Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Tipping Point

Over the last few weeks I've read some buzz in the EMC community about a brainwashing scene in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." I saw a few animated gifs of the scene, and they were exciting enough to make me want more. Sadly, I wasn't able to find any clips on YouTube. So there I was, eating my heart out, imagining all the other MC fans out there, enjoying the hell out of a great scene I couldn't see.

Then, at last, I managed to see it. What a letdown. Those animated gifs were very nearly all there was to Agent 33's brainwashing. We never saw her actually succumb; she just went from fighting in one scene to happily brainwashed in the next.

Now, I do understand. I've never seen the show, but I've read enough to know Agent 33 was a throwaway character. The only purpose of her brainwashing was to make us worry that the same thing could happen to a more important character who was undercover with Hydra. Viewed that way, Agent 33's scenes did just what was needed...but they did almost nothing for my fetish.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the tipping point in good induction scenes: the point where a strong, resistant character first starts to lose the battle. Sometimes it happens slowly, sometimes quickly. But there's always that one moment where the character hangs balanced between fighting to stay free and surrendering to the inevitable, and then they lose their balance. Maybe they're too tired to fight any longer. Maybe they realize fighting is pointless. Maybe they get tricked. Maybe their horniness gets the best of them. Or maybe - and I find this scenario particularly exciting - they were tempted to give in all along, for whatever reason, and they surrender half-willingly, knowing no one else will ever know they gave in on purpose. But however it happens, that tipping point makes or breaks a brainwashing scene for me - and probably for a lot of other MC fetishists.

But we didn't get to see Agent 33's tipping point. I've arranged these images to suggest what it might have looked like, but that's not how it played out onscreen. We saw her start to weaken, but we never saw her jaw sag or her eyes roll up in her head or her mouth start to chant mantras about compliance. Just think about how much hotter her fate could have been, if her character mattered. Think about the anguish viewers would have experienced if they'd seen a character they loved fall to the enemy...fall deliciously slowly to the enemy. With no one around to break their fall.

Then again, if Agent 33 mattered, someone would have been there to break her fall, just in the nick of time. Dammit.


K said...

So is it worth looking into anyway?

Yeah without a tipping point there's also a loss of impact in the conversion. I mean if the point is to be able to make the viewers fear that it could happen then a point where someone breaks makes it more potent. Obviously this changes if the point is just to show that attempts were being made to brainwash the individual then not showing the breaking point can lead to a decent suspense on whether or not they actually succumbed. The way you describe the scene is the most effective, in my experience, if the point is to demonstrate how effective the brainwasher, or brainwashing method is. To use one of your own stories as a reference point the way your character drops every-time a pacification hits them in "What Do You Give The Alien Who Has Everything" is an effective way of showing just how outmatched you are against an Imperator. Where as Missy/m's break at the climax of "Willing Subject" was well wonderful at making it clear just how hard she had given up. Though I personally prefer getting to see it from the perspective of the victim. It's what makes the scouring of Rolanne's mind in "Hoarder" so delectable to read.

Myndblender said...

Yes, a tipping point makes the story/scene more impactful. In the recent movie "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" Bucky Barnes has captured and reprogrammed by Hydra as The Winter Soldier. At one point he starts to remember his former life and is forced to undergo reprogramming to forget. It's not so much a tipping point but a resignation by Bucky before he submits to the process. Oh, and the process is not so "sunshine and lollipops" that is common in such scenes (or stories in ECMSA)but quite painful.

thrall said...

That's a movie I've been dying to see, because I know just enough about the Captain America mythology to know Bucky was brainwashed. Nice to hear that's an actual programming scene in the movie - thanks for the clip! You're right that the painfulness of it means I can't enjoy it from an EMC standpoint, but I did enjoy the dialogue and Sebastian Stan's performance. That moment of resignation was very cool.