I don't like you because you're dangerous.
June 2, 2015 3:24 PM   Subscribe

The Iceman List, by Tim Carmody. Classic movie antagonists who were pretty much right all along.
posted by Pater Aletheias (86 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Disagree with the principal Rooney one. The actual cost of a person missing 8 vs 9 days of school, especially one with all the privileges that Ferris had, is astonishingly low. He'll just do the makeup work afterwards. It's not like they mention his grades slipping because of it. Although it did make the TV Tropes page Villian Has a Point.

I also agree with one of the commenters on the article that anti-authoritarian archetypes are a hell of a lot older than Gen X. Fistful of a Dollars, Rebel Without a Cause.
posted by zabuni at 3:37 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


America has had enough cowboys.

I believe the proper 80s-movie response to this would be:

"MM-hmm. That's what the cattle keep telling me."

Then a tip of the ol' Stetson and a smile, turn around, and walk out the door.
posted by chambers at 3:49 PM on June 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Damn it, the baby boomers got a lot more decades before everyone realized they were dicks!
posted by Enemy of Joy at 3:52 PM on June 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


Private Hudson from Aliens?
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:53 PM on June 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


The waitress in When Harry Met Sally

The boombox in Say Anything


This is fun
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 4:00 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Private Hudson from Aliens?

"Oh dear Lord Jesus, this ain't happening, man... This can't be happening, man! This isn't happening!"
posted by Fizz at 4:03 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Principal Gleason in The Breakfast Club
Severus Snape
posted by Rock Steady at 4:04 PM on June 2, 2015


The Wicked Witch of the West.

I mean Dorothy just straight up murdered her sister with a house. And all because she doesn't understand emergency weather alert systems.
posted by Fizz at 4:06 PM on June 2, 2015 [29 favorites]


Clubber Lang was right, Rocky was only fighting bums.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:11 PM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]




Apparently Lean on Me is a fell-through-the-cracks one for me. Is it really that victim-blaming?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:22 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


America has had enough cowboys.
In real life, it's the cowboys who become the most repressive dictators.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:28 PM on June 2, 2015


Oops, that was Ripley who said nuke it from orbit, my bad.

I like the moment in Utopia when one of the protagonists says maybe we shouldn't stop the Network, what if they're right?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:28 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tywin Lannister. Sure he's a bully but murder a few to prevent a war. And now look at what's happening in King's Landing.
posted by Fizz at 4:35 PM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is one of my favorite ways to watch a movie or read a story - to try to evaluate it as though I wasn't rooting for anyone. It makes it a lot of fun, and often gives the story more depth.

It does make it hard to watch cop shows though.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:38 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Twin was so obsessed with his "legacy" that he never saw the people it referred to. Fuck him.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:38 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


The villagers in every Frankenstein movie

The Yankees in Gone With the Wind

Not a movie, but Anarky in Batman: Arkham Origins has some pretty good points about Batman's lone-wolf-ism and complicity with an obviously corrupt power structure. (Haven't seen it, but Bane and Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises apparently make similar points.)

And if you haven't read Tom Bissell and Jeff Alexander's take on LOTR, do it now...
posted by zompist at 4:45 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Navelgazer, Tywin is absolutely a fucking monster of a dad. But, he was the glue holding that fragile popsicle stick fort together.

And I agree Kutsuwamushi. I often find myself positioning my perspective from the "baddie" point of view. There's a lot to learn from that "other" side.
posted by Fizz at 4:46 PM on June 2, 2015


I've said this before but Agent Smith is clearly the misunderstood hero of The Matrix. We are a virus.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:53 PM on June 2, 2015 [22 favorites]


Eh, Tywin is canny strategist and all but his undoing stems from his inability to get over his wife's death and the way he takes that out on Tyrion. It's understandable, but it does demonstrate that clever or not, he's just as screwed up emotionally as all the other characters and he pays the price for it. I wouldn't say he was "right" about that.

JaredSeth if you've ever seen it the backstory from the Animatrix goes even further towards supporting your interpretation.
posted by Wretch729 at 4:57 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Clubber Lang was right, Rocky was only fighting bums.

I noticed this one when I rewatched it recently. Clubber Lang should be the hero of Rocky. He's a poor kid from the streets rising up to take on a bloated rich-guy champ who fights cans. He's also fantastically charismatic (much more than Stallone). The only reason he isn't the hero is that he's a big scary black man and Rocky is Rocky.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:04 PM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Tywin is definitely brilliant at certain things, but I feel like he is almost the opposite of Iceman. From an objective viewpoint he looks more and more like Cersei, but more charismatic.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:07 PM on June 2, 2015


(zompist's link is broken, try here)

Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:13 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


CHOMSKY: I think the Hobbits are criminals, essentially.

I think I just peed a little
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:15 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was just thinking yesterday, along these lines, about what movies and stories are saying when you closely interrogate them, and pretty much independently arrived at the conclusions this article makes about Ghostbusters.
posted by JHarris at 5:17 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that Khan was this in the new Star Trek movie. I mean we're told he's evil but, he's basically just trying to save his crew and in the process

-Destroys the headquarters of a rogue intelligence agency
-Attacks a meeting of a military organization whose leadership is plotting a military coup
-Provides information that stops an attack on a civilian* population, averting interstellar war
-Saves the main characters
-Plays a key role in stopping said military coup

It isn't until the end of the movie where the main characters betray him and leave him for dead that he says 'screw this' and goes to crash a space ship into San Francisco.

I mean he's not peaceful. But neither are a lot of action movie heroes.

*Despite the fact that few Klingons would admit to being 'civilians'
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:26 PM on June 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


Now, in a long list of movies that could have made us sympathetic to psychological trauma borne by members of the military but went out of their way to do the opposite, reframing psychological distress as cowardice/incompetence/weakness, Top Gun is way, way up there.

While I can see the reasoning behind throwing Top Gun in the list of films that can be seen as treating psychological trauma borne by members of the military with essentially saying "Get over it!", I don't think that's an entirely fair assessment of why it was written that way.

I see it presented in a manner more akin to films like "Zero Hour" (what the comedy "Airplane!" is based on). Both have a situation where a traumatic event in the distant past is re-experienced, paired and exacerbated by a recent event, then the protagonist must face those events and overcome a combination of stress and guilt.

For Maverick, it was the mental image of his father dying in combat from a supposed mistake and feeling inherited guilt from it that freezes him up, then it is paired with the death of Goose, for which he was responsible for the situation that caused the accident, and past and present is brought to the foreground.

In Zero Hour, you have an ex-pilot who is also paralyzed with guilt from a decision he made that cost the lives of others, and finds himself paralyzed again when faced with the responsibility of the lives of the passengers on the plane.

In both situations, ranking officials pull no punches in their critique of him and their potential, and tell the protagonists they have a choice to make, and both support them once they have made their choice.

Framing those movies as being dismissive, or simply ignorant of the full spectrum of PTSD and its related classifications is a bit unfair to the intent of the story in this case. Doing so often enough reinforces the idea that there is no spectrum of the effects of trauma on people, only 'normal' and 'broken,' and that one who is in-between those two states cannot make significant progress on their own in overcoming problems. If one is going to do right by the real-world people with such issues, let's make sure bringing one group out of invisibility doesn't push others into either/or boxes.


Note: I can't believe I'm actually defending Top Gun, of all films, especially in regards to PTSD with Airplane! and Zero Hour references. The world is a weird, unpredictable place.
posted by chambers at 5:49 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


"you know, if the ACME company were to actually send me the boxed dinners i keep ordering instead of all these damned contraptions i wouldn't have to kill myself trying to catch a fucking roadrunner to keep from starving!"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:55 PM on June 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


**SPOILERS FOR MAD MAX: FURY ROAD AHEAD**

.
.
.

After the death of Immortan Joe, Imperator Furiosa becomes the new Warlord of the Citadel, and the very first thing she does is turn on the water for the grateful crowds below. Joe had been stingy with the water, only distributing enough to keep the Wretched alive and fighting over it, but Furiosa, it's implied, will release it in torrents so that everyone has all the water they want.

But how much water is actually in that aquifer? It can't be infinite. Could it be that Joe's iron-fisted regime was effectively conserving this priceless resource, and that Furiosa's generosity will doom the entire settlement once the water runs out?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:05 PM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


But how much water is actually in that aquifer? It can't be infinite. Could it be that Joe's iron-fisted regime was effectively conserving this priceless resource, and that Furiosa's generosity will doom the entire settlement once the water runs out?

See also: Urinetown
posted by 23skidoo at 6:34 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


FURY ROAD SPOILERS CONTINUE

.
.
.

Cool, I just saw this movie! My impression was that the people in the Citadel turned on the water before she could get up there, as part of a general celebration that Joe was dead. It doesn't really say anything about her future policies vis-a-vis resource distribution. All we can say for sure about Furiosa is that she probably won't make herself the center of a religious cult like the last guy, and she won't treat people like they were things.

In an effort to make this relevant to the topic of the FPP, one could say that Immortan Joe was better suited to be a leader in their harsh world, since he had a clear power structure set up and was trying to make something workable out of the rubble. (He was more like Tina Turner in Thunder Dome than the nihilistic Lord Humungus in Road Warrior.) Furiosa is going to have a hard time holding onto Joe's complex system of three interdependent towns without any actual soldiers to back up her commands. Under her the whole thing could fall apart into civil war.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is set up to be the fool of the book from the very beginning, but she turns out to be right about just about everything in the end.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:46 PM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Joe wanted to maintain the status quo of the three settlements (Citadel, Gastown, Bullet Farm) and that's about it.

Furiosa is showing up with plans to expand (agriculture) and the zeal of the converted - I suspect she may be the 'villain' in a future Mad Max movie. Her inner circle of advisers are all super practical women and we've seen how that type tends to slide towards the ends justifying the means. I could easily see her taking a Lord Humungus type role, begging for some settlement to just walk away and leave their dirt|water|children behind for a chance at a better life.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:57 PM on June 2, 2015


...but there's definitely room to argue that Tina Turner in Thunderdome is pursuing reasonable goals in her (literally) shitty situation.

How about Sergeant Hulka from Stripes, too? 80s Bill Murray was the king of being charming even when his antagonists were dead right.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:03 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've always felt as if I was one of the few: I hated Top Gun, its message, cliches, everything.
posted by librosegretti at 7:10 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Loki.

His dad's an utter dickweed and his brother wasn't worthy to be king.
posted by Windigo at 7:16 PM on June 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


FURY ROAD SPOILERS CONTINUE:

Furiosa makes hard decisions. She's no push-over. If the water is a finite resource, she'll shut it off. There was nothing in the movie that suggests she's unwilling to play the long-game of survival. I mean, she was an Imperator. Think about what she had to do to get there. Her pragmatic side won't bend completely in her search for redemption.
posted by Windigo at 7:20 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias in Watchmen. What was his alternative to his plot, really? Build a base on the moon, wait for WWIII, and commiserate with Dr. Manhattan when the latter failed to stop all the nukes (as the backpages in the text said he would)? It makes even more sense when you consider the headcanon that his real end-goal wasn't to coerce the major world powers into perpetual cooperation under the threat of invasion by giant telepathic squid-things from Dimension X, but merely to get the destabilizing presence of Dr. Manhattan off Earth permanently. (The movie actually does a bit of a better job in implying that this was Veidt's real goal, I think.) And so Rorschach's journal ends up in the slush pile of some wingnut tabloid, so what? It would be, at best, the equivalent of the most unhinged 9/11 truther's ravings.

As for the list in the Medium article, he's right about Iceman and the dean from Columbia in Ghostbusters, but he handwaves away Walter Peck's shutting off the containment grid; Peck's real problem is his arrogance (which Atherton is inhumanly capable of conveying; see also Hathaway in Real Genius), since all he had to do was accompany the boys on a job to see what they were really doing. Ed Rooney was right about truancy but ineffectual at enforcing it, never a good combination, and I didn't see Lean On Me, but on the basis of The Warriors and Godspell, the statement that "Lynne Thigpen is almost always cast as a self-righteous pain in the ass" simply isn't true. He's right about Beverly Hills Cop, of course. (Also in Ronny Cox Being Right, there are quite a few Trekkie supporters of his Captain Jellico from TNG.)

And, in other movies: the phlegmatic king, Hulka was right, but he isn't the true antagonist of Stripes--he's more along the lines of the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Morpheus stern mentor who shapes up the protagonist and gets removed so that Winger can face his true antagonist, John Larroquette's Captain Stillman. (Although, actually, Stillman was right, too--taking the Urban Assault Vehicle into Czechoslovakia was a dumb fucking idea, and Winger and Ziskey should have been courtmartialed for doing so. Taking the platoon on a retrieval mission was also a dumb idea, but not nearly as dumb as driving an untested weapons system behind the Iron Curtain.) And I'll put in a good word for Dean Wormer of Animal House, even though Neidermeyer and the rest of the Omegas really are dicks, since Wormer was right: drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:21 PM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


JaredSeth: "I've said this before but Agent Smith is clearly the misunderstood hero of The Matrix. We are a virus."

Ummmm, so is he, if they had made more than one film.
posted by Samizdata at 7:56 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let's be honest: the Chosen One (in any context) is usually kind of a dick.
posted by thivaia at 8:00 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Would Jareth from the Labyrinth count?
posted by Windigo at 8:07 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Syndrome from The Incredibles.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:34 PM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


My problem with Walter Peck from the EPA investigating the Ghostbusters is not that he's outside of his jurisdiction, my problem is that it's a waste of resources. Don't chase down every yahoo with ghost storage units when people are spilling oil everywhere, dummy. As in, we have plenty of real environmental problems that you don't have to look into potentially fake ones.
posted by dogwalker at 8:46 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The dad from Footloose, who was only trying to save the teens from having to dance to shitty Kenny Loggins music.
posted by chococat at 9:01 PM on June 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


The 6th Day, Paycheck, Wall-E - any movie where the 'villain' wants to advance technology and the 'hero' wants to stop it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:17 PM on June 2, 2015


Considering that Ghostbusters was funded by tobacco companies eager to make the EPA look bad, he's right.
posted by destro at 9:43 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Caddyshack. Wait... I'm not sure who was supposed to be supervising Carl Spackler but they sure fell down on the job.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:02 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It pains me to say it, but: the government agents in E.T. The Extraterrestrial.

If an advanced alien life form infiltrates our planet, and tries to send information back to its home world, it probably shouldn't be a single 10-year-old kid making the decision that the creature poses no biological or military threat to the human race.

I mean, it's at least reasonable for the government agents to be pretty worked up about it, even if their tactics may be a bit heavy-handed. (See also: Starman, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc., etc.)
posted by darkstar at 10:05 PM on June 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


I got stuck watching Tommorowland a few days ago. Not a great movie, but near the end they get the antagonist monologging and I got to say, I was in total agreement with him.

SPOILERS FOLLOW:



They drop a giant robot on him anyway. Then they go on to save all of humanity... well, the 'dreamers' at least. The rest of you sheep can just keep shuffling along.



END OF SPOILERS.
posted by flyingfox at 10:30 PM on June 2, 2015


I read the first idiotic part about Top Gun and couldn't go through with the rest. I mean, come on. Top Gun is "cool again"? What's cool about it? Tom Cruise charming? Why, because he's Super-Gay and deploys a shit-eating grin and cringe-/laugh-inducing catchphrases? I haven't rediscovered Top Gun because there's nothing to rediscover other than that it's ludicrously and embarrassingly cheesy in that way that most hit 80s movies are. You come out of it feeling like you've just rolled in a vat of Velveeta and cotton candy for two hours. If that's cool, then, to each his own, I guess.
posted by blucevalo at 10:42 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


To a degree, this just seems like competent scriptwriting in an age where we don't take that for granted.

So an antagonist has a plausible motivation for his conflict with the hero? Seems a bit weird, shouldn't he just be doing bad things because he's a bad baddie?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:44 AM on June 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


If you didn't live through it the first time (and have never had velveeta or cotton candy) there is great charm in seeing what the author referenced as the unabashed, unabused tropes deployed in a completely straightforward fashion (or eating that chemical sludge once and marveling at its weird textures and flavors). It's an iconic '80s film with pretty good production values and two great cheesy songs.
posted by cult_url_bias at 12:56 AM on June 3, 2015


To a degree, this just seems like competent scriptwriting in an age where we don't take that for granted.

So an antagonist has a plausible motivation for his conflict with the hero? Seems a bit weird, shouldn't he just be doing bad things because he's a bad baddie?


I'm in a playwriting workshop and we call this the "Always give your villain the best argument" rule. Like, it's a rule. Or maybe let's call it a "best practice."
posted by Zephyrial at 1:06 AM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Cracked called, and they want their schtick back.

Also: What TheophileEscargot said above

Bookhouse: Clubber is Rocky from the original Rocky, I think that's the point of Rocky 3. If Rocky and Rocky 2 are about Rocky proving he has what it takes to go the distance against the champ, and to be the champ respectively, Rocky 3 is about Rocky learning you don't just prove yourself once and it's over. You're going to keep being tested. The movie makes quite a deliberate point of contrasting Rocky's training with Clubber's and when they first meet Rocky gets his ass served up cold. Rocky has to completely reinvent himself to face Clubber again.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:08 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Loki's} dad's an utter dickweed and his brother wasn't worthy to be king.

The problem with this one is that Loki's plan involves wiping out an entire species as part of an effort to prove himself to said dad, and that he's pretty clearly driven more by intense self-loathing than by any sort of benevolent concern for the people of Asgard.

Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias in Watchmen. What was his alternative to his plot, really? Build a base on the moon, wait for WWIII, and commiserate with Dr. Manhattan when the latter failed to stop all the nukes (as the backpages in the text said he would)? It makes even more sense when you consider the headcanon that his real end-goal wasn't to coerce the major world powers into perpetual cooperation under the threat of invasion by giant telepathic squid-things from Dimension X, but merely to get the destabilizing presence of Dr. Manhattan off Earth permanently.

The problem here is that Comics!Ozymandias directly states that his plan is more about forcing cooperation than anything else. (In fact, the world is closer to nuclear wear with Manhattan gone, since his presence was intimidating the USSR into backing down from confrontations with the U.S.) And it's also strongly implied that Veidt is wrong, both with his "Tales of the Black Freaighter" parallels and with Manhattan's "Nothing ever ends, Adrian." line. And then there's the whole Shelley reference. The text signals like crazy that his plan *won't work.*

It's a bit like that Lord of the Rings line by Gandalf: "Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement, for even the very wise cannot see all ends." Veidt's mistake is in imagining that he *can* see all ends, and Rorschach's journal is a symbol of his inability to do so. There are a lot of loose ends from his scheme, such as the various scientists and artists he kidnapped and then killed; the trail that Silk Spectre, Nite-Owl, and Rorschach followed to find him in the first place; and even the question of what happens when no more "alien invaders" show up in the years to come. The source material is quite clear that even Adrian cannot actually write history in one grand stroke.
posted by kewb at 3:40 AM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "Wall-E... where the 'villain' wants to advance technology"

Can you clarify this? One could maybe argue that Auto's actions serve to retain advanced technology, but I don't see much evidence that he wants to advance it in any way except making the humans less capable of personal autonomy.

And that's not his motivation, anyway... he's just following his directive, preventing return to Earth.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:45 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think Ozymandias is really presented as a villain we're supposed to root against. He has the trappings of a villain, but his argument is supposed to make sense to the reader. Doctor Manhattan buys it. And his opposition, Rorschach, is written to sound mostly crazy. If it's an instance of this trope, it's an intentional one.
posted by painquale at 4:31 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost is pretty much ground zero for this trope.
posted by Renoroc at 4:58 AM on June 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure who was supposed to be supervising Carl Spackler but they sure fell down on the job.

Sandy did instruct him to kill every gopher on the course.

Now Judge Smails on the other hand might be a good candidate. After all, Al Czervik wants nothing more than to bulldoze the golf course and put up condos and shopping malls.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:56 AM on June 3, 2015


Oops, that was Ripley who said nuke it from orbit, my bad.

I forget where it was, but I read a review of Alien once that pointed out how rare it was in a '70s movie for the hero to be the one who goes by the book and not the, um, maverick. If the crew had kept Kane in 24 hour quarantine per regulations, the crew would likely have survived.

(Of course, Ripley also isn't the film's obvious hero, that role seemingly taken by Captain Dallas, who conflicts with Ripley over letting Kane on the ship. The film's subversion of tropes is part of what makes it such an effective thriller.)
posted by Gelatin at 6:35 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The problem with this one is that Loki's plan involves wiping out an entire species as part of an effort to prove himself to said dad, and that he's pretty clearly driven more by intense self-loathing than by any sort of benevolent concern for the people of Asgard.

Well maybe if Odin had dadded better Loki wouldn't think he had to go to those lengths. WAY TO GO DAD.

(Yeah, Loki is a little shit. But c'mon, you can't help but think 'dude's got a point' a lot of the time. They didn't even let him go to his mother's funeral, whom he adored. Instead we had to watch Jane McBoringPants look all sorrowful and touched at the ceremony. Girl, you've been there TWO DAYS. Suck it the hell up, you faker).
posted by Windigo at 6:51 AM on June 3, 2015


Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park

But only in a 'stopped clock' sense, since his facile gloss on chaos theory is absurd and the people who are supposed to be 'opposing nature' are so profoundly incompetent.
posted by lodurr at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2015


Loki.

His dad's an utter dickweed and his brother wasn't worthy to be king.


Even moreso in the original source material, where his brother (serially) betrays him by (from memory, this is a non-exclusive list) requiring him to betray his own people, sending him on every shit-job the Aesir didn't want to take, and finally horrifically imprisoning all of his children. He's just dragging the whole rotten edifice down on their heads, and since the common view among scholars is that he knows (the seer Odin consults in Voluspa is believed by many Loki-scholars to be an avatar of Loki) exactly what the ultimate outcome will be (Vidarr & the sons of Thor ruling a cleansed kingdom), he's arguably doing it for the good of creation.
posted by lodurr at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


(for those not familiar with Norse myth, Odin is Loki's blood-brother in the original myth, not his father.)
posted by lodurr at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


"the nihilistic Lord Humungus in Road Warrior"

Cut the Humungus some slack. His group was zero population growth from the outset at a time when the world needed a breather.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:18 AM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


oh, i forgot the part where they imprison Loki himself by lashing him to a big rock with the guts of his remaining children. Can't forget that...
posted by lodurr at 9:23 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


kewb: I'm aware that this is a strongly revisionist perspective on the book, since the text states or at least implies very different things (and the difference between what's stated and what's implied or assumed is a crucial one). But bear with me.

• Simply because Veidt states that his plan was about one thing or another doesn't mean that that's actually his long game; yes, bringing the world to the brink is part of his plan (in effect, he creates an artificial Cuban missile crisis, which IIRC didn't happen in Earth-W), and yes, getting the superpowers to cooperate is both important to his plan and also a temporary state of affairs. I'm assuming that Veidt would know that the alliance-under-threat-of-interdimensional-invasion would be a short-lived one, and would have to be replaced by something more substantial and less dependent on an external threat, since the American-Russian alliance in WWII didn't last past the end of the war, and at least Stalin was very aware of this. There would have to be a lot of manipulation of international affairs by Veidt and his proxies in order to bring about a lasting peace, but that manipulation would be a lot easier if Jon Osterman weren't around.

• Yes, there's a lot of foreshadowing in the text that Veidt's plan is doomed in the long run. There's also a bit of acknowledgement that the future isn't set in stone; Dr. Manhattan can't determine it with 100% certainty, not only because of Veidt's use of tachyon masking fields but because of uncertainty at the quantum level. (Richard Nixon, of all people, notes that the projected casualty figures from WWIII could vary hugely according to which way the wind blew. I don't think that it's insignificant that Moore's planned big project after Watchmen was Big Numbers, which would have dealt in part with chaos theory.) While Dr. Manhattan can see his own future (i.e. things that happen to him personally) with a great deal of certainty, he's not omniscient, otherwise he would have known about Veidt's tachyon cloak before it was even built and stopped his plan then. There's no indication that Osterman would know whether or not Veidt's plan would succeed in the long term if he wasn't on Earth to witness it, and there's absolutely no indication that he would return to Earth in the future.

So why does Dr. Manhattan imply that Veidt's plan would fail? Just to fuck with him. Despite his often-extreme detachment from ordinary humans, Osterman isn't without emotions, and Veidt did try to kill him and did give his non-superhero friends cancer.

So, in summary, this interpretation depends on a) Veidt being smart enough to have foreseen some of the problems that people have noted with his plan, and having further plans to deal with those; b) both Veidt and Osterman not being completely honest; c) the big hints about the plan failing being red herrings; and d) Rorschach's journal being dismissed as the work of a crank conspiracist.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:23 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


While Dr. Manhattan can see his own future (i.e. things that happen to him personally) with a great deal of certainty, he's not omniscient, otherwise he would have known about Veidt's tachyon cloak before it was even built and stopped his plan then.

No, he wouldn't, though; Dr. Manhattan is adamant that to him, the future is as immutable as the past, and he not only does nothing but can do nothing to prevent any of the unfavorable events he foresees (just as an example, closed the door of the lab that he's working in when he and Laurie are in bed).

The tachyons only interfere with his perception but not the events he predicts. All of the predictions he makes on Mars come true (streets full of corpses; standing in deep snow), though at the time it's implied they're the result of a nuclear war.
posted by Gelatin at 10:27 AM on June 3, 2015


Dr. Manhattan is adamant that to him, the future is as immutable as the past

As noted above, I'm not assuming that Dr. Manhattan is being completely honest, even with himself. His notable passivity regarding people and events in his life may have more to do with a) his being immortal, and b) also being invulnerable; he may regard the doings of humans as temporary and inconsequential to him as mayflies. Literally the only person or thing in creation that could and did affect him physically was Adrian Veidt. (And, again, I'm aware that this is a pretty revisionist view of the text.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:31 AM on June 3, 2015


So why does Dr. Manhattan imply that Veidt's plan would fail? Just to fuck with him.

The thing is, Dr. Manhattan doesn't necessarily imply the plan will fail, just that it's not the final masterstroke Veidt clearly believes it is. Veidt asks if he did the right thing "in the end," and Manhattan's response is "Nothing ever ends." Veidt is pretty clearly shaken by this, which rather strongly suggests that this plan really *is* his idea of the final answer to the problem of coming war. Manhattan's line reminds Veidt that all things pass, even Veidt himself; in the long run, the world isn't defined by some single event, some single choice between binary choice between "saving" or "dooming."

Look, interpretation is about what we think the story does, the kind of thinking it lets us do. The interpretation you offer seems to me to assume that Veidt really is the superman, full stop, to the point that even Doctor Manhattan is petty and contingent. Yet this reading also requires us to see Veidt as the employer of a kind of calculus, tradijng suffering and death ins mall numbers to forestall suffering and death of much larger numbers. This reflects a rather conventional kind of utilitarian morality, which doesn't gel terribly well with the idea of the ubermensch *or* witht he claim that even Manhattan is subject to contingency. If the universe is contingent, then Veidt by definition can't have a perfect plan; if it is not, then you have to explain why Manhattan's epiphany about the relationships between contingency and determinism somehow wouldn't give him the last word over Veidt. Additionally, we have some other elements that trouble this reading of Veidt in particular, such as his murder of his loyal servants and his odd compulsion to lie about it later even when he's confessed to mass murder and a host of other sorts of personal betrayals.

On a deeper level, the reading doesn't really explain what idea reading Veidt's infallibility out of the text might serve, nor what the red herrings are doing there *as red herrings.* False leads have a role in a story where the ending is just the solution to a plot puzzle, but they don't function that way in a narrative like the one Watchmen becomes at the end. You're not really reading against the grain, so much as you're simply saying some evidence counts and some doesn't. The reading you offer strikes me as internally inconsistent for this reason

I agree that Veidt can't be reduced to a villain, but neither can he be elevated to the superman; Watchmen is much more interested in showing that superman isn't so above it all, so infallible, in the end. . And it would reduce Watchmen to a celebration of "hard choices," which seems to me quite reductive. Veidt can't be the superman or save the world in large part because "saving the world" and "the superman" are the the fantasies Watchmen rejects.
posted by kewb at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


... Manhattan's epiphany about the relationships between contingency and determinism ...

... are some of the weakest parts of the whole book.
posted by lodurr at 11:43 AM on June 3, 2015


Literally the only person or thing in creation that could and did affect him physically was Adrian Veidt.

Sort of. I mean, Manhattan comes back almost immediately and points out the obvious: putting himself back together was the first thing he ever did, and therefore there was no real reason to imagine he wouldn't be able to do so again. And we'd already seen him teleport himself and others, duplicate himself, and so on.

... Manhattan's epiphany about the relationships between contingency and determinism ...

... are some of the weakest parts of the whole book.


That's an aesthetic judgment, not an interpretative one. It might well be a compelling judgement, but it's like pointing out that some of the dialogue is bit clunky, that the psychiatrist probably shopuldn;t be at such a loss for words when Rorschach tells him a single story about himself, or arguing that the "pirate comics became big because superheroes were real and hated" metafiction element is overtextended and more than a little precious. I might find some of those arguments (all of which I've seen) sympathetic or unsympathetic, but none of them necessarily inform a reading of the text.
posted by kewb at 11:57 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having been a Nietzsche fan in my childhood, I view interpretive judgments as inherently aesthetic. But that would be another discussion for another time.

In any case, the weaknesses of it really don't have anything to do with the writing -- they have to do with the ideas. And those weaknesses are twofold:

First, there's no account for quantum instabilities. But that's minor for me.

Second, and a bigger deal for me, is that I have a problem with Manhattan's gloss on probability. The likelihood of things turning out as they have is utterly irrelevant in the context of what has happened and will happened, if we assume a deterministic universe (which Manhattan does). All those revelations only matter if Manhattan has a degree of humanity remaining that's capable of experiencing (mistaken, mystified) wonder. And unless I'm really remembering that scene wrong (and I don't think I am, because I re-read it a couple of years ago), that's not what's being communicated.
posted by lodurr at 12:32 PM on June 3, 2015


I'm not quite sure where you're getting that I think that Veidt is infallible; my point, really, going back to the subject of the FPP, is that his plan is a much better one than it's usually thought of as being. Getting Dr. Manhattan off the planet is not just a means to an end but an end in and of itself. Veidt's fallibility is patent in both his failure to stop Dr. Manhattan with the intrinsic field remover and nearly dying when Laurie shoots him, since he's not sure if he can catch the bullet.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:10 PM on June 3, 2015


The only reason he isn't the hero is that he's a big scary black man and Rocky is Rocky.

Nah, he's not the hero because he didn't take Rocky seriously. Classic rabbit & tortoise scenario.
posted by sixpack at 2:43 PM on June 3, 2015


The only reason he isn't the hero is that he's a big scary black man and Rocky is Rocky.

Nah, he's not the hero because he didn't take Rocky seriously.


He killed Mickey, for that matter.
posted by Etrigan at 3:05 PM on June 3, 2015


Come on, how could you not see this guy as the hero? That's gold!
posted by Chrysostom at 3:11 PM on June 3, 2015


ROCKY IV – THE MISUNDERSTOOD: IVAN DRAGO
History has not given Ivan Drago a fair shake. Not even close. In all likelihood, Drago, a.k.a. The Siberian Bull, a.k.a. Death From Above, will go down as one of the defining terrors of the 1980s. Our grandchildren will remember him as a barely human manifestation of everything that was wrong with the Soviet Union. But that shit isn’t right. The elitist intellectual scholars who are in a rush to place Drago in a league with the Takagi-fortune-Stealing, non-girl-needing, Wade-murdering, Boddicker-esque villains that defined the 80s couldn’t be more wrong. At worst, he is a misunderstood abomination, the monster to the Soviet Union’s Frankenstein; a beast with incredible (and sometimes lethal) capabilities whose character is deeply buried beneath its freakish appearance and distorted by the fear it inspires. At best, Ivan is nothing short of a hero, a revolutionary, and, in 1985, one of humanity’s brightest lights.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:30 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Roy Batty
posted by Beholder at 5:03 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every person that the Seinfeld crew ever happened to meet.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:37 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every person that the Seinfeld crew ever happened to meet.

That's an interesting one. Some of them, definitely yes, like in particular the lady Jerry steals the marble rye from. But also, there was the dry cleaning people who would steal people's clothes and they were the assholes there. I think the balance is way more that the main cast were "wrong" but there are still a handful of even worse people they encounter. Great example.
posted by dogwalker at 8:00 PM on June 3, 2015




Roy Batty

Pretty much every "rogue AI" story ever is a slave rebellion story in disguise, and that includes the Terminator series, which is basically WarGames in which nobody treats WOPR nicely. So, yeah, Skynet. Why couldn't the boffins at Cyberdyne have been caring toward Skynet and told it that they loved it? What did they think would happen when they tried to kill a sentient being whose only method of self-defense was America's entire nuclear arsenal?
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:37 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why couldn't the boffins at Cyberdyne have been caring toward Skynet and told it that they loved it?

This struck me as one potential way they could have been going in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, vis a vis Cyberdyne's 'pet terminator' ('John Smith', was it?).

Also, fucking-A, yes. Both the big recent stand-out AI-dramas (thinking Her and Ex Machina) were really all about master-slave dynamics.
posted by lodurr at 5:28 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If a device a) has intelligence, but b) does not have the ability/free will to decide whether to do its job, then unavoidably it is about master/slave dynamics. Because you've just intentionally created a slave being.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:18 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, yes, but it's relatively rare that people understand that that's what they're about.
posted by lodurr at 7:18 AM on June 4, 2015


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