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my noggin wasn't always this way, you know

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OOC ± Thoughts On Headcasing
brain removal flashback icon of woe
...and why it is so very, very awful. Not just from a "dude they took out a chunk of your brain and put a zipper on your head" perspectve, but from a societal one as well. I'll quote the only scene where it gets addressed directly:
DG: I'm DG, by the way, and this is--

CAIN: I know. A headcase.

GLITCH: I have a proper name. And w-when I remember it, I will tell you.

DG: What's a headcase?

CAIN: It's what the state does to re-educate criminals. Rip out their brains, make them prisoners of their own minds. Ain't that right, convict?

GLITCH: Hey, whoa, I ain't no convict! A-and just in case I am it was a bogus charge, a a a frame job, I'm sure of it!

Several things can be inferred right off the bat:
1. Headcasing is not new.
This is not some wacky fun whim of the Sorceress. Cain, a cop and member of the Resistance who's been locked up for most of Az's reign, says "the state" which I take to mean the crown. If it was just a tool the Sorceress used to deal with dissidents or what have you then I'm sure even Captain Tightpants McNeedsaheart would have pointed that out. And maybe been slightly less of a dick about it.

Basically: the majestic queen of the O.Z. was pulling this shit. Ew.

2. Headcases are stripped of humanity.
What we learn from that brief exchange (which, btw, was played for laughs) is that once headcased you become a non-person. Cain doesn't want to hear whatever name the headcase has given himself, all he needs to know is he's a criminal. A convict. Zipperhead. Note that it's not until part 2, after Glitch saves his life, that Cain actually uses his name.

My theory is that headcases are less than second-class citizens, they're more like untouchables. It's like carrying around a felony conviction on your record, only a thousand times worse. Seriously, ew.

3. Glitch is not a special snowflake.
Based on Cain's reaction to his behavior, there is nothing remarkable about his cognitive skills and ability to function. Therefore most headcases are as self-aware and relatively "with it" as he is, and yet...see #2. Not exactly prisoners of their own minds, not even close to non-human, but still treated as such. Again, ew.

Of course there was only enough cash in the costuming budget for a couple zipper wigs so we never SAW any other headcases to definitively make that judgement. Plus the one headcase we did see was sweet, bumbling, big damn hero Glitch, who we also know was brilliant, loyal, noble Ambrose. This somewhat muddies one's ability to ponder what a "real" headcase is.

My theory is you had to have done something pretty damn horrific to get headcased. I see it as an alternative to capital punishment, a sorry attempt at being humane to those who can't be rehabilitated. Instead of locking them away forever, the headcasing process was devised to remove the "bad" bits and make them docile. The surgery is performed by alchemists so I'm pretty sure any "the human brain doesn't work that way!" argument can be swept under the rug by saying that a wizard did it. Actually that's my answer for the entire half-a-brain discussion. /cop out

Who got headcased? The worst of the worst, murderers, rapists, traitors, that lot. I imagine under the queen they tended to be kept separate from society and used as laborers, which was likely a better alternative than dealing with the public. And because I'm awful I totally made up a thing where each headcase bears a tattoo or a brand denoting what their crime was as a reminder of why they've been punished. (Ambrose was branded a traitor, for not giving Azkadellia the plans to the sun seeder despite his vow of servitude to the House of Gale. The Sorceress is really very evil.)

Between the war and the coup I assume the justice system, like everything else, fell into chaos and whatever system was in place for the headcases shut down, leaving them to fend for themselves. I imagine that between starvation, abuse, and accidents resulting from stupidity the life expectancy of a headcase "in the wild" is about five annuals. Any longer than that and they've obviously figured out how to survive and could probably plod along indefinitely.

Basically: the O.Z., especially during the Sorceress' reign, is a scarybad place and I advise against thinking too hard about what Glitch went though. It sucked and he's glad to have forgotten most of it.

Moving along...
DG: -stare- Dude. Head zipper.

GLITCH: What's your problem?

DG: Your fly's open. But…on your head…

GLITCH: -zips up- Didn't mean to offend.

- A Tin Man Parody

The question of why headcases have functional zippers on their heads is totally baffling. Is it an amazingly effective scarlet letter? Most certainly. Does it really need to actually, you know, open? Probably not.

The most gruesome explanation offered by fanfic is the potential need to go back and remove more brain matter, which of course begs the question of what exactly is in there. How much of a barrier does the zipper provide?

The brief look inside Glitch's head gives pretty much no info...no, scratch that, it's actually a really unsettling image. THERE'S NO SKULL THERE, it's like someone stuck a zipper on a kickball. I'm gonna file all of this under "a wizard did it" and say the zippers are magical. We know they're waterproof due to no ill effects happening after the leap off a cliff into a river, and we can assume they're ridiculously tough as a wrench to the back of the head only resulted in some mild bitching.

Glitch is of two minds (har har) about his zipper. On the one hand it is a badge of honor, a representation of the lengths he went to in order to try and save his kingdom. On the other hand he sort of hates it for all the misery it has brought him, and the fact that it symbolizes all he's lost. The one thing he's sure of is that it stays closed, the very thought of opening it and revisitng that violation is sickening.

(File any "so why was it open in his first scene?" questions under Things Not To Think About Too hard.)

I also headcanon that it gets hot in the sun, cold in the winter, and that one eventually gets used to the never-ending jangle of the tab.

That covers the basics. If you'd like elaboration then query away, I'll make something up answer to the best of my ability!