Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Return of the Jedi

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Post By
Omar Karindu

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 4,242
In Reply To
Nitz the Bloody

Subj: On Doom....
Posted: Sat May 16, 2009 at 11:50:47 am EDT (Viewed 81 times)
Reply Subj: Nostalgia's Limits
Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 at 01:32:54 am EDT (Viewed 207 times)

    -- Dr. Doom has a functional reproductive system under his metal suit, has shown interest in the opposite sex with Valeria*, and it is not a stretch to believe that he would have urges and try to fulfil them.

True, but I think what we're losing with Doom has been the more interesting idea that he's got a fairly severe self-constructed persona, one in which his "normal" human urges have been suppressed or sublimated into the person of the untouchable and inhuman Doctor Doom.

Instead, more recent stories want to make him a) a fairly generic psychopath and b) an analogue for real-world, modern-day dictators. He really doesn't work as either, in the end -- he's monarch of a fantasy kingdom with his own castle, a character deliberately drawn from 19th century fiction's various Ruritanias. The basic visual style and plot trappings of the character seems to me to render absurd the pseudo-political Doom, the one who's apparently intended as some kind of vague commentary on the idea of an anti-American dictator for whom morality doesn't exist.

Doom is, when written appropriately, scarier than that: he's proof that an ostensibly rigid moral code can ultimately be an excuse for mere psychopathy and megalomania even when it's adhered to stringently. That is, he's capable of structured behavior and the adoption of a code of conduct without any of the moral reasoning that animates such things.

Rather than the dictator who relishes the petty abuses and personal pleasures bought by his power, think of Doom as the scarier, subtler threat. Not a psychopath incapable of existing in a society, but rather a sociopath capable of turning the mechanisms and codes of society into a mechanism for gaining power, esteem, and privilege at the cost of other human beings and eventually the system itself.

Think, for instance, of Adolf Hitler, still an emblem of absolute human evil: a strict vegetarian, rigidly anti-smoking, capable of strict monogamy with Eva Braun, and a fanatic running a genocide machine in the name of an insane but likewise very structured regime of genocide, hatred, and conquest.

Think of the masterminds of Islamic extremism, like Osama bin Laden, people who have built their lives around laws and rules -- no eating of pork, no alcohol, a polygamous mode of sexual continence, etc. -- and yet can casually murder thousands of civilians for their holy wars.

These aren't the sorts of people who fantasize about chaining women to a throne like Jabba the Hutt. These are the sorts of people who can tell themselves that directing death camps and suicide attacks are good and right things to do because they don't want to chain women to the throne, because they don't rape, because they still the stirrings of carnal desire or minor temptations -- human urges -- in themselves. Those human urges instead find their outlet in monstrous wickedness, in hatred, and in the running of the killing machine, the conquering army, the genocidal society.

Indeed, one of the classic signs of sociopathy and psychopathy is an inability to find gratification in sexual and other fantasies; this is why they try to turn the world into a set of disposable fantasy objects. Sociopaths simply have more structured, specific fantasies; psychopaths have almost no structure to those fantasies, and tend to become random serial killers or disorganized criminals rather than socially successful and politically powerful monsters.

Doom, I think, is never more frightening than when he's the sort of man who wouldn't make his foes into rape victims but because of that thinks himself perfectly right in simply and casually murdering them for his own ends. Doom isn't scary because he has no limits; he's scary because he thinks hewing to certain arbitrary and ultimately meaningless self-imposed limits justifies the awful and horrible things he does.

He's created a delusional self-image, that of Victor von Doom, the great monarch, the most brilliant intellect on the planet, the master of self-control, a master of himself first and therefore the master of all other things. He is capable of infinite cruelty and violence in part because he claims to have chosen certain forms of cruelty and violence over others, a man endlessly making small and inconsequential "moral" compromises with himself in order to justify himself.

Remember, at bottom Doom's motivations have always really been about insecurity: he can't tolerate the idea that Reed might be smarter, he can't handle the notion that his mother's deal with the devil had the usual consequences, and he rejects the notion that he needs to suborn himself to the codes and morals of the rest of the world when he could invent his own and prove them right by staying true to them and still winning. He needs to work within his rigid self-delusion in order to prove to himself, first and foremost, that he's...well, Doctor Doom, Rightful Master of the World.

Because somewhere, he's insanely frightened of the idea that he might have human weaknesses of failings, that he might be little more than a bright Romany boy who met an American scientist who's a bit brighter, or that, worst of all, that his life has been not only a pointless waste but a complete and utter failure on every single level. To make someone a sex slave would be to admit that he wants sex, that he should've simply hooked up with Valeria and forgotten his mad ambitions, maybe even become a kind of second-rate Reed Richards.

And that idea, any hint of that idea, should be intolerable to Doctor Doom...and Doom smart enough to notice when he's headed in that direction.

- Omar Karindu
"For your information, I don't have an ego. My Facebook photo is a landscape."
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