It starts with five simple words:


And then it comes. The music builds. Lightning from the sky strikes the man with the upraised sword. Does it hurt him? Just listen to what he says next:


You remember. Electric bolts of pure energy crackle around his muscled body. Hands that can punch through solid steel grip the sword that transformed the bumbling prince into the most powerful man in the universe. You remember the way it felt to grab hold of a plastic sword or a stick or even empty air and say those same words: I have the power.

We all want the power. But the world seems to be short on magic swords these days. Believe me, I've checked. (You think I'd be writing this if I had a magic sword? No way. I'd be out battling shadow beasts and seven-headed monsters, saving nubile red-haired maidens from guys with skulls for faces.)

So what do we do? Well, I suppose you can grow a mustache and build weapons devices and adopt an orphan who grows up to be captain of the guards. But let's face it. Not everyone can grow mustaches. And even if you can, do you really want to? Basically the only people who can have mustaches without looking silly are those who've always had mustaches. (Having a mustache attached to a beard doesn't count, by the way. It's still just a beard. That's a whole other story.) It's something set from the time of adolescence, something you have to choose. Either you're a mustache guy or you're not. Once you've decided, it's locked in. (It works both ways, too. Suddenly you shave off your mustache and bam! You've got a lip coming from nowhere. Scary.)

Okay. You don't have a magic sword, or a mustache, or skill with weapons or space technology in a barbarian sorcery world. You can't be He-Man or Man-At-Arms. I'll assume that, like me, if you can't do any of the above, you also cannot fly, ram into buildings with your head, or transform into a mystical falcon. Is this reason to despair? Will your life be meaningless from now on?

The answer to all of these questions is: NO! You can have the power without the magic sword. No, I don't mean you'll be able to pick up Castle Grayskull and throw it into the air using your bulging muscles. I'm talking about the real power that He-Man wields. His morality.

Fast forward to the end of the show. The battle with Skeletor was fought and won. Old skullface runs off, shaking his hands in the air, vowing eternal revenge. Like we're scared. Next time we'll just beat him again. No matter who he brings along! (By the way, who has a skull instead of a face? How can he even see without eyeballs?) After all that the show should be over, right?

Wrong! Now comes the most important part. The moral.

You've heard the expression, "the moral of the story." No doubt your 11th grade English teacher had you combing all the pages from "Call me Ishmael" to "Finis" so you could explain, in your own words, just what Moby Dick really meant. He-Man would never lead you on such a pointless chase. At the end of every single episode, He-Man (or one of his faithful and heroic friends) tells you plainly and simply what you should know about how to live a good and happy life. That knowledge, my friends, is real power. With it you can master the universe. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How To Get Ahead

Evil-Lyn isn’t exactly terrified of Skeletor. She respects the power he has, of course, and keeps a (mostly) civil tongue when he’s around. But you won’t see her whimper and cower like Tri-Clops or Beast-Man when old boneface gets enraged and starts shooting energy bolts from his Havoc Staff.

Maybe it’s because she’s got the same kind of power Skeletor has: sorcery. His is more powerful, of course; otherwise it would be Evil-Lyn who would shake her fists in the air, angry at the universe, for having lost to He-Man at the end of an episode. But Skeletor does rely on her to carry out his plans, and she usually delivers, unlike our favorite orange-colored snarling whipping boy, Beast-Man. Is it too much for her to hope that one day her magical abilities will match and even exceed Skeletor’s? The answer is no; she does hope, and what is more, she actively plans for that day.

Besides sorcery, she successfully mimics another attribute of calcium-head: his withering contempt for his bumbling subordinates. Whether it’s Beast-Man who can’t control his dragons, or Trap-Jaw who fails to attach a tool into his arm socket fast enough, Evil-Lyn is ready and willing to name them idiots, nincompoops, failures, if Skeletor isn’t around to deliver the barbs himself.

Maniacal laughter is another trait that Evil-Lyn is developing. Though not quite as piercing as Skeletor’s ringing, triumphant cackle, Evil-Lyn’s husky chortle fills the hapless listener with an unmistakable sense of dread.

You could say Evil-Lyn carefully follows an old, much revered principle for getting ahead: mimic your superior. Be good at what they’re good at, so that one day, when they’re old and feeble and forgetful, you can secretly steal their Havoc Staff and put them to work for you cleaning out the dungeons. Who will be laughing then?

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