Armchair Armageddon

shedA piece of flash fiction for you today, my attempt to combine the character styles of Stan Lee and the monologue style of Alan Bennett.  Quite how well I did, you can decide, but I had a lot of fun writing this one, and a lot of fun reading it too.  You can hear that, silly voices, evil laugh and all in episode 59 of the Word Count Podcast.

The Armchair Armageddon

“I’m just going down to the shed, dear!”

Louise gives me a distracted wave, too busy on the phone to notice me.  Gossiping with that awful Wilson woman again I expect.  The keenest journalistic mind of our generation, confined to scandals at the village fete and scribbling for the local rag.

It’s a victory of sorts.  I take them where I can.

I get asked all the time, at those interminable dinner parties ‘we’ throw, how did Doctor Deathray end up married to Captain Supreme’s ex-girlfriend?  I laugh, ever the genial host, and talk about mind control radiation.   The guests are all horrified in that middle-class, Middle-England kind of way, until she throws a tea towel at me, to break the moment. 

The truth is much simpler, really.  I used to kidnap her so often in the sixties, we spent more time together than she did with Captain Supreme.  Even if you include his time as mild-mannered photographer Ken Cooper.  So when the good Captain evolved into a being of pure energy and ascended to become the ruler of the Realm of Otherwhen … don’t blame me, it was the seventies… but… it was the most natural thing in the world, I reached out.  We bonded over our loss.

Nothing happened overnight.  We got older.  We grew together.  The world rather got over super-activity.  I hung up my Deathray.  She hung up her typewriter.  And here we are.  Two normal people living out our golden years in rural splendour.

I have my shed to escape to, thank god.

She thinks she knows my secret.  I tell her I’m going to sit in my armchair and read the local newspaper.  She thinks I’m sneaking off for a cigarette and a glass of whisky… well, except, she calls it scotch.  There are times when she is still dreadfully American.

Aaah. 

I do love her very much, you know.  And I do hate to disappoint her.

But I am no longer content to sit and idly await death.  Turn on a television.  Go to a cinema.  Superheroes are big again.  But it’s like they have forgotten we actually existed.  This is all some special effects fantasy land to the children today.

But we did important work. 

And they don’t remember us at all.

Well I am not content to fade to some forgotten myth.  It has taken time; I had to empty all of the bank accounts I hid from the authorities.  But I have rebuilt it.  My super laser is complete, better than ever, a weapon worthy of a new millennium, and the world will cower… no… the world will tremble in terror… better… ah… the world will tremble in terror once more to the name of Doctor Deathray!

And there will be no “Captain Supreme” to stop me this time!

MWUHAHAHAHA

Oh.

Wait.  What’s this?

“In a recent council meeting, delegates from the Chamber of Commerce petitioned… agreed to an increase in parking… more on page seven….”

Who wrote this?  My… but… I *told* her.  That’s a nesting area for the lesser crested… and those idiots on the council want to… They can’t be allowed to…

“Louise!  Louise!”

She can’t hear me of course, up in the house.

No, but this will not stand.  I am Doctor Deathray, and they shall not brook my will.

I shall write a sternly worded letter to the councillor, and if that doesn’t work, then my MP will be hearing about this, mark my words.  And there will be nobody to stop me.

Oh where is Louise?  I think I’m out of stamps.  She probably has some in her handbag.

Did the Genie cheat Aladdin out of a wish?

lamp-308526_640Disney’s Aladdin. 

A classic of the Disney animated renaissance.  A star turn from the sadly missed Robin Williams, and probably my all-time favourite Disney soundtrack.  (You have another preference?  Let it go!)  So, when the stage version came to London, and my wife suggested we go, I leapt at the chance!  She regretted the suggestion soon after, as I spent the next month singing her the soundtrack, but, bygones.

Still, while I love it, I’ve always had a little problem with one plot point, and I was curious if the stage version would fix it.  Specifically:

Did the Genie cheat Aladdin out of a wish?

So, (spoilers) Aladdin meets the Genie, tricks him into rescuing him from the Cave of Wonders, and then asks for, and is granted, three wishes:

  1. “I wish for you to make me a prince!” 
  2. “…” 
  3. “I wish the genie to be free.”

The problem, for me, is that second wish, but possibly not in the way you’re thinking. 

In the movie, Aladdin is unconscious and drowning, so Genie bends the rules and accepts a gravity-fuelled nod as a wish.  Which, call me crazy, but that’s a little dodgy right there.  Benefit of the doubt though, in the stage show, Aladdin isn’t drowning or unconscious, he has been captured, so he directly and cleanly wishes for the Genie to free him.  Problem solved, right?

Well, no.  Because my problem is that in both cases Aladdin shouldn’t need to make that wish because the Genie is yet to complete granting the first wish, to make Aladdin a Prince.  And in either situation, Genie has an obligation to save Aladdin as part of granting the first wish.

 “Of course he made Aladdin a Prince!” you may respond, there was a whole song about ‘Prince Ali’,

what about all the lions, tigers, servants, flunkies and birds that warble on key?

It’s a great song!  But these are only the trappings of wealth, and are not necessarily qualifications for being a Prince.  And it’s a song about someone called Ali being a Prince, Aladdin is not, in any measurable way a Prince.  The first wish is yet to come true.

“Don’t be so literal!” you reply, and aren’t you being fussy?  But hey, don’t blame me, the Genie is literal.  When Jafar later wishes to ‘rule on high as Sultan’, Genie doesn’t just compose a catchy song about ‘Sultan Jaf’, he strips the clothes off the Sultan for Jafar and lifts the palace on top of a mountain so Jafar can literally rule ‘on high’.  Genie is all about the literal. 

So when Aladdin wishes to be made a Prince, it shouldn’t just be about the trappings of wealth, a false name and some fancy clothes.  Genie needs to literally make Aladdin a prince.

So, how would you “make a prince”?

Well I’m sure there’s all manner of socio-political definitions we could get into here, but to make Aladdin a Disney Prince, I think it only makes sense to look at the rules of being an official Disney Princess.  According to some excellent videos on the SuperCarlinBrothers YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/SuperCarlinBrothers) to be an officially recognised Disney Princess there are some pretty specific rules.

First, the character must be human, be the lead in an animated Disney movie, and not be primarily introduced in a sequel.   Second, the character must either be born royal, marry royalty, or perform an act of heroism.

Aladdin meets those first criteria without Genie’s help, so let’s look at the second.

Can the Genie make Aladdin be born royal?  Well, sure.  He has phenomenal cosmic power, and references things far in the future (or past, according to some theories I’ve seen), so time travel clearly isn’t a problem for Genie.  But if that was the route he took, then Jafar would have no influence on Aladdin’s princeliness and couldn’t simply sing it away with “His lies were too good to last”.

Can the Genie arrange for Aladdin to perform an act of heroism?  Again, definitely, but he doesn’t.  At any rate, not between the first and second wishes.  Throughout most of that time, Aladdin is acting pretty selfishly: singing, wooing and lying.  Nothing truly heroic in there, romantic lead, sure, but not heroic. 

Can Aladdin marry royalty?  He does!  And while the Genie doesn’t have the power to make people fall in love, he does go out of his way to help Aladdin with dating advice “Beeeeee yourself” to make that wedding happen. 

So, whether the Genie is making a Prince by arranging the heroism or marriage route (and we all know it’s by marriage, right?) then at the point of the so-called second wish, the first wish is still not complete, and cannot be completed if Aladdin dies, so the second wish is redundant!

The Genie only actually grants two wishes.  To make Aladdin a Prince.  And to set Genie free.

As Jafar would sing, it’s just a con!  Need I go on?

No.  No, I needn’t!