Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Perhaps if I wasn't busy writing essays on Hitler, Virginia Woolf, and King Edward II, you'd get a full post now.
I might even discuss an interesting detail I was just reminded of this morning on another blog ("Beneath Stone Skies" mentioning how in original Core Theory, Halloween was like a mini-Solstice).
I could go into the fact that my headphones haven't stopped making weird MH style distortion noises this entire day.
Or maybe I'd just go on another Slender Hunting adventure.

But since I lack the time for any of those, you're just getting a video made by BanishedZaber which goes with the season.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Evolution of Proxies

Remember back when I was delaying posts because I was too busy playing Minecraft? I miss those days. That was a fun reason to not write posts. Now I’m not writing posts because I just don’t have the time to, and that’s not nearly as much fun.

So one of the questions I’ve most been asked is, “How do I let people know about my series?” Well it looks like I’ll never need to answer that again, because Slenderbloggins has an entire article on the subject now.

Now onto proxies. Anyone remember this post I made way back when? Wow that’s horrendously written. Can’t believe I ever wrote like that. And over half of it is just me quoting Reach. Terrible. (I’ll give myself about 2 months before I look back at this post and say the same thing about it). But enough about me. Things are definitely different now than they were then. A lot of that info has become completely obsolete in the months that have passed since then. But we’re not going to go back and change the post; first off, it offers a snapshot into what the Mythos was like at the time. And second, changing thing takes effort. Horrible, horrible effort. What we’ll do in place of that is look at proxies, not from an in-universe “what their traits and abilities are” perspective, but at their changing story role within the Mythos.

The Evolution of Proxies

Early Days-Cultists, totheark, and Hallowed

Think back. Way, way back. Slender Man is still a brand new idea, just starting to spread beyond the SomethingAwful thread. Proxies? What on earth is a proxy? Closest we had to them was the occasional cultist, but those still weren’t quite what we’d call proxies nowadays.

Then Marble Hornets came along and changed everything in the Mythos. For many, it was their first taste of Slender Man. Even for those who had already been involved with Slendy, it would have a huge effect on the Mythos to come.

Marble Hornets introduced two characters important to the establishment of proxies: Masky and totheark. Masky was a mysterious dude wearing a mask (revealed in season 2 to be Tim) who had popped up occasionally to attack/stalk Jay, for some reason. And totheark was the owner of a YouTube channel who posted SPOOKY and mysterious videos in response to Jay’s entries, even hacking into the main Marble Hornets channel once. During season 1, details about the character were very slim, leading to a lot of fan speculation about them (though that isn’t to say that season 2 hasn’t been equally stingy in what they reveal). There wasn’t (and at this time, still isn’t) a consensus on many of the details about these characters, such as whether or not they’re actually separate people, or what “side” they’re supposed to be on. Because of this, it still is unknown what their relation to Slender Man is; some believe them to be serving him, others disagree. Thus it’s hard to say if they qualify as proxies. That, however, isn’t important. What matters is that these two/one character[s] made a template from which future proxies would be based on.

Jumping from MH to the blogosphere now. It was still a budding part of the Mythos, containing only a handful of stories. Most were still using Classic Slendy, with either no proxies, or followers who resembled Lovecraftian cultists more than servants (a good example of this being the cult from Dreams in Darkness.) Then we got The Tutorial. M introduced the concept of Hallowed (frequently misspelled as Hollowed) which was heavily inspired by MH’s Masky/totheark, as well as some of the behavior shown by characters in Just Another Fool. Hallowed were individuals who, as a result of exposure to Slendy, had their minds destroyed and were placed under his control. According to M, the purpose of Hallowed was to allow Slendy to get around the rules which M had placed on him. Their connection to MH and JAF is shown in the symptoms of being Hallowed: memory loss, black outs, Slendersickness, all of which were symptoms experienced by characters in MH season 1.Another sign of someone being Hallowed was speaking in codes, which would account for totheark’s videos, as well as some of Logan’s later posts on JAF.

What all this did for the Mythos was create the first template for proxies. Slender Man’s minions weren’t a vague, ill defined collection of individuals, but a cohesive group with a defined place underneath Slendy and set guidelines. Also important was how Hallowed were portrayed as directly under Slender Man’s control, instead of free willed individuals who believed they were serving Slendy. While examples of other character who would later be labeled as proxies were present at the time (such as Albert Conaghan, who would serve as an inspiration for Agents), M’s Hallowed would be the source from which later interpretations of proxies would come.

Expanding Role, Agents, ZERG RUSH KEKEKE

As the Mythos expanded, so did the role of proxies. The mind controlled Hallowed tended to be the norm at this point, and would remain so until writers began moving away from M’s original rules. Now that they were an established character type, proxies started to appear more often than they had before.

Two of the original Sage blogs were the first to use larger groups of proxies: Anomalous Data and White Elephants. The proxies in these blogs were faceless mooks who had a nasty habit of running around and trying to foil the Sages’ plans. They remained a lesser threat when compared to Slendy, but still were present in numbers (especially in Anomalous Data, where Jay’s organization clashed with groups of them on occasion.)

One thing to note is that White Elephants used the term “Agents” to describe proxies. At that time, it was just the blog’s term for Hallowed; but later it would gain its own meaning. Another addition to proxies from these blogs, one which didn’t quite catch on, was the concept that Hallowed were connected via a hive mind. It was mentioned at the end of Anomalous Data, but hasn’t had any major appearances since then.

It was during the second trio of Sage’s heyday when proxies really grew into their role. Unfortunately, that was also a time which will be remembered for going completely insane with some of the ways proxies were used.

Use of proxies in stories increased rapidly during this time, to the point where it almost eclipsed Slender Man. Proxies shifted from a peripheral danger to a very real and physical threat, with several instances of proxies attacking individual bloggers in large groups. The number of proxies also drastically increased, to the point where some bloggers told accounts of fighting off massive waves of proxy attacks (although in some cases, such as Para Not-So-Normal, these proxy hordes would be retconned away later on). A common criticism for these large numbers of proxies was comparing them to a zombie apocalypse story: a small group of runners barricaded in a safehouse, fighting off hordes of mindless minions who are killed en masse.

During this time, the language used to describe proxies began to develop. To account for the difference between proxies shown to have free will (such as Conaghan) from the mind controlled Hallowed M described, the word “Agent” was borrowed from White Elephants and became the name for a proxy who retained their individuality and personality, yet still served Slender Man. Other classifications of proxies were invented (such as berserkers or sleepers, which you can see on my earlier post on Slenderproxies), but agent and hallowed were the only ones which had long term usage. It was also then that the word “proxy” began to be used as a term for all minions of Slender Man.

Breaking from the trend of faceless proxy hordes, the blog What Now? created the character Rika. Unlike the majority of proxies running around at the time, Rika was a reoccurring antagonist, rather than a minor obstacle for the protagonists to overcome. She was a major part of the story, and actually interacted with the other characters, instead of being a totheark expy who remained out of sight. She also fit the “crazy/sadistic agent” template which would become more common later on. However, What Now? was never one of the hugely popular blogs. What brought Rika into mainstream attention was her appearance in A hint of serendipity, in the post which brought us the eternally famous “Das ass” line. The confrontation between Zero and Rika lasted only a single post, but it left such an impact that the way it's often treated, you’d easily be forgiven for thinking she was the blog’s main antagonist.

This was also the time when Reach first started to comment on blogs, and later began his blog What You Are in the Dark. He introduced Revenants, proxies who were granted superhuman abilities by the Slender Man. At the start, Reach was really the only revenant out there, but this would lead into the next big phase in proxy evolution….

Supah Powahs pew pew pew

Reach’s creation of revenants did not immediately cause a surge in their use. It took time to build up, until finally exploding in a frenzy of revenant activity. The months of January to March of 2011 were the high point of revenant appearances in blogs; I’d list out the blogs which participated in this trend, but I’m still finding more. It’s as if everyone decided they wanted to introduce their own revenant to the Mythos; even Redlight was turned into one during this time!

Looking back, it is a bit understandable why people would do this. Revenants were just “cooler” than regular proxies: all their super human strengths, plus their healing factor, yet countered by their hypersensitivity Achilles heel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for a few people to have cool revenants in their story. Everybody had to have revenants. Eventually it reached the point where Slendy’s super powered minions were stealing the spotlight from the Man himself. Adding to the issue was the tendency for people to write revenants as either changing sides, like Reach had originally done, or being far more helpful to the protagonists than their job description would imply. When a few revenants go through heel face turns, it can be interesting; when half the revenants do it, one wonders why Slender Man even bothers with making them.

After a few months of this, dislike of revenants was building up. Many didn’t want what to them looked like comic book superpowers appearing in their cosmic horror Mythos. Even Reach, the one who created revenants, had shifted his support away from them. When the blog Vivere Disce made a post claiming that all instances of “super powers” were actually hallucinations caused by Slender Man, Reach jumped on the opportunity, and made a post on WYAITD retconning revenants into a hallucination. That one post brought a pretty sudden end to revenants’ popularity; some blogs continued to use them in their stories, but in fewer numbers than before.

A more positive effect of the revenants was the shift towards proxies as characters rather than unimportant minions. Most of the time (with some exceptions) when a story brought in a revenant, that revenant was going to have a big role to play in their plot, and thus would get much more development than most proxies would previously have gotten. This trend was not limited solely to revenants, though that was where it was most visible early on: as more time passed, more people started to treat proxies in a similar manner. For example, this is the time when the blog The Morning Hunter started up, which has become the defining example of a sadistic agent character blog. The use of proxies as faceless mooks instead of characters still persisted (as did the trend of protagonists HEROICALLY slaughtering these unimportant mooks by the dozens), but it was slowly dying out, as the idea of proxies as characters took root.

The Deconstruction of Proxies

Now we’re moving onto the current phase in proxy use. As with other phases, the events which started this movement occurred before the previous had ended, and took a few months to catch on.

The main purpose of this movement was to deconstruct how proxies were used in the Slender Man Mythos; instead of unimportant minions, they were treated as actual humans, who often were as victimized by Slender Man as the Runners.

The post which really kicked this off was from the blog Walking the Hallowed Halls. WTHH was a new take on a proxy blog: it wasn’t attached to any other story, and its protagonist wasn’t some insane psychopath, but a very human, and very sympathetic, character. On February 25, 2011, a post titled, “McDonald’s Coffee is the Nectar of the Gods” was put up. The post consists of the entire Mythos being called out for its callous treatment of proxies; after all, these proxies are not cackling, card carrying villains who kick puppies for fun (well, not all of them are). Instead, most of them are regular human beings who were broken down by Slender Man. The post was completely contrary to the “proxies are evil and should die” mindset which seemed to be prevalent at the time, and for the next few months would be linked to whenever someone wanted to make a point about the humanness of proxies.

At the same time as WTHH was active, other blogs were beginning to look at the black/white morality of the mainstream Mythos in a more critical light. The Last Refuge of a Dangerous Man took Zero, a character who had previously been almost as heroic as you could have gotten in the Mythos, and turned him into a villain protagonist who caused quite the slaughter during the blog’s run. Then Smiting the Gods (am I allowed to mention my own stuff here? Screw it, I’m doing it anyways) subverted the traditional “Runners good, proxies evil” morality by having its chief proxy antagonist be, in many ways, morally superior to the sociopathic protagonist. And the ending of Now I Shall Know You Again gave us a sympathetic view of a runner slowly breaking down and becoming a proxy, as well as showing us his attempts to maintain some humanity even after falling.

In the spring/early summer of 2011, the deconstruction movement really begin, as blogs focusing on sympathetic proxy characters began to appear. Biggest of these was Don’t Shoot the Messenger, which continued WTHH’s trend of having a sane, sympathetic character provide a viewpoint into the lives of proxies, both hallowed and agents. Even the psychopathic killer proxies in DSTM weren’t treated as one dimensional characters, but were people with real reasons behind their mental disorders.

Of course, it can’t be called a movement if only one blog’s doing it, and there are several other examples of proxy blogs which portray their “villain” protagonists as being as victimized by Slendy as the runners; examples being blogs such as Strike the Set and My Half of Life. Even Morningstar, everyone’s favorite completely psychotic mass murderer, was given some sympathetic traits. At least, until…


He died. Like, today. The post just went up a few hours ago. TIMING, BRO.

This trend hasn’t meant the end for complete monster proxies. There are still quite a number of those out there, some even with their own blogs (Nightscream, Ferus, Gallows-Tree, etc.) But these sadist proxies tend to have a lot more characterization than they did in the past, or at least personality beyond “I KILL STUFF.”

Which seems to leave us in an odd situation where the proxies under Slender Man’s control appear to be divided between poor tortured souls who are really decent people living with circumstances beyond their control, and cartoonishly evil sadists who take far more pleasure in massacre than most psychologists would consider healthy. There’s a few who blur that line, but that’s still a bit of a sharp distinction there.

It’s a bit difficult to predict where things are going to lead from our current perspective. With the Slenderverse having grown as large as it currently is, there’s so many ideas being thrown around out there that it’s hard to figure out which ones will be the ones to stick. Some blogs are exploring the idea of proxies having a bureaucratic hierarchy, others are returning to the idea of giving them superhuman abilities, some are even rejecting the concept of proxies entirely. Once we’ve been granted the magical gift of hindsight, it’ll all become clear, but for now, we can only wait and find out which direction this type of character’s going to be going in next.