This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Domhnall O’Huigin:
The first task in answering the question is to define the frame of reference: What is the Mario Universe?
Without going into too much detail, Mario (generally) lives and works in the Mushroom Kingdom, one of the largest kingdoms—but not the only kingdom (see geo-political structures on Mushroom World [Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia], in the Grand Finale Galaxy in, yes, the Mushroom Universe.
For the purposes of this answer, I will deliberately restrict the terms to discussing Mushroom World, as a comprehensive answer on the entire Mushroom Universe would require covering 20 to 22 (depending on how you count) Super Mario Galaxies, and frankly, I doubt it would be any more fun to read than it would be to write.
So, let’s focus on Mushroom World. Mushroom World is a very large and extremely diverse planet in terms of its inhabitants, ecosystems, political systems, and types of governance. NB: While Mushroom World does contain many Earth-like features, such as (some) fauna common to both planets, matching ecologies (deserts, jungles etc.), it is important to note that they are in fact separate worlds, and transfer between the two is possible only by means of Warp Pipes.
Mushroom World contains at least 202 separate zones or jurisdictions (Mushroom World,Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia). These include (but are not limited to) examples of:
- Imperium, e.g. Linguine Empire
- Oligarchies, e.g. Mekanos
- City-states e.g. Syrup Castle
- Proletariat Collectivism, e.g. Robo Land
- Theocracies e.g. Yoshi’s Island (place). Although NB: you could also argue that Yoshi’s Island is a:
- Necroarchy, or “ruled by the dead,” e.g. Boo Woods, which itself is a sub-type of an:
- Absolute Monarchy, e.g. the Mushroom Kingdom, Banana Fairy Island, and theBeanbean Kingdom. Monarchies are the most common form of political organization on Mushroom World, with the Mushroom Kingdom representing the main superpower currently, in much the same way that the US fulfills this role on Earth, and with the same precarious dominant status.
- Areas with no political organization at all and contested by various warlords, e.g. Big Island.
A variegated planet therefore, analogous to Earth in medieval times with an equivalent variety of types of rule and organization: think of the kingdoms of feudal Europe with contemporaneous empires in China, Japan, Mezoamerica, and theocracies, city states (e.g. Venice) etc.
Of all these jurisdictions, the Mushroom Kingdom is by far the most significant, although its prime position is under constant threat.
The Mushroom Kingdom is currently ruled by Princess Peach, who is a member of theminority human population. As the least-numerous faction, humans in the Mushroom Kingdom are under constant threat from within and without. Internal threats include a significant terrorist faction led by Bowser, the leader of the Koopas, one of the most populous species in the kingdom.
It is important to note that Bowser does not command the allegiance of all Koopas, but those under his authority are organized into paramilitary ranks or units (Koopa (species) – Super Mario Wiki) in a caste-like system. This concentration of political power in a single leader arguably makes Bowser a fascist. Although as he self-styles himself “King Koopa,” it is apparent that he claims (or is seeking) parity of esteem with Princess Peach; that is to say that he does not regard himself as a “terrorist,” but as a “freedom fighter” or entitled ruler in his own right.
It is precisely this self-contained, quasi-military structure that has allowed Bowser to remain a thorn in Princess Peach’s side for this long, culminating in his kidnap of her, in an attempt to force her to marry him and therefore achieve “legitimate” control over the kingdom. Only the intervention of the independent oligarch (or “war-chief,” depending on your point of view) known as “Mario”—see below—prevented this from occurring.
Externally, the Mushroom Kingdom is under continual pressure from its neighbors, for example, the Beanbean Kingdom with which it shares a (South-West) border and whose ruler, Queen Bean, launched an unprovoked attack against it while under the influence of outside agencies. Again, this was thwarted by Mario, with the assistance of his brother, Luigi.
Most serious of all external threats has been the recent extraterrestrial invasion attempt by the Shroobs, led by Princess Shroob and her sister, the curiously named Elder Sister Shroob (this title may be an inherited one—there is little extant documentation on the nomenclature of the Shroobs). While driven by classic Platonic reasons (for invasion)—lack of resources and/or lebensraum (The Republic – Plato), this assault was nonetheless completely unprovoked and serves as an example of a typical external threat to the political integrity of the Mushroom Kingdom.
In the context of this fractured and chaotic world, we must now consider the oligarch known as Mario, and to an extent his brother, Luigi. Both are Italian-Americans of Earthorigins and as such themselves represent a foreign influence on Mushroom World. Mario, in particular has been an iconic figure in all events of political significance in Mushroom World and the Grand Finale Galaxy as a whole. Opinions differ greatly as to whether his influence has been a benign one. While he indeed saved Princess Peach, Toad, and other notable leaders from the various threats described above, it is also known that his enormous wealth (in the form of Gold Coins) has been accumulated through non-conventional means and further, that he made extensive use of Asymmetric warfaretechniques in combating what he unilaterally perceived as threats to the status quo. These techniques include the use of incendiary munitions, growth hormones, camouflage, and dimensional shifting, among others. He is known—indeed famous for—ritual drug use, specifically mushrooms, in prosecuting his attacks on others, chiefly Bowser and various members of the Bowser, Boo, and Chestnut Nation tribes. In an analogue of Earth-Cuba, Luigi can be seen as the ‘prince-regent’ of the Mario faction, sharing his brother’s aegis and appetites (wealth, the expression of violence, mood altering substances, and preference for unconventional combat techniques), waiting for his opportunity to rule alone.
In short, for everyone who sees them as saviors or “heroes,” there are other—often majority—voices who would call them rogue agents, using their wealth, unique access to the ruling clique, and foreign technology to further their own agenda.
So in conclusion and to the question as asked: What is the political situation in the Mario universe?
It is a never-ending condition of war within and war without, fraught and constantly changing as one faction or another vies for control, riven along racial and ideological fault-lines, and held together only by the intervention of foreign interlopers, propping up the dominant superpower and whose ultimate motivations are shrouded in secrecy.
[via Dave Pell’s newsletter NextDraft, via Slate | SOURCE: Quora]
[Image: The Mushroom Kingdom by Big Cartel]