Sunday, March 5, 2023

Mind Control from Trope to Subgenre

Reading yet another book with mind-controlling villain. It's gotten me thinking about how the mind control trope evolved into an entire subgenre of erotic mind control stories (which includes erotic hypnosis).

Western literature has portrayed various forms of hypnosis and mind control ever since Homer sang of Odysseus' encounter with the sirens – mermaids whose song was so beautiful it drove men mad with desire. Early Christians wrote about demons (incubi and succubi) who visited people in their sleep and filled their dreams with lust. Medieval and Renaissance authors wrote about witches and fairies casting love spells.

In the 17th-19th Centuries, physicians began to recognize hypnosis and trance as real phenomenon, and authors such as Bram Stoker (Dracula) and George du Maurier (Trilby) began incorporating hypnosis into their fiction. Stoker's Dracula mesmerized his victims, and held them enthralled while he fed on them. While George du Maurier's Svengali kept his protégé (a beautiful young woman) entranced.

Dracula, of course, inspired hundreds of vampire films, from Nosferatu to Buffy The Vampire Slayer; many of which show vampires seductively hypnotizing and enthralling members of the opposite sex. The Hammer Studio films are particularly notable for their erotic hypnosis scenes. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave and The Brides of Dracula both portrayed the vampires hypnotizing beautiful women in their bed chambers; and the women clearly became sexually aroused as they fell under the vampires' influence.

In the 1960s and 70s, hypnosis and mind control became one of the most common tropes on television. Batman, Bewitched, Get Smart, Gilligan's Island, Scooby Doo, I Dream of Jeanie, Lost in Space, Josie and the Pussycats, Superfriends, and even Underdog all included episodes with some form of hypnosis or mind control. These shows were less overtly sexual than the Dracula films. But when the hypnotist and subject were opposite genders, the scenes often contained subtle erotic undertones. In Gilligan's Island, for example, a mad scientist invented a ring that turned the wearer into an obedient robot. When Ginger and Mary Ann put on the ring, their blank facial expressions closely resembled that of the entranced women in the vampire films. And they both replied to commands with the phrase, "Yes, Master." just like many vampires' thralls.

At the same time, DC and Marvel comics developed dozens of mind controlling villains such as Emma Frost, Jarvis Tetch, Kilgrave, Poison Ivy, and The Ring Master, each with their own style of mind control. Poison Ivy and Kilgrave, for example, used sex pheromones to compel members of the opposite gender love and obey them. Naturally, these stories inspired the readers and viewers to imagine more explicitly erotic fantasies. 

Although mind control was one of the most prevalent themes in pop culture, it remained a trope (a plot device for comedy, horror, crime, and adventure stories) until the emergence of interest-based internet communities. 

Just like the printing press and the VCR, as soon as the internet became available, people used it to share sexual material. Enthusiasts who grew up on the above pop culture quickly established bulletin boards and chat rooms to discuss erotic fantasies with various forms of mind control. Then they began writing stories.

Today the Erotic Mind Control Story Archive boasts close to 30,000 stories. While the theme of these stories is always some combination of mind control and sex, they also include many sci fi elements, such as magical spells, supernatural creatures, pheromone perfumes, cursed objects, telepathy, and brainwashing machines. This makes erotic mind control fiction a subgenre of fantasy and science fiction. 

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