Happy Halloween! Let's talk about some scary shit!
In my Earthbound review, I talked about a lot of things. But there was one thing I didn't discuss, and as much as I'd love to be cute and use some misdirection to get a few chuckles, you've already read this post's title and know I'm going to talk about Earthbound's big bad, Giygas.
In my review, remember how I said this game didn't mind taking itself too seriously? Well, it also knew how to take itself too seriously, too. And in doing so, one of the most disturbing, creepy, weird, awesome, and best final boss fights of all time was created!
As a kid, this guy scared the crap out of me. The fight was just so disturbing. Not just because Giygas was an amorphous monster, but because of that music!
Seriously, the music accompanied with the static on the screen and the way Giygas's form duplicates makes for an unsettling and surreal fight. Add in the fact that he mumbles gibberish the whole time, and you got yourself nightmare fuel imported straight from Japan, the world's epicenter of weird shit!
And all of this is just the tip of the creepy iceberg known as the battle against Giygas! As you probably know, Giygas's dialogue during this fight was inspired by a murder scene that the game's writer, Shigesato Itoi, accidentally watched as a kid. He originally thought it was a rape scene, which decidedly is a worse reason to put it in a game intended for younger gamers. But creepier yet is the Abortion or Fetus Theory. For brevity's sake, the theory states that, during the final battle, Giygas is actually a fetus, and Ness et al. went back in time in order to fight him in a more vulnerable form, thus aborting him before he became really powerful.
I don't know what it is about this theory (other than it's kind of sadistic), but it's divisive to say the least. People are either adamant about Giygas being a fetus or adamant that he's not a fetus. I've done some research, closely examining both sides of the argument, and I have to say that I, in fact, believe that Ness and his friends are conducting a large-scale alien abortion, but only figuratively. Please, let me explain.
First off, though I find myself to be Pro-Fetus, I've also found the Pro-Fetus camp to be overly speculative. Pro-Fetus likes to state Giygas must be a fetus because his dialogue is based on a "rape" scene, which honestly makes no logical sense. They also like to say that Giygas is a baby and innocent and is only defending himself from the big, bad aborters. They support this by saying his dialogue is childlike and that he tries to communicate with Ness by reflecting Ness's face, much like how a child imitates others during infancy. Again, there's little sense to be had. Let's say the dialogue is childish. He could just be insane, which Pokey confirms. And the reflection? It can't be literal because Ness is a robot at the time. Also, I've heard it's actually Ninten - Mother/Earthbound Zero's protagonist who looks a lot like Ness - that he's imitating, though I don't know why nor do I remember where I read that. Probably on the internet.
Conversely, the Anti-Fetus camp tends to be too dismissive. Their argument is either "That theory's lame, therefore it can't be true" to "Shigesato Itoi and Marcus Lindblom [the guy who translated Earthbound to English] have denied it." The latter point is pretty valid, but I don't think it's the be-all and end-all, drop-the-mic-and-walk-off-the-stage counterpoint they think it is.
Sometimes in visual mediums, like video games and movies, stories can be told through images that aren't necessarily told though the narrative (see 2001: A Space Odyssey or most Kubrick film analyses, really). In this article, the author explains that Itoi let his staff do things without his input, such as the music and art. So just because Itoi didn't include the fetus/abortion angle in his story, that doesn't mean the artists didn't. Therefore, I'd like to hear from the artists themselves on the matter. Unfortunately, I've not seen anything addressing this anywhere, nor do I think I ever will. Think about it: if the artists - or Itoi for that matter - did intend the abortion/fetus angle, do you honestly think Nintendo would let them openly admit to it? That's definitely not part of the family-friendly image Nintendo strives for.
Anyway, keeping in mind the concept that visual storytelling can go beyond the narrative, simply taking a look at the imagery surrounding Giygas before and during the final battle reveals the evidence behind the Fetus Theorists' reasoning. Without any prior knowledge of the game's plot, what do you see in the following image?:
I showed that picture to about 20 of my students - all unfamiliar with Earthbound - and, without being given any clues or options, 100% of them said they saw a baby in an ultrasound picture and, 0% said they saw an alien, the literal definition of evil, or an all-mighty idiot. The reason I did this experiment is basically to show that the imagery is in fact there - whether it's intentional or not.
Next is the Devil's Machine. Some people think it looks like a cervix:
I honestly don't see it, but I'm not a doctor, a woman, or someone who cares to look it up. Maybe the "eye" part looks the part, but I'm not about to get gross up in this post.
But what I do see is organic and fleshy surroundings that look like the innards of a living organism that throbs and pulsates as if it were alive. I don't think it's that far of a stretch to believe that the Devil's Machine is kind of like a womb, especially since Giygas is so dependent upon it. Pokey even says Giygas will lose cognition (in so many words) if released from the Devil Machine.
And lastly, to end this visual tale, Ness and pals enter the fleshy cavern that holds an alleged fetus through here:
I almost feel like I need to censor the image:
I believe the imagery leading up to the final battle is too strong to flat-out deny the theory, despite there being nothing in the narrative to support it; however, I'd like to submit probable narrative evidence that may support the Abortion/Fetus theory. When you purchase the overly expensive and shitty house in Onett, you find a magazine with an article about a guy and his wife caught speeding. He tries to trick the cop into thinking that his fat wife in the passenger seat is pregnant. The cop offers to escort them to the hospital, but the guy declines. When the cop asks why, the guy exclaims, "This baby is a demon child!"
Why is this article in the game, and what is its function? Some thought it was an excerpt from a short story Itoi wrote, but that was debunked. So why's it in here? Could it be foreshadowing the final boss fight against an evil child or baby in uetero, or could it at least be a primer? I honestly have no idea. It's probably nothing more than a weird game being weird, but I'd like to think otherwise.
So... yeah. Pretty gross, eh? There seems to be a lot of visual evidence indicating that Giygas is a fetus and that you're preforming an abortion, right? Well, I wouldn't go that far. I think it's all symbolic. I don't believe Giygas is literally a baby or fetus, and I don't believe Ness and his party are aborting him. The visual imagery probably has something to do with themes concerning "Loss of Innocence" and "Nature vs. Nurture" and the old idiom "Cut the cord," but figuring that all out would take some time, and I don't want to do any more speculating than has already been done. I'll let you come to your own conclusions by letting you research the original Mother so you can discover how Giygas had to remove himself from his mother figure in order to do his duty, only to be reminded of her and lose the will to fight. *wink wink hint hint Spoilers Spoilers*
Thanks for Your Playing, and Happy Halloween! Before you all go out and do something stupid involving too much candy and not enough inhibition, let me know what you think about the Giygas Abortion/Fetus Theory. Do you think it's valid or just a bunch of crap some bored college kids pulled out of their asses so they could make a Creepy Pasta? Did I bring up some good points and convince you to believe in the theory, or should I abort my assertions once and for all? Sound off in the comments!