"Vile" from MM X series
Analysis, Reflection

Mega Man X Complex: Vile

Airplanes are the space-age cask for fermenting questions about memory and emotion. Jorge Luis Borges was a frequent ‘companion’ of mine on transcontinental flights but, as I returned from Iowa, I wanted only to gaze from the window. I was looking into the distance– imagining myself squeezing out the portal and running into the sun flooded expanses of grass—bypassing my reflection. I saw him  staring back at me, inviting me to recharge my aura, but I decided I wanted to write something ironic instead. ‘The Mega Man X obsession was a defense mechanism;’ I decided I ‘should disassemble my personal myths’. I sketched an outline, titled it “The Mega Man Complex”, and forgot about it.

‘Vile’ in his armor

I had something more iconic in mind on February 15th, 2012 via “In Rainbow Colors”:

Playing from the beginning, I ran into that city over a hundred times, through the gauntlet, to challenge a foe in a reinforced metal-suit.

In the old SNES video game, one plays as a robot-turned-righteous. X obliterates a slew of unremarkable

‘maverick’ robots and stands before the bay door of an enormous air-ship. Vile emerges from a bomb-bay door. Like Sigma, Vile is a powerful and corrupt robot. There is something Jungian—shadowlike—in them because they were once ‘Maverick Hunters’: keepers of order. Vile is drunk on supremacy and nearly destroys X:

X, without upgrades

The game is designed in such a way that X cannot possibly win without being rescued…”

Vile stuns the anemic hero, then holds him aloft and helpless. He gloats openly — calls X a “worthless piece of scrap metal”. Perched atop his armored hydraulic-carrier, Vile commands the fate of the battle. From my perch in the airplane, I saw some ‘Vile’ in myself. I had always seen vile things of a lesser nature in myself, like being intentionally abrasive, but this quality was quintessentially Vile (a capital ‘V’) because of my metaphorical armored-carrier. Sometimes it was manifest in surging anger but more often in a stun gun: every time a challenging memory surfaced, I paralyzed it. Maybe the Vile character sees his own vulnerability in ‘X’ –and is all the more merciless because of it.

Yet, he has no doubt about his mission, except for the doubts he has about himself. He is inadequate.

Vile flees the scene when Zero arrives but he’s waiting at Sigma’s fortress for a rematch; the Vile elements in our lives and selves return, still mounted on vehicles of control. The X in me has begun to doubt even Mission, in light of my self. Perhaps it is because I convinced myself I was a bad, ironic missionary: an ‘infiltrator’. When I was with coworkers at Wi’am I was nourished by our spirit de corps but alone in Amman (Jordan) I was fueled by challenging Israeli border control to one more contest of wills. The battle restored me to my post but the feeling of being impervious flowed into my veins like a warm drug.

Mega Man is neutral on issues of pride because his unprecedented power and skill is not for the sake of prowess or accolades but to respond to the increasing level of difficulty.

Really, Xavier? Stressors ferment into strength or else they desiccate us. I can hold back my shivers, under pressure, but it takes me far too long to weep again and release the poison. Stress can teach us both: abilities ajust_vilend disabilities. I wish only my ‘new’ struggle lingered with me—shades of preexisting darkness taint my ability to digest my ‘nobler’ flaws. A particular addiction comes to mind.  I’ve almost confessed the habit several times but backed-off because I couldn’t “explain” it sufficiently to make torching my reputation worth the confession. No one wants to read details of what I watched, how often, or how it’s “not as bad” as the things I refused to watch, and other qualifications, nor does anyone want to see me piously condemning myself (much less back-tracking). It is less a matter of filth than of weakness. The armored-carrier is a justice-missionary: why unshell the Vile character inside?  The only reason I hint at confession is…

Mega Man is emblematic of a new self-concept, for me, because of his dynamic growth and intrinsic goals. There is no princess or treasure waiting for him in Sigma’s fortress.

…the only reason I confess at all is because I already know there is no princess or treasure waiting for me. No max-tomato will restore my health in an instant, no dancing stars pop from the stonework and make me impervious—no magic mushrooms. Anyone who played this first game in the X series (the only Mega Man game I played, incidentally) knows that X’s strength comes piece by piece as he overcomes other bosses and finds upgrade pods. No equipment or even so much as a spare energy capsule comes to X without a fire-fight. I am in a campaign to reclaim my mind, from many things, yet Vile remains…

Zero: an ally.

It is Zero that chases him away in the initial stage of the game—and X kneels in a state of utter exhaustion:

Yet, he has no doubt about his mission, except for the doubts he has about himself. He is inadequate. Zero leans over and says to him… well, I scoured the internet and could not find it…

I succeeded where I had failed before: I found Zero’s words of encouragement to X after their first encounter with Vile: “X, you should not expect to defeat him; he is designed to be a war machine. Remember, you have not reached full power yet. If you use all the abilities you were designed with, you should become stronger. You may even become as powerful as I am.” During his second encounter with Vile, X is nearly bested (again!) but Zero sacrifices himself to destroy the carrier.

It is not because our programming was fail-safe but because our paths have shaped our potential. Only the blue, self-doubting X from the first stage could have become the imposing X who eventually bests his opponent from earlier in the game.

Who is my Zero? The “right” answer would be to say Jesus, though I had not intended that. I am reluctant to assert that, not wanting to mock the idea. The deification of Jesus that so many Christians make central can distract from his example. I had a fruitful moment of meditation; I conceived of sin as real hurt circulating in our relationships, not as a supernatural stain. More than atoning, we have to remedy secondary-effects: the insidious interest on our debt of transgressions. Jesus is not a ‘sacrificial lamb’ who makes everything better instantly (a max tomato, a magic mushroom). If we understand him as a leader, through whose example we can stand on level ground with all that is Vile, then the crucifixion really did destroy the metaphorical armored-carrier. Unfortunately, that means we have to go beyond building strength to using it. We must fight to rectify accounts, even if we did not cause the imbalances. And I must unshell the Vile in myself so I can be salvaged, too.

Playing from the beginning, I ran into that city over a hundred times, through the gauntlet, to challenge a foe in a reinforced metal-suit.

Upgraded and looking dapper
Upgraded and looking dapper

Mission is continuing the struggle against the hurt already caused and the “sin” still compounding the damage. ‘X’ goes on the offensive and takes responsibility for crimes he is not perpetrating. His sense of collective responsibility is impressive, for a machine, and I think he aspired to be more humane as much as I did to be made of steel. Human or machine, our compassion and our selves are brought to full expression in adversity but not strictly from the trials themselves. There are specific pieces to be discovered and mastered together. As Zero said, “If you use all the abilities you were designed with, you should become stronger. You may even become as powerful as I am.” It is time to reclaim and charge my aura.

—with enhancements: put on the full armor.

As for Vile, he is defeated but never truly dead. The game’s overall storyline would lose X’s best foil if Vile were not reincarnated to be struggled with, on screen in every sequel, adding the thread of a long-term grudge to otherwise fresh casts of ‘mavericks’. In short, he makes the game more human by being SO stubborn.

On that note, part 2 ends.

Kirby things you deserve a max tomato for reading all 1400 words!
Kirby thinks you deserve a max tomato for reading all 1400 words!

*By tools I mean weapons. Its a video-game but I want to keep the violent metaphors muted.

Pt.3: Armor

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