Offensive Categorization

A week or so ago, I made a post about how words can mean different things to different people, and the importance of learning what definition the user intended. While it’s on my mind, I want to make a quick followup illustrating how this can be used offensively.

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Imagine you have six shapes. The Yellow Star is objectively good. Everyshape loves the Yellow Star. Meanwhile, the Red Square is pretty much the worst shape ever. Everyshape hates the Red Square. 

Here’s the interesting part: depending how you categorize things, you can justify any of the shapes in the center as being good or bad.

Like, let’s say you hate Blue Square. She skipped out on your birthday party or something. Rather than saying Red Square is bad (something everyone would agree with), you can make the generalization that squares are bad, using Red Square as proof. Now, Blue Square looks bad too.

Or, let’s say Yellow Triangle is in a bind. He killed his roommate, and the police are getting nosier than he’d like. He can make himself look good, though, with a generalized statement: yellow shapes are good, and Yellow Star is proof of this. This is actually the tactic I wrote about in an essay called Defensive Generalization.

You can even make more complicated generalizations based on the exact people you are trying to discredit. Let’s say you have a problem with both Blue Star and Blue Square. You simply say that shapes with symmetry based off an even number are bad, and point to Red Square as evidence of this. You can even do a two-step: let’s say Red Pentagon and Blue Square get along great and call themselves the “Top-Row-Of-Shapes Club”. If you want to break that club up, you can warn Red Pentagon that even-number-symmetry-shapes are bad (see: Red Square) and that her association with Blue Square could be harmful. And just like that, their relationships are yours to control.

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Despite the prevalence of this tactic, seeing through it as a listener is relatively easy: you just need to pay attention to who is categorizing things for you. Blue Square is going to deny having any association with Red Square. People who want to attack Blue Square, though, will take every angle possible to associate them. They’re both squares, they both have even symmetry, they both have one facial feature, they’re both on the right side of the image, whatever. If you question who is grouping things together for you, ulterior motives can become more obvious.

Countering it from the target’s perspective, however, is more difficult. As easy as it is, most people won’t question who is categorizing things for them. Blue Square either has to deny her associations with Red Square, or come up with a whole bunch of groupings that associate her with Yellow Star, who we all know is good. It’s a stressful position and, ultimately, favors whoever has the most people listening. If someone gets shot, it’s the loudest voices that will decide whether he was a student or a thug. 

As listeners, though, we have the most power to counter this. We can be aware that harmful manipulators will use this tactic, and by extension skeptical of people who try to sort things into categories for us. Ultimately, your goal is to look past manipulative categorization and judge parties by their actions, not their grouping. Anyone who tries to keep you from doing this is usually an enemy. 

As usual, though, the best thing you can do is simply be skeptical. Recognize that everyone has an agenda. Even have an agenda - if you look at the sort of things I write, it’s obvious that I’m trying to reduce the value of deception so that I can outcompete people who rely on it. It’s important to note these things and factor it into the credibility of information. Nothing is more dangerous than taking things at face value.

Faceless Together

For a while now I’ve been kind of meaning to write a long, in-depth post about 4chan. With the recent controversy between them and some significant feminist figures in the gaming industry, I think it’s important that I finally go ahead and do this. Since, let’s be honest: any time there’s a big controversy on the internet, 4chan is going to be involved. And yet, a lot of people don’t really understand what 4chan is.

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First, I should probably start with some explanation of where I am coming from. When my webcomic first began taking off, I went to great lengths to keep an eye on everyone who discussed it. I like feedback on what I’m doing; the way I see it, the natural progression of an artistic career is that you eventually come to rely on audience feedback rather than individual critics who purport to represent it.

For the most part, this just entailed reading forums and blogs, nothing too complicated. however, there was this one audience segment that continually eluded my sight: 4chan. I could see 4chan links in my referrers, but could never find anything there about me or my work. The threads, with their short, transient lifespans, were always gone by the time I got there.

Well, needless to say, I eventually did catch a Prequel thread, and then more, and gradually over the next few years I learned a lot about 4chan - as well as a lot of other sites, major and minor (this one included). Of them all, though, 4chan stands out to me as having the most interesting culture - as well as being one of the most confusing, misunderstood, and outright scary entities to outsiders. I can understand why they are such a prevalent and relatively powerful force online, and I think it’s important for everyone to understand exactly what 4chan is.

I’m going to be sharing my personal observations and conclusions regarding 4chan. So, buckle up and put on your ethnologist hats, kids, because we’re gonna talk comparative internet cultures!

Anonymity

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The first thing that always trips people up about 4chan is this idea of an “anon culture”. Like, we all understand the idea of anonymous comments on a site, or accepting anonymous asks on Tumblr, and probably understand that such anonymous submissions are often used to attack someone without suffering any social ramifications or backlash for doing so. But what happens when you bring hundreds of thousands of people together who idolize the idea of anonymity and the freedom it brings?

Well, you get something kind of cool, in my opinion. What you end up with is this concept of a fluid identity. Not only do people on 4chan have no social ramifications for being rude, but they face no social ramifications for being inconsistent with themselves. On 4chan you have no obligation to stick to or defend your past beliefs or opinions, because no one knows they were your past beliefs, nor do you have any incentive to display beliefs that will make you look good - since no one will ever even know it was you.

It’s like… imagine being an invisible person in a room with a bunch of other invisible people. You, as well as each of them, are wearing an (also invisible) random voice-changing mask. From the seemingly empty room, one voice calls out: “so, what webcomics do you guys read?”

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If you were in a public place, you’d pick the answer that makes you look good. It’ll be something pretentious (if you’re around pretentious people), or something relatively normal and acceptable (if you’re around normal people), and you’ll choose the answer that doesn’t ostracize you otherwise negatively affect you socially.

In the room of invisible people, that pressure does not exist. You are speaking to the equivalent of an empty room. You can say the most embarrassing shit you can think of - let them know about that horrible, poorly-drawn DeviantArt comic series you are super into. If they laugh at you for it and you regret your choice to bring it up, then all you have to do is step a few feet to the left and say you like something else. All of a sudden, you and are effectively a different person. Alternatively, you could just own up to your love of this awesome DeviantArt comic. Why not? You can unassociate yourself from these claims at any time.

Or, imagine someone else in the room says they like some poorly-written little ComicGenesis comic, and you decide to rail on them about how horrible it is. Suddenly, they come back at you with this amazing explanation about its hidden nuances, and you realize that you misjudged this little comic and it is in fact the epitome of perfection. If you want, you can just instantly pretend you are a different person who liked the comic all along. You don’t have to feel any shame for wrongly disliking it at first, or any obligation to remain consistent with your earlier beliefs. You just do what you feel like. It can’t hurt you. You are just you.

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Of course, the consequence of this is that 4chan is completely depraved by normal societal standards. Without the pressure to conform, it turns out people are naturally pretty weird. But, you know, they live it. It’s a culture where nobody is really shamed or hurt for the things they enjoy. Someone can try to shame them, but it’s not going to have any effect and it’s usually more of a joke.

The other consequence of this - and the one that probably scares the most visitors away - is that people can’t really be shamed for being what we would consider horrible people. Someone can be flagrantly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or whatever, and you can’t really harm them. All you can do is talk to them. Things that would garner death threats on Tumblr or Twitter tend to be short, comparatively nonconfrontational exchanges on 4chan. With many people from Tumblr or Twitter, that does not sit well.

The Anon

Sort of separate from this idea of “anon culture” is this idea of “the Anon” as an individual.

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When we get an anonymous hate comment on Tumblr or something, we know that person has an actual identity they are hiding. It becomes a guessing game as we speculate who they “really are”,

With 4chan, however, there is this idea of anonymity as an identity. By posting an anonymous message, you are not “hiding” your identity, you are an Anon. In their art, you typically see the Anon represented as a thin, green-skinned man or woman with a suit and no facial features other than a mouth. It’s an intentionally race- and class-neutral representation of a human - the Anon can be anybody. They celebrate this idea that they are indistinguishable - coming across as one single, undefined individual with a lot of conflicting tastes and perspectives.

This is a somewhat foreign idea on other internet cultures like Tumblr, where individuality is greatly valued. Look at anyone’s Tumblr page - we go to great lengths to define what is us. We often wear a banner declaring our race, gender, and sexual orientation. We list our interests and phobias. We even choose a picture to represent ourselves - mine is a little blue butterfly drawn by me and colored by a friend. Our identity gains strength and influence as we do things that please people, and weakens as we do things that they disapprove of. After posting this, my influence will probably reach 1,100 people, and I’ll do a little dance in celebration of this milestone. But, posting in a random 4chan thread, I would still just be an anon like everyone else.

The World To 4chan

Looking at it from this perspective, you can hopefully start to understand the political angles that someone who regularly participates in 4chan is inclined to take.

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In their own weird way, 4chan is a sort of utopia. They circumvent a lot of the harassment problems that places like Tumblr and Twitter have. You probably aren’t going to see someone on 4chan depressed over harassment they got on 4chan. They also circumvent most peer pressure problems - nobody on 4chan is going to agree with anyone else there just to look good. You are also going to have very few people who hide things, since there’s very little incentive to do so. If you feel a little gay that day and want some hot beefcake, say it, nobody will care and you’ll be happy.

Imagine how the rest of the internet looks to someone who is used to that as their background, though. It causes the person to develop a certain distrust. If someone publicly supports a position and a large group praises and rewards them for it, you wonder if they really believe what they profess. When someone publicly attacks and uses social leverage against a person who disagrees with them, you wonder if the attacker really has a decent argument that could stand on its own. The world becomes a vicious and uncivilized place full of powerful, violent people who might be lying or keeping secret agendas, and you want to look into it. You want to knock people off pedestals, jam their weapons, air their secrets, and leave nothing but a depraved and equal Anon behind.

And you see that in what 4chan does. When a controversial figure declares they were hacked or bullied, 4chan are the ones compiling evidence of whether or not it was faked. When someone tries to defend a position with their social standing or identity, 4chan is the first to stand against them, confronting them as an equal. And when someone preaches what others should be doing, 4chan is the first to get on their case if they don’t do it themselves. They are not a unified group so much as a group of people who share a common mindset - that inequality and its associated social pressures are the root cause of problems. They tend to confront people as equals - and if that doesn’t work, they try to knock them down to their level.

4chan To The World

Equally important to understanding 4chan, I think, is looking at the way 4chan is seen and portrayed by others - especially those who actively oppose its ideals.

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It’s no secret that 4chan is often viewed as this hive of racism, homophobia and misogyny. They’re this chaotic force that harasses feminists, hacks websites, and spreads the personal information of any good people who try to stand up for justice. It’s this vague, faceless force, and it fits the common perception of “evil mooks” we are fed in movies.

I find it kind of a shame that, for all that 4chan’s culture does to maintain the Anon’s gender, race, and class neutrality, the common assumption is that they consist entirely of middle-class, straight, white males. You see this whenever there’s some clash between 4chan and Tumblr - 4chan is the oppressor; some angry, privelaged mass that wants to make life difficult for minorities.

The nature of an anon culture makes it difficult to get actual statistics on 4chan - these are people who are not only anonymous, but often revel in the nature of anonymity. Race is almost impossible to analyze, since someone will only bring it up if it’s relevant to what they’re saying. Gender is easier though - according to 4chan’s advertising page, the userbase is 30% female - if you don’t believe their self-report, the third-party analytics site Alexa.com claims it to be over 50%. I have a few friends who frequent the site’s (often extremely risque) My Little Pony board - they once ran a lingerie selfie contest there, and exactly 50% of the entrants were female.

Overall, you’re looking at this very diverse community that has its minorities effectively erased by its opposition so it can make a better enemy. 4chan knows this, and you can see it leading back into that aforementioned concept of them seeing their detractors as hypocritical and barbaric. You’re not likely to get any big moment where 4chan’s minorities band together and say “hey, we exist!” because so much of 4chan values their anonymity. Gaining social leverage by declaring what you are is the sort of thing they generally stand against.

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Equally interesting is the way 4chan responds to hatred against them. Though it may not be readily apparent from the outside, they stick by their ideals at least as strenuously as Tumblr does. With the recent controversy in feminist gaming, for example, a number of people from 4chan have been watching Twitter and boycotting any company that claims the attack on The Fine Young Capitalists was justified. There’s been a lot of disappointment any time a loved developer comes to the attack’s defense. 

Similarly, there’s a lot of disappointment every time a creator directly speaks out against 4chan. I remember a time a few months back when the author of the comic Paranatural tweeted about how nobody should ever go to 4chan. Over on 4chan, there was a rather touching post where an anon described how it hurt them to have a figure they admire speak out against a community they loved. I actually emailed the Paranatural guy about that, though I never got a reply. I like to pretend it’s because he got a million other emails about it, but it’s probably not.

Open Door

I think the one last thing that is most misunderstood about 4chan is that if you are a horrible person, it can be a tool.

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4chan has no barriers to entry. There’s not even a signup process; anyone who wants to can go there and instantly become a part of their community. If you want to do something bad and hide that it was you, you can go to 4chan, make posts about it, and have it look like 4chan is to blame. You will suffer no ramifications for doing so - like any action on 4chan, it is effectively done by “the anon”.

Nothing keeps someone from setting 4chan up as a scapegoat. Heck , you could even go there and pose as multiple people, organizing entire attacks on someone. Even yourself, if you want. This is not a hard thing to do.

The question is why you would do it. Like, 4chan is fundamentally not a bad place. Its one property is that people there interact anonymously - for better or for worse, that ideal of fearlessly being the person you want to be is viciously preserved. It has a very interesting and generally nonconfrontational culture that can still bring ridiculous change or over-the-top revenges when them or their ideals are attacked directly. Between the social equality, lack of fear, and ability to drive action, it sometimes feels like everything Tumblr wants to be. 

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I guess what I’m saying is: be informed. It’s easy to use 4chan as a scapegoat, or construe it as an unstoppable force of evil, but if you really look into it it’s one of the more interesting cultural designs to come out of the internet. It’s worth lurking and understanding where they are coming from on things before dismissing them enemies.

6

Hans: A Disney Villain Like No Other

Another Heroic Prince…Not!

When I saw Frozen for the first time, one of the things I liked most about it was how Hans was revealed to be the main villain. One of the most interesting features about him as a Disney villain is that he does not come off as one right from the moment when he is first introduced. Whenever I first saw many older Disney films, I was usually able to determine the villains right from the very beginning based on their appearances and traits, such as having scary facial expressions or bad tempers (which also includes shouting or raising their voices a lot). The physical appearances of these villains also include dark colors in their clothing and/or hair. In the case with Hans, however, he puts on a facade as a charming, caring, and noble prince for about two-thirds of the film, until he is alone with Anna and reveals his true nature at last. But he only reveals this to her, and continues his facade with the royal dignitaries until the end, when his crimes are exposed. At this point, one can realize that it’s not just Anna and everyone else in Arendelle whom Hans has fooled, but the audience as well. His real nature is hidden so subtly and almost unexpectedly throughout the film, making him one of the sneakiest and most sinister Disney villains. Additionally, since Hans does not at all have a sinister appearance like other Disney villains, this further adds to his deception.

By far one of the most unique features about Hans being a villain is that he is a prince. In many fairy tales with royalty, including those from Disney, the prince is usually the hero of the story and is almost always the protagonist or deuteragonist…but not Hans! In fact, when he and the Duke of Weselton are first introduced in the film, they were set up to be implied as the heroic prince and the villain, respectively. But instead, they turned out to be the real villain and the red herring. While he initially appears to be and acts like a typical prince, Hans is later revealed to be a master manipulator and has excellent, dangerous power over it by fooling Anna, Elsa, and all of Arendelle and its guests. Like many villains, Hans is hungry for power, admiration, and respect, and especially so because he is the youngest of thirteen princes in his own kingdom. Knowing that he would never have a chance to rule the Southern Isles due to him being the (much) youngest, he concocted a scheme to marry into monarchy. He visits Arendelle to try and woo Elsa over since she is the heir, then marry her in order to rule the kingdom alongside her. But he moves onto Anna instead and decides to kill Elsa later in order to have full power over Arendelle with Anna as his consort.

When and after his true nature is revealed, it is clear that Hans’s goal is to become king and gain the love, respect, trust, and admiration from people he never had after being left in his brothers’ shadows since his childhood. Besides being very manipulative with his convincing facade, Hans’s most powerful trait is his vast intelligence, due to his cunning, convincing, and incredible ability to lie and get away with it. He is proven to be quick-thinking, resourceful, and extremely diligent, since he is able to fool the entire kingdom without fail. Hans can be very arrogant, as shown in the scene when he reveals his entire plot to Anna as she freezes right before his eyes. Furthermore, his taunting to Anna, along with the scene where he lies to Elsa about her having killed Anna before he tries to kill her, shows that Hans takes pleasure in tormenting his victims, making him one of Disney’s most sadistic villains. Unlike many Disney villains, Hans constantly has to change his plot accordingly with the shifting events that take place over the course of the film, particularly due to Elsa and her newly revealed magical nature. Once his dark side comes out, he decides to kill Elsa openly to look like a hero in the eyes of Arendelle’s citizens, further hoping to gain their trust and admiration for saving their kingdom. His sadism is also displayed in the scene where he explains his whole plan to kill Elsa to Anna, since he clearly shows excitement for the upcoming praise.

Subtleties in Hans’s Scenes

Throughout Frozen, there are subtleties of Hans’s real nature in many of his scenes before it is finally revealed in the second half. Since I did not read about the film’s plot before I saw it, I was definitely stunned when Hans was revealed to be the true villain! Some people may have been confused and angry at those sudden turn of events. However, this revelation did not happen “out of the blue.” Once people have seen the movie and know that Hans is the villain, it becomes hard to miss several moments in the film that subtly mask Hans’s true intentions. Eventually, when viewers are able to see these moments, it’s not hard to realize that they were intentional all along and hidden very well by the filmmakers.

Now I have seen different users make their own posts to show the subtleties in Hans’s scenes, but I wanted to do one of my own. Here are some of the best examples, including gifs of a few of those scenes.

  • First gif: When he first meets Anna, Hans immediately woos the lovesick princess with his handsome looks and charming charisma. After she leaves, he looks after her and smiles. This may imply that he is smitten with her, too, but it’s actually because he realizes that Anna is the perfect tool for his plot to take over Arendelle.
  • Second gif: At the coronation party, as Anna trips, Hans grabs her hand, saying, “Glad I caught you.” The fact that he was in the right place at exactly the right time shouldn’t be considered coincidental. It is very likely that, before this moment, Hans had been stalking Anna, secretly following her around and watching her until he saw the right moment to make his move.
  • Third gif: Most of Hans’s lines in “Love Is An Open Door” give subtle, dark hints to his true motives. For example, when he sings, “I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place,” he gestures to Arendelle, which reflects his desire to rule it. (For more clues, see this post and this one.)
  • Fourth gif: After Anna accepts Hans’s proposal, she asks him if they should live in her palace after they marry, and he over-enthusiastically agrees. This hints that doing so would give him a better chance to rule Arendelle.
  • Fifth gif: When Hans objects to Anna going after Elsa, he is only worried because he knows that if something terrible should happen to her, his plan would be ruined, since he needs to marry her to steal the throne. For the same reason, he demands to go with her to make sure nothing happens before he is forced to agree to stay in Arendelle.
  • Before Anna leaves, Hans says to her, “Are you sure you can trust her? I don’t want you getting hurt.” This line is very ironic and hypocritical because, as revealed later, he’s the one who should not be trusted by Anna and he’s the one who hurts her by fooling her and letting her freeze to death (see this analysis for more info).
  • When Anna’s horse returns to Arendelle, Hans realizes that she’s lost in the mountains. As he glances up at the North Mountain, there is a brief moment where he smiles (see this post by arrendelle). This is because he realizes that he has a chance to prove himself as Arendelle’s hero if he rescues Anna and kills Elsa, bringing him one step closer to ruling the kingdom permanently.
  • Sixth gif: As one of the Duke’s thugs attempts to shoot Elsa with his crossbow, Hans interferes and makes the arrow shoot upward to Elsa’s chandelier. But in truth, Hans does not merely intervene to stop the arrow; look fast, and he glances up at the chandelier before aiming directly at it’s weakest point so that it will fall and kill Elsa while simultaneously making it look like an accident. This is regarded as one of the greatest moves in covering his tracks, and arguably the most sinister subtlety before his true colors are revealed.

To Sum It All Up

Unlike what Scar did in The Lion King, Hans’s goal wasn’t to take over a kingdom full of people who hated him, but to be a respected and beloved king. Also, unlike for Scar, marriage was his only option to try and become king, because he has far too many brothers before him to rule the Southern Isles. Although Hans is clearly shown to be capable of committing murder, if he murdered all of his brothers, it would only and extremely likely arouse suspicion towards him, and then he’d never have a chance to become king at all. He needed to come up with a plan that could help him achieve his goal, but one that could still cover his dark motives and not make people suspicious of him. And because he has terrific skills in deceiving and manipulating people, he realized how he could use those to his advantage in fulfilling his ambition.

So when he learned of Elsa’s impending coronation, he jumped at the chance to attend just to woo and marry her. But he realized he had to change his course because of how Elsa kept her distance from people almost all the time. So then his plan was to marry Anna and kill Elsa after they married so he and Anna would become king and queen. Regarding how he would murder Elsa, Hans would have done it in a way so that his true colors remained hidden from outsiders. Remember he tells Anna that, after they had married, he would have staged an “accident” for Elsa. For the two times that he nearly kills Elsa, they manage to (or nearly) hide the truth behind them. The first time, he fires the arrow at her chandelier, making it look like he was intervening and almost killed her by accident. Then during the second time, before Anna intervenes, he had lied that Elsa killed Anna, so he sentenced her (Elsa) to death as punishment. Hans doesn’t reveal what he would have done with Anna after that point, but given the fact that he left her to die after she returned, there is a chance that he would have eventually gotten rid of her, too.

Hans’s plan once again changed after Elsa revealed her powers and cursed the kingdom to the eternal winter, then when Anna decided to go after her. Although he wanted to go with Anna to make sure nothing befell her and eliminate Elsa once she was found, things still worked to his advantage, as a feared queen with dangerous abilities would be easier to kill with no severe consequences. At the same time, being left in charge of the kingdom in Anna’s absence allowed Hans to gain everybody’s trust as a leader through his seemingly benevolent and caring ways. Even though he truly never cared for anyone but himself, he needed and wanted people on his side so that they would back him up for any potential repercussion, and because he is a terrific manipulator and liar, he earned that very quickly. When the Spanish dignitary tells him that he is all Arendelle has left, he realizes his plan has worked and he no longer needs either Anna or Elsa.

Subsequently, after Anna returns, he leaves Anna to freeze, then announces to the other dignitaries that they managed to marry before she died. After they tell Hans that Arendelle now looks to him for leadership, the first thing he does is charge Elsa with treason and death. When he comes across her in the fjord after she escapes from her cell, he successfully lies to her about Anna, so her state of grief and distraction gives him the perfect chance to kill her. Hans also decides to do it in the open so that the dignitaries and citizens will view him as the hero and savior of Arendelle. But in the end, fortunately, like all Disney villains, justice is met when Anna is saved and Elsa removes the winter, finally exposing Hans’s lies and he is sent back home to his kingdom to be punished for his crimes.

Conclusion

Based on everything I have said and seen in the film, I have to say that Hans is one of the best Disney villains created in a very long time. While I thought Frozen was a fresh and exciting story for a fairy tale by not having romantic love as the main plot, Hans helped strengthen my love for film because he was a very different and unexpected type of villain from Disney. As I feel that Disney is not usually so subtle with the portrayals of their characters who turn out to be the villains, it was only a terrific idea for them to portray their villain for Frozen in a very different way, especially because he fools the audience as well as the other characters. Frozen is definitely one of the best Disney films I have seen in a long time, and I hope that will remain popular in the years to come. :)

How to Get the Signs to Do What You Want
  • Fire signs (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius):Two words: Reverse Psychology. Tell them that you don't think they could do it or that you'd probably do it better. Play into their competitive streak.
  • Air signs (Libra, Gemini and Aquarius):Use their curiousity against them. Make it seem like what you want is the most interesting thing. Keep in mind that these guys are the hardest to fool. You might be forced to bargain.
  • Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn):Convince them they're the only ones who could do it. Make it seem like a big responsibility. Unlike with the fire signs, with these guys you have to pretend you're useless.
  • Water signs (Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio):Guilt trip them. Also, pretend you're useless but way more pathetic. Make them feel sorry for you.
5

Before I saw Frozen, I had done some reading and watching of documentaries about people who have committed atrocious acts, most often murder. Several times, the term "sociopath" was mentioned, and I realized how they were defined as such. After I saw Frozen, I thought that Hans could very well have been classified as a sociopath based on the kind of behavior he displayed, which differs than most Disney villains I have ever seen.

Most often today, “sociopath” is generally not defined itself, but referred to in the definition of antisocial personality disorder. People who have this type of personality disorder generally show violation of or disregard for the rights of other people. Some of the most common traits or behavior patterns of a sociopath include the following:

  • Skilled acting, especially in deception, manipulation, and charm
  • Absence of anxiety and stress
  • Can be highly intelligent and cunning
  • Incapable of feeling guilt or remorse
  • Lack of showing sympathy or empathy for others
  • Pathological lying and getting away with it
  • Incapable of feeling or expressing love

For Hans, he can very well be defined as a sociopath since all of these traits fit him to a “T.” From the moment we meet him, we see just how good of an actor he is. While he is really nothing more than a cold, calculating, and ruthless prince, he hides his true nature so well with how he manipulates and deceives Anna and the people in Arendelle. Hans knows that princes are expected to be polite, noble, respectful, and kind, so he acts like the complete antithesis of himself in order to make others believe he is who he appears to be. Not to mention that his good looks and charisma are part of what make them fall in his favor.

Many of the other listed sociopathic traits tie in with Hans’s manipulative nature. This includes his high level of cunningness and intelligence, particularly in how there are times when he is able to tell huge lies and avoid suspicion completely. Although he most likely endured neglect and ignorance from his family, some stories he told Anna about his past may have been exaggerated, just so he could keep reeling her in. One of Hans’s most notable lies is when he tells the dignitaries that Anna had died at the hands of Elsa and that they managed to marry before she passed. Not one of them seems to suspect gaps that are apparent in this lie, but perhaps they see that he is too full of “grief” to question him, so they just accept it. This example also brings to my attention that sociopaths don’t feel stress or anxiety in the kind of situations where normal people would have them. This means that lying isn’t a problem for them, as is the said example with Hans, and that they most likely plan things very carefully in order to remain under wraps. They don’t feel or cannot comprehend things like most people.

People who are sociopaths do not care about the differences between right and wrong. If they do wrong, they are incapable of feeling guilt and remorse. This also ties into the fact that they do not sympathize with others. With Hans, we see this when he reveals his true self and whole plan to Anna. As he does, he taunts her for having been so easy to deceive, clearly showing no sympathy for her in the fact that she is dying right in front of him. He does this to Elsa as well: before he tries to kill her, he lies to her that she had caused Anna’s death, and it’s clear that he does not feel sorry for her at all. Then when he raises the sword above his head, there is clearly a smile on his face. Does that (and the scene with Anna) moment show him displaying any feelings of shame, regret, or empathy? I think not. These moments also bring out how arrogant and sadistic Hans can be, which can be found among sociopaths, too.

Since sociopaths do not care about right from wrong, they also do not care about anyone but themselves. They never consider the consequences of their actions unless it benefits them or gets them in trouble with the law. They cary out premeditated acts and make efforts to cover their tracks to avoid getting caught as much as possible; this is also effective in their manipulative natures. For Hans, all he wants is to be king, yet to get what he wants, he knows he has to pretend to be someone he isn’t to avoid suspicion and discovery. Since they don’t care about anyone else, sociopaths are incapable of showing or expressing love to others. We see that with Hans, in how he not-so-subtly reveals to Anna that he never loved her when he says, “If only there was someone out there who loved you.” Of course, since Hans is the youngest of thirteen, he was most likely abused and neglected by his brothers and his parents. I don’t think it’s so difficult to believe it, and it would offer a high explanation on why he cannot love himself. If a child feels unloved, that person, as an adult may spend the rest of their lives trying to gain the love and attention that they didn’t get as a child, even if it means engaging in criminal behaviors.

This all sounds like Hans to me. He is a sociopath, plain and simple, but at one time in his life, he wasn’t. I definitely believe that he grew up feeling angry and jealous that many of his brothers got so much more attention than he did, so it most definitely contributed to the villain he is as an adult. I have to disagree if anyone says that he has good in him or is capable of redemption. All of the gif scenes I chose represent his darkest moments when he reveals his true colors:

  • First, he smirks at and breaks Anna by indirectly saying that he never loved her.
  • Secondly, he tells her that he preferred to marry Elsa just because she was heir and an easier ticket to gaining control of the kingdom, revealing that Anna was just a second option in his plan
  • Thirdly, she falls on the floor as he douses the fire, ignoring her plea to stop, and he insults her by saying that she was “dumb” enough to go after Elsa. This is the only time that he outright insults Anna’s intelligence, and yet it’s like he doesn’t need to. He already is mocking her in how he describes that she was part of his plan, since she was so desperate for love that she was easy to deceive.
  • Fourthly, he confidently argues that he has already gotten away with his plan, then he locks the door, preventing her from escaping and leaving her to die on her own (meaning that he tried to indirectly murder her).
  • And of course, as he raises his sword over Elsa, he is clearly smiling wickedly, eager that he is getting away with his lie to kill her and will receive praise once his wicked deed is complete.

And so there you have it on all the reasons as to what makes Hans a sociopath. You can also read this major analysis I wrote about him. Although I can’t say Hans is one of my favorite villains because the acts he does are truly evil, he is definitely one of the best and most complex villains that Disney has ever created, and he is definitely part of why I love Frozen so much. :)

Empowerment

Months and months ago, I wrote a post about Tom Siddell - author of Gunnerkrigg Court - and his near-suicide. Among the responses to it was one calling me a shitty person and bad communicator. 

"Shitty person" I can understand. I mean, it’s not something I agree with, but it is a vague title that will inevitably be given to pretty much anyone who holds an opinion. The one that drew my interest, however, was “bad communicator”. Communication is something I’m deeply interested in; the post itself was about communication. To be called a bad communicator is kind of like walking up to a mathematician working on a chalkboard, saying “wow, you’re bad at math!” and walking away. That is to say, it’s not necessarily offensive, but it certainly raises questions. 

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I privately asked him for further explanation, and for the most part his response was stuff I’m used to: saying that I’m too removed, that I lack empathy, and that I treat everything as a big tactical issue when most people are just doing what they feel like. However, along with that was the interesting statement that if I wanted people to listen to me, I shouldn’t have accused a large part of my audience of almost murdering someone

At the time, the criticism more or less made sense. As I thought about it more, though, I began to question it. I mean, first of all, I wasn’t accusing them of almost murdering someone, I was accusing them of almost voluntary manslaughtering someone. And second of all: was such an accusation necessarily disputable?

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Think about the situation Tom Siddell was involved in: he made a Tweet about Louis Lane that sounded transphobic when taken out of context. People attacked him for it, trying to persuade others to join in the attacks or boycott the comic Tom makes his living off of. It’s not really arguable that they were consciously trying to hurt him. Since he suffers from depression, the attacks were enough to make him seriously consider killing himself. Had he gone through with it, that would pretty much be the definition of voluntary manslaughter. Functionally, it’s no different than a restraining chokehold killing someone whose neck can’t take it

When I make the statement that “Tumblr’s social justice community almost killed a guy”, it’s not an opinion; it’s an empirical truth. However, it’s important to recognize that it is not the only true statement I could have made.

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Tom Siddell, despite knowing he was depressed, interacted with people in a public setting where his depression could easily be triggered.

This statement is also empirically true and cannot be disputed. However, this one manages to put the blame on Tom. He’s the one who endangered his life by insisting on working a stressful, public job that could potentially push him over the edge. 

Tom suffered from depression, meaning the stress and drama of social interaction that would make most people sad could potentially drive him to suicide. 

Here is another empirically true statement - a rather tactful one that puts all the blame on his mental illness. From this angle, neither him nor his detractors would be made out as responsible for his death. 

Tom made a statement that upset a minority group and then went on to guilt them by saying their criticism almost pushed him to suicide.

Now this one is neat in that it creatively spins Tom as the attacker. Like the others it is still empirically true. It’s not a misleading lie; even if you know all the facts, this is still true. However, it’s miles away from my equally true statement of “Tumblr’s social justice community almost killed a guy”. 

The reason I am bringing this up is because it’s important to this post to establish why I chose the particular phrasing that put blame on Tumblr. If you read my blog, or the posts I make on any forum I visit, they’re about how to do things. I talk about the techniques I use to make stuff, or the way your actions can affect other people. Even when my grandmother died, I exploited those emotions into a post about how you could write realistic death scenes. I want you to be able to do things

When I talk about Tom Siddell’s near-suicide, I don’t care that it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t have depression. I don’t care that he chose to say things that hurt other people. All I care about is what you and I can do; I care about the angle in which we are responsible for the events that transpire. I care about the angle that empowers us. The one we can use to make a difference.

And after a fourteen paragraph intro, that’s what I want to talk about: empowerment.

Empowerment (for real, now)

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An important thing to realize is that any time something bad happens, we are all partially responsible. Like, imagine someone getting mugged in an alley. The mugger made a conscious choice to commit a crime against a victim. The victim, however, also made a conscious choice not to carry pepper spray or a gun, which might have prevented the robbery from succeeding. The person walking along the street makes a conscious choice not to investigate the sounds she hears in the alley, and even the guy sitting at home watching TV made a conscious choice to vote for the candidate who wanted to cut the police budget.

From a legal perspective, the mugger is accountable for anything bad that happens in this event - after all, he’s the one who broke the law and instigated the whole thing, and he is the only one who had a 100% chance of preventing it. However, any one of the people involved in this still could have prevented it. They all had the power - or at least potential - to do so.

If I was trying to prevent muggings from happening, my angle would vary depending who I am talking to. To an ex-convict, I would emphasize the control he has over the situation: ways he could make a living other than robbery. To a potential victim, I would emphasize self-defense and preventative measures. To a potential bystander I would emphasize the importance of never assuming someone else will call 911, and to a voter I would emphasize the importance of security cameras and patrolling officers. I want to prevent this thing from happening, so I am going to take the angle that empowers people to stop it.

The big problem I have with a lot of rhetoric and expectations - especially on Tumblr - is that they are predominantly geared toward empowering the opposition.

Like, what good would come from me saying “remember that time Tom Siddell’s depression almost killed him?”. You can’t do anything about the fact that Tom is depressed; all you can change are your actions toward him. To do that, it is important to understand how your actions affect him. Here’s a hint: they almost killed him.

To make a difference, you need control. Part of that means recognizing what control you have. Rhetoric that emphasizes a group’s lack of control accomplishes nothing more than alleviating guilt. Convincing yourself that you are powerless means you don’t have to feel guilty knowing you could have prevented something.

I’ve written about this phenomenon before, but it was in the context of one’s own perceptions - convincing ourselves we are guiltless for the bad things that transpire. However, it bothers me that disempowering rhetoric is something we very actively push onto others - often under the guise of social justice. In many cases, it’s something we’ve come to expect - when something bad happens, we want to read about it in a way where we’re not responsible. 

If you don’t get what I mean, look at this Tumblr post that was going around a few weeks ago, comparing Gone Home and The Stanley Parable:

Two games came out in 2013 based almost entirely on walking around a building and listening to voices. One of these was met with a barrage of accusations that it wasn’t really a game, and one was not. One of these was also about a young gay woman, and one was not.

Remember how I showed all the different ways you could describe the Tom Siddell situation to place the blame on different people, and how all of them were technically true? On the surface this post looks like social justice, calling attention to inequality in the games industry, but it’s literally the one angle you could take to blame all of Gone Home's criticism on the fact it had a gay female character.

Like, how about we discuss the fact that Dear Esther, a game about a straight male character, received all the same “not really a game” criticisms that Gone Home did.

Let’s talk about the fact that The Stanley Parable was a story specifically targeted toward gamers, deconstructing the idea of following a set path. Why don’t we mention that it had a nonlinear plot, or the amazing audience connection it developed?

Let’s talk about how Gone Home was yet another Tragic Lesbian story about forbiddden romance, a cliche so overplayed it has a place on The Worst Muse

Or how about we talk about Mighty Jill Off, a game about lesbians, made by a trans woman, and released to critical acclaim? 

Of all the possible comparisons that could be drawn between Gone Home and The Stanley Parable, and all the explanations we could give for the latter receiving less criticism, what is gained by blaming it on the female main character? Who does that empower? What message does that send to a soulless market researcher who is scouring social media to discern what sort of game will sell well? What message does it send to a new indie developer who needs to make a successful game to survive? Hell, what message does it send to a young girl who wants to get into the games’ industry but doesn’t have the upper-middle-class luxury of pursuing an education that won’t necessarily pay off her tuition?

Fuck that noise, is what I’m saying! If you want to help a group, take the angle that will empower them, emphasizing their innate value and what they can achieve, not the angle that will make them feel even more disadvantaged and hopeless. These are the sort of tactics that are used in wartime to make enemies surrender or desert; we should not be using them on people we want to help. We shouldn’t be trusting people who use them.

And actually, a more important question: when people do this stuff, why don’t we view it as misogyny? 

Like… blaming a sexist statement on an external factor doesn’t make it less sexist. A person who pushes the idea that a game with a female protagonist can’t become successful because the game industry is so male-dominated is still pushing the idea that a game with a female protagonist can’t become successful. Blaming it on an external factor doesn’t change that. 

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If anything, it’s reminiscent of biotruths - this idea that something’s not actually bigoted if it’s backed up with “fact”. Only, rather than justifying our statements with biology, we justify them with social observations. When we see a game like Portal get critical acclaim despite having a cast entirely consisting of nonsexualized female characters, we don’t take it as a refutation of the idea that the games industry is horribly biased against female characters. Instead, we try to explain it off as an anomaly - saying that its excellent design made up for its female protagonist, or that it would’ve been even more popular with a male one. We use the exact same rhetoric a flagrant misogynist would use to dismiss people like Marie Curie or Jane Goodall, claiming that their femaleness was a liability they managed to overcome.

And like… why is that okay? What is with this emphasis on femininity being a liability? Why don’t we talk about marketing benefits in making game characters that stand out from the norm? Why don’t we talk about the 47% of the human population so few developers are directly catering toward?  I’ve seen tens of thousands of people reblogging posts griping about how female-centric games get less marketing attention, but I’ve personally never seen anyone talking about these tens of thousands of people here right now who would buy a high-budget game with a female or gay or trans protagonist. 

This isn’t even limited to sexism. Even when we’re not in a group, we talk about all the things racial minorities can’t do because of white people, or all the things sexual minorities can’t do because of straight people, and rather than talking about the things they can do and how it can be used to their advantage, we just leave it at this message of hopelessness. We go to extensive lengths to empower these group’s enemies, but do almost nothing for the people we purportedly care about.

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And tying this back to the earlier parts, is it really just an avoidance of guilt? Do we just want to avoid the knowledge that we could have made things better if we had acted more strategically? Or is there something more malicious? Are there people out there, right now, suppressing groups by empowering their enemies, defending their bigotry as being veritable “sociotruths”? 

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. This is a thing people do. It’s a thing people do in wars. It’s a thing people do in business. It’s even a thing people do when playing games - bombarding their enemies with a feeling of hopelessness until they weaken and give up. We all understand the excitement of making everyone at the table fold when you secretly have a shitty hand. When you leave a game and enter the real world, your enemies don’t suddenly get dumber.

The people who oppose you want you to feel disempowered. They want you to feel hopeless, and outclassed, and like no matter what you do, it won’t matter. They want you to spread a message of disempowerment, and to take offense at the idea that you have strength that you are not using. Most of all, they want you to get fucked over, and you need to know this so you don’t play into their plans. 

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The world is not kind, but it’s okay because you’re awesome. You need to understand that.

If you feel like you are disadvantaged in an endeavor, you can overcome it. It might not be easy, and you might have to get a little strategic about it, but that’s okay, because there are a lot of resources on doing shit like that. Some people start in the hardest starting position, and that’s not fair, but it means that you need to do everything you can to stack the odds in your favor. You need to look past the people who tell you things are hopeless, or encourage you to spread that message of hopelessness, because chances are they have an agenda. Play better than your enemies. Have an underhanded agenda of your own. 

I’m a writer. I write comics about a sad cat. I describe my thoughts and methods in excruciating longwinded detail so you can learn from it. If I do something that works well, you can copy me; if I do something that backfires horribly, you can avoid repeating my mistakes. I will get criticism for being heartless and manipulative and cold and tactical, but I’m okay with that because I don’t want to leave you with a piece of vague advice like “write from your heart and things will work out”. I know that, unless you are a wealthy white cisgendered male with perfect industry connections, that isn’t going to be enough. 

It means you will have to take take blame for your missteps. Understanding the power your actions have means understanding that bad things are partially due to your own actions - or lack thereof - and are not solely a factor of external circumstances. When you get mugged, you’ll think “I could’ve stopped this if I brought my pepper spray”. When your project fails, you’ll think “it would’ve worked if I did things differently”. Sometimes, you’ll accidentally almost kill Tom Siddell. This is normal. Recognize it, because that’s the only way you’ll keep it from happening again.

You are almost never truly helpless, and by proxy you are almost never truly blameless. It’s a worldview not everyone is comfortable with, but one I stand by nonetheless.

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Once when I was younger, I was at a little clinic to get a flu shot. A teenage boy and his father were sitting next to me in the waiting room. The teenage boy was writhing in pain.

We were in that waiting room a very long time before he was called in. A while after he was called in, an ambulance arrived, taking him away on a stretcher to the nearest hospital equipped to perform surgeries. A nurse I asked later said it was a very inflamed appendix. His father was following the stretcher, and looked me in the eyes on the way out.

I don’t know if the boy was okay, but I still think about it sometimes. I knew the signs of appendicitis. I knew how to differentiate it from a stomach ache or regular nausea. I sat in that waiting room for minutes and minutes watching him writhe, his father putting a gentle hand on his back for comfort the boy could barely acknowledge. I never thought to look at the signs, or that it might have been something serious and that I should’ve stood up immediately and gone over to them and said that, yes, this boy needed to get to a proper hospital as soon as possible. I just sat there, watching, and I still remember the look his father gave me as they left.

I feel responsible for whatever happened to him. It’s not a wholly bad feeling though, because it carries with it a certain level of empowerment. I know that if I’m ever in that position again, I’ll know what to do. I’ll know there’s something I can do, and that I’ll be prepared to act. Next time, I won’t miss it. 

And if you are ever there, clutching yourself in agony, you had best hope that there will be someone like me the room. If it’s just a bunch of people who think the problem is out of their control, you’re going to end up in the ground. 

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