CSBS | Danny Phantom Episode 5: Splitting Images Review

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Plot: Danny decides to use his powers to help get revenge on Dash for constantly bullying him. A spirit haunting locker 724, Sidney Poindexter, detests bullying and starts getting some revenge himself. But when he believes Danny’s payback is bullying, Danny will be forced to take Sidney’s place in the Ghost Zone while Sidney lives the good life in Danny’s body.

Breakdown: Oh god, there is a LOT to talk about with this episode. Get comfy.

So in 2006, Butch Hartman went on record saying that the “ghosts” in Danny Phantom were not actual ghosts as in the spirits of dead people. They were creatures from another dimension that took certain forms based on whatever. Some of them wanted to be human, so they took human forms based on the backstories of existing people (deceased or otherwise?)

How much truth there is to that statement is unclear. He did say that Nickelodeon and the demographic were a factor in that (And Butch Hartman himself seemed to be against it and depictions of ‘the occult’ presumably because of his religious beliefs), but it’s been a decade and a half since then and he hasn’t reneged on his statement.

While there are some “ghosts” that are clearly not human spirits and are rather concepts or the embodiment of certain items or energies, there are definitely some ghosts that are clearly actually ghosts. It’s hard to believe that these ghosts would be creatures who took on these backstories in order to gain human form. Sidney Poindexter, our ghost of the day, is one of those ghosts. What creature in their right mind would see a poor, friendless teenager be relentlessly bullied day in and day out and go “Yup. That’s the persona I want to take on forever.”? And then proceeds to not only take on their appearance but also create their own section of the Ghost Zone that endless tortures THEM with bullying of the same degree with the same people and who only haunts a locker with a mirror in it that doesn’t even allow them to haunt the locker unless someone with ghost powers activates the portal.

This is one ghost where it’s 100% confirmed that the ghost in question used to be a real person since Tucker knows about him and there are school records that prove it. I guess it IS possible that a creature took on this person’s form but, as I mentioned before, I can’t imagine why. Like many fans have speculated, I really think the Ghost Zone is a different dimension with supernatural creatures in it that aren’t ghosts, but I also believe that real ghosts somehow get tangled up in it and corrupted by the Ghost Zone or something because, for some ghosts, it just doesn’t make sense to sweep them under the rug as creatures who took on human forms and backstories. Unless some of these creatures are the stupidest and most masochistic beings in existence.

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Sidney Poindexter used to be a student of Casper High School in the 50s (1954-58). He was a horrendously bullied kid. According to Tucker, bullying him was so frequent that, by the time he became a senior, bullying him had become a requirement to graduate. He had no friends, was considered extremely nerdy, and, basically, his life was hell. The most tragic part of his story is his supposed death. Now, this being a kid’s show, they obviously don’t say he died in high school, but he is a ghost in his teenage form, and his part of the Ghost Zone is a recreation of his school with all of his peers constantly bullying him as they did in life.

There are two theories as to his death. The first is built on something Tucker said. He claimed that locker 724 was haunted because Sidney had been thrown into it so many times. Rumor has it that this implies he was once thrown in there, forgotten about and either asphyxiated or eventually died of dehydration or something. The somehow even worse theory is that, because of all of the relentless bullying, Sidney took his own life.

Sidney’s spirit haunts locker 724, but he’s not an active presence in the locker until Danny accidentally activates the portal within the mirror in the locker with his ghost powers. After this, Sidney starts sensing instances of bullying and gets revenge on the bullies while also protecting the kids being bullied.

Here’s where things get really complicated both with the story itself and the overall message.

While all of this is going on, Danny is getting so fed up with Dash’s bullying that he starts possessing him, causing him to do embarrassing things in an effort to get back at him.

Sam thinks it’s wrong of him to abuse his powers for such a thing, but Tucker applauds it because he sees it as not only standing up to a bully and giving him a taste of his own medicine, but it’s also fighting the good fight for all bullied nerds, like himself and Sidney.

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In one of these instances, Sidney detects it and views it as Danny bullying an innocent kid. He gets so angry that he emerges from the mirror entirely, attacks and later possesses Danny, which, and this is really weird and confusing, boots Danny from his own body, giving Sidney full control, including his ghost powers and form, while Danny is forced into the Ghost Zone version of Casper High and turned into a copy of Sidney, with no ghost powers, so he can be relentlessly bullied by Sidney’s bullies while Sidney lives it up in Danny’s body.

While Danny is being tormented with no way out (I don’t get why not. Sidney could get out.) Sidney basically wins everyone in Danny’s life over and becomes super popular because he starts treating everyone really well and impressing everyone with his ghost powers that, for some reason, no one is seeing him use even though he’s not even trying to hide that he’s using them.

What’s especially strange is that some of these people are kids he saw bullying others and got revenge on them. He knows they’re bullies, but is now trying to win them over for some reason while Danny, who was a bullied kid just getting revenge, is viewed as this ultra bully who deserves to have his life taken from him…quite literally.

Danny is bullied over and over and over again in this episode, but Sidney neither detects this nor gets revenge for Danny. And when Danny tries to explain the situation to Sidney, he doesn’t give him the opportunity. He just assumes he’s a bully and takes him over. What’s especially weird here is Dash says Danny’s his new locker neighbor…..which means Dash, the biggest bully in school, has the locker right next to Sidney’s and yet he doesn’t seem to know Dash is a bully, never detected any bullying from Dash, and, in actuality, thinks he’s an innocent person Danny is bullying.

Eventually, Danny gets the attention of Tucker and Sam who trick Sidney into the mirror. After a fight, which Danny pretty easily wins since Sidney doesn’t understand how to use Danny’s powers well enough….which….uhh….is….pretty damn weird for a person who has spent the better part of a century as a ghost. I mean, I guess he doesn’t have a lot of experience outside of the Ghost Zone so maybe he doesn’t have a good grasp on his powers as a ghost, but he’s been using them just fine up until this point. In his battle with Danny before he possessed him, he used his ghost powers well enough. I don’t understand.

Danny threatens to destroy the mirror if he doesn’t switch back, but, get ready for another brain bender – Sidney possesses Danny while in Danny’s body while Danny’s in Sidney’s ghost form. Did you get that? It’s a ghost possessing a half-human half-ghost, turning him into a full ghost that is also a copy of his body, and then using his body to possess the full ghost’s body that he doesn’t have……

Anyway, Danny has the mental fortitude this time to reclaim his own body, send Sidney back to his own form and escape through the mirror. Sidney wants to follow and get revenge, but his classmates surprisingly start chatting him up.

The fight with Danny (who has been coined the “Halfa” in the Ghost Zone) impressed Sidney’s classmates, whom…..I’ll assume aren’t also ghosts. That would imply all of these people died in their teens, which I can’t imagine would be true unless Casper High burned down and killed everyone inside or something. I guess they’re just constructs made from Sidney’s memory. He starts making friends, so he decides to not return to the real world. Not that he could anyway because one of the first things Danny does when he comes back is destroy the mirror.

The ending scene and the overall message of this episode is so backwards and weird.

A small sideplot of this episode was Sam trying desperately to save frogs from dissection – instead offering robot frogs with accurate innards to act as non-harmful substitutes, but no one wants to listen to her. Near the end of the episode, before she realizes Danny has been possessed, she uses Sidney!Danny’s newfound popularity to spread the word on the frog issue. When Danny smashes the mirror, Mr. Lancer, as well as pretty much everyone in school, suddenly gang up on him and treat him like he did something awful.

Mr. Lancer blames Danny for the frogs escaping (Danny fell on him when he came through the mirror. He was holding a box of frogs, so they escaped.) but because Dash and the others became anti-frog dissection because of Sam’s “fashionable” buttons that became popular when Sidney!Danny wore one, so they’re free anyway, he doesn’t get in trouble for that. However, I don’t understand why everyone hates Danny now. All he did was break a mirror and accidentally set frogs free, which, from the way they’re acting, they should not care about the first one and should be praising Danny for the second.

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But whatever. Lancer has to assign Danny a new locker….for…..reasons….The locker itself is fine, Danny just broke the mirror. The new locker is located right by the band room, so now Danny is also getting bullied for associating with band geeks. Said band geeks, and I’m allowed to use that term because I was a band geek, arrive in the final shot to show what gross losers they are by introducing themselves and asking Danny if he wants to help clean a spit valve. Because let’s pretty much destroy any message about bullying we can muster by having the last joke of the episode be the pathetic weird losers Danny now has to interact with regularly.

Do you see the problem here?

Danny gets revenge on his bullies, and that’s considered bad, even though it’s pretty much a morally gray area. Bullies deserve comeuppance, but, yeah, it’s not a good look to lower yourself to their level. It does not, however, in make you a bully unless you go too far with with what you’re doing to them, as in you do worse than what they’ve done to you.

Nothing Danny did in this episode seemed disproportionate to what Dash was doing and has done to him throughout the episode (and previous episodes). He made Dash smack his face into the locker after Dash mocked him for wearing a dress (long story) and then literally threw him into his locker. He made Dash dump his lunch on Paulina, which is the closest he probably came to bullying because Dash didn’t do anything directly before this to warrant that, and Paulina did nothing to him the entire episode. However, Paulina was part of a prank on an AV kid directly before this where they were going to trip him and possibly ruin his equipment, but Sidney already got comeuppance on her for that (Dash wasn’t part of it – Kwan was) and the prank didn’t even work because Sidney stopped it. Plus, Danny had no knowledge of it. Finally, after Dash had ridiculed him and thrown a huge sandwich on his face one piece at a time, Danny gave him an atomic wedgie and put frogs down his pants.

Really, the only way Danny maybe went too far here was by possessing Dash, which is a personal violation of Dash’s body, but he only did it for bursts that lasted a few seconds each.

Meanwhile, Sidney slammed a guy’s head with the locker door for playing keepaway with a band kid’s hat. He trapped Kwan’s head in a trophy and sprayed Paulina with a fire extinguisher because they were going to trip the AV kid. But when Danny gives Dash the atomic wedgie + frog pants, it makes Sidney so enraged that he comes through the mirror and attacks Danny with full force. He blasts him through the walls, he sprays ink in his face, and he finally possesses him and forces him to take his place in the Ghost Zone.

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Danny’s time in the Ghost Zone, being terribly bullied constantly, is framed like it’s his comeuppance for getting revenge on Dash, because he understands what it’s like to….be…bullied? But he knows that already. That’s why he was doing those things to begin with. He wasn’t bullied as badly as Sidney, but he was still bullied a lot.

What does Sidney get for his actions? He gets praised by his classmates and befriended by them. Which, ya know, good for him. The poor kid didn’t deserve to be bullied at all let alone to that magnitude in life, so, after 50 years of torment, it’s good to let him have some peace and happiness, no matter what he did. He’s still a hypocrite, but whatever.

What do Dash and the other bullies get? They get comeuppance throughout the episode, but they don’t learn a damn thing in the end. Technically, they didn’t even befriend Sidney!Danny immediately after he gave out sodas to everyone, like it seemed, because they invited him to a “touch” football game, but planned to have everyone tackle the hell out of him. They did, which would have seriously hurt Danny in any other situation, but because he could phase out of it and go score a touchdown, he instantly becomes insanely popular. Then they forget he was popular when Danny comes back with absolutely no reason as to why even though the reason they all became pro-frog activists is because Sidney!Danny wore the button? Even in the very end when Danny gets a new locker, Dash mocks him for it.

What does Danny get? Fuck all. He learns a valuable lesson about not abusing his powers to get revenge on bullies, which, fine, but they don’t offer any meaningful message on bullying at all. For an issue that was severe in the 50s, remained a severe problem in the 00s and is still a severe problem to this day, it would have been nice to have some coherent message about bullying or what to do about bullies, but I suppose that’s too much to ask for. Just let them bully you, I guess? The ending also made it clear that you can’t really count on teachers to do shit, so what solution are you positing, Danny Phantom? Is it a very depressing non-message?

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Danny starts the episode being humiliated and bullied when he was just trying to either live his life or protect the school (from the Box Ghost, but still) and ends the episode trying to live his life and protect the school while continuing to be bullied, only now even worse.

Sam at least got what she wanted, but Lancer still insulted her about it, and everyone else who never gave a crap before got praised for being better activists than her when they only took it up to be trendy.

I’m fully on her side here, by the way. I never liked the concept of dissecting frogs, and the need for such a thing went out long before this episode was made. I’m pretty sure it’s not a thing in schools anymore, but I don’t know for sure.

Overall, I never really disliked this episode before now….but now is now, and now I don’t like it at all. It’s a huge mess of an episode that really doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on what it wants the message to be, and any message I’m inferring from it doesn’t seem to be a particularly good one. ‘Don’t lower yourself to a bully’s level just to get revenge’ is about the best one I can sift out, but, looking at the big picture, that seems like a mediocre message lost in a sea of “but then what do I do?” which just seems be countered with “suffer in silence until you’re out of school or hope you impress your classmates enough somehow that you become worthy of their praise and respect and hope you don’t wind up being killed or being pushed to suicide in the meantime.” and that’s not exactly a great message.

There wasn’t even any outstanding comedic moments to help make up for it. The Box Ghost was definitely the highlight, and that’s pretty much because he’s the Box Ghost. He always tends to be funny. I also thought the robot frog was a bit funny, but that’s about it.

Next Episode….

….Previous Episode


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One thought on “CSBS | Danny Phantom Episode 5: Splitting Images Review

  1. Wow, I haven’t watched Danny Phantom in forever! Yeah, talk about a vague message with this episode. Hmm, maybe they were trying to express the message that you shouldn’t worry too much about being popular or being picked on. The mob is fickle, they will love you for stupid reasons, and they will dump you for equally stupid reasons. But that’s just a guess. Yeah they totally should have had a clearer message, like violence isn’t the answer and you should talk out your problems with people.

    Liked by 2 people

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