Monday, 1 September 2014

Deep Sequencing: Interdimensional Evil Twin

Or The Imposter Syndrome and Casanova: Luxuria
by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba; Icon/Image Comics

A quick googling of "Impostor Syndrome" will teach you that some people have a hard time "internalizing their accomplishments", essentially owning the good things in their lives. Instead of accepting that great things happen to them because they are good people or that they have are particularly talented or hard working, they are convinced that they are horrible frauds who have just gotten lucky or have tricked everyone into thinking they are better than they are. And as a huge fraud, these people are convinced that it's only a matter of time until everyone figures out the truth and it all falls apart. 

When I read Casanova: Luxuria, the first chapter of the series, I see thematic signs of the Imposture Syndrome everywhere.

There will be *SPOILERS* for Casanova: Luxuria in this post.

Now, I think it might be instructive to explain why when I look at Luxuria I see Impostor Syndrome before I go about heaving evidence because this all might be in my head.

First of all, it occurs to me that Matt Faction may have some experience with Imposter Syndrome. As someone who has apparently rollercoasted into finding himself an Eisner winning comics writer married to a super talented and generous woman who has two pretty cute kids, I could fathom a situation where Fraction might feel like an inter-dimensional interloper living someone else's fantastic life. (I mean, I think that's malarky since Fraction is clearly a super talented and seems like a pretty cool guy, but I could fathom that train of thought.) Of course this is all conjecture based on super incomplete information from tumblr about a man I don't really know. 

And it is probably entirely me projecting my own anxieties onto someone else.

Because I have a nagging case of impostor syndrome.

I have a nagging case of impostor syndrome because I'm sometimes convinced that my life is better than I deserve. I just got married to my favourite human who happens to be smart and funny and generous and pretty and responsible and trustworthy and who is absolutely my best friend and who I love so much it actually feels dangerous. We live in my favourite part of a city that is regularly ranked the best place to live in North America in a bunch of liveability surveys. We own a modest but cute apartment in one of the most expensive real-estate markets in the world. We have an adorable little dog and everyone in our immediate family is healthy. I have a job I love and my research project is awesome and I have had some solid success professionally with a bunch of peer-reviewed publications in solid journals and a pretty prestigious scholarship. Hell, even this blog is shaping up to be okay. By any reasonable metric, things are coming up Millhouse. And yet I can't completely shake that little anxiety voice that says I don't deserve this much good stuff and that it's all a series of happy accidents and that sooner or later my luck is going to run out and it's all going to evaporate. And then everyone will know that I am a fraud and an impostor living the stolen life of a better person.

And this is maybe why I see the impostor syndrome all over Casanova.

Luxuria opens with an introduction to Casanova Quinn, the groovy, sexy secret agent who is also the screw-up, black sheep son of Cornelius Quinn, the director of the international espionage organization E.M.P.I.R.E. While Cass' twin sister Zephyr is a dynamo secret agent and the apple of their father's eye, Casanova is a pain in the ass who makes a living breaking the law and doing spy-stuff for whoever will pay. He operates alone, botches his opening mission, sees his sister get killed, seduces and uses a nice young woman, and is just kind of a selfish shithead. If twins operate by a good and evil dichotomy, then Cassanova Quinn in his native universe is the evil twin.

But because Casanova is a comic book with a deeply meta villain with sexy spy plans, Casanova finds himself transported to another dimension. A dimension that is very similar to his own except that the native Cass of this dimension was the good twin and the native Zephyr is very much the evil twin. Newman Xeno, the mastermind villain of Casanova, plans to insert interloper-Cass into the life of the murdered native-Cass to be a double agent for his nefarious plans. Which leaves Casanova in a precarious and exciting plot position.

It also leaves morally dubious interloper-Cass in the position of being an impostor Cass and living the attractive life of the displaced native-Cass. Suddenly he is a rockstar E.M.P.I.R.E. agent instead of a rogue criminal. Suddenly he is liked and surrounded by colleagues and friends. Suddenly his father loves him. Casanova has fallen transdimensionally-ass-backwards into the fantastic life he has always wanted but never been able to build for himself.

But of course, it's all a fiction. Interloper-Cass is an impostor: he is an evil (or at least amoral) twin from another dimension literally living the stolen life of his good counterpart. Worse, Cass is beholden to the villainous Xeno, who, along with evil-Zephyr, are completely aware that Cass is an impostor and are forcing him to behave in ways that risk outing his impostor status. And if he is found out, interloper-Cass was will be exposed as a fraud and implicated in the conspiracy which killed the beloved native-Cass who he has been impersonating. Which not only risks severe disciplinary repercussions but will also destroy the beautiful fiction, the ideal life that Cass is now enjoying. It might just be me, but this feels like the impostor syndrome anxiety made literary in a big sexy, crazy comic book espionage story.

Luxuria even ends in a way that I think speaks to the experience of impostor syndrome paranoia. Casanova, by acting in ways consistent with the expectations of others, by playing the role of his stolen life, manages to win the respect of his ill-gotten friends and allies and manages to defeat Xeno's plans. Interloper-Cass lives up to being the good version of Casanova and reaps the deserved benefits of talent and bravery and moral behaviour. In this moment he earns the attractive life and friends he has stumbled into.

And yet...

And yet he is still ultimately an imposter. Still the interloper-Cass who has stolen the life of another, better person and who will lose everything if anyone ever finds out the truth. And so while Cass is triumphant in the moment, the comic closes with that little voice that his fraudulent nature will always be there and because of that this perfect situation can't possibly last.

That little voice that I can't quite shake.

So I Read Casanova: Luxuria
So I Read Casanova: Gula

So I Read Casanova: Avaritia

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