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Charlie the Unicorn

So it's about time to write something about Charlie the Unicorn.

I spare you, dear reader, a detailed summary of what this is about and leave it to you to watch it yourself on youtube. If you liked that, check also the two sequels.

On first watching this short animated movie one is hard put not to admit that it's kind of fun. Squeaky voices, annoying unicorns in technicolor and even a short musical number!(1) What else do you want? That's some easy entertainment...

Or so it seems.

I've been watching the Charlie videos repeatedly over some time and what first eluded me completely struck me after some time: Charlie the Unicorn is set in a world of pure horror. Well, of course not in the sense of "massive blood and carnage" horror, but certainly in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable. The thing is: Charlie is living in a completely random world where the principles of causality and logic seem to have been abandoned and non sequitur having become the fundamental law governing the universe. There is no way logic and deductive reasoning will allow the protagonist to get a grip on what is actually happening to him or to come to terms with his situation. It's like a nightmare, where all the laws that governed the environment your are living in have been abolished. And what makes this even more freaky is the fact that Pink and Blue act as if all that is happening around them makes perfect sense. The sight of a giant Z in the middle of nowhere special (which they converse with in Spanish for no obvious reason and are being answered by lights and sounds that absolutely do not make any sense - not to mentioned almost getting killed by a laser beam) doesn't bother them at all. They can even derive meaning from some random noises uttered by what appears to be a Lioplurodon(2)! How crazy is that?!

Alright, alright. I know. The very fact that Charlie himself is a unicorn, a species that does not actually exist(3), who can even talk and reason like a human being indicates that the universe the short movies are set in is not supposed to be taken seriously, let alone being judged by real life measures like cohesiveness and so on. Still, at least Charlie himself acts like a perfectly reasonable person. And his being woken up as well as his reference to the meadow at the very beginning of the first movie even indicates that he has physical needs to be satisfied - something you would totally expect from a being that for the most parts resembles an ordinary horse (as opposed to some magical creature that requires no food and no sleep). Apart from the fact that Charlie is a talking unicorn, he does not seem to posses any other extraordinary or supernatural capabilities, that is, he is just another anthropomorphized animal (which have been around at least since the times of Aesop).

Unlike Pink and Blue who appear in colours totally strange, or at least colours that are strange for a horse-like being. Their mode of locomotion furthermore does not relate to reality, whereas Charlie trods like a real horse would. For the sake of reason, they can even levitate at will! There are some interpretations claiming that this particular feature indicates that Pink and Blue only exist within Charlie's mind, something Charlie himself hints at in the third part.

And then there is this whole believe and seduction trope. Charlie - who at the beginning of each adventure seems disinterested if not plain sceptic towards Blue and Pink's proposals - tries desperately to come to terms with the absolutely random situations he is repeatedely pulled in. This is made particularly clear in the second episode: When being hailed as the Banana King, Charlie's first reaction - as usual - is denial and his reverting to logic. "No, I'm not the Banana King. That doesn't even make sense!" Still, his common sense is persuaded in accepting the situation only to find out - in the very moment he happily gives in and abandons all reason - that it was all another scam. Trust and belief are utterly destroyed.(4) The very moment Charlie accepts the completely nonsensical world as just what it is, is the moment it all falls apart.

The whole magical-world-of-hope-and-wonder-thing eventually gets brutally subverted(5) when it turns out that the entire adventures are just a scheme pulled to rob Charlie of his kidney, his belongings and - at the end of part 3 - even his horn.

To me as a physicist, the world Charlie, Pink and Blue are inhabiting is the exact antithesis of the world that I know. The mere thought of no longer being able to make sense of the world is pure horror. Very entertaining horror, I have to admit. Mr. Steele - Chapeau!


(1) I think, Put a Banana in your Ear from the second part is even better in terms of composition and arrangement. I mean, how awesome is that? There are some guys out there who just invented this crazy unicorn universe, spiced it with complete random nonsense and on top of that they just pulled the musical trigger. The last time I've watched something like that with the same enjoyment is probably Hermes Conrad filing all the incoming forms at Central Buracracy in the Futurama episode How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back.

(2) There is a palaeontologist who claims that the emergence of the Charlie videos sparked an enormous interest in his Lioplurodon-related research - I just can't find the link anymore, sorry.

(3) Don't be silly. Everyone knows that unicorns have been extinct for hundreds of years by now...

(4) Unlike many other movies where the hero has to accept his role given by the plot device destiny. Take The Matrix, for instance, where Neo, upon discovering that he is not dead, yields his newly gained powers in a crowning moment of pure awesomeness and glory.

(5) I would like to thank everyone at www.tvtropes.org for this and other beautiful expressions.

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