Body without organs, Monster without teeth

The Incredible Hulk and the Rhizome

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The "body without organs" is a bit of a hard concept, or at least it was for me to understand in my initial reading. Thinking about it semantically, there was an interesting point: the body without organs as opposed to an organism. Contrasting dichotomies is something that D&G almost specialize in, and Capitalism and Schizophrenia is filled with these kinds of ideas pitted against each other: even the title is indicative of this.

Word choice is important as well; when we think of other humans, we think of them as like ourselves, not so different. We don't usually gravitate towards saying words like "organism", and if we note someone that does, we note, we single out and specify. An organism is something to be studied, to be defined not by itself but by other. To an extent, an organism in this context has its purpose and potential already decided, again not by itself but by the whims of the observer.

It turns out Deleuze and Guattari's conception of the body without organs is based around the opposite ideal; a body without classification, without organs to become an organism, a body liberated. Specifically, "If we got rid of the rules that we made as humans to dictate what a body can do according to other rules we created about what organs can do, then we would be free to do more with our bodies—we could do more than kill and hurt and use and eat and borrow bodies," as told by a The Turnip Truck(s) article.

Once again thinking semantically, the word "unleashed" seems scary in a lot of the contexts we place it in, but what it boils down into is simply "not leashed", not restrained, which admittedly is ignoring any kind of formal definition. The body without organs is a body unleashed in the purest sense, which might end badly, might not. Ambiguity is ever-present in this kind of language and word choice, which is the point: the body without organs is "could", "maybe", "possible". The body without organs is untapped potential.

In contrast to the process of "becoming", the body without organs is actually an endpoint, something that seems obtainable but may not actually be: "You never reach the Body without Organs, you can't reach it, you are forever attaining it, it is a limit... So what is this BwO?... you're already on it, scurrying like a vermin, groping like a blind person, or running like a lunatic... On it we sleep, live our waking lives, fight—fight and are fought—seek our place, experience untold happiness and fabulous defeats; on it we penetrate and are penetrated; on it we love," (Deleuze and Guattari, 150).

Is the Hulk a body without organs? Maybe not in Banner's eyes, but in the reader/viewer perhaps. Catharsis is such a strong feeling in that it overrides other feelings, particularly guilt and regret. You can destroy at will, destroy what you will, but in the end a rational person might drop his shoulders and start crying. But it felt great in the moment, didn't it? Media such as this allows us to project not just our personality but also our deepest desires onto the fictional landscape, and enter a world where our biggest problems can be solved by simply punching them in the face, or in this case, bringing them toppling down.

From my archetypal image of the Hulk that exists in my head, the Hulk does not usually feel remorse. Stories in recent comics might flip-flop, as well as other adaptations, but the Hulk does not wallow in his destruction afterwards, and only a rare few would describe him as "rational". To the reader/viewer, the Hulk is a representation of a weaponized body without organs, the potential to vicariously act out our drive to destroy.

In-universe this interpretation rings rather true. One of the main antagonists featured in most Hulk media is one General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, usually present and complacent in the creation of the Hulk itself, in hopes of eventually controlling the monster for his own purposes or the purposes of the United States Government. The Hulk, to General Ross, is an endpoint, the chance to enact his will with great power, and he has chased this end since 1963, and as long as The Incredible Hulk is a staple of Marvel Comics, it seems that he'll keep chasing and hunting down the Hulk long after me and you are gone. Because Banner and the Hulk are the main characters of a piece of media, one can say that Ross's entire existence revolves around the Hulk: without the Hulk, what is he?

Me in particular, I don't think I could call the Hulk a body without organs with full confidence. The Hulk is not conceptual in the Marvel Universe, he is here, he is here now, and he just destroyed your home. The only way he can be described as a means to an end is by third parties. I thought of the term "monster without teeth" as a cool title for this mini-essay, but what does it mean actually? A monster without teeth removes a significant factor of the horror of a monster. Afterwards, what does it become? There's no telling exactly, other than it becomes a monster without teeth.

The Hulk does not eat victims like other monsters may (unless you refer to the "Ultimate" Marvel comics released in the early 2000s where they decided to make him a serial cannibal with a sex drive), so in a more literal sense, he does not have "teeth" per say; by definition of him being a bulkier, stronger, green-skinned human, he does actually have teeth which I imagine does not see much use. His danger is determined only by what people will believe that he do, the potential for his destruction. So many wills were being imbued upon him by numerous parties, which does not make one a body without organs, instead the Hulk becomes an organism.

So, the Hulk might seem like a body without organs, but is more a monster without teeth, quite literally. However, he is also a monster without teeth because his will is not yet decided upon. The Hulk might not think this is true, since he is "the strongest one there is" and as such, shall not have any will placed upon him. But in practice, that simply is not true, as many people in the Marvel Universe, including Banner, have sought him as if he was the body without organs, imposing their will and purpose onto him. So, the Hulk is a monster without teeth, and its up to the third party to give him teeth. No wonder the Hulk is always asking others to "leave me alone."

This subjectification and almost commodification of the body without organs might seem unrealistic, but right now, I can imagine the person I want to be, the things I can do if I had nothing holding me down. She exists only in my head, and will cease to exist once I stop imagining; she is defined by my will, that being my imagination and my personal goals and drives. She is a different person technically but she is defined by me alone. That's a sad way to live, really.

The Incredible Hulk (C) is property of Marvel Comics, Disney Publishing Worldwide, and The Walt Disney Company. "The Hulk" (C) 2003 is owned by Universal Pictures. "The Incredible Hulk" (C) 2008 is owned by Universal Pictures and Marvel Studios.
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