Geekdom Come, Troping the Riff

Troping the Riff- The Brainwashed Hero

Whether its mind control drugs, an evil spell, or just good old-fashioned hunk of red kryptonite there is nothing worse for the good guys than having to fight one (or more) of their own because a villain got their hooks into their brain. In this edition of Troping the Riff we take a look at one of the most over-used tropes in the superhero genre: The Brainwashed Hero.
For as long as there have been heroes there have been geeks arguing over which hero would win in a fight. Comic book shops and then internet chatrooms have been the source of endless debate concerning Batman vs Superman, Avengers vs X-men, Howard the Duck vs. Quailman (that last one might just be me). With so many fans wanting to see these fights happen its no wonder publishers love putting these stories out there. But one problem, why would these good guys fight each other?
Well, the first time it could just be a plain old misunderstanding, a brief throw-down before our intrepid heroes team up to take down the real villain. But after that? You don’t just start punching your friends and work colleagues in the face, do you? (Don’t answer that.) Writers needed an excuse to pit their franchise titans against one another. What better way than to say they’re being mind controlled. The brainwashed trope isn’t limited to superheroes though. The fear of not being in control of your actions is a primal one and thus it is often explored in fantasy and science fiction.
Whether the brainwashing takes place in a comic book crossover of on an episodic sci-fi television show by and large its worn off by the end of the story and everything has returned to ‘Status Quo Ante’. However, this is not always the case. The lingering effects of the brainwashing and the evil actions undertaken while brainwashed can become a character-defining moment for the hero.
Angel/Archangel in the X-men comics is a great example of this. Jean-Luc Picard’s time as one of the Borg and its aftermath is one of the few overarching plot threads in the Star Trek universe helping to define not just Picard and the rest of TNG for the rest of its run but also creating a tragic backstory for his franchise successor Captain Sisko on Deep Space Nine. And when it comes to mind manipulation and its consequences nobody tops Marvel’s Agents of Shield for its exploration of the topic.
If you’ve got other examples of this trope please feel free to list them in the comments section.I know there are far too many to list here. Until next time faithful readers may your mind be your own and not some super-villains plaything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.