Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Tony Robbins: The Bad Guy
If you don't know who Tony Robbins is this means you're probably not a American, or you've probably never looked at the self-help section in a book shop. But in brief summary, Tony Robbins is the highest paid and most successful personal development guru in the world. His whole thing is that he can help you re-engineer yourself for 'ultimate success' by changing how your mind works (by 're-programming your neural pathways'). Particularly, he helps you by teaching you how to do this thing called 'modelling', where you copy the exact heuristics of a 'highly successful' person as they succeed at the thing you want to succeed at. Which is... pretty much what Adam does.
Adam is a frankenstein style big bad on Btvs, who goes around cutting people and demons up to understand how they work, so that he can eventually execute his plan of piecing together people/demons to make super soldiers free of weakness, just like him. Tools of his trade: he has a knack for being able to motivate people (monsters) towards his mission. Like many problems Btvs aims to explore, this is a literal interpretation of the Tony Robbin's mission in life, put in a monster fighting context.
The question is: why does Tony Robbins make such a good villain? On the surface, you might think that a guy who devotes himself to helping others get the 'life they deserve' is no one to associate with evil.
Well, the reason Adam made a good villain for Buffy season 4, was because the season was devoted to the idea of being young and independent for the first time in your life, and having to learn how to deal with the 'greys' and uncertainties in life (pure existentialist-style) and *not* rely on having all the answers. Therefore Buffy fought villains that wanted certainty to fight their weaknesses, so as to contrast with her own journey and that of her friends. She fought soldiers who lived by all the moral certainties that soldiers live by, and she fought a Tony Robbins monster set on removing weakness.
In one form or another the 'Tony Robbins as a bad guy' idea usually comes down to a suspicion of how he's conning people. He promises so much... if you just hand over your money. But the above is an interesting variant, where the con isn't a promise he won't deliver, but a promise he couldn't and shouldn't deliver.
So what's so good about 'the grey'?
It can be tiring to see pain romanised. Pain isn't romantic, it's just painful. But if one can learn to find some peace, maybe even enjoyment, from the complexities and uncertainties they will deal with in their life, they're putting themselves in a much more powerful position to be able to error correct. And error correction of ideas is needed to learn anything about how to live. To seek the perfect cure of weakness, then, might sound pragmatic, but it's really explaining away part of the methodology needed to enjoy life.
The principle is exactly the same in any other area of knowledge creation. If one attempts to create knowledge by avoiding or explaining away problems, one only ends up with dogmas. To actually 'problem solve', one needs to be on friendly terms with the idea that there are problems.