By SC 7 Comments
I think their is a certain confidence, necessity, arrogance, liberation, honesty, and humility in being okay with being ones self. Or at least as honest as possible as one can be with ones self. Today with so much going on, so much choice, so much knowledge, resources, information its pretty easy to lie or pretend, or deceive or hide not just from other people, but ones self. Thats okay to some degree though, its called coping. In fact often its nothing conscious. We live in a digital age, we live in a world that loves to move really fast and hang on, I just need to send a tweet to let people know I am writing a blog about sending a tweet. Oh right, how meta, but anyway, we have more outlets to express ourselves and to wider audiences. So it goes both ways. As easy as it is to blend in, or disguise oneself, its as easy to stand out or stick out. Not that there is actually anything about either, just that generally people try to do both about as much as the other or maybe a bit of both, usually we try to stick out with things we are good at, and usually we prefer the safety in numbers or comfort of anonymity when it comes to things we might be able to improve on. Innocent stuff really. The interesting part tends to come with reward, recognition, punishment, acknowledgment, success and failure. Perceptions play a part as well, and where there is perception there is potential for honesty and accuracy, or deception and falsehood.
Arrogance in the implication that if your okay with being you that you might be better than others who aren't you? Possibly if one is being honest with ones self there should be things about ourselves we might want to change? Either realistically? Fitter, smarter, more knowledgeable, more graceful, lighter hair, a tan, washboard abs, clearer skin? Unrealistic things as well, taller, immortal, class 100 strength, healing factors, black sclera and red pupils. Basically things that others have that we don't? So if someone is okay with being themselves... well, doesn't that say something about them? Instead of someone famous? Or rich? Or attractive? Or powerful, or important? Maybe, or maybe not. Might not apply at all.
Confidence? Well a bit of above, maybe being okay with ones self, you identify and acknowledge your differences with others and your similarities and if your different/alike and you like that your different/alike and your okay with that and can accept it, well, well you can be confident. Or if you don't like that different/alike you can try and change that. Hopefully... its actually something you can change though, like knowledge or your hair color, and not something like your height (which actually can be changed in this day and age... its just extremely painful and, one would have to wonder why?) So anyway its like a happy acceptance of the honesty of ones self. Humility in that, possibly being so honest with yourself, it actually means acknowledging that possibly, potentially, now and then, actually you might sort of wish you could be different, even in a really superficial manner let alone deeper ways.
Forgetting all that, what if you woke up tomorrow and could be anyone in the world? With a thought? Or not even anyone specifically, what about just a taller or shorter version of yourself? A female or male version? Older? Younger? More muscular? Leaner? Chubbier, cuter, hotter? More chiseled features? Softer features, green eyes, blue eyes, orange or brown? Longer legs, broader shoulders, rounder butt, larger eyes, more feminine lips, wider chest, softer feet. Thin delicate hands. Tan, paleness, perfect symmetry? Eh your limit is your imagination? All these things you could change at a whims notice? Wouldn't you be a tiny bit curious? Maybe your are perfectly content with who you are, but maybe if your a small european girl you might be curious to see how people would treat you if you were the same size, build and look of someone like Bob Sapp? Tall redheaded guy? Maybe might want to be a medium sized asian teenager? Just for a while. What if your black, living in a place thats racist towards black people? Could be interesting to see first hand how some people might treat you if you were white? Reverse scenario, what if your white and scrawny and love hip hop and curious to see if you could get instant street cred if you were African American and bigger and stronger? Stick figured girl? To being voluptuous? Tall and lanky? Trying to be short and sweet? What if you wanted the prestige and respect that comes from looking old and rich? Did I mention that not only can you change your physical look, but you can change your clothes in a moment as well? As well as your voice.
What if you changed how you looked and other people started treating you better? All types of people, generally, specifically, employees, government, police, opposite gender, same gender, people you liked or were attracted to, people that scared or intimidated, family, friends, enemies. Would it still be so easy to be you? If being someone else could make you richer, more successful, more desirable, more accomplished. Of course those are advantages in a way, short cuts possibly that could be granted with hard work and effort?
Its funny talking about all of this, since online everyone starts off almost as a default as anonymous. You actually get a more than a modicum of control over how you present yourself, not just that but how you just to approach and interact with other people. You almost get to be a digital Mystique. You get to control how to filter yourselves if you choose to, or emphasis or downplay aspects about yourself. You have avatars, backgrounds, you can change, status updates, and people aren't really expecting anything more. Oh, and if your really keen, you can make alt accounts. In fact you don't have to actually put up avatars or backgrounds either. I know many posters who are suspicious of accounts that have the default avatars. Some I know make a reasonable argument that anyone without a selected avatar, background and profile and under 100 posts? Trolls. Eh, interesting argument, but there is definitely truth that with anonymity you can have certain powers and liberties. All this reminds me of lesbian spies, as I am sure it reminds you. My favorite movie about lesbian spies is D.E.B.S. Recommended this to a good friend a few weeks back. It wasn't an especially good movie, but it wasn't an especially bad movie either. I really liked the Lucy Diamond character played by Jordana Brewster. Really funny and endearing, but also pretty badass (I know that term is overused but still) Oh and for a movie about lesbian spies in school girl outfits it was pretty non gratuitous. Now I have been accused of being a lesbian online in the last twelves months more times than I can count but I don't think that gives me any sort of credibility in saying this movie seemed to have a more sincere lesbian relationship than all the other lesbian spy movies I watch. Wait uhm... but the main character in this movie, she had the distinguished honour of having the highest score possible on this special spy test. Oops spoiler alert. Of course no one ever really explains to her how she managed to get the perfect score on the spy test, she wasn't even aware she had taken one. Later on a theme is explored that the main character, she was considered the perfect spy, because she had an amazing ability to deceive people. So great was her ability to deceive people *cue dramatic music* that she was even deceiving who she was as a person (like liking guys as well) and with the help of Lucy Diamond she realized that she actually was a lesbian. Or maybe it was just Lucy Diamond was so hot she turned the other girl into a lesbian? Wait, maybe I am only saying that because I am a lesbian? Except I am not. Then and I am not sure if he was the first to say something along these lines, but Richard Feynman once said "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." oh thats right, Edward Bulwer Lytton I believe said "The easiest person to deceive is one's own self.”
Hey you know who else is a spy? Whilst not strictly lesbian either but bisexual as well? Mystique. Self deception has also played a part in that characters development, particularly in her 2003 series by Brian K. Vaughan in fact a character in that series even paraphrases the above quotes in relation to Mystique and how although she can deceive almost anyone in the world with her powers, the person she has always deceived most is herself. You can make some pretty interesting points about Mystique and the ever increasing online interactions people have with each other, and of course Mystique is the ultimate troll. In Dark X-Men mini she started impersonating Jean Grey essentially because that would piss off the X-Men if they were to hear Jean had been spotted alive only to find out she wasn't. Or in simple terms, she trolled the X-Men. She trolled a South African racist cab driver who thought she was a petite white women, by turning into a Luke Cage look a like when his back was turned. So she's a spy, and a very good spy, but she loves reactions and she can be very vindictive and cruel. She can also use anonymity or at least the perception of it to be those things.
The power of anonymous? Oh wait, not that Anonymous, the internet hacking group. Though I guess in one way they are covering topics brought up. Control, cyberspace, authority, deception, security, liberation, freedom, anonymity, espionage, control of info, data, social interaction, individuality. Just again, its a tool utilized many, for many a purpose. Mystique can do this in person with her power. Online you can achieve this, not only by having to work hard to hide yourself, but almost its your default. In fact you almost have to build yourself up before you even actually start to resemble a person or stand out. In this sense you can actually make yourself a tad bit potentially vulnerable. Not just that but its very wisely recommended that you don't actually put too much of your info online, that can be exploited. Personal details and information, anyway, unsecured. Good advice for multiple reasons. Still, as far as which is more liberating? Getting to be as true as you can to yourself and others (even if online) aka Mystique as her natural blue skinned redheaded self, or as an anonymous that can blend in anyway and look and be anyone with whatever backstory you want, at a moments notice (hard to do in real life) aka Mystique using her shape shifting powers, personally I am not sure.
I think trolling can be complex. I think there are some clever trolls, in that trolling can work like sarcasm? Sarcasm done right can reveal and mock hypocrisy sometimes the best way to cut deep into a politician for example is with sarcastic humour because many are aware that they (politicians) are putting on a show for the voting public and that means you have to be aware that very simple and lazy people are watching them and many smart and intelligent people are also watching them and so they are trying to appeal to a lot of very different people and sometimes that can undermine a persons principles and values.
So trolls can hide under the virtue of being anonymous and or not caring. Online? Even a named avatar that is used with consistency can do certain things? With the knowledge that there aren't any real repercussions, they can be blunt and honest with opinions, and or they can look for attention and reaction. Just because its online and they have the safety of real life. So we can return to our initial questions in a different light. Questions like in real life and online if you can be anyone, at all, who and why would someone want to be themselves? I think maybe its not that unreasonable that many may wish to be a bit taller or shorter, or prettier, or have more muscles, or appear smarter, or appear more popular or appear more creative, or attempt to use and control information to appear more anything, etc - Mystique can do this in real life, but as the sayings go your self is always easiest person to fool, so who do you deceive more, yourself or other people? Why also does Mystique always return to her true blue self? Ultimately doesn't everyone have to choose and confront similar notions? Confidence? Is she just being strong or values her true self as opposed to her anonymous troll lifestyle? Bare in mind she is well over a century old, she can know that a fake life could be better, for her, especially given all the people she could look like. Except Mystique invariably returns to her blue skin - she chooses cold and harsh reality over falseness? Not many people might be able to accurately know what it must feel and think like to be her?
Then again, lets not forget, Mystique is not a hero. Something she insists herself often, and she is a character that has done one of the most shocking, if not down right disturbing actions of a fictional character in the treatment of her son Nightcrawler when he was just a baby. Horrific act. Not sure anyone can justify that, but I do like to look for explanations (bearing in mind she is fictional and so are her actions)
Oh, and of course somewhere in there I try to see how a writer could explain her actions. How could any mother do something so terrible to their own child (I mean their are even biologically reasons why she shouldn't) then, I also consider, I think people can underestimate how powerful, and dangerous Mystiques power can be, not just to others, but to herself. Especially in the context of how old she is and how the world has changed. Think of a simple scenario during World War 2. A location in Germany, Mystique is there out in the open and within a space of a minute she could either look like a small Jewish women, a tall blonde German man, or a blue skinned Austrian mutant? We know from history, just based on her look, the very different treatment she would have based on that. The type of treatment that can make a person, very, very angry, very, very jaded, and very, very cynical.
Bear in mind she could have seen the best of humanity supposedly as well? She can look like kings, countries leaders, movie stars, presidents and fashion models. People tend to treat those people pretty nicely. Its not even really that Mystique needs the money or power, (Again, Mystique's body morphing includes clothing and can be certain items too) since its all about the perception of the money and power. At least it is for a lot of people, therein lying the point? I mean, if you only get to see certain positive things by being a certain look? You realize this and know it first hand, and see it first hand, humanities bias first hand? Like a small innocent example, what if Mystique was a small girl and the local Candy Store owner decided to give her a free lolli pop because she looked sad? Isn't that a kind thing to experience and know? What if she was a boy instead and the store owner shooed him away? Two different experiences, same person? Applies in lots of ways, in one of the images in this blog Mystique is shown morphing from a women in a red dress to a large muscular man.
As a women in a dress she got shoved aside from a military man just casually walking by, she was targeting him, but he spited her hence her turning into a big muscular guy because although she could have beaten him up as Mystique, she wanted him and the group he was with to fear what she was about to do with them, to be intimidated and scared and the fastest way to do that was for to realize they were physically outmatched. As opposed to just us the reader realizing that Mystique as her natural feminine self physically outmatches them anyway via training, skill, speed, her mutant powers, so on, but of course a few scenes later, she is back to her red dress and long legs, and black hair and helping the man she just finished beating up and now that she is nursing him, he suddenly starts treating her a bit nicer but only because now he wants to do something else with and to her. (Mystique needed access to his hide out) So Mystique invoked three very different reactions from one person. First he physically bullied her, then he was physically bullied by her, then he wanted to have sex with her. Ranging from respect to disrespect, ranging from perceptions of domination (towards her) physically and sexually to being dominated (by her) physically and then there are Mystiques perceptions and understanding as well? Like her wanting to realize they were about to be beat up, she could have beat them up as the hot seductress women in a red dress - but she wanted them to see the large, muscular man, because to her, that is what they would fear, that raw physical visual... she can be a pretty vindictive character.
Another sort of interesting plot of her story was when someone she was close to and knew her fairly well (relatively speaking) Forge, there was this powerful poignant moment between Forge and Mystique where in the midst of a verbal battle, he was able to refute her claims about hoe she was proud of who she was, by simply holding up a small handheld mirror and noting that she turned away. They were lovers once, he might be one of the few characters that knows her well, and in all his time of knowing her, he discerned that she shied away from seeing her own reflection. Mystique was not okay with being her true self? Why could she only look at her reflection under the guise of someone else, someone not real, and not her own real and true reflection?
It doesn't help painting her in a sympathetic light, that Mystique hates humans, and is very bigoted in this sense. She isn't exactly ignorant, or unintelligent, but she probably has reached her level of knowledge though sheer old age, and a persons personality traits and attitudes tend to be set by quite an early age, especially if they close their mind to more learning. Education system was very different 50 years ago let alone over 100 years ago. Human perceptions, social issues and sciences, all different, in those different time periods, her youth and modern setting, as a youth she might have just wished to indulge in baser human desires thus shaping her perspectives very early on, sort of developing a confirmation bias with later experiences? Humans are sort of like that anyway? Racists will have a few experiences that will make them racist and from then on, anything that will support their racism, like a black person killing a local white cop, to the racist will obviously be an example that supports why he is right? Except a week later a story about a black man saving children from a fire, gets automatically downplayed or even outright ignored, or met with suspicion. This happened a few time in her book, when a human was willing to die to save a mutant and Mystique treated them with cynicism and skepticism. Then again she did risk her live at many various points to save not just defenseless mutant children, but a few million humans too. Then again she also killed a few mutants and contemplated killing a mutant boy as an act of mercy. Not his fault she reasoned, just that he would be better of dead? Her actions be complex and viewed as hypocrisy but to her it all makes sense. Maybe to someone like her, her age, her power, her experiences it would make sense. Maybe her actions towards her own son were both sincerely that of self preservation but also of sincere mercy? He did look like a demon, even more demonic than Mystique and she has been called and treated as one time to time. Its very easy to even draw parallels between her and the Goddess Kali. In fact artists often do with various artworks and there seem to be many design elements crossed over.
By the end of her 24 issue run Mystique had developed as a character and found some resolution and growth. In the narrative sense. I don't want to spoil to much since it was a really cool series but not only was Mystique more than content with just being herself in the end, but she could also look at herself in the mirror. I am sure there is a certain allure, and appeal, and feeling of liberation of being able to pretend to be anyone you want to be, to hide as anonymous, and an invulnerability with sharing your sincere opinions without repercussions, but I can't imagine it feels better, more liberating, more life affirming than just getting to be yourself and getting to have your own voice and opinions attributed to yourself. Even if your blue skinned, or just online sharing random thoughts and ideas and putting a bit of yourself in each one. Thank you to anyone bored enough to read all this and all the cool people around this site who like to put themselves out there with their opinions and ideas. Oh and ones that help me think about comics in interesting ways.