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Character Development 3: The Joker as a Third Way Villain

Actor Anthony Perkins (1932-1992) as Norman Bates in Hitchcock's Psycho(1960). Image Source: IMDB.
Modern stories conflate villainy with mental illness because psychiatrists and psychologists have replaced the clergy as society's listening post. Psychological development has supplanted religious faith. This modern rationalization of mental experiences outside the ordinary has provided solutions where organized religions have fallen short.

Old Diagnoses, New Diagnoses

But for each modern answer, an older insight was lost and returned back to the realm of mystery. There is a price for each gain made, paid through some renewed blindness. For the extreme mental illness of psychopathy, a modern mental health professional would use the Hare Psychopathy Checklist as follows:
Do you sense you are someone extremely important?Would you say you need constant stimulation?Do you find pleasure in manipulating people?Would you lie in order to get your own way?Do you never say sorry?Are you know…

Who Writes Your Reality?


When the unexpected comes for you, you begin to write your own story. Image Source: Steve Winter / National Geographic via IFLScience.

At Histories of Things to Come, I am currently discussing materialism and anti-materialism as two competing attitudes towards the Technological Revolution.

The Secret Religion inside Rationalist and Secularist Materialism

A related question explores the blind spots of the materialist perspective, particularly the scientific exploration, and technological construction, of reality. How much of history is a constructed narrative? How much of science is the same? I suggest that memory, knowledge, objectivity and progress are just bedtime stories we tell ourselves, and as such, they obscure new forms of religious worship which are evolving inside secular environments.

It is unconscious belief labeled as rationalism, not actual rationality, which allows us to push the envelope. This belief spurs innovation, underpinned by barbarism. We will proceed with the most terrible actions if they are considered warranted, sanctioned, and supported by the research. We could be like the Mayans, sacrificing people on the tops of pyramids, but never see it because we have bullet trains and Apple Watches.

It is easy to confuse advanced tools with advancement and to imagine that they help us control, rather than promote, chaos. You can influence, but cannot control, reality with these tools. You can only build a reality by controlling belief. But what is this belief, masquerading as rational thought and secularist materialism?

Image Source: Wiki.

Genre Narratives in Rationalist Materialism:
Permitted Order, Permitted Chaos

The video below about genre theory describes how social narratives can be constructed and fabricated about progress, civilization, order, and knowledge. Personal realities are typically built upon variables from heredity, environment (such as family and education), and situation (events which befall us in our lives). We draw from these variables to conform to sub-genres of identity, relationships, jobs and professions. Social and economic survival is equated with conformity to the tropes and beats of these sub-genres.

In the Mouth of Madness: Who Writes Reality? (25 February 2019). Video Source: Youtube.

This is how reality is scripted for us by those in authority: parents, educators, employers, politicians, marketers, intelligence researchers, mass media outlets, and entertainment people. An escape from their constructed realities asks us to operate beyond their "blueprint for thinking and acting."

Even staunch non-conformists struggle with the problem of free will in this system. It is for this reason that cyberanarchists work now to reinvent money, the most powerful incentive for social conditioning and control. The greatest behavioural challenge is to learn how to be free, to be able to act inside one's blind spot, inside a mystery, beyond a scripted reality or the accepted narrative of a genre. For most people, the notion of awakening one's inner sleepwalker inspires a wave of mental warnings and deeply ingrained fear.

And pleasure. Drugs, sex and crime offer releases from set paths. But their narratives are non-linear and cater to unconscious urges, without necessarily offering resolution or real independence. Contrary to Carl Jung's assumption that entertaining these shadowy impulses would lead to greater mental health, these indulgences lead straight back to a entrenched acceptance of scripted realities. The relief they provide can also give rise to addictions, meaning that a temporary excursion away from a safe narrative can lead to becoming permanently lost inside the unconscious. Jung called this entrapment, 'madness.'

In other blog posts (here), I discussed how the 2002 documentary, The Century of the Self, revealed that there was an attempt in social engineering after the Second World War to harness small madnesses and low grade chaos in the service of a larger order. Freudian and Jungian petty vices were increasingly permitted. Paradoxically, the main aim was to let society's pressure cooker constantly release steam in order to achieve more social control.

What had once been forbidden as 'sin' was now promoted through marketing, mass entertainment, popularized drug use, and pornography. The result was a more compliant global class of citizen, who overtly accepted conformist genres of order through family, society, the economy, and politics. To be sure, these mainstream genres were altered and politicized, with some roles changed to keep up with the times; but their evolution has been largely illusory. And the flip side of the equation - the fact that you could, for example, fly at the drop of a hat to Toronto to snort cocaine off a prostitute's stomach - concealed the fact that anyone who did so still had no more freedom to think or feel than the average medieval peasant.

These materialist liberties are pretty limited and boring, and so inevitably there had to be a larger window to contemplate what one believes beyond the tangible, the logical, and the rational.

The main way to do this is to be entertained by stories which give us permission to think about freedom. Thrillers, mystery and horror are genres concerned with areas beyond the boundaries of other genres. They provide structured means of exploration off the beaten path. They confront madness in safer circumstances and they light the road back home again. This was why Stephen King called horror a moral genre; it concerns sin as well as moral recovery.

Films in these genres often start with references to other genres. A horror film will often start with a family genre, as with a family vacation in the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes. The course of a normative genre is then derailed by a single event or word, uttered by a character. Typical examples include the scene in the 2007 film, 30 Days of Night, in which the hero's first word is, "Strange." In the 2004 London-based nightmare, Creep, the heroine heads home from an after-party and misses the last Tube train. In the 2010 Korean horror film, I Saw the Devil, a female character's car gets a flat tire. In each case, the catalyst involves something unexpected, for which the character is not prepared. The event lies outside their skill set and expectations.

I Saw the Devil - Flat Tire (First Scene) (29 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use.

I described the catalyst moment and departure off the beaten path in my blog post, Millennial Mysteries: Bizarre Twists, the Lost, the Missing. That post included a letter from one of my readers, who experienced a catalyst moment in his life. Another post, The Phases of Disaster Recovery, presented a real life example as collectively experienced by the public during the disappearance of flight MH370.

Nevertheless, horror and mystery are still genres in a larger framework of well-worn stories. And the miserable post-World-War-II bid to reconcile contradictions in, and dictatorship of, the bicameral brain, has given rise to a new religion of the Self which supports less freedom in the name of more freedom. Where previous religions encouraged iron-clad divisions between good and evil, the post-war order merged the two. In the new creed, materialists worship horror and mystery, defended by anti-heroes with feet of clay, who are clad in shades of grey. Materialists also began to worship their own private smaller demons (and angels), and to mistake that belief as a rational path to personal self-liberation. This is the cultishness which has grown beneath the surface of materialist and secularist reality. It can be labeled as Satanism or Luciferianism, but it is ironically far more mundane that that, no more than a scrappy homage to the demands of over-indulged egos.

Write Your Own Story

We will only depart off the path of narrated conformity if we are forced to do so. Typical triggers in such cases are divorces, the death of a loved one, an illness, a job loss. These events force us to see matters beyond scripted realities and to use our weaker muscles and sleeping internal resources to survive. Only then do we begin to write our own stories and even then, there are genre narratives in effect which frame our responses.

The symbol of the tunnel, described in my blog post here, refers to the terrible feeling of being driven through a set of events which function like a rodeo chute, a corridor which forces an animal into position and pushes it forward into an arena, where it must perform.

It is difficult to imagine the alternatives to the materialist worship of the Self. An artist I know, -C., has been creating images of reality behind genre scripts. He wants to show what exists in our lives after our narratives are ripped away or destroyed. In the end, survival in the rationalist and materialist world will require that one must be able to operate in the unknown territory beyond rationalism and materialism, and beyond the conventions of sin, mystery and horror. Kick away these crutches, and you confront an anti-rationalism and an anti-materialism, which are no longer synonymous with madness and religion.


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