One of the basic questions of FX and Marvel’s Legion is: what is real? Most of it, of course, is a fictional TV show based on the X-Men comics. But in Season 2, the fuzzy line between reality and fiction has gotten even fuzzier, thanks to Jon Hamm’s narration sections that sometimes bookend, and sometimes interrupt each episode.
The parables attempt to describe either a story (i.e., the one about the monk and the butterfly), or an aspect of mental illness that parallels what we’re about to see David Haller (Dan Stevens) and crew go through. And in “Chapter 11,” we were presented with a ton of info, from the Hindu Milk Miracle to the Nocebo Effect. They’re all presented by Hamm’s dulcet tones as “Conversion Disorders,” which is fine and all, because we’ll listen to Jon Hamm explain anything.
But the big question is: which one of these is real, and which is a delusion? Let’s drop some knowledge, shall we?
The Hindu Milk Miracle
Yep, the Hindu Milk Miracle really happened. On September 21, 1995, a worshiper in New Dehli claimed that a statue of Ganesh slurped up a small spoonful of milk when offered. Then Hindu worshippers all over India started to find the same thing was happening all over the country. By Noon, it had spread all over the world, with temples in Canada and the United States reporting the same phenomenon.
Temples were packed, and milk sales jumped exponentially. But it turns out, the whole thing was due to capillary action: the surface tension from the milk pulled it out of the spoon and coated the statue of Ganesh.
Even with the explanation, the same event again later that year in Trinidad. And in August of 2006, Hindu worshippers observed the same phenomenon, though it was once again attributed to capillary action, not an act of god.
The Nocebo Effect
Here’s the Nocebo Effect definition from Medicinenet:
A negative placebo effect as, for example, when patients taking medications experience adverse side effects unrelated to the specific pharmacological action of the drug. The nocebo effect is associated with the person’s prior expectations of adverse effects from treatment as well as with conditioning in which the person learns from prior experiences to associate a medication with certain somatic symptoms.
Nocebo comes from the Latin noceo, to harm and means “I shall harm” whereas placebo means “I shall please.”
Tl;dr version, yes, the Nocebo Effect is a real thing (and possibly the cause of things like the Hindu Milk Miracle). And whereas the Placebo Effect makes you think you’re cured when you’re taking something like sugar pills, the Nocebo Effect makes you think you’re sick when nothing has really caused you to actually be ill.
The Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic
Also real, and also no laughing matter, the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic started with three girls in the nation of what is now called Tanzania. It eventually spread to a thousand people all over the country. The epidemic ended up lasting almost eighteen months, and led to 14 schools being shut down. And all because three girls get stressed out enough to not stop laughing.
This, by the way, seems to have directly influenced the sequence involving cheerleaders and their shoulder tics on Legion.
The Dancing Plague Of 1518
July, 1518 in Strasbourg, Alsace, one woman named Mrs. Troffea started dancing. By the end of the month, 400 people were dancing non-stop in the streets. Beyond the heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion, 15 people a day were dying because of the plague. Yet they all kept dancing.
Since this was centuries ago, it’s hard to figure out exactly what caused the Dancing Plague. It could have been stress induced, or it could have been caused by psychotropic fungus on wheat in the area. Whatever happened, it was clearly not in everyone’s best interest to keep dancing.
So Is This All Real?
Short answer: yep. It’s all real. These sorts of delusions aren’t just created by Legion‘s Noah Hawley, they’re a real and incredibly dangerous phenomenon that has occurred throughout history.
And if this is all real, what else on Legion is real?
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