Sunday, December 6, 2015

Subversive Heroism

Progress continues.

Not that I will be discussing it, of course. Instead I'm going to talk about a cartoon series that ran initially from 1983 to 1985.

I was a fan, at the time for all of the stupidest reasons- as befit my age.

The series covered the misadventures of an abomination of science, a malfunctioning cyborg with the IQ and self-awareness of a toddler. They were supposedly the hero, despite only ever accomplishing anything on their own through the sheerest chance.

Pitted against it was an organized terrorist organization lead by a criminal mastermind with the good sense to distance them so far from their crimes that not even the fans knew what they looked like.

Were it not for plot necessity and the intervention of two additional players, only the worst of outcomes could be expected, and that brings us to the true heroes of the series. A small girl genius and an improbably loyal dog genius.

The smartest characters in the entire series.
The team of Penny and Brain were responsible for nigh every case's successful resolution and while they tended to fall short of stopping the Nefarious Dr. Claw for good, still kept him and M.A.D. in check.

Penny often took great pains to ensure that her Uncle Gadget received credit for her and Brain's work. This was accepted without question. Presumably because it would have devastated Inspector Gadget to realize the truth, that he owed all of his success to his underage niece and dog, the latter whom he could not so much as recognize as a dog if Brain wore so much as a fake mustache.

Of course, it is more accurate to realize that Penny simply put her Uncle to very good use as she did what was necessary to thwart M.A.D.. Inspector Gadget was the bumbling, loud, noise-making useful idiot who drew the attention of the nefarious while the Competents- Penny and Brain- actually got things done.

Letting him have the official credit is, if anything, a bargain for the amount of threat his bungling diverted. It no doubt helps she probably did care about her Uncle. Indeed, why not let him have the acclaim for the risk he put himself at?

Perhaps more importantly, in a practical world had her role in affairs become public- she would likely soon become unable to participate in resolving future threats. Either simply for being underage- adults would reasonably wish to spare a child from danger, or because thus clearly identified they would have been much more directly targeted by M.A.D.

In this, they- whatever the writers intended- exemplify not just quite the strong female role model (predating what is probably the next most competent female role model in the fiction of the age- Samus of Metroid fame.) but also what a true (benevolent) genius would do. Getting what needs to be done, without desire for vainglorious celebration of their talents and courage. Not because those are terribly corruptive elements- which they are- but because such puts them in a great deal of danger by revealing them to their enemy.

After plot armor, secrecy and misinformation really is the best armor. At least until we develop something better. Complex remote-control operations are close to being a new second-best, though they do seem to breed a certain carelessness in practice...

But I digress.

Remember the heroic genius of Penny Gadget!

Mr. Gadget could have been much more disastrous in another profession indeed.

Progress continues.

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