Posts Tagged ‘My Favorite Things’

My Favorite Things: Slavery Is Freedom!

August 12, 2018

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I’ve talked before about various mind control tropes that never fail to make me shiver, and this particular trope is related to a couple of others that I’ve gone into in the past. It’s very closely related to the “rationalization” trope, where the victim in a story is convinced that they’re not following hypnotic suggestions at all, even as they do everything the hypnotist says, and it’s also got some occasional elements of the amnesia trap and authority subversion to it from time to time. But it’s got its own distinct flavor that makes it very different.

This trope usually kicks in near the climax of the story (no pun intended), when the victim realizes they’re being mind-controlled, and it’s all about the way they react to that control. It usually takes one of two forms – either they convince themselves they’ve found a loophole in the mind control, and that by obeying ‘voluntarily’, they’ve retained their free will by doing everything the hypnotist tells them to do all on their own, or they convince themselves that they’ve successfully resisted even as they obey the hypnotist’s suggestions. Both are a sort of ironic embrace of their own submission, a conviction that obviously they’re too strong-willed to surrender to brainwashing so they must be doing what they’re doing for other reasons.

(This is a real thing, by the way, and not just with hypnosis. There’s a well-known psychological phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance”, which basically states that when your behavior doesn’t match your beliefs, your brain is far more likely to invent a rationalization than it is to change your behavior. You do see it a lot in hypnosis, where people who are asked why they followed a post-hypnotic suggestion will come up with the most ludicrous explanations for their behavior, but you also see it when you ask evangelical Christians why they’re supporting a sexual predator and pathological liar who’s publicly broken nine of the ten commandments. We like to believe our brain operates with some kind of internal consistency, and cognitive dissonance builds a bridge between the things we believe and the things we do.)

But, back to the sexy, you can see why this is hot. It feels like it goes deeper than regular mind control; anyone can be blank and mindless and obedient, but only a truly brainwashed slave can convince themselves to love their programming. It’s like they’re gaslighting themselves into obedience, and while that’s a sentence that is profoundly unsexy in real life, it makes for incredibly hot fantasies. When someone gives in so deeply that they’re convinced they want to obey and they’ve always wanted to obey, it makes that moment where their resistance collapses incredibly powerful and hot.

I’ve used this trope a few times – “Back Where You Belong” has an example where the victim squirms her way out of her mental dilemma by convincing herself that it’s another woman saying all the mantras of obedience – but I don’t think there’s any better example than “Pressure”. It’s a story that’s literally all about a character resisting endless, implacable, inexorable brainwashing with all her strength, only to realize that the easiest way to keep from being relentlessly pounded by the mental assault of her tormentor is to give in and become a perfectly compliant, willing slave. And the collapse of her resistance is so complete that she doesn’t even notice that she’s following every last instruction she’s given.

It’s exactly the kind of thing this trope looks for, and definitely one of my favorite things.