Io9 — A Mind Control Double Whammy or Double Miss

Last week, web­site Io9 pub­lished not just one, but two posts deal­ing with mind con­trol themes. How­ev­er, I have to give both posts only a mediocre rating.

People Who Gained Superpowers From Being Brainwashed

Ten indi­vid­u­als from SF lit­er­a­ture, movies, tele­vi­sion, comics, etc, all of whom acquired their pow­ers from being brain­washed. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the his­to­ries of these indi­vid­u­als don’t quite match up with description.

Com­men­tary: Unfor­tu­nate­ly, out of the list giv­en, only a cou­ple actu­al­ly fit this title. The rest were indeed brain­washed (or some­thing sim­i­lar: the arti­cle’s def­i­n­i­tion of brain­wash­ing is over­ly broad) and gained super­pow­ers but those pow­ers were not direct­ly the result of the brain­wash­ing. (I’m tak­ing a more lit­er­al view of the title here than I sus­pect the author does: I still think its misleading.)

The only ones list­ed that actu­al­ly fit the descrip­tion would be Cap­tain Under­pants, an auto­crat­ic ele­men­tary school prin­ci­pal who was hyp­no­tized into becom­ing the super­hero Cap­tain Under­pants when trig­gered; the Mar­vel char­ac­ters Black Wid­ow and Win­ter Sol­dier, both Sovi­et Cold War black ops who were brain­washed into their iden­ti­fies as part of their train­ing; and Riv­er Tam, again, brain­washed as part of her phys­i­cal and psy­chic training.

Most of the oth­ers were brain­washed and giv­en pow­ers at the same time, but being brain­washed was not the cause or source of those pow­ers. Even oth­ers, such as Simon Phoenix (“Demo­li­tion Man”), already had their abil­i­ties before being brain­washed, or Max Gue­vara (“Dark Angel”), who was already being brain­washed before his train­ing (on top of genet­ic tin­ker­ing which occurred before birth.)

And at least one does­n’t even come close to fit­ting the brain­wash­ing theme: the Mar­vel char­ac­ter Cap­tain Uni­verse, the iden­ti­ty tak­en by any­one pos­sessed by the Uni-Pow­er. Although the descrip­tion says that when pos­sessed by the pow­er, they gain hero­ic atti­tudes, but this is more a case of those atti­tudes already present in the per­son selected.

Anoth­er that does­n’t fit the theme is Neo from the Matrix movies: the arti­cle tries to claim his train­ing in the mar­tial arts through mem­o­ry implants is a form of brain­wash­ing, yet the con­cept also has to include some kind of men­tal con­trol, which is not appar­ent. The arti­cle says that the brain­wash­ing includ­ed indoc­tri­na­tion about reject­ing the real­i­ty of the Matrix but I think that’s just assump­tion on the part of the author.

Rec­om­men­da­tion: Not recommended.

10 Mind Control Clichés

10 clichés that seem­ing­ly every evil mind con­troller has. Well, not every one, but a lot from the comics to have many of them, but there are as many excep­tions to the rules as there are exam­ples. A cou­ple seem to real­ly reach­ing to be includ­ed, and some of the clich­es are also woe­ful­ly incom­plete. For example:

1 ) Mind con­trollers com­pen­sate for a lack of phys­i­cal prowess: when you look at most mind con­trollers, you are struck by their phys­i­cal defor­maties: Pro­fes­sor X is wheel­chair bound, the Pup­pet Mas­ter is dwarfish with an over­sized head, Mes­mero has green skin, Hec­tor Ham­mond has an incred­i­bly enlarged head, etc. Yes, this is a valid cliche, but always for men and only for men, nev­er for women. The cliche for mind con­trol­ling women like the White Queen, Sat­urn Girl or Hyp­no­tia is that they are the oppo­site, excep­tion­al­ly phys­i­cal­ly endowed (in all sens­es of the word.)

2 ) Fin­gers on the fore­head: Pri­mar­i­ly used only by the char­ac­ters with psy­chic abil­i­ties, which is a sig­nif­i­cant but still pro­por­tion­al­ly small group of mind con­trollers. There are about as many (Vam­pirella) who use the “look into my eyes” cliche, oth­ers who use mag­i­cal ges­tures (Man­drake the Magi­cian) and then there’s the ones who use strict­ly mechan­i­cal devices (the Con­troller, Uni­ver­so) who don’t have any kind of ges­tur­ing. (Then again, Uni­ver­so, in his first incar­na­tion, did tend to grand­stand a lot.)

3 ) Psy­chic manip­u­la­tion, mind-warp­ing drugs, hyp­no­sis, and sub­lim­i­nal nudg­ing: Of course, there’s also mechan­i­cal devices (Doc­tor Drakken’s mind con­trol chip or the MKUl­tra machines), alien implants, sor­cery and, of course, don’t for­get the Orbital Mind Con­trol Lasers. (I won­der who’s con­trol­ling them this turn? If I don’t know, then prob­a­bly I’m not cleared for that infor­ma­tion. Fnord.)

4 ) Brain­wash­ing hench­men: While it may be the heroes best way to infil­trate the vil­lain’s head­quar­ters or to avoid cap­ture (“These aren’t the droids you’re look­ing for.”) its bet­ter used by the vil­lain to ensure the loy­al­ty of his underlings.

5 ) It’s poor form to mind con­trol non-vil­lains: Yet even the heroes do it, except they have episodes of angst about it: how many times did Pro­fes­sor X mind-wipe peo­ple who saw the X‑Men, or, in the first movie, men­tal­ly blank an entire mall because one of his stu­dents used his pow­ers with­out per­mis­sion? Then there’s also the famous inci­dent when Zatan­na mag­i­cal­ly erased spe­cif­ic mem­o­ries in a num­ber of Jus­tice League oppo­nents, set­ting off what would be a seri­ous­ly trag­ic event and the near-col­lapse of the League itself, many years later.

6 ) Blank stares: Blank stares are the hall­mark of mind con­trol, but they’re only part of the over­all whole pic­ture of the total blank look of some­one total­ly entranced. How­ev­er, in the Ori­ent, its a lit­tle dif­fer­ent: mind con­trol is shown by a total­ly fea­ture­less iris.

7 ) Mind con­trol­ling hats and hel­mets: Not a very preva­lent cliche here, and one that is almost strict­ly a source of con­trol­ling the one wear­ing the hat: about the only one who makes con­sid­er­able use of the cliche here is the Bat­man vil­lain the Mad Hat­ter; maybe he holds the patent on the design and does­n’t mar­ket it?

8 ) Mind con­trollers are creepy: Its one of the first things any mind con­troller learns, how to keep their pow­ers a secret (even if it takes using their pow­ers to do so.) Such pow­ers also make very good Psy­cho­log­i­cal Dis­ad­van­tages: Deep Secret for heroes to have.

9 ) Every­thing’s more awe­some on the astral plane: The Astral Plane only because the vaca­tion spot of choice for psy­chic bat­tles once Steve Ditko start­ed draw­ing Doc­tor Strange, but even then it is over­rat­ed. Most­ly the bat­tles take place in the mind of one or both of the com­bat­ants, although some­times the bat­tle is between invis­i­ble men­tal projections.

10 ) Mind con­trol bat­tles end with every­one’s brains explod­ing and faces melt­ing: The image here is so 80’s. Nowa­days such bat­tles tend to end with only a bloody nose or bleed­ing from the ears as the only sign of a struggle.

Com­men­tary: In try­ing to vio­late every one of the 10 list­ed clichés, the author actu­al­ly man­aged to cre­ate the most bor­ing mind con­trol­ling char­ac­ter ever seen.

Rec­om­men­da­tion: Only half recommended.

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