the Devil doesn’t have to make you like sin. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to lie. Sometimes all he has to do is make you like *him.*

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    1. *mind blown*

      Woah. This is so cool. Maybe this is silly of me, but I don’t think I’ve ever seriously compared the devil to fictional villains. Like, the devil is evil, villains are evil…but I didn’t connect the dots to see the commonalities. But your idea that there’s this diabolical + nihilistic + arrogant + irrational villain archetype that isn’t purely fictional but actually reflects the ultimate villain, Satan himself…this actually makes a ton of sense. I already look for reflections of God in fiction, and notice things like, say, a character that fits a messianic archetype. But while I always recognize evil for being evil, I haven’t given much thought to what deeper truths about evil that fictional villains might illustrate or warn us about.

      Thank you for sharing this insight. I need to start scrutinizing fictional villains more closely in the future.

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      1. Cool! I made somebody see it! XD

        But yeah, it’s just…really obvious to me, probably because I’m looking for it. That the same basic characteristics keep popping up over and over: nihilistic, sharply intelligent, depraved, manipulative, eccentric in some manner (usually fashion sense or mannerism or both), flamboyant, arrogant and prideful, kind of looks a bit like he/she is mocking or making fun of whatever he/she is intended to be (See: Monokuma and his controller both, Ragyo for CEOs, the fact that the Joker’s actually wearing a multicolored crazy looking gentleman’s suit- a literal “prince of clowns,” Kefka’s final boss form which is clearly intended to mock the divine order and place himself as God), the weird obsession with Lotus Eater Machines even when it’d be out of character (why would Junko Enoshima create a Lotus Eater Machine, twice?), erratic but ironic, seemingly more concerned with the outcome of the argument they seem to be having than their own lives, twisted sense of humor….It Goes On. It starts to seem oddly, given that sometimes the relative writers are sometimes *across the ocean and have never met,* that there’s some kind of ur-Trope they’re referencing. I’m just….inclined to think that what they’re hitting on is the personality of a specific actual person, who cannot actually be seen or identified in any other manner.

        That said, while it might be useful to draw from what humans seem to already know subconsciously (and for me it’s just really fascinating) for purely academic reasons, the Bible gives the clearest instruction as to what should actually be *done,* what it is important for humans to be forewarned of or aware of. Fairy tales and stories have the salience they do, I think, because they occasionally speak of things of great import with the weight they deserve.

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      2. Read “Paradise Lost” by John Milton.

        It’s one of the most famous cases of misaimed fandom. Milton was depicting the tragedy of Lucifer’s fall due to his pride, but a large number of readers decided that Lucifer was a hero for challenging God and hurling defiance at the Heavens.

        Basically, people are prideful, and they responded to the depiction of pride favorably.

        Lucifer based villains have been hugely popular ever since with them often having fans that try to justify their villainy.

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        1. Well, sorta. It’s important to point out that the odds of the average Japanese mangaka or game designer having actually read Milton are next to zero. Heck, the odds of them *even knowing of his work,* or that work having influenced their own much, are around 20 or 30 percent versus the 70-80 percent you’d get over here. While the U.S.’ Judeo-Christian underpinnings and the Japanese ethos have undeniably had contact with one another, the Japanese seem rather ignorant of Christianity and Christian culture on the whole of it.

          Which makes the existence of what strike me as blatantly Satanic villains over there *even weirder,* let alone the fact that they are consistent enough with one another (and yes, with Milton!) that I can extrapolate the actual personality of the entity they represent with ease.

          But the most likely explanation is the one that was posed on the “Magi: A Babel of Pagan Practices” thread. That is: Satan and the very ancient, pre-Christian (even pre-Judiasm as we’d recognize it, before Moses united Israel and delivered them from slavery) idea of a Trickster have become intertwined with one another. The Devil now wears the multicolored robes of something that’s actually extremely vital to most humans and human cultures, and thereby deceives his audience into conflating the two.

          I don’t think that started with Milton so much as it started with the intentions of the person he wrote of. Which naturally have the ability to be a bit more global in scope than one particularly important Western writer.

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  7. And outside of that really, deeply vulnerable personal context of being utterly obsessed with and trying to understand why I’ve loved “that person” since earliest childhood…there are tons of people, millions, in that exact position in the world. They unconditionally love something that to Christians would be a sin, or that is wicked, not because it “feels fun” or “seems enticing,” like a drug trip…but because it has become a deep-seated part of their very being. And reason for living.

    If the Devil is in some way responsible for lies that ultimately produced the powerful devotion that drives the practitioners of the many non-Christian religions of the world, or for the many people who romantically love someone of the same sex, than the way that pop culture casual Christianity talks about the issue is on its face ridiculous, and even dangerously misguided.

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    1. Indeed! Yeah, there is definitely a sort of marshmallow cream version of Christianity, all fluff and no substance, that seems more focused on helping people feel good about themselves than on confronting serious truths about God, ourselves, sin, righteousness, etc.

      Thank you for the responses!

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