Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Finn suffers a magical identity crisis on Adventure Time

Illustration for article titled Finn suffers a magical identity crisis on Adventure Time

What if you could change other people into what you want them to be? It might sound appealing, if highly invasive, but “Don’t Look” reveals the negative consequences of being able to alter the world to fit your personal perception of it. Finn gains this ability when his eyes are replaced by the magical eyes of a dead hermit, and he quickly discovers that how he views people isn’t an accurate depiction of who they truly are. This is all presented in a fantastic context where Finn literally transforms the people around him whenever they look into his glistening blue eyes (with little explosions for pupils), and these changes are defined by Finn’s basic perception of the person.

Under Finn’s influence, Jake becomes a letterman-jacket-wearing humanoid older brother, BMO becomes an angelic little boy with wings and a halo, and Shelby becomes a bookish nerd. Finn’s attraction to Princess Bubblegum appears to be returning based on his initial desire to get the Dead Mountain treasure so that he can grow an extra 11.5 inches and be PB’s height, and this idea is reinforced by PB’s transformation into a Bieber-esque teen boy heartthrob when she looks at Finn. (I’m not quite sure what it means that Finn makes PB a boy, although I assume it’s intended to align Finn’s feelings for PB with those of a fan infatuated with a teen boy heartthrob.) The most interesting transformation is Ice King, who becomes a baby-ish Simon, revealing that Finn associates Ice King more heavily with his former tragic self, which is why he’s been much nicer to him recently.

These transformations frighten Finn, but they’re still pretty harmless until NEPTR looks at him and turns into a lifeless microwave, forcing Finn to consider the danger of his new power and what it means about how he views other people. “If I was a better person, would I turn my friends into better things?” Finn asks himself after Jake tells him that yeah, he basically killed NEPTR. “Am I uncaring, judgmental, self-centered, monstrous?” By wondering these things while looking in the mirror, Finn uses his magic on himself, turning his body into a giant red Swamp Thing-looking creature that reflect his current mental state.

Deep in the throes of adolescence, it makes sense for Finn to go through a few identity crises, but what makes the crisis in “Don’t Look” so fascinating is that Finn isn’t just in crisis over his own identity, but those of the people around him. In being forced to confront the way he views others, he begins to question what those views say about himself, but as Jake points out, those views don’t accurately describe the depth of Finn’s feelings for the people in his life. Jake tells Finn that eyes aren’t the best at describing the true meaning of things, and Finn’s real feelings for others lie in his gut. Those are much harder to visualize (unless you have the eyes of a skilled artist or something), and Jake’s words help Finn realize that what he’s seeing isn’t a true representation of how he feels.

People’s opinions of you are shaped by the image you project to the world, and in a culture that heavily involves individuals creating a specific brand for themselves via what they post on social media, those opinions can often be superficial. I believe that’s part of the reason why writers/storyboard artists Somvilay Xayaphone and Seo Kim include the little moment of Starchy taking a selfie of himself, drawing a connection between the themes of this episode and a cultural environment that compels people to focus on how others see them. When Finn’s friends offer their individual opinions of him to change him back to his old self, he learns that no one is just one thing to one person, and everyone is more complex than how they appear on the surface. It’s an important lesson to learn, and with all the dimensions a person has to offer, there’s little benefit in limiting them to simply who you want them to be.

Stray observations

  • There are some gorgeous landscape shots in this episode, like Turtle Princess’ library buried in sand, the sprawling countryside beneath Dead Mountain, and the Candy Kingdom surrounded by forest of pink trees blowing in the wind.
  • If Jake could change one thing about himself, he would make his taste buds taste fried chicken whenever he eats fruits and vegetables. I have the feeling that would make him hate the taste of fried chicken after a while.
  • I like how Starchy turns into a ’50s hipster when Finn catches him snapping a selfie.
  • “That’s a dumb story. I love dumb stories!”
  • “That seals the deal! The twin temptations of getting to grow a couple of inches and battling an evil hermit sound like a pretty perfect day.”
  • Finn: “What is that? A hut?” Jake: “No. It’s a yurt.”
  • “What to wear for my speech? Boss next door or hot president?”
  • “I’m not doing anything wrong. I was just lady watching.”
  • Finn: “Did I kill NEPTR?” Jake: “You turned him into a microwave, so yeah…you kinda did.”
  • “I just had the most wonderful dream.”