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Wicked Nerdery

Where psychology, pop culture, and true crime collide

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How We Are Classically Conditioned To Love Monsters

Certain villains are all too human. They are flawed and empathetic. They are beings we can recognize ourselves in and grow from. Other villains are just monsters — vampires, aliens, werewolves and countless strange creatures that spring from the creative mind. There’s little to empathize with; little for the audience to connect to. So why are these monstrous villains still so popular? Perhaps because we’ve been conditioned to enjoy them — not unlike Pavlov’s Dog.

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How Villains Force Us To Look At Our Inner Darkness…

From Marvel’s supervillains and Darth Vader to the (slightly) more realistic Walter White in Breaking Bad, villains are fascinating; you can’t take your eyes off them. But why? What is it about those so clearly, classically wicked that makes them so compelling to an audience? One possibility is that, in experiencing these villains on-screen, we can face our own inner dark side.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed everyone has a darker side, a shadow-self, within their personality. This shadow consists of everything the person considers unacceptable to express: envy, rage, selfishness, the desire for power and baser animal instincts. It’s not something that the person is consciously aware of but something they must acknowledge and face in order to grow as a person.

This is where villains come in as archetypes, representing the clearest forms of those negative aspects of one’s personality. With their bad traits on the forefront, villainous characters allow for easy access to the audience’s shadow self.

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Adorable & Deadly: 4 Reasons Why We Love Powerful Little Girls

From more recent shows like Stranger Things and the Logan film to cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls there is something hugely appealing about little girls having the power to destroy everyone and everything in their paths.  The question is, why?  What is it about these petite powerhouses that draws audiences across gender lines and generations?

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Magneto Could Be a Magnet God…Why Isn’t He?

Those are some pretty amazing powers…so why doesn’t Magento use them?  Why not control others, move at insane speeds, build a magnetic-goo army, or destroy modern society with a giant solar flare?  Using any of these additional powers would certainly make it easier for Max Eisenhardt (a.k.a. Erik Lehnsherr) to achieve his goals, but thus far he’s stuck mainly to moving metallic objects and levitation.  Is it out of the writers’ concern for the story (whether in a single storyline or the overall X-Men universe) or the character?  Do they hold Magneto back for reasons such as tension and excitement or to keep the beloved Magneto as complex a character as he ever was?

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Is ‘Westworld’ Hero, Maeve, Actually A Villain?

It would be easy to define Westworld’s wonderfully strong madame, Maeve Millay, as a hero, but could she actually be a villain? In his book, I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman defines a villain as someone who “knows the most, but cares the least.” Makes sense. The hero often knows only a fraction of what the villain does and one already assumes the hero cares the most while the villain cares little, if at all.

As a story progresses the hero may learn more, but that usually only pushes him or her to care all the more. What if, by the end, the hero is the one that knows the most, but cares the least though? This appears to be what occurs with Maeve so, is she still a hero or has she now become a villain?

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Is The Walking Dead’s Negan a Psychopath?

With the seventh season of The Walking Dead approaching there’s one name on every fan’s lips…Negan. Love or hate him, there’s no doubt he’s going to make a serious impact (no pun intended) on the post-apocalyptic world. He’s charming enough to amass a large group of followers, brutal enough to keep numerous communities under his thumb, and smart enough to lure Rick and his crew into a deadly trap. Given these characteristics and his seeming delight in cruelty it’s understandable that one of the more frequent labels thrown at him is psychopath.

The question is: Is that an appropriate label for the leader of The Saviors?

If we look at a key tool in diagnosing psychopaths – the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) – and compare Negan’s behavior (in the show and comics) we might find our answer…

(Note: Going forward there will be spoilers for the comic…Possibly the show.)

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Fear the Walking Dead “Date of Death”: Sometimes Children Are Just Terrible

Fear the Walking Dead’s “Date of Death” picks up a short while after the final scene of the last episode, with Travis now at the gates of the hotel along with a small crowd of other trying to get in.  On whole the rest of the episode is mainly a giant flashback that focuses on how Travis ended up there alone and why Chris is the worst.

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Fear the Walking Dead “Pillar of Salt”: Kismet or The Bermuda Triangle?

Certain episodes are climatic episodes – ones you’ll be talking about for days, weeks – and others are more building-block episodes – ones that get you to the climaxes…Fear the Walking Dead’s “Pillar of Salt” is the latter.  It is all about loosely stitching the fractured Abigail crew together and building towards whatever major events are coming next.

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Fear the Walking Dead “Pablo and Jessica”: Sex, Drugs, & Lost Loved Ones

More than anything Fear the Walking Dead’s “Pablo and Jessica” focuses on how characters react after the loss of loved ones.  Even the opening scene speaks to this as Madison takes a page out of her “lost” son’s playbook in killing and gutting an Infected, then covering herself and Strand in the blood to escape the overrun hotel bar.  Once outside they find their truck gone; Strand presumes Alicia and Ofelia fled, forcing Madison to again face the possibility of losing someone she loves.  Something she stubbornly refuses to do as she insists that, unlike Nick, Alicia wouldn’t just leave, and is relieved to be proven correct when she finds Alicia (along with Elena and Hector) banging on the other side of one of spa’s doors.

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