(This post is Part 2 of Frog 37, which begins here).
Some would say that Mother 3 is, at times, about the loss of innocence. As Tazmily “modernizes” itself, the simple way of life we’ve come to know in Chapters 1 through 3 will be replaced by a sleeker, faster, more labor-intensive vision, which will ultimately ostracize most of the Tazmilians from one another. Lucas himself, when he steps into the protagonist role in Chapter 4, will embody this theme all the more boldly as he continues to develop as a character.
Of course, there’s another type of innocence in Tazmily, and it’s one I would liken more to gullibility. There are some Tazmilians who live a simple, charmed life, but they seem to do so in a haze of faux positivity. I’m talking about none other than everyone’s favorite young, married couple, Abbot and Abbey. These two star-crossed lovers can typically be found looking up: not because the sun is shining, and not because a bird is flying by, but because someone (probably Claus) told them that “gullible” was written on the ceiling.
Maybe calling Abbot and Abbey gullible is a little mean. I mean, it wasn’t their fault that the grass was so slick on the night of the storm that Abbey fell and hurt herself. And it wasn’t their fault that a chimera flew out of the chaos and attacked Abbey later that night, biting her right on the head. And it wasn’t their fault that Abbot happened to be so close to Flint when he swung his stick and knocked him over. Like many Tazmilians over the last few days, Abbot and Abbey have occasionally been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that’s bound to happen to anybody.
But if you ask me, there’s something a little different about Abbot and Abbey, and I’m not sure what to chalk it up to, so I’ll just look at the facts. We know that Abbot loves collecting things, which is why he decides to order a Happy Box. When Abbot receives his Happy Box, he becomes almost immediately giddy; when you talk to Abbot both around this time and after, he laughs a lot, speaks with exclamation points, and seems very taken by the entire Happy Box experience. Whereas Isaac wanted the Happy Box to see if it was really what it claimed to be, Abbot seems to just want the Happy Box for the sake of having it.
Abbey, on the other hand, had not even realized Abbot ordered a Happy Box, so when Salsa shows up with one for Abbot, she cancels her order. (I wish I could replay this scene to see what happens if you talk to Abbey and give her the Happy Box first; I assume the dialogue exchange would be at least a little bit different). Abbey’s response to the box is a bit more measured: she likes its pink color, and she likes where she decided to put it. This is at least more tamed than Abbot in the corner, giggling and ogling over the thing.
I think it’s Abbot’s complete lack of skepticism and discretion that makes me feel weird. Because Fassad said the box will make you happy, Abbot believes he is becoming happier just by having it. “Dunno why, but the fact you can be happy as long as you have this makes me happy! Hahahahaha!” Like, look: on one hand, I appreciate a pure, simple approach to life and entertainment. Abbot reads the writing on the box, HAPPY, and says to himself, “Hey this makes me happy–good for me!” But on the other hand, I can’t help but be a little disappointed in Abbot for so easily giving himself over to blind consumerism. I know he doesn’t know he’s doing this, but think for a moment, Abbot! Just because you’re simple doesn’t mean you’re dumb.
But maybe that’s why we need Abbot and Abbey. They show us how trusting Tazmilians are. And sure, these two may be a little gullible and easy to trick, but they’re also willing to try new things. And I know “willing to try new things” takes on a much different meaning when the “new thing” is from a secretly and deeply evil person, but I like that Abbot and Abbey just seem to like collecting shit. It’s what most people do in our own day and age, and I don’t even mean that cynically: people collect things. Phones have 100+ apps on them, digital photo albums can be saved infinitely (it seems) into the cloud. Smart Technology may make it seem like we’re collecting less, because we don’t have 50 Happy Boxes laying around our house, but we still collect, amass, and maintain absurd amounts of data in a digital space, and it was the consumerism of 10, 20, 30 years ago that made us so comfortable with this.
But Abbot and Abbey aren’t so bad, and they really aren’t so dumb either. Like I said, at the end of the day, these are two people who got tricked by someone much more devious than them; these are also two people who believed the advertisement, which is something we all do every day. I mean, how many people per day click on the Instagram Ad for an Addicting Game? Or how often does the internet send you a picture of an article of clothing that matches up perfectly with your style? Ads, and impassioned political speeches, have been tricking humans for 100s of years. Abbot and Abbey may be a little predisposed to gullibility, but who’s to say Fassad wouldn’t have tricked me? Who’s to say I’m not buying “Happy Boxes” all the time? Flashy, exciting little things that promise to do something for me? Whether that’s makes me happy, make me stronger, make me smarter…
(Just the other day, I placed a bid on some vintage Dragon Ball action figures, on a whim… and I won! So hooray for me! But did I really need these? I’m not a kid; I’m not going to play with them. They’re going to sit on my desk. Talk about an arbitrary purchase!)
The sad part, though, is how within an hour, Abbot and Abbey are, like, completely transfixed by the box. There’s Abbey, who says she started to stare at the “pretty light” until feeling “uplifted” and “REALLY happy,” then there’s Abbot who’s talking himself into circles, expressing all the ways the Happy Box is just blowing his mind. Abbot surmises that maybe the box itself just makes him happy, or maybe happiness is sent to the box from some faraway place, or maybe–oh boy, just thinking about it makes him happy!
I’d say that Abbot and Abbey have buyers’ remorse and are trying to over-justify their weird purchase, but the Happy Box was free, so it’s not like it cost them anything. Monetarily, that is.
Well, I wish I had more to say about these two, but I think we should see them as a lesson. The first lesson is this: don’t fall for foolish tricks. Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Don’t go staring into Happy Boxes. Don’t be so gullible that the first smooth-talker who comes into town can sell you snake oil and headlight fluid and call it a day.
The second lesson is this: remember that we aren’t that different Abbot and Abbey. I buy dumb shit that I don’t need all the time. I fall for advertisements all the time. Nearly every time I walk to the CVS by my house, I end up leaving with something I didn’t intend to buy, probably because, on some neurological level, the packaging spoke to my brain and my brain said BUY IT. So yes: I like poking fun at Abbot and Abbey, and even being somewhat embarrassed for them, but what about me? What do I look like when I blindly buy into something? I’m reminded of A Christmas Story when the dad wins the infamous Leg Lamp. He’s so drunk with the excitement of having the thing that he doesn’t even realize how ridiculous it is.
So, are Abbot and Abbey are easy to make fun of? Sometimes, yeah, and for good reason. They’re two goofy young lovers. They’re infatuated with each other and their Happy Box. If they’re not slipping in the grass or getting bit by chimeras, they’re getting tricked by Fassad or knocked out by Flint.
But I also hope you have some empathy for them, because they don’t know what they do. When you look at the box their, um, Box came in, it’s empty. Note that Isaac used his box for something, but these two youngsters simply have their empty one lying around. I don’t mean to get too English Teacher-y on you, but I think we can see something here. Abbot, at least, has admitted to his desire to collect, which, when under the empty guises of some capitalistic endeavors, can be switched out for the word: consume. Blatant, arbitrary consumerism is an empty box. It’s a road that doesn’t reuse the box, but leaves it empty, then tosses it aside. Why reuse a cardboard box when you have a Happy Box?
And hey, what is a Happy Box? Shouldn’t we have asked Itoi by now?
But anyway–I’m not trying to make grand statements about characters based on how effectively they reduce, reuse, and recycle. Like with Isaac, I’m just pointing out that: hey, the other villager reused their box, which, in a way, seems consistent with his character. Abbot and Abbot just tossed their box aside; they’re on a different road than Isaac. Isaac is looking for meaning, for someone to follow, for something to believe in… if only he hadn’t chosen Fassad.
And Abbot and Abbey… I don’t know what they’re looking for. Like their empty cardboard box, their situation is just more… bland. They like to collect things. They like to have stuff. If Fassad rolled out a Happier Box next week, I’m sure they’d be first in line to get it. It all feels a little emptier, doesn’t it? Hell, even the way Abbot talks about happiness feels empty, how he justifies it through talking about the box over and over…
What’s with all my ellipses in the last paragraph? Am I becoming an ellipsis person? Hmmm…. I hope not! Maybe I just need to take a break…
I’ll see you tomorrow!