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The Mandarin

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,630
In Reply To
Grey Gargoyle

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 10,965
Subj: Post Trump: the Ayn Rand era of jungle freedom
Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 at 12:29:57 pm EDT (Viewed 160 times)
Reply Subj: Classic Mandarin (birthright & destiny) / Post 9-11 Mandarin (zeal)
Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 at 08:44:38 am EDT (Viewed 177 times)



      Here's the thing I've come to realize via listening to Ayn Rand worshipers both in real life and on Fox News rant endlessly about their desire for freedom from regulation: absolute freedom is an oligarchy ruled by the strong.

      Real freedom in an adult context requires a great deal of regulation. Ayn Randites don't want real freedom in an adult context. They want an absolutely free jungle in which they are the de facto oligarchy because they have more power than anyone else.

      Thus do I think The Mandarin is very much in keeping with the sort of Ayn Rand worshiper one might see on Fox News: someone who wants the absolute freedom of the strong to prey on the weak by using their strength to create a de facto oligarchy. What they believe in really, is a form of social darwinism, but it is distinct from Apocalypse's form of social darwinism in that it sees oligarchy as the natural and preferred result of freedom.

    In my answer I will use the term :
    - Classic Mandarin when I speak about the Silver Age character when he appeared in stories done by Stan Lee & Don Heck,
    - Post 9-11 Mandarin when I speak about the 2000s version of the character.

    In my opinion, post 9-11, the backgrounds of both Iron Man & Mandarin were fundamentaly changed to update the characters for the 21th Century.

    In Warren Ellis' Extremis story, Iron Man has to deal with terrorism. On the contrary, in the Silver Age, Iron Man's origin was linked to the Vietnam War. It isn't the same kind of threat.

    I think that, when the Knauf brothers decided to update the Mandarin's background, they used Warren Ellis' story as a direct reference.

    Since Extremis, Iron Man's origin has been linked to terrorism.

    Thus, the Knauf brothers decided to turn the Post 9-11 Mandarin into the ultimate terrorist : a fanatic who is ready to sacrifice nearly everyone on the planet, including himself, for his cause (which is to spread the Extremis virus and transform the survivors into supermen).

    This version of the Mandarin is compatible with your vision of the character.

    Indeed, post 9-11, the Mandarin may have become an extremist who only believes that the strong should be free to prey on the weak , opposing Tony Stark, a free entrepreneur who believes in a well-regulated society.


    But when I read again the origin of the Classic Mandarin, I see something radically different.

    Like you said in older posts, Stan Lee & Don Heck were people of their time.
    So, they had vivid memories of the instability of Asia during WWII, the 1946-1954 Indochina War, the 1947-1948 Indo-Pakistani War, the 1950-1953 Korean War, the 1959 Tibetan Uprising ... and they were contemporaries of the Vietnam War.

The Mandarin was created by someone who had fought in World War II and was currently living in the fear of global nuclear annihilation. As such he embodies a combination of World War II and nuclear age fears.

The Mandarin origin has him as an aristocrat who spends all of his fiefdom's money making himself into what amounts to a super-soldier. This results in him going broke, and his fiefdom being taken away from him for failure to pay his taxes.

As such, he's a metaphor for several things:
(1)The military industrial complex. He's a government going broke from military spending, in one man.

(2)The Nazi ideal. He's someone who has become perfect in mind and body from a macho teenager's vain perspective: a science(implicitly weapons inventing) and martial arts hypermasculine monster.

(3)Imperial Japan. He's constantly karate-chopping everything and he's perpetually enraged.

(4)Aristocrat villains. Specifically, the sort of aristocrat villains who in western fiction tend to be really brilliant fencers and hunters, and whose dominant character traits are misogyny, class bigotry, and thinly-veiled barbarism.

(5)Global apocalypse. He's constantly trying to cause world war III.

Stan Lee, a World War II vet, seems to have made him to embody everything a World War II vet would despise, and everything a man living in the sixties would fear.

Of course, none of this invalidates the other things you talked about. Really, Stan Lee constructed him as just a mountain of awfulness.

But me, I'm a man of my time, and when I look at The Mandarin's origin, what I see is the blend of aristocratic entitlement and social darwinism espoused by Ayn Rand worshipers when you listen closely to the details of what they demand when they are talking about freedom.

Consequently, I think Mandarin the terrorist may have already become obsolete. The Mandarin as everything awful about the Ayn Rand mindset is the appropriate version for the present day. Terrorists aren't what's scary in 2017. What's scary are people with money and power and the desire for total freedom because the jungle favors the strong.

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