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A DISNEY VILLAIN FOR OUR TIME
Jan 26th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

The total-control regime in Washington DC, and its egomaniacal central figure, are existentially frightening in their threat to every aspect of the American Republic and its people (and, by extension, all the peoples of the globe).

I’ve been thinking of how to portray this character in the context of the great villains of fiction and lore.

I’ve compared certain past politicians to everyone from Lord Farquahr in the original Shrek to a one-shot Get Smart! villain, Simon the Likeable.

This past summer, I began to call the then GOP presidential nominee “He Who Cannot Be Named” (from Harry Potter). But that became cumbersome.

So I went in search of the perfect pre-existing fictionalization for this man-child, a figure with an insatiable lust for attention and a craving to cause suffering just to maniacally laugh at his victims.

A villain this insanely sure of his own omnipotence would never show panic, so that leaves out the Master from Doctor Who.

The pantheon of Disney villains (even if you only count the studio’s “core universe” of animated features and shorts) is vast. But even these characters usually have a relatable core motivation for their various crimes (greed, power, vanity, revenge, even fashion). They largely don’t encompass the pure “evil just for the sake of ego” that I’m talking about here.

With one recent exception.

It’s a character described in a fan-written “wiki” as: “Insane, twisted, crass, mischievous, deceptive, manipulative, sly, vague, witty, lively, whimsical, hammy, confident, spiteful, temperamental, choleric, evil, chaotic, greedy, sadomasochistic.”

The character’s “likes,” as described on the same web page, include: “Chaos, the suffering of others, destroying things, partying, manipulation.”

bill cipher

I’m talking about Bill Cipher.

He’s the main antagonist on Gravity Falls, a Disney Channel cartoon show that ended last February, after airing 41 half-hours over three and a half years (the last two as a one-hour finale).

The show’s set in Central Oregon, in one of those fictional towns where assorted weird things show up every day. In various episodes, the show’s brother-and-sister heroes encounter such anomalies as gnomes, unicorns, ghosts, zombies, dinosaurs, a crashed UFO, and video-game characters come to life.

And, like several other sagas of its type (Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Lost, et al.), there’s a “meta-mystery” on Gravity Falls.

It involves Bill, who’s initially introduced as a “dream demon” from another dimension. He sees all, knows all, and can invade people’s minds, especially as they sleep.

Bill can take any visual form, but his default appearance is as a triangle with a single eye near its center. But even though he resembles the “eye in the pyramid” on the $1 bill, Bill’s motive is not material wealth.

Rather, he wants to “cross over” from the “nightmare realm” and become a physical presence in our world—not to merely rule it but to destroy it, just for kicks.

Bill Cipher’s depicted as both a homicidal maniac and as a brilliant schemer; a good of chaos and and a master manipulator.

In the series’ climactic story arc, Bill successfully cons two characters and obtains the materials to make a “dimensional rift” between his world and ours. He summons a hooligan gang of monsters to ransack the town, turn people into statues, and otherwise spread “weirdness” (pure destructive chaos).

From there, he aims to expand the “weirdness” across the Earth: “Anything will be possible! I’ll remake a fun world, a better world! A party that never ends with a host that never dies. No more restrictions, no more laws!” As he says this, the screen shows images of a giant-sized Bill in a potential future, etching a “smiley face” on the North American continent (destroying whole cities in the process), then taking a bite out of the Earth as if it were an apple.

I believe this sadistic madness, not any mere material avarice, is the type of villainy that fits our age.

You can hear Bill Cipher’s sneering laugh among goons who laugh too hard at their own racist/sexist “jokes.”

You can see his smug taunting among the online “trolls” who belittle and insult everyone deemed different from them.

You can hear Bill’s line about how “there’s no room for heroes in MY world” echoed in the voices of conservatives who want the rest of us to shut up and fall into line.

You can sense Bill’s lust for destruction among certain “religious right” figures who not only oppose all efforts to save the environment, but who sometimes vocally wish for the “End Times” of Fundamentalist prophecy.

To prevent Bill from spreading his “weirdness” to the rest of the Earth, the surviving townspeople have to hold hands in a rite that will send Bill away. They include characters that had been mortal enemies in previous episodes, but who now must work together against a common foe.

It doesn’t work at first, because two of them refuse to cooperate with one another. In the final episode (titled “Take Back the Falls”), those two have to finally cooperate (and one of them risks losing his mind) to trap and remove Bill, revive the frozen townspeople, and bring the town back to a semblance of “normal.”

Similarly, to stop the threats to America’s civil society, we’ve got to forge alliances across lines of race, gender, region, religion, and social class.

(As an aside, someone put up a “Bill Cipher for President” Facebook page late last summer. One smarky commenter wrote: “You’re seriously making me choose between a horrible demon bent on destroying everything he touches, and Bill Cipher?”)

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/17/17: ‘MAKE AMERICA AGAIN’
Jan 16th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

A local Af-Am activist says we shouldn’t try to go back to some perceived past golden age of the U.S., but to create a more equitable country at last. We also view MLK and pro-school-funding rallies; Boeing’s (and American industry and labor’s) racist past; a strange Amazon request to the FCC; and Seattle having one-quarter of the world’s very-richest people.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/3/17: GOP-ACOLYPSE NOW?
Jan 2nd, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

As a safety-net-hostile, ethics-hostile Congress prepares to convene, we continue to focus on local stuff, including another dead orca; state Sen. Baumgartner’s latest power-grab attempt; Amazon bashed for, well, just about everything; and fire trucks crashing into each other.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 12/30/16: 86-ING ’16
Dec 29th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

I think pretty much all of us (even Sounders FC and Husky football fans) would consider this past year to have been, overall, a dud, a bomb, a Dumpster® fire; with even scarier days looming ahead. Nevertheless, we have news items to discuss in the here-n’-now, such as St. Mark’s Cathedral calling bigotry a sin; the pre-upzoning U District as America’s most competitive housing market; Mt. Rainier as one of the world’s “most dangerous volcanoes;” and dozens of places to go on the big night.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/16/16
Nov 15th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Should we form an indie nation of western states? Join up with Canada? Do you know how darn-near impossible it’d be? In more real-world coverage, we view a settlement in the coal-train suit; EMP becoming “MoPOP” (no relation to KEXP’s show “WoPop”); King County’s aging homeowner population; and a wood-fueled jet plane!

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/14/16: IN THE NAME OF LOVE
Nov 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

As the American Resistance enters its second week, we have protests both solemn (here) and anarchist-invaded (Portland), and more exhortations of hope and faith from local opiners. Plus: More Dakota Pipeline direct action; and a bad-boy rocker who’s now a girl.

MISCmedia MAIL for 10/10/16: AN UNTETHERED (EX-) ANCHOR
Oct 9th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Former local TV news star turned GOP state boss Susan Hutchison defends the indefensible remarks of a certain Presidential candidate. We additionally think about the rival homelessness plans and their implications (real and imagined); saving some of the “ramps to nowhere”; a police-reform plan presented; and the sudden death of an artist/teacher/shaman.

SAY, YOU THAT THING I’VE BEEN TALKIN’ ABOUT LATELY?
Aug 27th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

So I’ve been hinting, occasionally loudly, about an old book of mine that I’ve been trying to get back out one of these years.

Well, it’s out now.

At this link.

Or at this link.

Get it now. Hope y’all like it.

Oh, there’ll also be an e-book version soon.

And a release party’s in the works, perhaps in October.

And we’re working on getting it into local stores. More on that later.

And if you want a signed copy, contact me direct.

MISCmedia MAIL for 8/9/16: ‘TERRACED’ ART
Aug 8th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

This week marks 25 years of the ol’ WWW thang. But instead of getting caught up in nostalgia for Netscape and the sound of dial-up modems, we stay focused on the present day. Specifically, we observe anti-choice hustlers trying to get their paws on UW records; the Yesler Terrace redevelopment commissioning public art from one of its own residents; a Pioneer Square building finally getting redeveloped after being vacant almost a decade; good news for non-rich renters for once; and an electronic dance remix of “Spoonman” (why?).

MISACmedia MAIL for 7/15/17: THE ‘NEW NORMAL’
Jul 15th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

No, we (not even the whites among us) can or should stop the discussion about race, fear, and inequality. Also today: Police run a fake massage parlor in the U District; ex-teens remember a now-dying shopping mall; KPLU needs a new name (that some other station isn’t using); how much “getting big money out of politics” costs; and the usual scads of weekend things and stuff.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 6/24/16: ANTHROPOMORPHIC SHIPPING BOXES
Jun 23rd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The big anti-Amazon blogger’s making a kids’ picture book with a talking shipping box representing the company. We also examine the origin’s of Seattle’s newest newcomers; worry about hate-crime stats; listen to a Muslim “non-binary queer” person; mourn one of Belltown’s last pre-upscale businesses; and begin to lose patience with the miserable Mariners.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/1/16
Mar 31st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our promise: No “funny” fake headlines! In (presumably) “real” news: Another (non-lethal) “Ducks” crash; a family squabble keeps a historic corner un-re-developed (for now); another company wants “job saving” tax breaks; equality for soccer women; and scores of weekend things to do.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/29/16
Mar 28th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Could we actually have the first real warm weather of the year? In any event, we’re discussing the potential for a state budget deal at long last; one of the many surviving J.P. “Patches Pals;” more about the West Seattle greenbelt tree thievery; drivers obsessed with hunting down temporary free parking; and a potential new craze in “startup religions.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/14/16
Mar 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We welcome Pi Day with still more wild weather; Legislative special-session guesses; memories of singer Ernestine Anderson; gold vs. salmon; and a debunked myth about the homeless.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/4/16
Mar 4th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We enter March’s first weekend with an odd proposed compromise to historic-preservation activists; Seattle-saved WWII radio newscasts; the area’s second-most-hiring company (no, not them); sex workers speaking for themselves; how to make Wash. state even more irrelevant in Presidential nominations; and the usual bevy of weekend activities.

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© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).