(Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, I know the difference between a "theory" and a "hypothesis". I'm using the colloquial usage of the term. I'm not submitting a formal paper here.) I figured a post like...
(Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, I know the difference between a "theory" and a "hypothesis". I'm using the colloquial usage of the term. I'm not submitting a formal paper here.)
I figured a post like this now and then might be a little fun. I wanted to discuss a little theory of mine about the Mario universe. As the title suggests, the short version is that Mario is a dictator.
This theory hinges on one important point: There are inconsistencies within the stories that are told about Mario's adventures that suggest that his exploits are fabricated.
Let's begin with the most central theme in Mario's adventures: The repeated kidnappings of Peach. Consider for a moment that in every kidnapping event, Peach has had less-than-stellar security detail--typically none at all--despite the number of kidnapping events that have occurred over the years. If arguably the most high-profile member of a kingdom is being kidnapped on a regular basis, you would expect their security detail to be significantly greater than it's consistently shown to be, so why is it always so lax? The three most logical explanations are either a) the security detail is actually much tighter than is shown and Bowser is just that much stronger, b) the security detail is thinned out before every kidnapping event due to a coordination between Bowser and an insider in the mushroom kingdom, or c) there are no kidnappings at all and they're merely being portrayed as such.
We can eliminate option (a) fairly easily: Are we really expected to believe that an ordinary plumber can single-handedly take out an entire kingdom that an entire other kingdom was unable to stand against while their princess was captured? This plumber has no military training whatsoever, and we're expected to believe that he can stand against an entire army by himself? Unlikely.
That leaves us with two logical explanations: Either the kidnappings are coordinated on the inside, or the kidnappings are completely fabricated. Deciding which of the two is the most likely requires further considerations.
With that in mind, you may be wondering if there's any support for either of those accusations, so let's first discuss Bowser himself. Specifically, let's discuss his physical traits. He's a scary-looking dude, no doubt. But Bowser is clearly not a creature that evolved for aggressive behavior. If we examine his build from an evolutionary perspective, we can see that he has a large and bulky shell; his claw strikes are powerful, but slow; his fire generally lacks range or (in the case of earlier Mario games where range was better) sustained use, and its speed is generally terrible; and he can't move quickly at all, except in short bursts. All of these traits suggest a creature that isn't built for aggressive, offensive action, but for self-defense. A creature like Bowser is unlikely to attack another kingdom at all, unless he's acting in self-defense or given some other form of incentive.
Now, between the remaining two options, we again have either an inside job or a fabrication. Without deciding yet which it is, let's at least consider this: If it really is an inside job, there are only two ways in which someone could stand to benefit:
- Mario would stand to benefit due to receiving and perpetuating his status as a hero, so he would have to have some kind of way to incentivize Bowser to coordinate with him, otherwise Bowser wouldn't have any need to work with him. If Mario really is a plumber, however, then there is absolutely no way he would have the wealth or political leverage for Bowser to benefit in that relationship. It's possible that he was a plumber at first, but ended up becoming a puppet to Bowser, but in no situation does Mario remain a plumber if we're to assume that he's continually coordinating with Bowser, otherwise he would have no way to deal with the increased security detail.
- Peach isn't actually being kidnapped, but is attempting to escape the kingdom with Bowser's help. If Mario is actually an independent dictator rather than a puppet, then it would stand to reason that prior royalty would want to escape in order to avoid harm. In this case, it's easy for a coordinated escape with another kingdom to be portrayed as a kidnapping.
So, to quickly recap, we have inconsistencies in the security detail, in the antagonist, and in the protagonist. These already suggest that the stories of Mario's exploits may not be at all what they're portrayed as.
With the above in mind, let's take a look at one more damning detail about Mario himself: The mushroom peoples are said to have transformed into bricks, yet Mario has no qualms with destroying them throughout his adventures.
With everything above in mind, we can see the following narrative fall into place:
- The mushroom people were never turned into bricks. It's a false story used as a dehumanization tactic in order to justify Mario's murder of innocent people. It's pretty easy to justify killing your own people, after all, if you convince people that a brick wall was erected and had to be destroyed so you could save the princess, so the loss of those transformed people was necessary.
- Mario isn't really a plumber. It's possible that he was at one point, but he definitely can't be anymore.
- Mario's exploits are either staged, or he's continually re-kidnapping a fleeing princess seeking refuge in another kingdom and the kidnapping is being portrayed as a rescue.
Now, a final important point: Over time, we've seen the narrative shift in Bowser's reasons for kidnapping Peach. The most recent case was an attempted marriage in Odyssey. It stands to reason that, as a dictator, Mario has to continue controlling the narrative as news leaks out regarding foreign events, e.g. a marriage between a "kidnapped" princess and a foreign ruler. The continuous stream of foreign news and gossip could install doubt about your prior narratives--"Why is our princess marrying someone from another kingdom? Was she even really kidnapped or did she run away?"--and force you to adopt a new one--"The princess is being forced into an unwanted marriage by her kidnapper!". This is a far different narrative than those cases where Bowser was said to want to destroy the mushroom kingdom.
We can therefore establish that Mario's image is absolutely essential. Any crack in his portrayal as a hero could cause the mushroom people to revolt, so he needs to assert control in any way possible. Thus, he will create any narrative necessary to paint himself as a hero and to make himself more relatable, and to make his adversaries as monstrous as possible. It's also particularly unlikely that he's Bowser's puppet, otherwise we wouldn't expect Bowser to allow himself to be thwarted so frequently, something that would make him appear weak to his own people and threaten his place. It's far more likely that Mario is acting independently and losing his grip on his narrative.
So the story that seems to have the least inconsistent narrative is as follows:
Mario is a dictator who wants to appeal to the working class by being viewed as a plumber, so the citizens of the Mushroom kingdom will think "he's a true blue collar worker, he's one of us!". Peach isn't actually being kidnapped, but is attempting to flee from Mario's dictatorship and seek refuge in the Koopa Kingdom. Mario continually assaults the Koopa Kingdom in order to re-kidnap Peach. In the process, he ends up murdering countless sympathizers who try to aid in her escape, or even uses the opportunity to destroy his opposition in a way that's easy to brush off. During all of this, he continually pumps out propaganda about Peach being kidnapped when she's really seeking asylum and about his heroic rescues when he's really taking his own army with him, paints Bowser as a villain, and dehumanizes his victims and normalizes their murder. In addition, because of his clear readiness to dehumanize his own people, it's likely that Bowser and the rest of the Koopa Kingdom are also being dehumanized and portrayed as monsters in order to justify the slaughtering of countless foreign people and to help instill fear and anger among the mushroom people. Peach and Bowser have also likely fallen in love and attempted to marry, but Mario continues to lay siege on Koopa Kingdom in order to kidnap Peach, and Mario's propaganda network paints this marriage as a forced one between an unwilling Mushroom Kingdom princess and a terrifying and ruthless Bowser.
In short: Mario is dictator using a propaganda network in order to paint himself favorably while painting his adversaries as monsters or objects in order to justify mass murder and prevent a fleeing princess from seeking asylum in a foreign kingdom.
What are your thoughts? Have I made any critical errors? Is there more evidence that I missed that supports this theory? Do you have an alternative theory you'd like to share?
(If you notice any typos or repeated sections, please let me know. This took a while to write up, so it's possible that I missed something.)