• Member Since 18th Aug, 2011
  • offline last seen 14 hours ago

Rex Ivan


Fun with rusty metal.

More Blog Posts11

  • 3 weeks
    New Generation, AKA how to get old fans invested in new works

    Been a while, I know, but I want to talk about the "MLP A New Generation" movie. I saw it on Netflix, and I liked it.

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    0 comments · 20 views
  • 342 weeks
    It was always there.

    The FIM season five premier highlights the destructive and manipulative nature of communism when actually put into practice. Everyone who watched those two episodes can see that. It's obvious. What isn't so obvious is that the show has been doing that for quite some time. Will you believe me now when I say that the King Sombra episodes were about a tyrannical dictatorship. Yes, I'm banging

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    1 comments · 391 views
  • 369 weeks
    And then I donated to A.L.S. research

    Demon of Decay decided to tag me with the ALS donation challenge. It was supposed to be 'within twenty-four hours', but he will have to settle for 'within twenty-four hours after first realizing I had been challenged'.

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    1 comments · 602 views
  • 438 weeks
    In Defense of King Sombra

    This is where I try to defend the character King Sombra against all the people who say he was a useless waste of a villain. Also, the only time I will mention the name “Sauron” will be in this sentence. I understand how some people can compare the two, but it's kind of a cop-out to have your entire case based on a character from a different work, so I won't even go there.

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    7 comments · 583 views
  • 466 weeks
    The 'Write for Yourself' Lie

    Rant mode engaged.

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    5 comments · 496 views
May
30th
2013

In Defense of King Sombra · 7:28pm May 30th, 2013

This is where I try to defend the character King Sombra against all the people who say he was a useless waste of a villain. Also, the only time I will mention the name “Sauron” will be in this sentence. I understand how some people can compare the two, but it's kind of a cop-out to have your entire case based on a character from a different work, so I won't even go there.

I hear a lot of people say that King Sombra has no depth or motivation as a character, and that he was a wasted potential. Then they usually make fun of him by hissing out the line “crystals”. I agree that the writers could have done a few things differently with his character or made a few things more clear, but he wasn't the giant waste that many people make him out to be.

It seems like everyone is forgetting what King Sombra is all about. No, it isn't just “crystals”. King Sombra is a tyrant. He managed to enslave an entire empire. We see from the door illusion spell that ensnared Twilight and Spike, that he holds domain over magics that control fear and despair. Judging from the appearance and dialog of the crystal ponies at the beginning of the episode, Sombra was using those same magics to keep those citizens under his hoof.

He had to rule through fear and despair because that's the only ability he really had. The raw power of any nation is reliant on the people that make up the nation, not the leader. The leader is only the guidance system for the missile, so to speak. A corrupt leader can use all sorts of tricks and illusions to make it seem like he has all the power and the people have nothing. However, if the people collectively realize that they've always had the ability to overthrow a tyrannical leader, then nothing in the world will stop that leader from being tossed out. Military might will hold off a revolt for a time, but not indefinitely. That is the basis of any revolution: the people finally stop fearing the oppressor. When the people understand that the power to truly defeat a tyrant is in their own hearts and minds, then fear and despair can no longer take hold. That is what happened to Sombra in the end.

We also see that Sombra controls the magic of corruption, from the black blocking crystals he put on Shining Armor's horn. He has the ability to disrupt magical flow, and even stop it entirely. He has the same ability as the thought police. If any unicorn's thoughts are deemed “too dangerous”, then he clamps down on them. They are bound, and they can not express those thoughts as magic. This is what all tyrants do to their detractors through censorship and banning books. They have to shut down “dangerous free thinkers” or else the ideas might spread, opinions might be expressed in public, and truths might be brought to light. The darkness can not tolerate that.

I hear people ask, “What was his motivation?” It's the same motivation as any other tyrant. To grab as much power as they can and keep it as long as possible. One of the few things that powerful people really truly fear is the loss of their power. It's the “sword of Damocles” story. A king has the nation at his command and every luxury at his disposal, but when he sits on his throne there is a giant razor sharp sword dangling over his head, held suspended from the ceiling by a single thread as thin as a strand of hair. It's a metaphor for how power can be an awesome thing, but the king who has it is living in constant fear that if he doesn't play his cards just right, the very power he wields will come down on his head. In other words, the people will revolt.

You may be asking, “But what was his motivation for being a tyrant in the first place?” The answer to that is “I don't know, and it doesn't matter”. It doesn't matter why Sombra was initially seeking power, because ultimately he turned to seeking power for the sake of having power. Many dictators have risen to their positions by standing on the basis of “good ideas”, and later they turned into horrible murderers who were willing to kill anyone that went against them. Whatever the initial idea was, whether it was something they really believed in or just a ruse to get into the position of power in the first place, that idea is put aside for the sake of gaining more political and social influence. They doubled their efforts while losing sight of their goal. In one way it's pretty sad, but in another more important way, those people are monsters.

That is exactly what Sombra had become. So instead of giving a flashback as to how he rose to power, the story cuts directly to how we see him in the present. All we know is that King Sombra has succumbed to the disease of power lust. That is his character now, and any sort of back story is irrelevant. We can infer all we need to know about him with what little information is given. We know he wants crystals, because the state of the Crystal Empire and its citizens reflects onto all of Equestria, effecting it accordingly. The crystals are apparently a way to magnify and spread magical force, whether for good or for bad. If he can manage to seize power in the Crystal Empire again, then he can extend his influence across the continent, and he will have the additional power he craves … until he decides that he needs more. They always eventually decide that they need more.

The threat he represents isn't a direct one, but more of a 'what if' scenario. What happens if he manages to get a hold of the crystal heart and cast his fear and torment on the crystal citizens again? When a continent is ensnared in despair and fear, I think it can be implied that really bad things are to follow. We don't need to see it actually happening to understand it will be bad, just like we didn't need to see what was going to happen if “the night lasted forever”.

Now you may be saying, “But he didn't DO anything!”, and to this I would say, “You're right”. He didn't do anything except scare the crystal citizens and create illusions that he was bigger and badder than he actually was. That's because this is all that any tyrant is capable of doing. They have no real power. All they can do is spread corruption and terror. In that regard, I think the writers got his character just right. He is a true tyrant, and he meets the same fate of all tyrants.

I can't be the only one who saw this. Your thoughts and comments and critiques are invited in the comment section below.


EDIT: A friend of mine brought up the fact that being deposed of power and killed was, in fact, not the fate of several tyrants (Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong-il came immediately to mind). Those individual tyrants were as successful as any can hope to be. They managed to die as old men, while keeping their people stomped down. Eventually the citizens rose up in the USSR, but not in Stalin's lifetime. In that case, the mantle of tyranny was being overthrown, not simply the person most notorious for maintaining it. I have my suspicions that eventually North Korea's citizens will do the same, but I may be overly optimistic about that.

Anyway, that topic is beyond the scope of this journal entry. My point, that Sombra wasn't the pointless character that most make him out to be, still stands.

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Comments ( 7 )

The threat he represents isn't a direct one, but more of a 'what if' scenario. What happens if he manages to get a hold of the crystal heart and cast his fear and torment on the crystal citizens again? When a continent is ensnared in despair and fear, I think it can be implied that really bad things are to follow. We don't need to see it actually happening to understand it will be bad, just like we didn't need to see what was going to happen if “the night lasted forever”.

Well, he is the "big nameless threat" version of an antagonist. You either have the "We know they're evil" type of entity (the Cruel King, the Voracious Aliens) or the "it's going to be bad if it happens" ones like Sombra. In this case, Sombra can be seen more like the nuclear reactor that might go critical, or the dam that is about to burst - the potential for devastation and loss is there, and you've got to stop him before the hinted at fate comes to pass.

This is where I try to defend the character King Sombra against all the people who say he was a useless waste of a villain.

Well, you don't see him for very long, and then he is vanquished. It's easy to see why people feel that way when put up against Queen Chrysalis and Discord, both of whom had speaking roles and plenty of character. Sombra was, in comparison, pretty flat.

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It's easy to see why people feel that way when put up against Queen Chrysalis and Discord, both of whom had speaking roles and plenty of character. Sombra was, in comparison, pretty flat.

No argument there. Sombra's characterization as an individual with a personality is sorely lacking. My point was that he represents a concept greater than himself, rather than a single person (pony). He basically exists as a title: Malevolent Dictator. He functions within the parameters of that title, fulfilling that role as best a G-rated cartoon show will allow.

The viewer doesn't really need to know any more than that to understand the story. All the implications of why and how he functions are there. Many people just seem to write him off as "this villain didn't work at all, on any level", and I respectfully disagree.

.....hmm, would have to disagree. i did find sombra a threat and did like his design, but so far he is the character with the least depth when it comes to the villains. he was a sauron, but i will be the first to say that i will take darth sidious and mister freeze over sauron.
i would find him more interesting if it turns out he is still alive. we saw his horn survived the attack, and his voice was sitll there. could he have drawn what little remained of his life force into his horn?

that would be itnersting because it would add another layer to a rather flat character. that truly his past does not matter, because so little man/pony remained in him that he could live on despite having no body.

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You misunderstand me. My point wasn't what kind of a threat he was, or how weak his personality was. My point is that the character was only a metaphor for something that doesn't usually get featured in a kid's show.

He is a metaphor for real life tyrants. They crave power only for the sake of having power, and the only real way to completely get rid of a tyrant is for the hearts and minds of the people to rise up against him. In the face of that the tyrant is powerless, his entire regime is ripped down, and no one is afraid of him anymore. He is destroyed on an ideological level.

That's what happened in the show, and I think that was the purpose for his character from a writing stand point.

Comment posted by awesome brony deleted Mar 21st, 2014

I hope you don't mind me replying to such an old blog post...

I think there is a bit of implied characterization that Sombra's detractors keep overlooking. Specifically in those traps and illusions that he set, to hide the Crystal Heart. Those layers of security were thorough and redundant enough that they almost beat Twilight outright. (Granted, the gauntlet seemed very dependent on any potential Heart-seeker coming completely alone. But Sombra's hardly the first villain to underestimate the Power Of Friendship, so I can't exactly hold it against him.) The traps paint Sombra as someone both very paranoid and a meticulous planner. In this regard, he's an evil mirror of Twilight Sparkle: Sombra nearly conquers Equestria because of traps he prepared a thousand years ago, while Twilight spends much of the episode scared that "I wasn't prepared for this!"

In any case, less screen time for Sombra means more time for the heroes. And I'm perfectly happy with that tradeoff.

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I don't mind at all. In fact, I enjoy that people take the time to read my old blogs, especially since I am not too active here.

And you're absolutely right. Sombra's character is revealed through actions that the viewer never sees. He has the population of an entire kingdom shaking in their boots, and I hear people saying, "but he wasn't a threat." Plus, those traps were designed over a thousand years ago, and they still worked perfectly. They almost certainly would have succeeded had it been anyone less than the Princess's student prodigy who had confronted them. I get the feeling many fans can't or won't infer anything from their fiction. When the pieces are all there to be examined, that's just lazy on the part of the audience.

The points you mentioned sustain this: that Sombra was calculating, ruthless, and mistrusting of everyone... and now it dawns on me that this was the perfect enemy for the Princess of Love to go up against. He was the paranoid loner who attempted to steal away light and happiness from everyone around him, while she was the trusting giver who empowered an entire kingdom to save themselves.

Thank you for your comment. :twilightsmile:

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