Is Dr. Robotnik Really Such a Bad Guy?

Well, probably, yes. At least right now. The question here, though, is whether or not Robotnik has always been a villain. I mean, look at that picture. He looks so jolly; like a young Santa Claus. He just looks like he wants to give you a big hug. Anyway, this whole idea started for me when a friend of mine, who has recently been re-watching the "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" cartoon, asked on Facebook "Does anybody remember exactly WHY Dr. Robotnik hates Sonic so much?" Clearly Robotnik hates Sonic because Sonic always foils his plans. But that got me to wondering what exactly his plans were (at least, in the original Genesis games, when the story was, at best, hidden away in instruction manuals, and at worst, nonexistant), and why Sonic was trying to foil them. Was Robotnik always a devious, evil mastermind, or was he made that way by Sonic's meddling?

Consider this: the game never really explains what Robotnik is doing with the animals he captures. All we know is that he's placing them inside of robots. A lot of people assume that this is because he's using the animals as a power supply of some kind; but, that makes no damn sense, as small animals most likely couldn't generate enough power from, I don't know, hamster wheels, or whatever it is they're doing to generate electricity, to power a robot. Even if they could, the robots would shut down any time the animals went to sleep, and we never see any robots shut down. Ever. Furthermore, Robotnik's personal vehicles don't seem to be powered by animals, as nothing escapes from them when they explode. Thus, there must be some other source of power on Mobius, meaning that using small animals for power is just as stupid as robots using people as batteries in the Matrix. There are simply much better sources of energy. So, that being said, what would Robotnik's motivation be to put these animals into the Robots if not for power. If he simply wanted to capture them just to be evil there would be no reason to put them into robots. Clearly he could just imprison them in a capsule (which he technically does, but I'll get back to that) and then build traditionally powered robots to guard them. Maybe, instead, Robotnik is trying to protect the animals. Maybe there are forces on Mobius that are terrorizing the wildlife (Sonic, perhaps? He does, after all, often feed small animals to his Chao pets so they can better fight for his amusement) and thus Robotnik tries to conceive of a way to save them. Let's take a look at a few things we know about Robotnik and see if they mesh with this idea.

For one, Robotnik's name is a compound of the words "robot", which is obviously because he's a scientist who builds robots, and "beatnik" which is a nickname attributed to a generation of poets and authors, many of whom are, guess what, associated with naturalism and the like. Furthermore, Robotnik's appearance is modeled after Theodore Roosevelt who, in addition to being one of the biggest badasses that ever was, was the president who implimented the U.S. National Parks system, set up to preserve natural scenery and wildlife. Implicitly, the connection with preserving nature is set up twice in the character of Robotnik. He simply utilizes his knowledge of technology to achieve that goal. As for why Robotnik has the animals captured in capsules at the end of each level, you must consider that these animals do not appear to posess the same level of sentience as Sonic and Tails, and thus the only way to adequitely protect them is to first capture them in the wild and then place them into protection, an act which is principally the same as the idea of a modern animal preserve.

If this is all true, then Sonic in this instance is simply an over-righteous, PETA-type activist who runs around ruining Robotnik's plans for preservation without fully understanding the situation. Instead, he just sees animals in captivity and assumes the worst. After decades of this relationship (I'm just talking about the Genesis games here, after all) Robotnik finally gives up on his dream for peace and, perhaps driven insane by the incessant bothering by Sonic and his friends, takes up a life of more forceful conquering (which one could percieve as evil), adopting the name Eggman to reflect the internal change in his persona. Even with that, though, his goal in almost every Sonic game, even the ones where he seems most evil, is to tear down the currently established society and replace it with one he believes will be more stable and desirable as it would, in fact, be run by a man with an IQ of over 300. Call me crazy, but that doesn't necessarily sound like the worst possible situation. Robotnik doesn't want to destroy the world, he wants to protect it, even from itself if need be.

I am, of course, ignoring all of the many Sonic TV shows and comics that go through some kind of back story for these characters, but I don't care. I decided, instead, to base my outlandish theory on just the stuff that one sees in the actual games. Anyway, comment and let me know what you guys think. Has Robotnik always been an embodiment of evil like Ganondorf and Jafar? Or is he more of a tortured genius, forced into a life of crime like, oh, I don't know... some kind of combination of Victor Frankenstein and Niko Bellic.