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 Loser's Guide to Life

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Fairly Ordinary Four 

The Fantastic Four are interesting in that they are "outed". They make no bones about being super-heroes and don't cling to any "straight" identity. In fact, they spend most of their time—even their free time—wearing a uniform that announces their membership in "The Fantastic Four". How did they get this way?

Well, seemingly, they were flying along in their "spaceship", a vehicle designed by Mr Fantastic, when they were overtaken by a catastrophe that has left them in their current freakish state. In other words, their obedience to Mr Fantastic's authority has made them outcasts among their fellows, and they can form no relationships outside the "family".

And it is very much a family of a kind. Mr Fantastic, as the nominal father figure, has the ability to elongate himself at will, or stretch into any shape. This means he can be all things to all people. It also means he can exert absolute control over his "family": no matter how far one of them might stray, Mr Fantastic could simply reach out and catch him or her. But what's at the heart of a rubber man? Well, more rubberiness. Things just "bounce off" of him. One of the things needed for controlling others is a lack of emotional centre, because many of its components—self-doubt, shame, empathy—would only be a source of weakness.

His wife, Mrs Fantastic, has the power of invisibility. She can also exert an unseen force on things, but it's very draining for her. Need one say more, really?

And what of the Human Torch? He's meant to be Mrs Fantastic's kid brother, but I would say he is really an imaginary lover, either the love of her youth, or a complete fantasy. (It's not for nothing that they're called "The Fantastic Four", by the way. It is fantasy that gives their life meaning.) Johnny, the "Human Torch". He's young and he's oh so hot. But having a relationship with him would be, literally, playing with fire.

Finally we come to "The Thing", whom I believe to be key to this madness. His name is Ben Grim, but they call him "The Thing". Can you think of a more dehumanizing name? Because I can't. He's strong and tough. Unlike the others, he can't pass as normal on the outside. He must remain in the family, who made him what he is. He is also the only one who doesn't wear a uniform, just a sort of diaper. He seems to be covered in dried filth. Intellectually, he is a good deal behind the others, and can only say things like "It's clobberin' time". In other words, he is the unloved child of Mr and Mrs Fantastic. It's he who keeps them together, and yet they can only call him "The Thing".

When I look at the Fantastic Four all I see is the tragedy of unresolved, misdirected desire.


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