When we refuse to see the truth and instead revel in our suffering, we lose sight of what’s important. Shen from Kung-Fu Panda 2 is a devious warlord whose psychopathic tendencies arose from a neglectful childhood. John Klein from The Mothman Prophecies became obsessed with a mysterious urban legend after his wife suffered a tragic death. Both of these characters serve as examples of what happens when we refuse to accept the truth.
An overwhelming desire to impress people stems from an inability to recognize your worth. If you believe in yourself, you have no reason to worry about what others believe in you. When you know where you belong, you don’t feel the desire to prove anyone wrong.
At the beginning of Kung-Fu Panda 2, it’s explained that fireworks were invented by peacocks. Shen however, did not want to be like the other peacocks and started repurposing fireworks as gunpowder so he could be powerful enough to impress his parents and the people around him. With a weapon at his side, he wouldn’t ever have to fear the possibility of losing to anyone. Shen believed that if he couldn’t earn respect from his personality, he’d earn it through the construction of his weapon.
Shen’s parents were terrified of Shen’s invention and hired a fortune-teller to have closure on Shen’s future. She explained that if he did not stop his quest for power, he would eventually be defeated by a warrior of black and white. The only creatures in the Kung-Fu Panda universe who would fit that description are pandas. Unfortunately for his parents, Shen was eavesdropping on this conversation and vowed to slaughter every panda he could find so he could ensure that no one would stand in his way.
When he returned to boast to his parents and receive their praise, they responded with horror and disgust, exiling him from their village. Despite their intentions, this only strengthened Shen’s superiority complex. The thought of feeling like a subordinate was so scary to him that he vowed to use his new weapon to take over China so nobody would ever be able to hurt him ever again.
Shen’s attention-seeking personality developed into a diabolical superiority complex due to a fear of feeling like a failure. Shen only started making this new weapon because he didn’t believe that his uniqueness was strong enough to differentiate himself from his peers. Since he had no faith in himself, he felt that he needed to inflict pain onto others to feel strong.
Shen’s superiority complex prevents him from success and fulfillment. If Shen truly believed in himself, then he wouldn’t feel like he would have to be better than everyone else.
One of the things I’ve learned from personal experience is that wanting excessive and inappropriate amounts of attention can make you lose sight of what’s important. When I was going through a phase of attention-seeking, I wanted to be praised because I didn’t believe that I was capable of earning it with my own abilities. In Shen’s example, there were multiple points in the film where we could see how talented he was in the art of Kung-Fu, but his fear of losing made him resort to using his weapon.
When Po was facing off with Shen in the film’s final battle, we could see that Shen was Po’s only opponent in the whole trilogy who scared him in the final battle. That fight was the only one in the film where Shen didn’t resort to using his weapon, and he died via accidental suicide, not by Po’s doing.
Had Shen actually believed in himself, he would never have the desire to look down on someone just to feel accomplished. Shen obtained a violent and diabolical personality out of a thirst for attention. He wants the whole world to look at him and think he’s strong because he never dared to believe in himself.
Is it Wrong to Value Attention?
In the wild, when Peacocks experience rejection, they immediately flee to find another mate. You can see this in human culture all the time, as some people miss out on opportunities because they don’t have faith in their abilities. When I was suffering from dependency issues, I would immediately search for another partner once I suffered through a break-up. My partner took care of a part of myself that I neglected, so when they were gone, I felt lost. After all, the reason why those relationships failed was that I didn’t believe in myself to forge my own uniqueness and identity. When I found myself in a relationship, my partner’s identity would become my own, and I would show them off at any opportunity. Since I valued attention over self-love, I lost sight of what’s important.
If Shen had truly believed in himself then his physical beauty would be reflective of his accomplishments, not an attention-seeking personality.
If you value attention, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the best way to obtain that attention is to earn it with dedication and hard work. If someone takes an example to your accomplishments, they will listen to whatever you have to say. However, if you try and obtain that attention out of fear of what others will think of you, you will give people the wrong impression of who you are and push them away from you. Juries don’t accuse people of criminals without evidence, and people will not listen to you if you have nothing to speak for your showboating.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that when you value excessive amounts of attention, you can end up saying things that aren’t reflective of who you are just to attract eyeballs. If you want attention, you have to earn it for people to truly look up to you.
When horrible things happen to us, the only healthy thing we can do is allow ourselves to feel our grief, and be there for others who were also affected. When we fight our emotions we can push other people away from us due to an inability to accept reality. If our behavior worsens then we can become stuck in a loop of delusions and rationalizations.
At the beginning of The Mothman Prophecies, we are introduced to John and Mary Klein, two newlyweds out for a drive after purchasing a new home. Due to a freak accident, Mary crashes the car and suffers a brutal head injury. For days after suffering this injury, she rambled on about an evil entity that was after her. We later find out in her drawings that she was seeing “The Mothman”, an entity that stalks people mysteriously and makes predictions about horrible disasters that always end up to be true. Mary would soon die after making these accusations.
Two years after her death, John is mysteriously transported to Point Pleasant in West Virginia after calling off a date that his friend set up for him. After he arrives, he continues to experience strange events that wither away at his sanity, all of which he believes may be connected to the death of his wife.
After John is “teleported” to Point Pleasant, he acquaints himself with Gordon, a resident, and Connie, a favored police officer in the community. The three of them start investigating strange reports of people who have claimed to experience similar mysterious occurrences.
After a few days, Gordon and John start receiving strange phone calls from a man who goes by the name Indrid Cold, who knows very personal information about the both of them. To make matters worse, he makes predictions over the phone of horrible disaster events that always come true, killing dozens of people.
Gordon becomes so obsessed with the Mothman phenomena, that his wife becomes disturbed by his behavior and files for a divorce. Shortly thereafter, Gordon passes away.
Shortly after Gordon’s death, John follows in his delusional footsteps, so much so that Connie also becomes disgusted. John contacts a man who calls himself Alexander, who claims to be an expert on the paranormal. John, refusing to let himself grieve, believes that if he digs hard enough he can find out how and why his wife died, and stop disaster events predicted by Indrid Cold.
Much like Gordon, John changes into a completely different person after he becomes obsessed with the Mothman. John desperately tries to convince himself that his wife died out of a mysterious circumstance and that the Mothman was somehow responsible. He believes that if he digs hard enough, he can at least have closure on her death, or even bring her back. He just doesn’t want to believe that she’s gone. As a result, he only enables further delusional behavior.
The more people in Point Pleasant spread around the legend of the Mothman, the more horrible things happen to them.
In reality, what is likely happening is that these horrible things happen because people expect them to. If you expect someone to be hateful towards you, your tone will become aggressive to accommodate their behavior. In another example in racist individuals, their brains will often only take note of stereotypical behavior and take that as proof of the stereotype, despite all the evidence to prove them otherwise.
This theory can be proven in the film after people stop talking about the Mothman once the Silver Bridge collapses and everybody moves on.
John did not want to believe that his wife died from just a horrible accident. He wanted to believe that there must be some hidden reason behind the cause of her death. John was so naïve that he couldn’t accept that something so horrible could happen to an innocent person for no reason. However, sometimes, bad things happen to good people, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
After all, when someone suffers a severe head injury, it’s not uncommon to witness them suffering from hallucinations and delusions. Mary’s death wasn’t due to some evil entity that wanted to kill her, she just died from an accidental car crash. As horrible as that sounds, that someone we love could just be ripped from us for no real reason, it’s just the reality of the world we live in.
In Batman vs Robin, it’s explained that after Bruce’s parents were killed, Bruce would spend all of his time researching the events leading up to their death, as he believed that they were killed by a cult mentioned in his father’s bedtime stories. Not wanting to believe that this cult was just a story his dad would tell him before bed, he kept the investigation going, as he did not want to believe that his parents were killed by some random homeless man on the street. Bruce believed that if he found out the truth behind this conspiracy, then he would finally have closure. He couldn’t accept that his parents were taken from him for no real reason, that something so random and horrible could ever happen to such innocent people.
After exhausting himself, he returned to Alfred and finally accepted that it was just a story and broke down in tears.
The point is, if we expect something bad to happen, we’re effectively wearing a pair of goggles that only allows us to see darkness. However, sometimes, there isn’t a huge conspiracy behind these disasters. Sometimes horrible things just happen for no reason. The Mothman, much like Candyman, only exists because people believe that he’s causing these events. After all, Indrid Cold was never heard from again after the Silver Bridge collapsed, implying that he only existed because people wanted to believe that there was a reason for the horrible things that happened in his predictions.
Eventually, John was so exhausted with his research and investigation of the Mothman, that he just returned home to New York. Connie knew that she couldn’t in good conscience let him be alone on Christmas, so she bought him a plane ticket and invited him over to her home for the holidays. After some banter back and forth, John finally cut the charade and broke down in tears, finally allowing himself to grieve since Mary’s death.
When he returned to Point Pleasant to find that the Silver Bridge was collapsing, he wasn’t concerned if this had anything to do with the Mothman or Mary, he just worried about saving Connie, who was stuck inside the destruction. John knew that the only thing worth worrying about was what’s happening in the here and now in the believable world. Anything beyond that isn’t worth his attention.
Because John allowed himself to grieve and let himself feel sadness, he was able to move on and help someone else who was in need. After Connie was returned to shore, it’s presumed that John stayed in Point Pleasant and had a pleasant future on the horizon. After he accepted that he needed to move on, he refused to accept any more phone calls from Indrid Cold.
The only thing that’s worth stressing over is what we know exists in the natural world. If we stress ourselves over what could happen, we’ll never be happy. After all, even if the Mothman was responsible for Mary’s demise, knowing that fact would not bring her back to life.
Both Shen and John suffer due to a refusal to accept their truths. Shen didn’t have the courage to believe in himself and chose to thrive in ignorance. John couldn’t accept that her wife died due to an accident and wanted to believe that there was a reason behind her death. If we learn from these two characters, we can realize that the only thing worth believing is what we know to be the truth. Nobody else is going to make that decision for us. If you enjoyed this content, then be sure to subscribe to my mailing list so you’re notified when I make more pieces of content just like this one.