do you think Mabel and Dipper fit the messiah/machiavel trope? cuz I do, and it makes me cry
Okay, I’ve never heard of this trope before so I had to do a bit of research. What I’ve gathered is that the trope is a type of teamwork, usually in the political sense: the shining charismatic leader and the vicious, cunning enforcer who supports the leader and/or their cause. The Messiah is the light and the Machieval is the shadow behind that light. The Messiah usually adheres to morality (like Jesus whom the term originates from); the Machieval favors expediency over morality (like Machiavelli whom the term originates from). Which all does sound like the kind of dynamic Dipper and Mabel have. Outside of the dynamic, I’d even say the individual titles, Machieval and Messiah, fit their characters too.
The Messiah in a narrative context is usually “the visionary, the leader, the savior, the person who may be literally god touched, or just god touched in the sense of the charisma, depth, and power of their vision or capacity to lead/embody that movement.”
Mabel is a natural born leader, there’s no doubt. Its easy for her to reach out and connect with others on an emotional level, and even inspire others to change for the better. She’s incredibly charismatic and charming, and her power even at 12 years old is enough to attract the attention of Gravity Falls’ villains, the gnomes and Gideon, who are insistent on making her their Queen. Seemingly effortlessly she can inspire others to help make her visions (trying out her idealistic version of management running the Mystery Shack, creating and constructing an entire sock opera in a week, etc.) a reality. All qualities of a good leader.
But a Messiah is more than a leader; they’re a savior. Mabel is also capable of seeing the good in others and offering forgiveness even if there’s no real evidence of this being true. She deems Pacifica and Robbie worthy of redemption. In NWHS she looks into Stan’s eyes, the windows to his soul, and judges him to be a good person worthy of being trusted and forgiven, despite all the bad things he’s done. After hearing Ford’s story in AToTS, Mabel basically instantly forgives the man and starts seeing him as another Grunkle she loves dearly, and wants nothing more than for Stan and Ford to forgive each other as she has forgiven them. When Dipper wants to rush into adulthood and becomes blinded by the supernatural, Mabel keeps him a child and reminds him of what’s truly important.
And like a Messiah, Mabel strives to be a good person. Yes, she’s flawed because she’s human. She can be aggressive and self-centered and impulsive. She can be blinded by her infatuations. She avoids emotional confrontation and would prefer to live in optimistic denial when she’s scared and life gets hard. But Mabel wants and tries to be a good, kind person. She goes out of her way to compliment others or brighten their days. She tries to do the right thing in any given situation, often playing morality police to Stan and Dipper. And when she’s wrong, she usually acknowledges that and apologizes. Mabel truly genuinely cares about other people and doing the right thing, and that’s more than most people can say.
Symbolically, Mabel takes on a Messiah-esque pose when she lets go of the button and essentially allows the universe to decide her, and everyone else’s, fates. In Weirdmaggadon she is literally seen as an icon of hope, inspiration, and guidance for Dipper and Gideon, and possibly Wendy and Soos as well. Her being alive and representing doing good, striving to be a good person despite her flaws, and having the ability to defeat Bill on her own (who is basically the “Devil” in this story) is what motivates them all to help find her and save her during the apocalypse and thus save the universe. So, yes, I think we can all agree that Mabel fits the Messiah trope quite well.
The Machiavel is a “term given to people who function in pragmatic, vicious, cunning ways. This is the person who holds the knife to the throat or the guns under the table. The one who blackmails, bribes, and does all the things that should never have to be done but must be done for the things they love.”
Dipper is not at all afraid to get his hands dirty to get what he wants and usually won’t hesitate to do what (he feels) must be done in a situation, even if that’s an immoral action. He’s a guile hero, ambitious, relying mostly on his wits, cunning and pragmatic with a grayscale sense of justice, all qualities that are very Machiavellian in nature. There are many, many examples of Dipper favoring expediency over morality shown in canon.
Like in Fight Fighters (lying and cheating to win a fight), Boss Mabel (ripping people off for money), The Golf War (cheating and sabotaging his sister’s competitor by manipulating others into doing what he wants) Sock Opera (making a literal deal with a demon to get what he wants), Society of the Blind Eye (using a memory erasing gun to erase the society member’s memories to prevent them from erasing anyone in town’s memories again, essentially committing the action he’s condemning the society for), A Tale of Two Stans (coming up with the idea to use the same gun on gov agents despite knowing the potential consequences the memory erasure could have on the agents’ sanities), the Stanchurian Candidate (mind-controlling his great uncle for political reasons, an action that’s literally compared to that of a villain in the show), etc.
In Headhunters, Mabel remarks that Dipper is her sidekick, and this is sort of true. Dipper usually plays more of the supporter/enforcer role than the visionary like Mabel, which is an interesting perspective for a main protagonist and narrator of a story to have. Mabel generally has the ideas, and Dipper generally helps make them happen. He’s usually the one that constructs a plan to make sure Mabel’s idea is a success in situations where they work together like that. He’s strategizing and cheering her on behind-the-scenes when she’s up front in the spotlight working her magic. And he’s planning to tear down anyone who gets in their way. The episode I believe that embodies this dynamic best is Golf War.
Mabel wants to beat Pacifica at golf. Dipper supports Mabel and her goal. He decides manipulating the lilliputtins and cheating is the best course of action for Mabel to win the match. Mabel disagrees at first, trying to play morality police to Dipper, pointing out cheating is wrong, but Dipper convinces her to trust him against her better judgment. They go through with his plan. It backfires. Mabel says that rivalries are stupid and offers Pacifica friendship, and so forgiveness. Dipper does not apologize to anyone, nor acknowledges that what he did was wrong. Throughout this whole episode, you have Mabel as the leader, the public figure, the one playing the match, and later the savior as she deems Pacifica worthy of forgiveness, and Dipper as the enforcer, the planner, the one standing off to the side, the one ensuring Mabel wins and doing whatever he feels is necessary to achieve that. The Messiah and the Machiavel.
And in fact, their physical positions on the castle emphasize this dynamic as well. Mabel is in the center like the King (or Queen), addressing the lilliputtins after being told Dipper’s plan, and Dipper is standing a little behind and beside her, closer to where the knight’s stationed (even borrowing the knight’s trumpet to garner everyone’s attention to Mabel).
Dipper and Mabel balance each other out, which I’m not sure is something that plays into the Messiah/Machiavel trope exactly, but is a large part of the twins’ dynamic. Mabel lets Dipper know when he’s taking things too far, and Dipper lets Mabel know when niceness isn’t gonna cut it, when someone doesn’t deserve her kindness. That’s not to say that the two are flat out opposites, however. The Messiah, like I said earlier, is still human. They have moments of selfishness and cruelty as Mabel does. And likewise, the Machiavel has moments of selflessness and kindness as Dipper does. Neither is one extreme or the other. Mabel may have a bigger heart than Dipper, but that doesn’t mean Dipper doesn’t have a heart at all. He does. He’s just more cynical and pragmatic (and arguably angrier) than Mabel is.
Nor is it true that Mabel is always in the light and Dipper is always in the shadows. Generally you see them more in this way, but Mabel is capable of stepping back and happily supporting Dipper when he has an idea too or wants to take the lead, which is part of what makes them a good team. Mabel isn’t as ruthless as Dipper and Dipper isn’t as big-hearted as Mabel, so they can’t take on each other’s tropes in a reverse dynamic where Dipper is the leader and Mabel the supporter. But they’re both human, and they both try to help each other make the best choices.
So, yeah, I guess Mabel and Dipper fit the Messiah/Machiavel trope for the most part. This wicked fanart from Boss Mabel really shows that kind of dynamic between them too, with Mabel in the boss chair (the throne of sorts) and Dipper standing a little behind and beside her again like a bodyguard or second in command, whispering in her ear.