Dexter’s Ego Trip is a brilliant two-part episode regardless of genre, but as a children’s film it is almost without superior. The only flaw it has in its time travel is why would Dexter act as he does if the Dexter returning from the future knows what will happen in the future; essentially creating a future that cannot be altered and giving easy and quick validation to the Determinist model of time. Also where does the third Dexter come from? There’s the first one who we identify with as the “actual Dexter,” the Dexter who returns from his future exploits to become young adult Dexter, but then there must be a third Dexter to stay behind and become masculine, bold and bald Dexter to fight fat Mandark. Also there’s the impossibility of him digging underground for years, but this is a justification for why Dexter’s mind did not rot like the rest of society did and is passable in the realm of cartoons as-long as these logical impossibilities are not too frequent or stupidly written.
The cartoon can be seen as analogous to the effects of the trifecta of Capitalism, State and Religion on a populous. Dexter is a brilliant scientist who makes money for a large corporation; however, because he’s timid and allows Mandark to steal one of his ideas (which seems unlikely but it could be argued that the Totalitarian regime that came inexplicably broke Dexter and turned him into the weak, submissive coward he is as a young adult) and Mandark goes up the rungs of the corporate ladder largely because of his ruthlessness. The fact that a Capitalist society is an environment where someone like Mandark can thrive and actual ability is superseded and enslaved to property is enough of an indightment against it especially considering what is to be expected from a children’s cartoon.
The most evil of human impulses and societies does not come solely out of Capitalism – religion and Government is necessary as well. Particularly religion, because it weakens the mind and allows rationalization and subservience to evil to take place, breaking down humanities natural values and strengths. Government is simply the material form of the spiritual and ideological essence that is religion; whether secular or theocratic governments indoctrinate the individual to groupthink typically with a secondary ideology such-as Capitalism or Christianity, but always with the intrinsic rightness of its own actions and existence. We see this in Mandark using the positronic-whova-whats-it to make society even more ignorant and stupid than they already were by switching the flow from positive to negative. Of course a Capitalist wants society to be ignorant and submissive as-well, for a intelligent and independent thinking populous wouldn’t allow the Capitalists and their profit motive to exist, but the Capitalists require a certain indoctrinated and subservient level of intelligence to create new products, works of art and entertainment and services to maintain their businesses that they extort and siphon the labor-value of like a leech draining the blood from its host.
In the world the Mandark has devised, and the one of Dexter’s creation, we see the polarization ‘tween Ideology and Nature and between State and Anarchism. For in the world of Mandark’s envisioning and doing, we see all human beings (even Mandark in his own way of mental illness and gluttony) become degraded and weak in intellect and character so that Mandark can rule them, and although they are worthless to him they exist entirely for his sake. In the world of Dexter’s doing, we see each man and woman existing for their own sake and functioning with a type of universal wisdom (the wisdom that all can attain if they only have the mental faculties and honesty to attain it) that creates independence and desire to achieve for achievement’s sake, not for petty cash-profit or to cure horrendous ills for all major ills have been annexed from humanity – knowledge and virtue is pursued for its own sake. Now before I go further let me state I realize I’m taking a tad-much out of Ego Trip than is actually there but not as much as some might expect or believe; I’m adding very-little to the brief conception of both worlds that is.
One of the most wonderful aspects of Dexter’s Laboratory (asides from because of its existence and the pronunciation of the latter half of the show’s title by the titular character I’ll never need double-checking with the spelling of Lah-bore-ah-tory) is its focus on the fascination and the subtle encouragement of the intellectual mind on scientific endeavors and its ability above all other traits to solve personal and worldly problems. It gives growing and still (perhaps) active minds a light through depicting the pleasures that are created through the intellectual mind that are achieved only through those who possess it. Yes, Dexter fights aliens, goes on underwater odysseys and has a super-heroic ape, but more-than all of these things he takes a great deal of pride and enjoyment in finishing his (at-last!) greatest invention.
This totally contradicts the idea of the gleeful idiot which is presented at society at-large, while the intellectual is depicted as forlorn by the self-awareness of his futility both in the continuing existence of his life and all of his endeavors in-terms of eternal existence and admiration. Dexter lacks this totally and is cheerful and at-times childish despite his maturity (in some ways) beyond his years – in other words, Dexter is a realistic depiction of a intelligent person, ignoring the cartoonish aspects of creating wormholes to other dimensions but struggling with what two and two add up to.
The story however shows how suffering and ignorance are always portrayed lightly or comically in contemporary society. We see this in the chuckling yokels and morons who despite sleeping in glass and living in mud-huts are drunkenly content with their lot in life. Dexter however is the intellectual fighting to save Mandark and is the only one aware that he has made the people the ignoramuses that they are, once again analogous to forms of authority particularly religion. So is the dunce better-off in some ways than the intellectual? To cut-off any suspense and answer in a word: no. For what the average member of society cannot understand is that they are always searching for external stimuli, while the intellectual is content with the machinations of his own mind. The fool may be content watching Transformers 4 just as a drunkard is content with his bottle, but these sources of stimuli are hazardous to the mind and create at-best a dulled sense of contentment which while being better than pain (the state of mind that usually has weak people search for these forms of contentment and distraction) is both nothing compared to the feeling of euphoria and serenity one feels when one thinks of any of the topics of grandeur we human beings are capable of comprehending the greatest of all being that fact that we can comprehend them and that our survival and wellbeing is attached to them which give us such a rush from contemplating and articulating.
Mandark represents the intellectual who is part of the system, and is psychologically petty and focused on the things that the Capitalist structure wants him to be focused on rather than knowledge and virtue for its own sake. Hungry for power, his nature is to contain and control humanity and creative thought rather than allow human impulse and free expression to grow in scope and potential free-range and without exterior factors attempting to mutilate humanity for its own self-interest.
It’s rather fitting that the short film is called Ego Trip, because both Dexter and Mandark represent a certain depiction and form of the Ego. Mandark’s is to control others and achieve an illusion of significance and value through worship and being tall in intellectual stature through making others mental midgets. Dexter however is the “true Egoist” or the Egoist as the Ego naturally acts when healthy. For Dexter wishes to receive significant not in the eyes of men (though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but significant in-terms of their own value and desire to broaden their skills and character for the well-being of the individual’s mind and moral psychology. It is self-interested intrinsically and innately, but as “altruistic” consequences and traits in being deeply concerned with justice and right-and-wrong as it exists outside of social perception and will fight for freedom and prosperity not only when there is no immediate rational self-interest (save psychologically perhaps) for him but there are great risks and costs for the efforts he is making to increase the intellectual, moral, economic and psychological floor of society and human potential.
The great man is cynical in the Greek philosophical sense of viewing social mores and opinion as absolutely worthless and pursues greatness and nobility primarily as a internal struggle for ever greater and more nuanced heights while manifesting itself as an external struggle for peace, truth, justice, freedom, prosperity and the salvation of mankind ultimately through Anarchism being both the individual (psychological/intellectual) and social (material) freedom of Man from everything imposed by both nature and men like Mandark. Only through individual struggle and the “objective” self-interest of the Ego can any great feat whether philosophical, artistic, scientific, athletic, or moral be done in their utmost and greatest potential; potential that must be derived from Man’s nature rather than the ideologies that are created to enslave him.