With Gunter and the penguins revolting against Ice King and his persistently pitiful social skills, the wizened loner decides to bring a little life to his frozen mountain home. Rather than be satisfied with the life and available friendship already around him, Ice King dupes the Life Giving Magus into animating household objects in the hope that they’ll befriend the Ice King upon being granted conscious existence. In classic Ice King fashion, the answer to his woes is right in front of him. If it’s friendship he seeks, the Life Giving Magus is ready to offer it; in fact, that’s the only reason he came over, under the pretense of friendship. Even when the Ice King proves a duplicitous fool, LGM is still eager to be friends forever. Stewing in his own poisonous identity of isolation, self-destructive though it may, the Ice King chooses the stability of his normal, tragic sense of self, and becomes friends with a dim-witted book that can’t offer him anything in return, but more importantly, can’t ever betray him. No risk, no real friendship. Good enough for the perpetually petrified King of identity paralysis.
Beyond the friendship angle in this episode is a discursive sociological and philosophical tour. The first It that comes to life in Ice King’s place is a lamp.
Quick detour: At first, I was ready to march into I-It, I-Thou Martin Buber territory with this episode, since the Ice King wants a purely I-It relation with his world; if everything is an object for his bidding, he doesn’t have to worry about the messy I-Thou relations that he can’t seem to navigate. He seems to lack the capacity for cognitive empathy, lost as he is in his own insecurities, and so he refuses to grant people their own autonomy and authority. Instead he’s always trying to impose his desperate will on them, but his power always proves impotent. They refuse to exist as an object for his desire.
Back to the lamp. As soon as it comes to life and the Ice King tries to pin down its gender, the lamp goes all progressive Bruce Jenner on the old man and says it has yet to construct its own social identity. The lamp adds, “I have yet to find out who I really am. I have freedom, no longer bound by the limits of my chord. Freedom to shape my reality, and in turn, be shaped by it.” The Ice King’s response? “Heh heh, you talk funny.” Whenever the living things he perceives as objects betray his expectations, he works to preserve his mental architecture in order to leave them in their objectified place, where he can see, understand, and manipulate them. Of course, none of that ever actually happens for him, and so he’s always left with a void in his conceptualization of friendship. The other furniture pieces follow the lamp’s embrace of existential freedom upon their awakening, waxing philosophical in a manner that confounds the childish Ice King. In response to their betrayal, even though he’s not technically their creator, he farts with his hands. Unable to relate to them intellectually, because their questions about the meaning of life aren’t accessible to him when he’s only concerned with “lower” social reality, and threatened by them emotionally, because they try to force on him a confrontation with his deepest fears and insecurities, he destroys them.
Instead of learning anything about himself and the possibility that another worldview might open him up to real friendship, he ends the episode as alone as he was at the beginning, gleefully allowing a dumb book to dance and fart in his lap, which is right on his level.
Will the show ever permit him higher consciousness and existence?