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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Game Theory: Handsome Jack, Monster or Misunderstood? (Borderlands 2/The Pre-Sequel!)

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So, you wanna be a villain

Listen up kiddo, lesson #237

If you want those heroes dead, let them STAY dead!

DON'T be a Handsome Jack,

who wants the heroes dead BUT owns the company that keeps reviving them (oops)

That's no good, sonny!

So, when in doubt, remember:


*TV off

*GT Intro

Hello, Internet! Welcome to Game Theory,

where our only goal in life is to one day own a horse...

made of diamonds...

and name it Buttstallion!

Need I say more?


Well, if you got that reference

...Or happen to read the title of this video...

Then you obviously know today's episode is about Borderlands!

The game that's like Diablo, Fallout, and Old West all got thrown into a blender,

and then that blender got launched into space!

...And then happened to get cel-shaded too... Somehow...

I dunno...

In the game, you play as a Vault Hunter

Which is basically a lawless mercenary and treasure hunter

Like, say, if the kids from Goonies grew up,

were thrown into a blender,

and then launched into space-

y'know? Let's stop with the 'blenders and space' things for a minute.

And while the first game served mainly to introduce you to the world and all it's silly little quirks

A.K.A Claptrap, A.K.A best video game robot since MICK from Museum Madness (This guy is a BALLAAAAH) *Airhorns*

It's really the second game where the story comes into its own

Thanks in large part to one man, myth, and monster:

The villain known as Handsome Jack

And Holy Geez! Even though he's a new addition to the weekly GVA meetings

-Game Villains Anonymous-

He's already made quite an impression, making the shortlist for one of the best video game evil-doers of all time,

and it's pretty obvious as to why

Unlike other video game villains, whose actions seem unmotivated or who appear briefly at the beginning only to disappear for the rest of the game

Jack is always with you throughout your trek in Borderlands.

On the radio, constantly telling you about everything from his new pet- the aforementioned Buttstallion:

"Buttstallion! Say hello!"

To the time he scooped out a guys eyes with a spoon and watched him bump blindly into walls.

This guy is awful, amoral, but also hilarious and human

Unlike most other game villains he's got a clear personality

I mean he offers to pay you to kill yourself, and if you do he ACTUALLY pays you

But then, Jack has quieter moments, you kill his girlfriend and you shut him up for once,

He's stunned, at a loss for words

And he gets REALLY touchy if you mention his wife, I mean like, choke-level touchy

"I'm STRANGLING Mr. Morin for bringing up my wife."

"Choked? Mr. Morin?"

"No, no, Jimmy, choking is something you do when you eat too fast, as I'm CRUSHING Mr. Morin's windpipe with my watch chain, what I'm doing is actually referred to as strangling."

Uh- Sorry, strangulation-level touchy.

But the question I wanna ask today is this: Is Jack TRULY the villain of these games?

Borderlands 2 and Borderlands the pre-sequel

I mean, they certainly make him out to be that way,

AND you just heard me list a few of the MANY awful things he certainly makes it clear that he's done throughout his life

But, it's time we truly got to know the man behind the mask

UGH! Ugh, is that really what his face looks like!? Ugh, he's SOO misunderstood is clearly what I was going to say...

Let's look at the facts, and, fair warning, there be lots of spoilers ahead!

When we first meet Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2, he's a trillionaire who's successfully murdered his way up to the top position of the powerful Hyperion Corporation,

then, declared himself dictator of the planet Pandora.

The first thing we see him do is try to murder you and your little cel-shaded vault hunter friends

Not to mention, he's also enslaved his own daughter Angel,

and aims to open a vault which contains The Warrior, an intelligent superweapon capable of leveling planets

Okay, so obviously not a nice guy, why would I EVER think that he could possibly be the hero of the story?

Well, it's because he told me himself, he starts the game with this line:

"You're bandits, you're the bad guys, and I am the goddamn hero."

And then again, he repeats it at the end of the game:

"You are a bandit, and I am the goddamn hero!"

And sure, he could just be saying these things, but it prompted me to dig a bit deeper,

and I was SHOCKED by what I found.

Before he got his real face mysteriously ruined, before he was a megalomaniac out to conquer planets,

we know Jack spent some time living in the care of his Grandmother.

In the mission 'To Grandmother's House We Go' from Borderlands 2, Jack contacts you in a state of panic,

explaining that he needs someone to 'check on his Grandmother's safety for him.'

You get to the house, and Grandma is, unfortunately, dead at the hand of bandits.

Kill the bandits, and over the radio, you start to hear Jack laughing,

he confesses that he hired the brutes to kill grandma.

Why? Well, obviously the fact that he's a lunatic must be part of it, right?

But, look a bit closer...

On grandma's bed, you find a weapon, 'Grandma's buzz-axe'

A pretty gnarly weapon for a 70 year old grandma to wield for her protection, right?

Well, think again!

'Grandma's Buzz-axe' wasn't just for her protection. Read the description and you see that it was, quote:

'A disciplinary weapon used by Handsome Jack's grandmother. About as painful as it looks.

That looks to me like a classic case of child abuse.

According to a 2005 study of serial killers, 36% had been physically abused as a child.

And 50% had been psychologically abused.

And it goes beyond just serial killers,

there is evidence linking child abuse to other developmental stunting of the brain,

according to studies done by everyone from the National Academy of Sciences to,

physical abuse at the hands of a parental figure can render victims prone to a number of psychological issues.

Everything from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Depression to what Handsome Jack ACTUALLY has, Borderline Personality Disorder

And I'm not saying that Jack has Borderline Personality Disorder just because the game happens to be called Borderlands

-Though that is a REALLY cool coincidence-

No, I'm saying it because his behaviors check against the symptoms listed in the DSM-5,

The go-to resource for all your self-diagnostic needs.

In order to have Borderline Personality Disorder a patient needs a repeating pattern of five of the following list of nine symptoms.

Spoiler alert, Jack is rockin' seven!

Let's take 'em one at a time

One: A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family and loved ones

Ha! Uhh, yeah. See also: Grandma. Or his daughter who he happened to enslave.

Two: Suicidal thoughts.

Eh, maybe not so much, skip that one

Three: Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom


Four: Intense and highly changeable moods

Absolutely! For just one example watch him go from zero to strangulation with just the mere mention of his wife.

"I'm STRANGLING Mr. Morin for bringing up my wife."

Number five: Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger.

See also; point four


Six: Having stress-related paranoid thoughts.

Ehhh, not really, that's the other one we can skip.

Seven: Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors.

Such as Spending Sprees, Unsafe Sex, Substance Abuse, Recklessness, and Binge Eating.

Uhh, Buttstallion

with her

reviving this thing

and eating sucky pretzels.

"*Chewing* Hey! How- Ah these pretzels suck."

So to that one I'd say: Check-a-roonie!

Eight: Extreme reactions to abandonment, whether real, or perceived.

Oh-ho yeah, his hatred of all Vault Hunters definitely relates back to this, but we'll get there in a minute.

And finally, number nine: Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self.

Uhh, hello, have you SEEN his face? He has a fake face on top of his real one.

Uhh, yeah, I'd say we have this one covered.

So somebody call Dick Van Dyke 'cuz this murderer has been diagnosed.

Mid-nineties humor, ladies and gentlemen!

Man, I still can't get over the fact that the main character of Borderlands has BORDERLINE Personality Disorder.

Next thing ya know I'll start talking about how the desert wasteland of Pandora is symbolic of his psychological torment...

It's not.

What I WILL start talking about though is that we're still far away from excusing his crimes,

and Buzz Lightyears away from naming him 'The Hero' of the story.

But y'know, these scripts are typically three and a half pages long, and we're currently only at the bottom of page two, so... There's time.

Because here's the thing,

So far, all the evidence has been drawn from Borderlands 2

But last year, Gearbox and 2K released 'Borderlands The Pre-Sequel,'

a game in which you play through Handsome Jack's origin story, back to a simpler time, when Handsome Jack was merely:

Cute-enough-for-a-One-Night-Stand-but-definitely-not-hot-enough-for-boyfriend-material Jack

And guess what? Once again we're faced with a game where someone starts by calling Jack a hero, and this time, it's not just him, talking about himself!

"One day I received a job offer from a low-level Hyperion programmer."

"And what did you find?"

"A hero."

Maybe there is something to this whole hero business after all

The game takes place BEFORE Borderlands 2

Pre-Sequel style like Five Nights At Freddy's 3

Oh, I just wanted to see your reaction to that. Five Nights at Freddy's 3 is CLEARLY not a prequel,

I just wanted to see people FREAK OUT in the comments that that might be included in the final theory. TROLLIN'

The game's main plot has you teaming up with Jack- Pre-mask- to stop a giant space laser from blowing up the moon Elpis,

thus saving millions of lives in the process

You heard that correctly, Jack's goal in this game is SAVING lives

It's a mantra he repeats throughout the game, too!

Wanting to save the day, apologizing for people getting shot at, admitting he doesn't like killing!

Near the beginning of the game, he goes so far as to let someone who betrayed him live!

Only to have that mercy betrayed AGAIN as the guy tries to shoot Jack in the back!

Gun jams and Jack blows the guy away, but seriously, does this sound like the behavior of the black-hearted villain we supposedly see in Borderlands 2?


So what's the difference? What's changed?

Well, for one thing, betrayal. We already mentioned that Jack was abused as a child by his grandmother,

a family member, someone you would inherently expect to trust

But the Pre-Sequel shows that she's only the first.

NO ONE stays true to Jack.

The Mayoriff, the guy we already mentioned, worked for Jack before the events of game,

but when Jack comes and needs his help, the guy betrays him, and when confronted, betrays him again by trying to shoot him in the back

Then there's Roland, Lilith, and Jack's ex-girlfriend Moxxi.

Throughout the game, they work alongside you on your quest to save the moon,

but during the endgame, betray Jack, trying to kill him in an explosion.

Jack, betrayed by family, coworkers, friends, and even a romantic partner.

And throughout the game, you see it wearing on him psychologically

During one of the final Boss Fights, when your character expresses that you guys could just press on without finishing the fight,

Jack says, 'let your enemies live, and they'll shoot you in the back!'

What started as a guy who was watching out for his team on their shared quest to save millions of lives has started to break down,

into an unloved man, betrayed over and over again to the point that he can no longer trust anyone!

And the last betrayal happens at the very end of the game when Lilith, again, someone he once considered part of the team, punches a relic in the middle of it sending a bunch of knowledge into Jack's brain.

The relic bursts, stops the knowledge transfer, and permanently sears a brand onto his face.

The final betrayal.

And this prompts 'Handsome Jack' to be born out of this newfound quest for vengeance.

As your character says in the game:

"And that is when the hero who saved us on Helios died."

But did he really?

This brings us back to his motivations throughout Borderlands 2,

Jack's professed goal is to bring peace to the planet of Pandora.

At the very end of the game, as he's dying, he speaks about the wasted opportunity, how summoning the world-killing Warrior was his attempt to restore order,

eliminating the dangerous creatures and lawless bandits plaguing this land

and honestly... He's not wrong,

Pandora is a dangerous wasteland of warring factions, surrounded by an unforgiving desert and horrifically deadly creatures,

maybe Jack's right, maybe it DOES need order rather than being an every-man-for-themselves-survival-of-the-fittest-gun-fest.

And honestly, what are the alternatives here?




That's the way it's been running up to this point.

Are we, as the player, truly the heroes of this story?

Or are we just actively fighting the progress of this planet?

I mean, Vault Hunters are basically Grave Robbers, stealing treasures from hidden caches.

Is Jack right in saying we're not the heroes?

I mean think about it, if the Vault Hunters are indeed the heroes of the story,

then that means Lilith and Moxxi, the ones you team up with throughout the game, are the good guys.

But look at what they do,

in betraying Jack they not only tried to blow him up but also the character you're playing as, who is innocent of all these crimes! You would be a casualty of war!

Then, at the end of the Pre-Sequel, after confessing your entire story and renouncing your affiliation with Jack, Lilith tells the firing squad to shoot you anyway!

Despite all her partners telling her otherwise.

Is this really the protagonist?

At the beginning of Borderlands 2, Jack says he needs the Vault Hunters to die because he's afraid of a bunch of greedy, psychopathic murderers getting access to these superweapons!

And he's kinda right about that. As Lilith and Moxxi prove themselves to be, they're people who are greedy, in it for the profit, willing to backstab others as Jack knows from personal experience.

If these monsters kept prisoner in the Vaults fall into the wrong hands it means mass death for the planet. For the universe.

But Jack? Well, as we see at the end of the Pre-Sequel, he's built the technology able to harness these creatures already.

Controlling their powers. If these things must exist in the universe, it makes sense that Jack is the one to be doing the supervision. Not greedy bandits!

He's just doing his part, and honestly, that's pretty darn heroic.

And you know what makes it even MORE heroic and what makes me say his motives are pure?

Remember that relic Lilith punched to scar Jack's face?

Well, it shows Jack the future.

By scrolling slowly through the images flashing past, you see Jack witness cutscene moments that appear at the END of Borderlands 2.

The subsequent game.

As he says, he truly does 'see it all.' And a part of that is obviously seeing his own death in that moment.

He'd just seen his future, and he knew his death was imminent. But he was so determined to see peace come to Pandora that he pursued the goal anyway.

How's that Dark Knight quote go? 'You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain'?

Jack is the embodiment of that mentality.

A man with a noble goal of bringing order to a lawless planet, it's just too bad that they didn't want what he was providing.

It's a phrase we use a lot on Game Theory but 'History is written by the victors'

In this case, it's people like Lilith and Moxxi, who thought Jack to be the villain.

But by playing through Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, we're in a unique position, we get to see his actions, his rise, and his fall,

and judge for ourselves objectively about this man.

And the way I see it, Jack was just a misunderstood hero who needed a little bit of love.

Jack, wherever you happen to be, Buttstallion says hello.

But hey, that's just a theory...

A Game Theory!

Thanks for watching!


Where last time 60% of you said you prefer your games Indie, versus 40% who prefer triple-A.

That said, it was on an episode about Indie games, so...


Oh! And in other news, 96% of people that click the Subscribe button were happy with their decision!

The other 4% must've been... Bots... or something... I dunno...

This week I wanna see how well we did!

So, you just heard the evidence, now it's your turn to judge!

Handsome Jack: Eye-scooping, Diamond horsed Villain, or abused, misunderstood hero?

Click on one to choose, but regardless of which option you go with I think there's one thing we can all agree on...

This dude is hilarious!

Then, get taken to the channel page and... Watch some more stuff

Now if you'll excuse me there's something that's been... Haunting me for the last couple weeks...

Something I need to take care of...

The Description of Game Theory: Handsome Jack, Monster or Misunderstood? (Borderlands 2/The Pre-Sequel!)