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23 February 2013 @ 01:14 pm
Reflections on Vampiric Hypnotism  
As you may know, my interpretation of Forever Knight considers the power of hypnotism perhaps the most insidious, corrosive temptation of Nick's vampirism. Unlike his supernaturally enhanced strength, endurance and agelessness, hypnotism requires an active decision each time he uses it. Unlike flying, which is also an active choice, hypnotism is by its nature an assault on another person's free will. Now, often, the storyline unleashes vampiric hypnotism strictly on the dangerous and depraved, or makes hypnotism the only choice to save a life in a certain situation; sometimes, it is employed on a smaller scale, to cause sleep or dull pain; occasionally (as with Tawny Teller in "Unreality TV"), Nick even gets permission before hypnotizing. Other times, however, he succumbs to the temptation to force people to do his bidding against their wills for no good or sufficient reason (as with Schanke washing the Caddy in "Close Call"). Of course this is tragedy. It demeans them and further corrupts him.

Each time the opportunity to use hypnotism arises, Nick should consider whether there is another way to achieve his goal, and, if not, whether his goal is truly worthy of the use of such a power. Naturally, inured by long habit, Nick more often acts first and thinks later, if, on hypnotism, he thinks at all. And that's part of the wonderful story of his Everyman struggle for redemption and whether — "Last Knight" aside — he (and we) may finally achieve tragedy or triumph.

This came to mind in response to an essay by Colbert King in today's Washington Post, which linked to an old (1992) essay in the Acton Institute's Religion and Liberty: "Power Corrupts" by Ben Moreell. Moreell writes:
"When a person gains ... power to force other persons to do his bidding when they do not believe it right to do so[,] it seems inevitable that a moral weakness develops in the person who exercises that power. ... [H]e eventually concludes that power and wisdom are the same thing. And as he possesses power, he must also possess wisdom. ... At this point, he begins to lose his ability to distinguish between what is morally right and what is ... expedient."

Above, I suggest how this recurring temptation harms Nick. Lacroix, though, is surely an even better illustration, from generalship through vampirism, of the effects on its wielder of the power to bend and break others' wills. "As he possesses power, he must also possess wisdom," Lacroix concluded of himself ages past, and never looked back. Nick is still fighting to distinguish between the right and the expedient. Lacroix long since ceased to recognize the distinction, if ever he did. (It's easy to suppose that Janette, as usual, would fall somewhere between, but instead I submit that we have too few instances of her hypnotizing people to place her firmly in comparison... except perhaps to float the hypothesis that she may hypnotize less often than Nick or Lacroix.)

To deny someone the freedom to think and remember as he wills is a horror. Even a slave has his thoughts and memories, surely? Such hypnotism is non-con/dub-con through a fantasy/sci-fi metaphor.

(Each to her own when it comes to squicks, of course! This just happens to be one of mine.)

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honor_reid: Nataliehonor_reid on February 24th, 2013 04:45 am (UTC)
I agree with you about the dubcon nature of them using hypnotism when it is convienent. I was always a little disappointed when Nick used it especially when he used it with his friends, like Natalie and Schanke. Then again I always hated it when Nick would do it for someone's own good. Rather then letting people make their own decisions and their own choices he feels he knows better.

To me it feels so high-handed and unfair. Plus I know he says it is for their own good but I think it has an element of self-protection to it. It is not as altruisic as he tries to make it sound.

Hopefully that all made sense, I am not at my most eloquent this late at night!

Great essay, very well written. Thanks!
waltdwaltd on February 24th, 2013 06:16 am (UTC)
Vampiric Hypnotism and Morality
I think the nature and the culture of the vampire in question needs to be taken into account along with and perhaps in contrast to our own moral attitudes.
As far as LaCroix is concerned, the attitude of obedience to his every word is something he expected simply from his position as a Roman aristocrat. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't realize that he had the power of hypnotism for a century or two, that people obeyed him because of his power of command. In his world-view, it was only right and moral he be able to tell people what to do. According to our values today, it's morally reprehensible to manipulate people like that; however, according to LaCroix' background, it was perfectly o.k. to do this. One can only guess what would be going in in the mind of a medieval Brabantine knight.
In other words, LaCroix would have looked at you and said, "what's the problem?" Nick has developed a better sense of right and wrong (according to current standards) and has become a more modern (and fully developed) person.
greerwatsongreerwatson on February 25th, 2013 04:30 am (UTC)
I suspect you are not alone in disliking Nick's use of hypnotism on his friends—the car-washing incident being the most egregious instance. Nevertheless, I also find problematic his use of hypnosis in the course of a police investigation, though it is presented as readily justifiable, i.e. the ends justifying the means.

How often does he influence a suspect to confess? This isn't some clever interrogation that persuades the truth out of a simple-minded or remorseful culprit: they have no choice in the matter (unless, that is, they're a resistor). Often enough, Nick employs hypnosis with sufficient subtlety that witnesses do not realize what is going on. In other words, there are others who have heard the confession. As it has been compelled, it should not be admissible in court—but it could be, all too easily.

Of course, it is very useful for him to be able to hypnotize a forgetful or traumatized witness into remembering the details of a crime. And, it must be admitted, in many instances it's the former: the detail Nick needs is one that the person saw only in passing; so he's simply jogging an errant memory. However, he's not averse to using hypnosis on someone who is injured (the cop at the beginning of "Sons of Belial" comes to mind). There is also the possibility that reliving the trauma might exacerbate it: Nick is hardly a therapist, nor is that his intent.

Yet it does seem to be the ability to "whammy" that people like Natalie and Tracy envy most. ("You must teach me how to do that.")

Edited at 2013-02-25 04:31 am (UTC)
PJ1228pj1228 on February 28th, 2013 09:04 pm (UTC)
Dark traits
I agree on the whole using hypnotism is unhealthy and unfair theory. However, I'm not bothered by the fact that Nick applies it so frequently because it's part of his dark nature which I enjoy seeing coming to the fore. I'm not saying that it is a good thing that he uses hypnotism so frequently and often without a second thought. It merely shows to me that he is more distanced from the goal he struggles to achieve without consciously realizing it. Which leads me to the conclusion - and I know that we disagree on this - that he doesn't really want to give up on all abilities that come with vampirism.

Besides, it does come in handy when you need a table in a crowded restaurant...