[Infinite Themes] Persona 4: A New World FoolIf you recall, we had a villains week couple months back and during that week I listed a certain villain from Persona 4as one of my favorite villains in recent gaming. I brought up modern nihilism and I think I’d like to take this time to elaborate what exactly that means. This is Infinite Themes and today I’ll be discussing why Persona 4 introduces a modern villain for the 21st century.
Back in the 90s and early 2000s, there was a growing fear of what it meant to be connected to the internet. Metaphorically examined as a whole new world, this was a very real subject concern as it opened entirely new channels of communication and thought distribution. Series like Serial Experiments Lain as well as The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell examined this artificial world that could potentially overtake the real. What would happen if the boundaries between these two worlds blurred and the consequences of such things? How could it be used to help and hurt us? Disconnect us from reality and connecting us to something strange and foreign. The digital age at one point was a thing to marvel and fear.Well it’s been some time since then and we’ve moved on. Somehow those fears have turned into acceptance. Technology has been incorporated into the real and the digital age is simply an extension of modernity. And then what? As with all things ennui sets in again. Boredom is the eventual result and the pursuit of novelty begins again. There is however an additional layer and one that the Personagames are built around. Namely identity and the truth about them. The facade that’s put up for the world and the truth that simmers underneath. It’s a skill every person in a modern society develops naturally and it’s essential, one would argue, to survive in modern times. The internet obscures that concept further. Now, anyone can be anything they want to be. An image can hide a face and a username can hide a person. Profile pictures, status updates, tweets, all of these form to create an identity whether factual or idealized. The true self becomes buried deeper and deeper beneath the skin and beneath the wires and tubes.
Additionally, and probably more in-line with Persona 4, the world is now handed to you. Television broadcasts the headlines around the globe, gossip, products, romance and friends right to you. Alternately the internet can cater to your desires as well. Your wants, your curiosities, your lusts, and especially your boredom. Never in time have we had more at the tip of our fingertips than we do today, and this is how I will introduce Adachi Tooru as the man that represents the twisted side of these modern institutions.Adachi is bored, he’s bitter, and he’s entitled. He pushed the first two victims into the television because he believed that somehow they owed him what he wanted. That society owed him. In an age where more and more is available to everyone we become more complacent. If we warped these aspects of society and twist them, we’ll have a bored populace overfed with anything their mind could imagine, a mind force-fed the ideals of television programming, and one that has grown accustomed to it. Incubate these ideas and we have something that resembles Adachi Tooru.
Is it really his fault though?
Imagine television and who really controls the information that is presented. Do we choose what we want to see or are we told what we want to see? So we watch these shows, that glamorous people usually have sex, that things work out for the plucky happy-go-lucky protagonist, and that even an average Joe could have it all. Thinking about Persona’s theme about identity, who controls how people see each other? And this is a more multi-faceted question, mind you. Do we control how other people see us? By dressing a certain way, talking a certain way, and acting a certain way? Or is it others that create our own identities? After all, we can’t make people see us the way we want them to see us so do we instead cater to their image of ourselves? So just as it is difficult to see the truth, is it because it is so well hidden or is it because we choose to see our own truths?
To a man twisted by the ideals of the modern world and its tenants; that everything is within reach, that it is the society that dictates behavior, that what we’re presented with of other people is what is projected through a filter, we have a villain that embodies all the negatives of such a society. An entitled, bored man too bitter and angry with the perception of reality that may or may not exist. That Adachi might not be as he had thought of himself despite the digital god suggesting otherwise. He even argues this as his motivation in his final confrontation.
It’s not that there is a lack of meaning in life; only that there is a lack of meaning in the real world. The people in our lives are fake, living up to a standard set up by an improper society. An identity built off of a lie and this is the life we’re supposed to call reality. Adachi is the crusader against the fake reality, or so he says.
I wrote this back in the original villains post, and I think that although disingenuous as he is, it’s not an illegitimate complaint to have in the 21st century. There’s a desensitization that has grown with the advent of this age and rather than filling the voids of human desires, it creates an emptiness. An emptiness for the truth? I can’t say, but Adachi was chosen by the god of his world to represent this special “emptiness” and it resulted in the near assimilation of the human race.
It’s not hard to lose faith in a world like this. Where it gets harder and harder to see things at face value as more and more gets tucked away beneath this idea of “identity”. A sense of nihilism develops, but with a twist. It isn’t the belief in how nothing matters, but it is more a belief in that nothing is as it seems. A concept that existed only with the coming of a digital age in which a person can create an entirely different image for themselves, but alternately have an image built for them. The world has spoiled us with too many generated ideas of what it means to be alive and instead of fulfilling us it creates a desire for more. These are big ideas embodied by a pitifully small individual. Adachi Tooru is simply what would happen if we gave those ideas a form, a gun, and a television.
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