Part 18: Episode 7: Tyler Misses His Dead FatherEpisode 7 - Tyler Misses His Dead Father
Let's finish this beast off. The words smeared on the wall in blood look kind of familiar. Let's take a closer look...
This is a quote out of Inferno, from Dante's Divine Comedy. That's kinda advanced for a child to know well enough to dream about it. But who cares! It's a magic dream, so Cliffy can do what he wants. Internal logic, or any kind of logic really, be damned.
Hey! Remember that crystal we got for throwing a photo in a hole? Did you know it was a magic parachute? Tyler refuses to jump down that hole until we have the crystal. This series would've ended a whole lot sooner if Tyler wasn't so petulant.
A cave in prevents you from going any further. The pile of rubble is covered wih candles and skulls, giving the room an eerie glow.
Judging by the candles, I can only assume this is the room where Christian puts on some light jazz and enjoys a good bath. We have to talk to the eyes in the front skull to move on.
Who are you and what are you doing in that skull.
Call me Rennis, call you fool! Now go away, I don't want him to know I talk with you!
What happened here? Why can't I pass?
A cave in! He got mad, made rocks fall from sky. He doesn't want anyone but Tyler in here. If you're Tyler, it is proof I want!
What do you know about Christian?
He's terribly mean, that he is! He does mean things to nice folk. Be careful!
He needs proof I'm Tyler. There's only one way we can resolve this:
I'm gonna fuck that skull with my knife.
Aww. You'd think the key would be the right answer, but you are mistaken. It's the photo of your dead father that we need.
On the far end of the room is a small niche in the wall in which light pours into from a hole above it. In that niche sits a pair of shattered glasses, a flower, and a teddy bear.
A pair of glasses that look exactly like Terry's lay shattered on the dirt.
A radiant flower that emits a hideous scent is planted in the niche.
A tiny teddy bear with red eyes lays on the ground.
Clicking on the flower or glasses just gives a message that you don't need those. Clicking the teddy bear that is clearly a bunny ends the game. Yep. No final puzzle, no interesting navigation. Just click rabbit for end.
So click that rabbit for the ending. Don't worry, I'll wait for you to get back.
Here is the epilogue, and the conclusion the psychiatrist from the first game's intro reached about Tyler, who apparently had multiple personalities. I'm not sure I could live with having Milhouse and the chestburster from the end of Spaceballs living inside my head. We'll pick this apart shortly. First, though...
A contest was held where everyone could submit their own interpretations on various parts of the series. Let's see what kind of in-depth analysis we got:
The Princess represents Tyler's confused teenage ideals about women. On the one hand, he is still young enough to dislike "stoopid gurls", but on the other, he is undergoing the normal hormonal changes that will soon make him a man. This would explain why she is described as beautiful, but is, in fact, ever so slightly disturbing. It is his inner ambivalence toward the opposite gender.
Also notable is his conflicting feelings in the interaction. On the one hand, the conversation is utilitarian on his end, women are nothing but tools to young tyler (whose main experience is with his mother, who serves him, in a sense), but, on the other, it is an awkward conversation because he is starting to want to be noticed by girls, and it shows in the end of the conversation. In a surprising turnabout, he is in fact slave to the Princess (representing female sexuality), who sends him on another fetch quest without (and this is important) actually kissing him.
The Unknown Soldier
The Unknown Soldier (which, heretofore, will be referred to as TUS) is an interesting manifestation of Tyler's repressed feelings for his father and all other male figures in his life. While not much is known about his mother, TUS confirms that she underwent a metamorphosis after Tyler's father's death and thus became a much sought after commodity in the community. In other words, she slept around with a lot of men. This makes TUS all the namless, faceless men that entered and left the revolving door of Tyler's life and explains his attitudes towards women in general. The need to be buried is also Tyler's wish to finally accept that his mother catted around.
The burial rites used is a bit unusual. While TUS thanks you when you bury him, you are still required to perform one additional thing and in return you get a mirror. This mirror can finally show Tyler's reflection of himself that he was also an unknown soldier, warring with his internal demons.
The fact that TUS is a soldier is also significant. Western philosopher, Immanuel Kant, tells us of the military identity and the non-military life. One (or more) of the men that Tyler's mother may have been intimate with were perhaps soldiers. The crashed jeep with only one working headlight, so much significance!) is also a sign of the accident. A soldier also, perhaps at some point, has ventured onto a ship or a boat. On this boat, many things may have been witnessed and most likely a lot of battles were fought on this boat.
The boat could mean a lot of things but most importantly is the boat that crashed onto rocks, ripping open its steel and left it hanging by the cables and wires. A boat hanging by wires is a metaphor for the journey into the afterlife and is meant to assure the viewer that although we will find ourselves on day on this ship of fools adrift and lost, that it is not the end of a journey, but the start of something new.
TUS's hat can also be a metaphor for all the different hats we wear during our lifetimes but the green hat (new ideas) is the only meaningful one.
Bouf represents the hatred and resentment Tyler feels towards his father, and the confusion of contrast between these very real feelings and the love one is supposed to feel for members of one's family. Stuck in a nonfunctional Auto Repair shop, Bouf represents a child's confusion; what does a parent do when stuck at that ephemeral thing called 'work'? To a child, and Tyler in particular, it seems that 'work' is just an excuse not to be with one's family.
We can clearly see the negative feelings Tyler associates with his father, or Bouf in this case, when he takes the shotgun and blows his goddamned head off for a fishing rod. All he ever wanted was an excuse for male bonding, but that 'work' thing just kept getting in the way. With the fishing rod in hand, he can only fall deeper into the pit of despair inside of his dreams, because his father can no longer participate in that activity.
And even with all these negative feelings, Tyler still feels a confusing amount of pride and love towards his father, as represented by the guardian statue of Bouf standing watch over the representation of Tyler's first pet.
Thus, we can see that the child's mind is IcantfuckingdothisanymoreIquit.
I was going to do only one character but on delving deep into this matter I have found that simply one character does not do it justice; I am driven to review the first game entirely to truly showcase the vast and incredible symbolism. Hopefully this does not upset anyone.
The entire series of games is a metaphor for the budding sexuality of a homosexual young boy still in the closet. However, because the game is a nightmare rather then a dream, it is not a glorious call of the boy understanding his sexuality, but rather him trying to deny it even as he needs to accept it to move on. I'll do the first game only, but I'll also do the other two if others want.
The first game represents confusion. Along the way, the boy must both give into gay temptations as well as struggle against them in order to succeed.
The protagonist awakens in a dirty urban alleyway, which is where the mass media often portrays crude homosexual sex occuring. He quickly leaves the alley but not before gathering a "rubber" (slang for a condom) and male underware that, despite their location, smells "April fresh," a symbol of the boy's latent homosexuality trying to reach out and show him that it isn't evil. On leaving he soon finds himself in "Bouf's bar and auto repair," and the bar itself is claimed as the home of many male lounge lizards. Here, the boy's unconscious mind attempts to combine two symbols of masculinity; there are no women here, only men, looking for a fun night out, or working on great machines with their dirty hands. The streets themselves only add to the confusion; there is an oversexualized woman in the window, but rather then feel any sorts of lust, the boy only makes a dumb pun.
It's no surprise that the city turns into docks - the home of sailors who are often stereotyped for being homosexual themselves. Attempting to find something of comfort, he finds a fish - the ichthys symbol for Christianity. Unfortunately for him, the fish is rotted, a sign of his own spiritual rot as he wrestles with his sexuality. The fish is then used to unlock the upper part of Bouf's bar, where he is presented with a large, masculine character who tries to "help" the boy, as well as a suspiciously large container of lubricant. Large, "bear-like" men with phallic objects or sexual paraphernalia would be a mainstay for Cliffy B's works later on, specifically in the Gears of War series. The lubricant itself is used to "grease the sewers" - in other words, to lubricate and prepare a small opening so that a much larger member could fit through then could otherwise, an outright reference to anal sex. Inside the sewers is a crocodile trying to sell his own games - engaging in commercial masturbation in other words. Additionally, there is a pile of "goo" that the boy must cross - he throws in the underpants and receives a shotgun. This seems fairly obvious - he takes the symbol of "fresh" homosexuality, untainted by bigotry, and throws it into the dirt and filth and steps on it, rejecting it; in return he is told to just fucking kill himself.
The signs of suicidal urges continues when the boy takes a skull (a symbol for death) and, tries to throw it through the window of a floral shop, floral shops known for being kinda gay. It's no surprise that both the floral shop and the sewers (which as covered are a symbol for the human anus) are on the crossroads of "Ben street" and "Jazz avenue." In return he is given several large shards of glass to slit his wrists with. The shotgun is used to "blow open a porthole" which is a euphamism for gay sex. It is only after metaphorically engaging in gay sex that Bouf will help the boy, a symbol of his own fear of adult homosexuals and the idea that they may have "tainted" or "seduced" him into this lifestyle. Even worse, the only way to receive the help from Bouf is to unload his shotgun (penis) into Bouf's face, thus "blowing a load" all over the face of the large, muscular man surrounded by power tools and vaseline. It's not long after this that the boy "falls off the bridge," a metaphor for falling off the path of the straight lifestyle. Instead he meets a large gray - or perhaps, gay??? - shark, which devours the fish, symbolizing the gay lifestyle devouring the Christian morals. In return, the boy is given the unicorn key - unicorns being a symbol and mascot of the homosexual community, as well as being pretty gay in of themselves.
Now armed with a sign of pure and powerful homosexuality, the boy returns to Bouf's bar and auto parts to find a homosexual waiting for him. The boy quickly finds himself "putting the helium into the balloon" (I don't think I even need to express what this is a metaphor of) which causes him to float away. However, so soon after succumbing to some of what is in his mind the worst homosexual deeds, the boy finds a Bible along with a cross. The cross burns his hand as a symbol of his own self-loathing and repression, even as the Bible verse attempts to sooth him with the love of Christ. The shard of glass is then used to cut a single pure flower - the flower of virginity - which is then used to turn a bat to stone, showing how the purity of a chaste life can turn away evil as well as draculas. But not all is well - when the boy holds up the cross, this causes the sign of the cross to appear, but on it's side and caste in a blood red. And when the boy walks through, he is treated to a horrific show of death. Not any random death, but death by impalement - if you will, death by phallus. The boy in his urge to escape speaks to his childhood friend (another boy, unsurprisingly, and one who looks kinda gay himself) and, urged by this, uses the Power of Homosexuality as shown by the unicorn key to finally escape the dream.
End the end, the boy awakens only more confused. Throughout the dream he had to succumb many times to the "forbidden fruits" of homosexuality - but rather then repulsed him, it only aided him and indeed made him feel good.
So what DID we get out of this game? Well, there's the obvious part where Tyler's been coping with his father's death and uses heavy-handed symbolism to represent not only the father, but his rage at being so helpless about it. If we had more details on his personal life, and in particular the nature of his relationship with his father, this could have been a deep journey into the nature of grief. Instead, we got a talking bone.
The art was by far the easiest thing to pick apart. I mean... just look at any of these screenshots. This was a commercial game available in stores, I might add. This wasn't some indie game slapped together in Game Maker by an autistic child. But the overall plot and setting are something that you really need to look back on as a whole to see how badly everything came together. For example, the dreams themselves were largely unconnected, disjointed, and didn't follow any kind of narrative or serve any purpose to tie into each game. 2 in particular only had some vague and horribly false details on the stupid plastic unicorn key, and kept reminding you that NiteMare is a bad place and Christian is the devil.
The devil enjoys wearing scraps of cloth on his elbows and a bowler hat. Christian was wholly useless as an antagonist. You have 3 games where he is hyped as the ultimate evil, AND as Tyler's father. You expect some kind of Darth Vader moment, and instead he's actually just a split personality who gets hit in the destiny with a gift shop key. It should go without saying that just like the native american lore, symbolism, and the general perspective in the art, Cliffy is incredibly wrong about how multiple personalities work. Again, if we saw anything going on with Tyler's actual life we might be able to glean something useful from Christian as his dark side, or Terry as his invisible friend.
Dare to Dream has a lot of ideas that could work well, if they were done very differently by someone else. But this is what we got. We shot Guile in the face for lube, we dumped a bucket of tree snot on a talking bone, and we made a skinless man vanish into dust by touching him with a leaf.
Tyler coped with his loss and having a heavy metal album cover living in his head.
CliffyB went on to make a few really good games, some of which manage to feature characters with necks.
Mr. Swoon developed a crippling meth habit. On warm nights can be found wandering the streets of Canada, carrying around a sign reading "WILL COMMENT ABOUT VIDEOGAMES FOR FOOD".