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Western Animation / Ćon Flux

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"My name is Æon Flux. I'm here on a mission to assassinate Trevor Goodchild. Is everybody listening? Do you believe me?"

"The original impetus behind the Æon Flux pilot was a critique of the manipulation of sympathy in Hollywood movies."

Throughout the 1990s, MTV regularly produced animated programming and fronted some experimental animation. Æon Flux (1991-1995) is probably the fourth-best known example of this type of series (after Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria, and Celebrity Deathmatch). As a whole, the show was a thorough deconstruction of action hero tropes and cliches.

Æon Flux is foremost a visual experience. The art style is a scribbly blend of Expressionism, Cyberpunk, and Gnosticism distinct from but reminiscent of European comic books. For instance, one of the series's iconic images depicts a human eye staring at a fly that is trapped in eyelashes long enough to remind one of the mouth of a Venus flytrap. The episodes strive to use the art style to further the viewer's interest as opposed to wordiness. The early shorts forwent spoken words and the later episodes used them frugally.

The actual content proves even stranger than the art — the lead character is a highly self-motivated secret agent doing spywork, or possibly just sabotage in the name of anarchy, whose sense of work attire is the lesser the better. Her arch-nemesis and lover, Trevor Goodchild, is also a main character; a morally-ambiguous totalitarian ruler attempting to be a benevolent dictator.

The episodes tend to be fairly disconnected from each other, and center on the two main characters' (Æon and Trevor) interactions, political and personal, and the themes surrounding them.

The original series is often erroneously categorized as anime. Although creator Peter Chung is South Korean, the series is considered more in the spirit of Euro-animation.

The show was made into a live-action movie in late 2005, but the plot, characters, themes and artistic style were unrelated enough to the original series to cause the original creator to feel humiliated when he saw it. A licensed tie-in game was made to try and link the two, but that didn't end well; a movie tie-in comic by Dark Horse Comics was a little more successful at capturing the feel of the original show. A live-action reboot series has been announced for Paramount+.

On a final note, Æon Flux is historically significant for being the first adult animated drama ever produced in the United States.

Æon Flux contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Deconstructed. Æon certainly fits the bill of the death-defying badass heroine, but her motives display a significantly grey morality, and sometimes she doesn't even defy death.
  • All There in the Manual: There was a companion book published during the airing of the third season, The Herodotus File, which saw a brief return to print as a tie-in with the movie. It was a set of Fictional Documents telling the story of how Æon and Trevor first met and other info about their world.
  • All There in the Script: The names of most of the characters in the silent shorts, which are also mentioned in the DVD commentaries.
  • And I Must Scream: In "Ether Drift Theory," an ocean of paralytic fluid immobilizes anybody who falls in it but leaves them aware. This happens to Æon at the end of the episode.
  • Anti-Hero: Æon Flux's actions are often morally questionable at best and she is generally portrayed as being cold, calculating, and (at least seemingly) heartless, although she does generally complete her missions for the sake of others. In the original short episode pilot, before the characters were fully realized, she filled the role of a satire of a typical action hero in that her wanton slaughter of Mooks is put to serious question, she winds up getting herself killed at the end, and doesn't even actually accomplish her goal, which someone else ends up completing independent of her and for completely different reasons.
  • Anti-Villain: Trevor Goodchild is a morally ambiguous figure much like Æon Flux is herself. He genuinely believes that his people are better off by submitting to his authority, just as Æon is convinced that her borderline terrorist activities are also for the greater good.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Amputees are common in Bregna, most of them apparently being people who failed to make it across the border into Monica.
  • The Artifact: Both Æon's theme tune and the "Breen National Anthem" are musical artifacts from the shorts. Æon's was originally meant to be a Suspiciously Similar Song version of the Indiana Jones theme, to fit with the Deconstruction of action movies. The basic tune remained as her Leitmotif for the remainder of the series, though mutated into something much weirder through Drew Neumann's distinctive style to better fit the tone the series ended up taking on. As for the Breen theme, it was originally meant simply as a leitmotif for Breen soldier Vaarsche Lockney, intended to invoke a Wagnerian feel to fit his blond-haired, Germanic looks.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: One of Æon's many flaws in the silent episodes.
  • Author Appeal: Peter Chung obviously has a thing for domination, feet and eyes.
  • Bootstrapped Theme: The Breen theme was originally specific to Vaarsche Lockney.
  • Broken Pedestal: Gildemere spends most of "Utopia or Deuteronopia" trying to rescue Bregna's elected leader, Clavius and spends hours poring over the documents he left behind, believing their incomprehensible gibberish to be a brilliant cipher. He's none too pleased when Clavius comes back and immediately orders the gangsters he'd been colluding with released from prison and reveals that the flying saucer men are not, in fact, a codename for the ministry of justice.
  • The Caligula: Clavius, as it turns out. Trevor himself, while generally competent, isn't above using his position to gratify his own sexual appetites.
  • Call-Back: In The Demiurge (which was originally supposed to be the first episode of the full length series), Trevor gets injured by a rusty nail when Æon pins him to the ground during the opening fight scene and the relationship between the nail, which is objectively real(?) and the subjective pain it inflicts is repeatedly discussed throughout the episode. In the original shorts, Æon is ultimately killed by a nail which got stuck in her shoe while crawling around trying to sneak into Trevor's penthouse, driving it into her foot when she finally stands up and causing her to fall off the building.
  • Characterization Marches On: Between seasons two and three, Æon changed from an Ax-Crazy Failure Hero who would slaughter large numbers of random mooks, but usually failed at accomplishing her actual objective, to a cold, calculating and highly manipulative Chessmaster.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Extensively used to set up the small events that screw up Æon's missions.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Played with in the 4th short. At the beginning, Æon sees a fellow agent failing at an obstacle course, which Æon proceeds to tackle effortlessly. Later, she has to escape from an alien in its ship that she infiltrated. It pulls a lever which brings up an obstacle course that's exactly like the one Æon went through earlier in the episode, and she tackles it with just as much grace. Not that it matters since the alien is still faster and ultimately catches and kills her.
  • Chickification: Happens several times.
    • In "A Last Time for Everything," Æon clones herself, with the intention of seducing Trevor to let her clone get the drop on him. Rather than seduce him, her original self falls hopelessly in love with him. Her cloned self remains true to her cold-blooded original personality, however.
    • In "Reirazure," Æon has a lover's quarrel with a crippled man, causing her to burst into tears.
    • The ending of "Chronophasia" where Æon is seen in a contemporary setting driving a young boy to a little league game.
  • Cloning Blues: Averted by the clone of Æon made by Trevor. Aware of being a clone, she is perfectly OK with her existence and her role in the original Æon's Batman Gambit.
  • Combat Stilettos: Averted in most episodes. Æon's many outfits run the full gamut of practical to highly impractical fetish wear, but she wears regular flat-heeled boots more often than she does high heels (this is even important in the pilot episode, where she steps on a nail).
  • Creator Cameo: Producer Japhet Asher appears in a significant minor role in the Season 3 opener; several extras throughout the third season are voiced by writer Mark Mars.
  • Cruel Mercy: The rulers of Bregna booby trap the border with traps that tangle escapees' legs, inject anesthesia, saw them off and cauterize the wounds. It's this trope because while their legs get lopped off, the traps still ensure that they feel no trauma and don't die from blood loss.
  • Cyberpunk: Bio Punk with expressionist touches. Played completely straight in the film.
  • Dating Catwoman: Æon and Trevor, although which is the villain is often hard to determine.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Several of Æon's missions fail because of an escalating series of accidents, but none more so than in "Ether Drift Theory."
  • The Ditz: Trevor can come across as this, often leaving gaping holes in his security that Æon and others have taken advantage of over and over again, that could easily get him killed if Æon was more competent. With that said: Who makes air vents in a prison that are big enough for a person to walk through, with poor lighting along the patrol corridors that allows for easy concealment in the shadows?
  • Dying Dream: One of the Mooks Æon kills in the pilot has a hallucination in the vein resembling Steamboat Willie. Upon realising what he is actually seeing is a streak of blood on a wall, a gun floating in the literal lake of blood Æon has created and an apparently dismembered arm, he sheds a tear of horror.
  • Emperor Scientist: Trevor.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When an "alien" offers to trade eyeballs with Æon:
    Æon: Oh my God, no! I'm sorry, but there are some things even I won't do!
  • Exotic Equipment: Various forms, partly to get past censors by using nonstandard methods of copulation, and partly because, well it's Æon Flux. Examples include a woman with a gap in her spine (due to injury/surgery) having her spinal nerves manually stimulated with medical tools (which, incidentally, was proven to be viable by some doctors in Real Life a few years after the show came out), sexual imagery involving a behavior-altering mechanism implanted forcefully through the navel, and a species of humanoid "aliens" who apparently engage in sexual contact by taking out an eyeball and replacing it with that of their partner.
  • Expy: The version of Hostess Judy and her comrades from the video game are based on the Fashion Club from Daria.
  • Facepalm: Done by Æon as she plummets to her death after completely botching an acrobatic manoeuvre on the outside of a plane; also when she watches the embarrassing security camera footage of her falling off a ladder.
  • Failure Hero: Quite often the heroine completely fails to accomplish her original objective, having only accomplished mowing down tons of random goons in gory and horrific fashion. Sometimes she even dies partway through the episode on account of her own stupidity and clumsiness and the episode just carries on without her.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: "Ether Drift Theory" introduces a stunning six-armed, purple woman with Prehensile Hair who is Trevor's new right-hand woman, "the Republic's tax money at work." She's killed by metal-seeking bees a moment later.
  • Fat Bastard: Bambara from "The Purge"
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The ending of the pilot reveals Trevor Goodchild's name, since his signature can be seen on the money where his face also appears.
  • Friendly Enemy: Despite having completely opposing philosophies and fighting against each other regularly, neither Æon nor Trevor want the other to succumb to any serious harm and there is some obvious sexual tension between the two of them. They have also been known to suddenly make out after meeting on the battlefield.
  • Gainax Ending: While the whole series is strange, the ending of the episode "Chronophasia" manages to be complete confusing and without any possible explanation.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The one good thing about the live-action movie was that it prompted MTV to release the complete animated series on DVD. That's what it seemed like until fans got their hands on the discs and discovered that several (subjectively) jarring and pointless changes had been made. Notable examples include:
    • Clavius's lines in the first episode of season 3 were re-dubbed by a completely new voice actor for no explicable reason.
    • An enormous spoiler was added to "The Purge," (A transparent image of Æon was superimposed over the Custodian in the final scene, heavily implying that she was implanted) ruining one of the great moments of ambiguity Peter Chung loved to put in the show (See YMMV tab).
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Æon and Trevor's ideologies are taken to such extremes that neither can be said to be totally in the right.
  • Handy Feet (Adapted Feet): Scafandra, who had hands transplanted onto her ankles. Æon remarks that she likes them.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Gildemere, who's innocent to the point of dangerous naivete.
  • The Hedonist: Trevor takes full advantage of his ambiguously-high position in the government to collect fine art, indulge in exotic food, and bed anyone within eyesight. When he isn’t engaging in his Well-Intentioned Extremist tendencies, he’s enjoying all the sensual pleasures the bizarre world he inhabits can provide him.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • There are quite a few moments in the show, but a big one is Æon attempting to do acrobatics on a plane in flight... which causes her to fall to her death, something which she lampshades by giving herself a Face Palm.
    • Also when Æon keeps trying to look through her binoculars on two men trying to pull something from a cliff, not noticing the rope around her neck as she use the train tracks bridge to swing to safety. She's quickly strangled to death just as we were about to see what the two men were pulling.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: To a ridiculous extent. (In fact, intentionally overdone as a deconstruction.)
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: A lot of characters, particularly Sybil. Æon Flux's measurements are implied to be 40, 20, 36.
  • In Medias Res: Each episode begins this way.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: According to the episode commentaries, Hostess Judy was modeled on her voice actress, Susan Turner-Cray.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Rorty in "Reraizure."
  • Last of Their Kind: Æon and Trevor are the last normal-looking humans (the last humans in general) at the end of "End Sinister." They plan to repopulate the planet in a few thousand years.
  • Le Parkour: Æon's most important skill, even though the series began before the word parkour entered into common use. (Her movements are jerkier than parkour usually prefers, however.)
  • Lost in Transmission: A rare example that doesn't involve actual transmitting equipment. At the beginning of "The Demiurge", Trevor is speaking with an underling when he suddenly recalls a vital piece of information. What he says is "Wait, I remember!"—and what he says next is drowned out by the sound of an explosion behind him. It is possible to make out what he's saying if you listen extremely carefully, but the line appears to have been lifted at random from a later speech in the same episode and the animators made no attempt to match the lip flaps.
  • Meaningful Name: Some of the characters' names are somewhere between this and Punny Name. Æon Flux's name implies upheaval and change and literally means "Eternal Change." Trevor Goodchild's name implies obedience, although Peter Chung has denied any symbolic intent and claims he randomly took the name from a school classmate. Donna Matrix sounds like "dominatrix." A semi-religious Monican is named Zennith Nader, and a self-obsessed Breen is named Onan.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Æon quite possibly represents the ultimate deconstruction of this trope. While she's ideologically chaotic and superficially wild and sexy, when she behaves romantically towards someone it's almost always (except in the controversial "Reraizure") to manipulate them and/or make a philosophical point.
  • Mind Screw: The DVD commentary for the episode "Chronophasia" explicitly apologizes that they don't even really have any good, objective answers as to what it's all about. Peter Chung has explicitly said that he'd rather the viewers work it out for themselves than rely on Word of God.
  • Monologuing: Trevor was deliberately conceived as being overly verbose and having a certain amount of pomposity as a contrast to Æon's clipped, sarcastic speech patterns.
  • Negative Continuity: In the silent episodes.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight: Played straight then subverted. In the pilot, Æon simply shoots a martial arts-displaying redshirt. In "War," a swordsman shows off in front of a gunman, who simply shoots at him, only for the swordsman to deflect the bullet and kill him. Watching the shorts chronologically, the second example works as a subversion of the first scene, given their similar set-ups.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Trevor has so many different sub-occupations he can be slotted into whatever role the story requires of him; he's always a leader of some sort, and always an intellectually skilled person (usually a doctor or scientist).
  • Noodle People: The default character design.
  • Noose Catch: In "Gravity", Æon's climbing on a plane and slips when she's just about to reach the hatch. She falls, but does manage to get her grappling hook attached to a nearby bridge. However, she is too distracted to notice that the rope has tangled up around her neck. Cue Gory Discretion Shot.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Trevor Goodchild is many things—he's a spymaster, a political leader, and a military leader, but he's also a doctor, and he regularly does doctor work even in other capacities as a form of "community volunteer work." This includes both work with "mental patients" as well as physical things like spinal surgery. Trevor is a very hands-on guy.
  • Opening Narration: A discussion between Trevor and Æon.
    The dream to awaken our world.
    You're out of control.
    I take control. ...Whose side are you on?
    I take no sides.
    You're skating the edge.
    What you truly want, only I can give.
    You can't give it, can't even buy it, and you just don't get it.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Æon's not actually "good" and Trevor's not really a cut-and-dried bad guy; they're just The Rebel and The Establishment, respectively.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Literally in every single episode during the silent shorts. During the half-hour episodes Æon tends to survive, with some partial exceptions: One episode where a copy of her kills the original (which was planned all along), another where she's trapped in a sea of paralytic fluid at the end (although the fluid could be neutralized), and another where she seems to die multiple times, but nobody knows what the hell was literal in that episode anyway. Explained somewhat in the video game.
  • Parrying Bullets: The sword-wielding Monican soldier in "War" is capable of doing this multiple times until he doesn't and is shot to death by the final "protagonist."
  • Playing with Syringes: Trevor.
  • Police State: Both incarnations of Bregna.
  • Post Cyber Punk: Deconstruction of Cyberpunk, anyway.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The videogame. The creators were obviously fans of the original series and did their absolute best to try to capture the feeling of it, using many designs and plot references from the cartoon. Still, as it was produced as a movie tie-in, they had to include several character designs and plot points from the film (particularly the use of Charlize Theron's voice and likeness for Æon instead of the actual voice actress and character design from the show), much to the game's detriment.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Trevor comes across as this with just about anything that gets his attention. To give a list: Æon, the reporters who interview him, one of his patients, bird creatures, the Demiurge, and in the last episode, an alien who is actually an evolved human, according to him.
    • Of course, Æon is little better. She wears a chastity belt, but at the end of the first episode it is revealed that everyone (literally) in the country of Bregna has a key to it. She also attempted to get with the same alien that Trevor had, but changes her mind.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Trevor and Æon, respectively. The vain and people-oriented red oni (Trevor) represents order, while the cold and anti-social blue oni (Æon) represents chaos.
  • Repeat Cut: "Tide" repeats the same twenty shots, in order, six full times before it concludes.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Trevor Goodchild is the leader of Bregna, but he's also a doctor and he does lots of community volunteer work. He's also extremely hands-on in whatever the episode is about; he doesn't just issue orders, he gets in there and gets his hands dirty.
  • Scaramanga Special: Trevor's got a cigarette case that unfolds into a pistol; this becomes very important in one episode.
  • Screw Yourself: Æon makes sure to get a good makeout session with her duplicate, before they part ways to carry out their plan.
  • Sensory Tentacles: Trevor Goodchild used a tongue/tentacle/thing to diagnose an alien (that was actually a time-traveling human) like a tricorder.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Basically every episode of the original shorts ended with Æon dying in a stupid and undignified way, with nothing being accomplished.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The plot of "End Sinister" is one big shout out to a weird ass French sci-fi animated film called Gandahar.
    • In a reference to Indiana Jones, the episode "War" has a soldier making an elaborate sword dance while facing another who simply looks at his gun and then back to the swordsman. In this case however, the swordsman blocks the bullet with his sword and then impales the shooter.
    • The character Bargeld in "Ether Drift Theory" may be a shout out to the musician Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who in his younger days was possibly the only person ever to be as skinny as a Peter Chung character and not die from anorexia.
    • Trevor's character design, and the art style for people in general, is strongly inspired by that of the early-twentieth-century Austrian artist Egon Schiele.
  • Stripperiffic: Many outfits worn by various characters are a shade away from pure bondage gear, most notably Æon's. In the DVD Commentary, Chung states that the lack of significant clothing also served to make the body language in the silent shorts easier to see, and compared it to the popularity of nudity in art.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Played with in the original short episode pilot and in the second short episode. "Pilot" opens with typical action movie music and Æon gunning down extremely implausible numbers of soldiers, action hero style—then the perspective abruptly changes to that of two enemy soldiers (implied to be lovers) trying to support each other as they gasp for life, shot and dying in the middle of a giant pool of blood. In "War", the identity of the protagonist changes every 20 seconds or so, each one dying when his time is up, as a satire of how viewer sympathy is manipulated in typical action movies.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Æon, during the short episodes.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Most of Æon's deaths in the shorts are a direct result of stupid mistakes, when they're not Necro Non Sequitur, which is quite often. This is partly a satire on the trope of the invincible hero in more typical action works.
  • Transhuman: "End Sinister" reveals that humans will evolve to look very... alien-looking.
  • Twinmaker: In one episode, Æon herself gets cloned, and conspires with the original on an assassination attempt. At the end of the episode, one of them is gunned down. It wasn't the clone.
    • Duplicated, not cloned. The show avoided using the term clone because Trevor's process was apparently quite different, as duplicates retained full memories and personalities of the original.
  • Underboobs: One of Æon's costumes gives her this.
  • Walls of Tyranny: The wall between Bregna and Monica, which is most heavily featured in the episode "Thanatophobia."
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The security-obsessed technocrat Trevor is the more obvious example, but one could make a convincing argument that the anarchist Æon fits in right next to him.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The concept of Mooks is deconstructed in the second part of the pilot, which reminds us that under their masks, Faceless Goons are human beings too. (Also see Anti-Hero and Sympathetic P.O.V..) The film plays it completely straight, by having Æon and Trevor casually kill huge numbers of Faceless Goons with no questioning at all.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
    • Æon suffers a lot from this, to the point where she could have avoided an entire episode's worth of trouble by doing so in the first place.
    • Subverted with the soldier in the War short. Though he hesitates before shooting Æon, allowing an enemy to slowly sneak up on him, he still manages to kill both of them on time anyway.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Because MTV didn't support the release of Drew Neumann's soundtrack album, the album had to use the title Eye Spy: Ears Only, Confidential and not mention Æon Flux at all. Peter Chung drew the cover art using Expies of his own characters.
  • You Are Number 6: Many of Trevor's immediate subordinates have numbers instead of names.


Aeon Flux

Nice try, Aeon!

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