Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On Skeletor Affirmations and Supervillain Psychology

If you and I are 'friends' on facebook, you may have seen me sharing images from "Skeletor is Love," now active for roughly one year. It's been buzzfed, and blogged, and anthologized, and fed through, and yet I still find it worth following.

In part, it is because the figure of Skeletor provides an ironic, tongue-in-cheek vehicle for straightforwardly earnest and possibly corny statements. I can feel safe that my social-media-hologram will not be negatively affected by sharing it, because the text is adjoining Skeletor, rather than a picture of a skinny white woman doing yoga on a beach. Of course, I also appreciate being gently uplifting, knowing that for all our snark, of the dozens of people who might see my post, one of them might really need it. It's a challenge to be positive and helpful without resorting to smarm. (This is one of the reasons that for all my wariness of TED-talk-types, I refrain from throwing Jane McGonigal under the bus.)

That's all well and good, but why Skeletor? Why not He-Man (or She-Ra) affirmations? I think this has something to do with the figure of the villain in an episodic cartoon format, and how that relates to positive thinking.

With all due respect to He-Man, his mental health landscape is pretty trivial: he protects the status quo, wields a lot of privilege, and gets to win all the time. I can't relate to that. Skeletor, on the other hand, has to deal with repeated setbacks and the mental weight of a continual string of failures. The mental fortitude required to persevere is considerable, and indeed far superior to that of heroes. When a hero falls short, it often provokes an episode-long bout of soul-searching, remedied by a victory before long. Cartoon villains face no such promise of a return to success. Yet they continue trying, week in, week out, for as long as the program runs, and infinitely in syndication.

When considered from this perspective, Skeletor exists in a state of absurdity similar to that discussed by Albert Camus in his essay on the Myth of Sisyphus. The author spells it out enough in their description:
Skeletor is experiencing the profound emptiness and isolation of human existence. Follow his journey to positive mental health through daily affirmation.
Skeletor, like Sisyphus has little chance of success, but he keeps on, finding struggle enough to fill his heart. Unlike the greek king, though, Skeletor can share his feelings, and it is to our benefit. Modern adulthood is filled with existential doubt, emptiness, worries about purpose or drive or having a point to it all. We appreciate Skeletor's struggles because they are ours, too, and that makes all the difference.

1 comment:

The Redhead said...

This reminds me of a guy I saw who had a full sleeve of the GIJoe villains. When we asked him why all villains and no Joes, he said he admires their spirit because they lost every time yet never stopped trying.