Life Is Just A Dream
In summary, Bean could very well turn out to be a "human bean" / "human being " having a dream about being a princess. Or she could be having a drug-induced reverie/fantasy/hallucination. After all, "things are not what they seem to be".
Questions About Setting
Many people understandably want to know whether Disenchantment is set in the past, another world, or one similar to ours, and whether it can crossover with The Simpsons and Futurama in any way.
The answer is actually surprisingly simple: it is all of the above (and more, see update below) and therefore the chances of it crossing over are slim to none. The reason for this is that it is set in a parodical past (parody of medieval Europe/Britain) and so in that sense it is a world similar to ours, but it is also a world imbued with magic and fantasy elements, and so it is a very different type of world entirely.
In the language of tropes, Disenchantment is a fantasy kitchen sink. What this means is that it incorporates as many myths, fairytales and mythical creatures as it can. This combination of disparate elements leads to confusion - not only of the audience but also the characters. This is lampshaded by an unnamed character who, in a clever piece of writing, complains about the confusion which results from living in a fantasy world:
From ep 4:
- Home owner: Hey! You can't park on my lawn!
- Viking: My flaming arrow says I can.
- Home owner: You've got a talking flaming arrow?
- Viking: What? No, it's just a regular arrow.
- Home owner: Well I'm sorry. Things get confusing IN A WORLD WITH OCCASIONAL MAGIC AND CURSES. AND WHILE I AM A FAN OF SUCH WORLDS, I JUST FEEL SOME MORE CLEARLY SET OUT RULES FOR WHAT CAN AND CANNOT HAPPEN WOULD HELP - erghhh [shot with the arrow].
- Viking: He says it's ok to park here...
Perhaps such worlds allow for crossovers with other types of worlds (through dimensional portals and such) but it would be up to the discretion of the writers to determine this - to set out more clear rules - and is so far not guaranteed. Perhaps we need to look at another interpretation.
Suspended Animation (First Update)
Following the breadcrumbs left by creator Matt Groening in his interview last year (2018) with Collider, I came to a different but related conclusion from the one previously stated. In the interview, Groening clearly states two important things (around 3m44s onwards):
- "If it's good fantasy, things are not what they seem to be..."
- "I will give this challenge: the very first thing you see - it's staring you in the face - will give you a clue about the entire nature of what you are watching...I know that's very enigmatic and spooky...there are clues."
In response to the first part, this means up is down, in is out, and fantasy is reality. So what might this mean in relation to the protagonist Bean? What clues lie in the "very first thing we see"?
Well, the very first thing we see is the opening credits, and the first vignette (scene) depicts Bean lying on her bed dreaming. The opening scene of the show sees Bean's handmaiden Bunty draw open the curtains of her chamber - the exact same room as is depicted in the credits. This leads to Proposition A:
- What we are witnessing (Disenchantment itself) be literally Bean's dream. Bean's fantasy of being a princess in a far away kingdom called Dreamland.
- This was at least possible until it was ruled out by show developer Josh Weinstein.
So the two possibilities which immediately presented themselves, but which were ruled out, are:
- Bean is an actual human being, like us, who is fully asleep and immersed in a fairy tale inspired dream (or she is day-dreaming e.g. on the bus ride to work, or similar); or
- Bean is an actual fairy tale princess, like Sleeping Beauty, and exists as a character in someone else's dream (humanity's collective imagination?). She happens to be in suspended animation and is having a very elaborate fairy tale inspired dream.
Prior to hearing the Weinstein interview, I was pretty convinced that Bean is dreaming Disenchantment in an elaborate fairy tale inspired dream. I felt that all we needed to ascertain was whether she is as real as us, or whether she is herself a fantasy figure, and that this would be determined as the story progresses. (I was reminded of the way the grandfather reads "The Princess Bride" to his grandson who does the imagining for us: we, the viewer, see both the real world of the story teller and the way the child imagines the story being told. In this regard, I thought Disenchantment could be like witnessing Bean's imagination/dream as it unfolds.) However, this no longer seems to be a possibility.
My argument favoured (1) - that she is human - on the basis that she seems to be a human having a fantasy kitchen sink dream in Dreamland. Evidence for this comes when Zog tells Tess to go back to whichever beanstalk she came down from, and another example is when she takes on Hansel and Gretel. Both these are references to actual folk / fairy tales. Also. the fact that so many species from folklore appear in the 'dream' seems to indicate that Bean is a real human being, (being/bean?): if she was a mere fantasy figure, she would be less likely to be aware of all the folk lore about which she is dreaming.
Such was my thinking on the enigma of "nothing being as it seems".
Reverie (Second Update)
So, if proposition A is false, what other conclusions could be drawn from the same evidence?
In hindsight, in the scene depicting Bean on her bed, her leg is moving playfully backwards and forwards. This small detail makes all the difference, as it is means it is possible to argue for a Proposition B:
- Bean is neither asleep nor day-dreaming as such, (Prop A) but rather, she is in a reverie or hallucinatory state induced by some psychoactive substance.
There is evidence for this scattered throughout the show, as references to drugs (and of course fantasy) abound:
- In S01E03, Bean, Luci and Elfo all consume snake root, and form an imaginary band which lasts all of 2 minutes.
- In S01E04, Luci wonders out loud:
- Man, dreams! Maybe reality is a dream and dreams are reality - you ever think about that?! Huh. I'm pretty high..."
- In S01E07, Bean takes Lucy and Elfo to the Den of Wonders to sample the hallucinogen known as Bliss. They all experience altered states together and suffer confusion as to who is whom.
- In S01E09 , Luci reveals his fondness for Twinkletown Gigglebud (a version of cannabis).
- Also, there are mushrooms (certain varieties of which are of course magic / hallucinogenic) which are associated with fairies, fantasy and folk lore.
So, in short, the show doesn't shy away from these mind -ending ideas, of distorting reality and fantasy to explore their hidden meanings. It actively embraces them. This theory is therefore plausible, and cannot be ruled as a mere dream, as a reverie is a waking dream. The question then becomes - whose trip is it?
Who is the mysterious Mop Girl? Could she be like Cinderella, who has to stay at home a clean the house while her sisters have all the fun at the ball? Perhaps Bean's misadventures are the drug induced fantasies of the lowly Mop girl...
Here are a few links which help explain what is going on.
- Fairy tales
- Suspended Animation in Fiction
- "The Borrowers" utilises this as an intentional mispronunciation knowyourmeme.com
- Matt Groening Interview youtube.com
- 'Fantasy Kitchen Sink' trope allthetropes.org
- If the wording used here is similar to the linked website that is because I wrote the article on allthetropes.
- This was originally a discussion post, but as the community is in absentia, I thought I would update it and post it here instead.
- Josh Weinstein Interview, Everything's Coming Up Simpsons Ep. 174 maximumfun.org
- This is one of Groening's stated influences for the show.
- 'The Princess Bride' as a reference imdb.com
- "Dream Land" trope allthetropes.org
Communications of the Highest Kind (talk) 18:44, February 4, 2019 (UTC)