Dissecting Stanley

Lexx is that show from the same era of TV as Farscape, with more or less the same theme as Farscape, but a lot more… icky. Whenever Farscape starts to feel too cozy, too safe or as if it’s trying too hard to be liked – then it’s time to watch some Lexx.

For Lexx is never cozy or safe, and it pointedly makes no effort to ingratiate itself with the audience. I can see how Lexx can make a lot of people squirm. It makes even me squirm a bit sometimes. It’s beyond dark. It’s like a gritty reboot of dark.

It is absolutely not for everyone. It’s kind of a creepy hipster version of Farscape. But if you can stomach it, there are depths to explore. Depths of depravity. Depths of insight. Depths of insight into depravity. If, like me, you are morbidly fascinated by the problem of evil, Lexx will take you beyond the cheap thrills of horror, and show you how evil works.

And a big part of how evil works is how evil gets away with it. Lexx shows that, too. Maybe we can learn something from the enabling characters in this show. Something about how not to be.

So let’s talk about Stanley. Tweedle. If anyone deserves to be stuck in a crapsack universe, it’s this guy. Let him be our role anti-model. But first, let’s understand him. Not understand in the pity and excuse sense. Understand in the know what makes him tick sense. What’s the deal with Stanley?

Some people are heroes. Some people aspire to be heroes. Some people have lower aspirations. Stanley Tweedle would be a sex offender if he could work up the nerve. Instead, he’s captain of the most powerful destructive force in the two universes.

Usually when something good happens to Stanley, it’s by dumb luck. In between, his life is a misery of his own making. He can’t even blame the world he lives in, because he had a part in making it that way. Never mind whether his bungling led to the destruction of over a hundred planets, or if it was only eighty-seven. Stanley is part of the problem.

Stanley Tweedle is responsible in part for trillions of deaths. If that’s not evil, what would be? He didn’t mean to. He usually doesn’t mean to. But he does. You can’t even give him credit for good intentions. He is too self absorbed to care either way. He is beneath good and evil. Thus, he is a conduit for evil. He is a tool. (Maybe that’s why his name is Stanley.)

TV Tropes: Chaotic Stupid

Tweedle is led to his bad choices by external evil, making use of his internal weakness. But his weakness is everyman’s weakness. His problem is he’s too ordinary. Shallow, callow and self centered. Like most people in civilized society, only more so. He is a grotesquely exaggerated version of the average man. Okay, maybe slightly below average.

Perhaps his root sin is not minding his place. Why is he involved with the Heretics in the first place? If only he had left it all alone, he would have done no great harm.

He seems to have had delusions of heroism. But I think he just wanted respect. And who doesn’t want respect? The human race withheld respect from him until he took the extreme measure of joining the rebellion. And he is from a society where few are respected, where the government itself secretly hates the human race. He was the victim of prolonged, ongoing emotional abuse. Which, in his world, happens to be normal.

Stanley Tweedle does not understand chivalric heroism. He thinks it’s a way to get respect and admiration, or at least get laid regularly. He doesn’t understand that the whole point is to be willing to die for a greater cause.

The Heretics took him because they couldn’t be choosy. That’s the way with volunteer organizations. The Lexx took him because Stanley had the key. That’s the nature of automated systems. And Stanley took his opportunities because he is human. All too human.

And why, again, is he in command of the Lexx? He didn’t choose to be. Nobody chose him. Maybe the key chose him, but that’s a stretch. The key to the Lexx doesn’t seem to have any conscious agency, and it doesn’t do what it’s told either. The captain of the Lexx probably couldn’t relinquish his command if he wanted to.

Well, maybe he could consult others more. Kai and Xev are both smarter than him, and 790 is at least better informed. See, here’s the problem: Stupid people do not know they’re stupid, and they won’t take it well if you try to tell them. Stanley is a coward, and admits it. He is selfish, and admits it. He is sex-obsessed, and admits it. He is lacking in judgment, but doesn’t admit it. Nobody admits to that. That’s not a thing.

This is not a popular theme in escapist fiction. Red Dwarf has Rimmer, but that’s played for laughs – complete with a laugh track. Lexx takes it more seriously. And if you take it seriously enough, it’s rather dark.

I would like to think that, given the same situations, I would make better choices than Stanley Tweedle. But Would I? I hope I never have to find out.