Friday, June 12, 2015

The Social Tabuu

In the course of life of every human being, there comes a time, usually in the mid teen years, when they begin to feel the disapproving eyes of society resting upon them. A pressure arises—the pressure to give up the spirit of imagination and be fully assimilated into the real world. It feels as if they have the moral obligation to grow up, to stop wasting their time on frivolous creative activities and to set their sights on something useful: a career, a family, putting to rest their fantasies for the good of society.

Nowhere can this be felt as much as in the realm of video games, the constant target of society’s optical derision. One game, though, takes up the challenge and fights back. This game is Super Smash Bros Brawl, in which many characters from all over the various Nintendo game titles come together and duke it out. In this game, there is a hidden, symbolic lore which has been speculated about since the game’s release in 2008. When loading up the game, as well as the two preceding installments of the franchise, it appears that the playable characters are toys, and that the child who owns the toys is bringing them to life with his imagination. After several minutes of battling each other, the toy characters must battle Master Hand and Crazy Hand, the hands of the child. These hands represent the creative and destructive forces of imagination.

Brawl adds another page to the mystery with a story-driven campaign called the Subspace Emissary. In it, a mysterious dark force from outside the realm of imagination invades and seeks to turn all the characters into trophies, static and motionless, never to be touched again. This represents the disapproving gaze of society on those who are old enough to be considered responsible, yet still play video games. At first, the mysterious force appears to be led by Master Hand, but it is eventually revealed that Master Hand is confined by puppet strings, held by an imposing, cross-armed, adult-shaped figure called Tabuu. The creative force of imagination Master Hand rebels against Tabuu, but is struck down almost immediately, and it is left up to the players to keep Tabuu from turning everyone into trophies, to fight the digital personification of the societal pressure to give up imagination. The ensuing boss battle is much harder than anything that has been thrown at the players so far; Tabuu is relentless, and can often knock the player out with a single strike, reflecting how heavy the pressure to conform can feel to the player. Defeating Tabuu is tantamount to taking a power stance and stating firmly to the specter wearing the guise of society, “I reject your stigmas, your prejudice, and your arrogance. I choose to live my life as myself, not as you would have me be.”

Although Tabuu specifically represents the stigma against video games, the principle applies to all forms of creativity—stories, especially fantasy, being the most relevant to me. I have personally felt this pressure many times. When I was working with a team of groundskeepers at a campground, my boss would ridicule us for talking about movies. In college once, when the physics department was socializing, I brought up the fact that I was using the knowledge I gained for the creative purpose of science fiction. One of the professors suggested I focus instead on science fact. The pressure is real, and can be difficult to stand beneath.

Of course, it is important for us to sacrifice a part of our energy to support society, which in turn supports us. This may plant a seed of doubt, causing us to wonder if perhaps society is right. Am I really wasting my life away? Is fantasy really just frivolous and useless? The answer is, like any question of value, a little more complicated than just yes or no. If you sit down to watch a few hours of TV in the evening, then you are certainly not getting the house clean, or reading papers for your research, or anything else that it is generally agreed upon is productive. But on the other hand, as I’ve said in a previous discussion, fiction explores the realm of the hypothetical, and it challenges us to think in new ways that we may not have come to on our own. Because of this, a healthy dose of fiction will help us function better when interacting with people, solving problems, and even doing practical work. In light of these benefits of fiction, if fiction is where you find most of the purpose and meaning in your life, like I do in mine, then it is ultimately counterproductive for society to attempt to enforce the Tabuu upon you. Though it may seem strange to those who do not feel its draw, imagination is an essential driving force for the success, progress, and happiness of both the individual and the human race.

Special thanks to YouTubers MatPat and Conner the Waffle for presenting this interpretation of the Super Smash Bros lore.

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