Saturday, September 6, 2014

Random thoughts on Kim Possible

As I may have mentioned at some point or other, I have no TV.  This is not something that was unforeseen, I knew I wouldn't be able to afford TV forever and thus built up a video library, mostly of movies, when I did have it.

That said, sometimes one isn't in the mood for a movie.

I know that I mentioned that during a time when I had no properly working computer I ended up reading a lot of fan fiction because text is something that goes really well with intermittent internet connection.  All you need is a connection for the less than a second it takes to load web page with nothing but text and you're set for however long it takes to read, which can be quite long.

That led to me writing Being more than a Simulacrum which currently has three installments (One, Two, Three) and in writing it I found out the very useful fact that Disney has released the series, in its entirety, for free online.

That was really important for writing part two, linked to above, because if I hadn't re-watched the somewhat infamous tower scene the story would have gone completely differently.  (There's seriously dramatic choir music that I tend to associate with religious apocalypses playing while Kim smiles at having electrocuted* and dropped a building on her foe, in the rain, as ominous lightning flashes behind Kim.)

Anyway, I've been watching Kim Possible.  I'm going to be trying to watch more of the show, probably in chronological order though I haven't quite started with that effort, because in addition to Being more than a Simulacrum I've got another thing I recently rediscovered on my computer that already has 30 pages in it and, you know, stuff.

The first Kim Possible episode I ever saw was the first one ever released, for all I know it could have been the first time an episode of Kim Possible was ever shown.  I didn't think much of it, then again I was in pretty deep depression at the time and I didn't think much of anything.

I'm not entirely sure which other ones I caught before sort of stumbling into the middle of the fan fiction.  I know I saw Sink or Swim in which Ron gets to be the hero on the basis of having awesome arts and crafts skills and--RTCs shudder at this--a willingness to lie.  (Which was much better than the eventual series finale in which Ron gets to be the hero on the basis of being the messianic chosen one of mystical magical mojo.)  Beyond having seen that and the first one, Crush, I have no idea what I'd seen previously.  Well, I think I saw at least parts of the first movie.  But other than that no idea.

It's a weird experience to go from being immersed in the fandom to dealing with the source material.  The fandom, of course, has utter crap, but it also has stuff that's much much better than the original.  Also, the parts that I bumped into had a habit of taking themselves more seriously.

Dr. Director is the Kim Possible version of Nick Fury.  That's why she has an eyepatch, for example.  But the fandom tends to make her much more like Nick Fury than the show does.  In the show she's played almost entirely for laughs.  Read a fan fic with her in it and whether she's good or evil she'll almost certainly be formidable.  It can be somewhat jarring to go from that to the show's version where she's uninformed (in her first appearance the "classified" information she's trying to protect was declassified decades prior and is legally available on the web) and downright childish (see her argument with her twin brother.)

The biggest thing that I've noticed, though, is how hostile the show could be to consent.

Two shows end with someone (Ron's cousin in one, the villain in another) being mind-controlled into being good.  One ends with Shego being left unattended in a place where she's completely incapacitated and any command given to her will bypass her senses and go directly to mind control, in that episode a fictional version of Simon Cowell is known to be under mind control and no one makes any attempt to free him.  Still on the subject of Shego, one episode ends with her under the influence of a device that completely controls her emotions and, since it currently has her in a rage and pointed at Kim's arch-foe (Shego's boss) the heroes see it as a matter for mirth.

There's an episode that ends with one of the characters being forced to love someone against his will via a love ray device.  (I think we're meant to feel that it's poetic justice because he used one on someone earlier in the episode.  You know, Poetic Justice: proof that two wrongs do make a right.)

When Kim gets amnesia (because that gets used on every show ever) her dad takes the opportunity to try to condition her into liking his favorite show.  Because when someone gets (temporary in this case) brain damage the appropriate response is totally to try to rebuild their personality the way you want it to be.  And getting her to like a TV show is totally a legitimate reason to try to rewire your daughter (though, it should be remembered, with conditioning rather than invasive techniques.  It's not a moral distinction, you understand, but this is a show where he probably could rewire her in a closer to literal fashion so it's worth being clear.)

It's not just mind control, of course, but I do have one more point before I quickly list some other things and then close on a high note.  The episode where Kim loses her memory is one where there's an attempt to use mind control that ultimately fails.  In it Drakken uses the word "zombie" and that threw me for a bit until I realized that he was going old school.  Specifically Béla Lugosi old.

In 1929 William Seabrook introduced the word "zombie" to US English, in 1932 the film White Zombie starring Béla Lugosi came out.  It's the first zombie film ever and was based on Seabrook's work.  The concept does involve dead people walking around, but it's not brain-eating dead hoards.  It's slaves with no will of their own.

By the time you get into the modern world, the audience to whom Drakken's lines are speaking, that particular form of slavery has become inextricably linked with the ideas of Wade Davis.  Davis' work isn't scientifically supported, and most people have probably never heard of him, but while the specifics don't get around the general idea does.

General idea goes like this: Zombies are not reanimated corpses, in fact there's no magic involved, instead they are people who have been drugged in such a way that they have basically no will of their own and thus are extremely open to suggestion.  The perfect slave labor force.

And this leads to a weird sort of dichotomy.  If you say "zombie" in a setting with monsters it calls to mind the fantastical.  Zombie apocalypses are many things, but they're not really that realistic.  On the other hand if you say the exact same word in a mind control setting it serves to ground things.  Mind control is an idea that's pretty fantastical and it can be a difficult thing to get a mental grip on.

Not caring is a real thing.  In some cases this does lead to people who will do whatever they're told provided that the thing isn't too complex and doesn't require motivation.

Mood altering drugs are a real thing.

Using the second to cause the first in an effort to create a workforce of unskilled laborers who don't demand compensation or good working conditions is much more believable than most forms of sci-fi/fantasy mind control and so it passes the, "Yeah, I guess that could work," test.

If you're dealing with a far fetched concept but you want it to pass suspension of disbelief calling people's attention to a similar thing that passes the, "Yeah, I guess that could work," test is helpful.

Anyway, I was going to give non-mind control related examples of the show not exactly being consent-friendly.  Just examples, not in depth discussions.  Obviously the bad guys do bad things--that's why I didn't have things like the mind control chip or mind controlling people into being evil in the part where I talked about mind control--but the good guys kind of trample consent too.  So we have things like Kim signing up Ron for a job against his stated wishes and without his knowledge, we have Wade a) hacking into Kim's bank account, b) reading her diary, c) putting tracking technology on Ron and presumably Kim as well without their knowledge, d) still doing that after they've talked about the ethical ramifications of it... and I honestly don't know if I can top Wade.  I had other examples but Wade-as-creepy-techno-stalker sort of forced them out of my head.

Anyway, high note:

Shego.  Shego, Shego, Shego.

While some things can't really live up to their fandom-selves when you view the real thing, Shego is fucking awesome.  Better than I remembered her.

Watching Kim Possible makes one wish there were a Shego Show.  It's like having one of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys inside the movie interacting with the characters and generally being awesome.  Shego can never win because she's on the antagonist's team, but good God is she fun.

Nicole Sullivan, Shego's voice actor, deserves enormous credit.


* Pedantically, "electrocuted" is supposed to mean "executed by means of electricity" but a) we don't use the word that way, and, b)what happened to Shego should have ended her life.



  1. I don't remember the lack of consent issues, but then, I'm not sure I watched past the first season; I don't remember the 'attempted murder on Shego' scene anymore either. It's cool Disney released them all.

    1. The lack of consent was generally played for laughs and thus tended to end up as a moment tacked onto the end of an episode. In later seasons it was sometimes a post-credits scene.

      Shego's near death is kind of hard to classify which is why I tend to focus on Kim's reaction to it (to smile rather than to have a shocked and horrified, "Wait, did I kill her?" moment) instead of motive and such. Shego's trying to slink away but Kim intercepts her, Shego tries to get ready to fight but it turns out she never had a chance, as a result Shego suffers things that should kill someone multiple times over.

      Kim's a superhero, Shego's a supervillain, fighting is what they do. Unless you were camped out inside of Kim's head and found out that she totally did plan for things to happen exactly as they happened, with the exception of Shego surviving, I think you'd have a hard time arguing that the term "murder" could be applied.

      What's much easier to talk about is how Kim reacted to Shego's apparent death before she learned that the death is only apparent (which is revealed in the very next scene so viewers aren't left not-knowing whether Shego lived or died for very long.)

  2. I wonder how good a story you could write while taking the idea of a marginally-competent Dr. Director seriously? I mean, what else does that imply? Is the team's equipment any good at all, for example?