Friday, July 22, 2016

Gul'dan the Secret King: The Gamma Fantasy

World of Warcraft, to promote the upcoming Legion expansion, released the first in a series of motion-comic videos today. This one focuses on returning villain and antagonist Gul'dan, specifically the version of Gul'dan from Warlords of Draenor. As I've said previously at my writing blog, Gul'dan (both this version and the original one, now deceased in the lore) conforms to the archetype of the Secret King, the fantasy of a man who is so low on the social hierarchy that he deludes himself into thinking he is really the top dog. The tell: "I'll show them! I'll show them all!"

That exact tell is what this video displayed. Been shit on for years, finally got cast out formally, bitter and resentful about it, could not stop backbiting the clan's leadership, and when he had the means he showed them all by incinerating them- those that did now bow down before him, making him king in all but name.

Vox Day has a model for this social hiearchy that reliably works in reality, and therefore will for fiction. Gul'dan falls into the Gamma category, which is one step from the utter bottom, and while the linked post has a good definition the following summaries are more useful for this post.

Gammas refuse to accept their place, but they also lack the alpha goods to be the leader. Hence their dishonor - a perpetual pointless rebellion.

Gamma: He will inject unnecessary drama into situations, refuse to back down when he is wrong, and sacrifice the company's interests to his own feelings. If he finds himself in a position of power, he will become paranoid and dictatoria.

This is both versions of Gul'dan. Original Gul'dan was the Secret King in his Shadowy Figure archetype, using puppets he controlled (or thought he did) to run the Horde. Warlords Gul'dan is similar, but Garrosh's intervention ruined his attempt to use Grommash Hellscream as such a puppet and he had to pull a coup to get control back and thereafter wielded his power openly. Mind-control, rape and degradation of females in his power (that hatred of women thing again), paranoia, and irrational dictatorial control-freak behavior is every fucking day for Gul'dan.

Gul'dan "unnecessary drama" manifests in the timing of his betrayals, both those he does by his own hand and those he orchestrates for others to execute. He tries to make these into something of tactical or strategic significance, but rarely does this work as he claims; most of the time the betrayal is for reasons of his ego being out of control and his subsequent refusal to acknowledge reality and conform himself to how things really are. (When Grommash Hellscream, Notorious Hot-Head, is better at that then Gul'dan is you know you've got a serious delusion problem at hand.)

It also shows up in the objects of his ire. He targets the leaders--the Alphas--first and foremost. He targets the strong, the beautiful, and the sacred. Unwilling to acknowledge the truth about himself, he degrades as he destroys that which he cannot admit: that he is not what he thinks he is, and by destroying them he proves his true place through throwing them down.

Ultimately, he chafes as serving his demonic masters, the source of the power that lets him act on his delusions. He plots to throw them down also, and become the lord and master of the Burning Legion. This hubris undoes him time and again, but what saves him is his proven potency; the fools at the top repeat the cycle by humiliating Gul'dan somehow, then putting the yoke back on before sending him forth again thinking they will always be able to handle the sudden, but inevitable, attempt at betrayal and usurpation. We'll see soon how this plays out in Legion.

Gul'dan is the fantasy that real Gammas aspire to fulfill.

You should, as the old-timers who founded this Evil Sorcerer archetype (and I do mean old, as it "millenia old" old) intended, take this as a warning. You know real people who's psychology is the same as Gul'dan's. They may be men or women, but you know damn well--even if you have not the words to say so--that they're just like him and would flare out just like he does when given the means and opportunity to do so. You likely have already encountered real-life counterparts of varying similarity (psychologically speaking), so don't lie to yourself that this is just a fantasy; good literature builds itself on the timeless truth of reality. Beware those like Gul'dan, and don't make the mistake of casting them out: put them DOWN.

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