When order goes too far: the psychology behind why you love Cell as a Dragon Ball Z villain so much

He's on every other Dragon Ball FighterZ team for more than just his super strong gameplay

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • April 12, 2018 at 8 p.m. PDT

Cell is one of Dragon Ball Z's most iconic villains and one of Dragon Ball FighterZ most popular characters. The latter makes sense from a gameplay standpoint, since he can effectively fill any of the roles the three on three game asks of its characters (even further appropriate considering Cell is comprised of the strongest parts of other fighters).

Why is it that insect-like villain has left such a strong mark on us though? He looks cool enough, but physical appearance will only take you so far in terms of fan appeal. I think what resonates so strongly with us is what Cell represents, and how we fundamentally connect with it.

I've been reading Dr. Jordan B. Peterson's 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos and came across an idea that actually brought my mind instantly to two Dragon Ball Z characters, one of which was Cell.

Chapter two of Dr. Peterson's book spends some time delving into the juxtaposition of order and chaos, two concepts between which we all live our lives, and two realms divided by a line which we must straddle in order to maintain sanity. Go too far in one direction and catastrophe happens.

Cell represents moving too far towards the "order" end of the spectrum, and the way Dragon Ball's creators illustrate that through him is beautiful, poetic and enticing.

Our lives tend to be a balancing act of control and security (order) and the uncertain and potential for change (chaos).

"It's credit cards, classrooms, supermarket checkout lineups, turn-taking, traffic lights, and the familiar routes of daily commuters," explains Dr. Peterson of order. "Order, when pushed too far, when imbalanced, can also manifest itself destructively and terribly. It does so as the forced migration, the concentration camp, and the soul-devouring uniformity of the goose-step." (p. 40)

The sterile, regulated, rigid perfection that is Cell is an embodiment of extreme order. It's an order that goes too far, that demands too much in the way of regulation. Cell takes only the best attributes (of a person or a society) and looks to destroy everything else in a cold, matter of fact manner.

Indeed even his theme (one of my absolute favorites in the Dragon Ball franchise) lends itself easily to the visual of hundreds marching with uniform purpose, powerfully devoid of conscience with a singular, hive-mind goal.

Alternatively and on the more natural front, one might also envision a swarm of locusts (I know, right?) enveloping a green tree to systematically devour its resources, transforming it from thriving to lifeless in a matter of seconds.

Video source: curlyhairdude535.

Cell is horrific as we imagine what he could and would do if left to his own devices, (assimilate more and more beings en route to eventual universal domination) but also exciting in terms of just how incredibly powerful he could grow to become.

The villain's order-themed nature also leads him to be perhaps the most sophisticated and cerebral baddie the Z-fighters come up against. Cell's intelligence and powerful potential grant him some charisma even while we root against him.

That's a big part of why many people (myself included) planned to use Cell even before we knew the details of Dragon Ball FighterZ's tier rankings. Video game iterations of the character allow us to explore the allure of his charismatic power, and that's especially true in DBFZ considering how strong a fighter he is.

If you enjoyed this please let me know as there's another character that reps the opposite end of the order/chaos spectrum, and I'd love to break down the details on him as well.

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