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The Prison We Live In

By MotorMachineMercenary in Culture
Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 04:46:44 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

After re-watching Alex Proyas' moody Dark City last night, I was intrigued (again) by the recent trend in Hollywood movies: the notion that we are in fact living a lie, living in a world that is not what it seems. Trend because of other movies in the same vein: most notably The Matrix, then The Thirteenth Floor, Existenz and even Pleasantville and Truman Show, and on a more personal level we have American Psycho. And I probably missed some.

What does all this mean? The paranoid conspiracy theorist in me wants to yell "Aliens! They are among us! Run!". The cynical capitalist in me wants to point to Hollywood executives smelling a quick buck paved by the example of Terminator 2 and The X-Files. And the screenwriter in me (I'm working on my second feature-length) wants to find parallels to our society, much like Casablanca was a parallel to the WWII era. What are the implications of these theories, and what are your own?

What all these movies are telling us is that we live in an apparition, caged in an imaginary or physical high-security prison that we do not and can not comprehend or touch without some extraordinary measures or circumstances. And the message of the more positive of these films (Dark City, The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor) is that we will achieve a higher understanding of ourselves as well as freedom when we escape the San Quentin of our minds. But, OTOH, both Existenz and American Psycho suggest in their nihilism that although we might be able to free ourselves - if for just a minute - we either can never be sure whether we are truly free or whether we it is our own mind that plays tricks on us, dooming us into a life of hopelessness.

So what about the theories? First of all, aliens. Although my laptop just finished my 380th data set on SETI@home, I certainly do not believe that we are in fact imprisoned as literally as the films in question portray. How do I know this for a fact? Well, I do not know for a fact that the earth is round, for I have not proven it empirically like Galileo did. But I've been on an airplane and have seen the circular shadow of earth on moon during a lunar eclipse. So I am positive that the earth is round and will continue to believe so unless presented with pervasive evidence to the contrary. Same with an alien or AI prison: unless somebody shows me the fields where they grow human beings I will remain very sure that the reality me and you experience is in fact the true reality, solipsism aside.

Secondly, the cynical capitalist in me has noticed how well this kind of story-telling sells. Paranoia sells and Hollywood execs would be fools to ignore that. They have a bottom line to meet and keep the higher-ups and especially the shareholders happy, just like every other business. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, it keeps people employed, brings food to the table and gives Jack and Jill what they have indicated they want through their previous viewing, i.e. box-office figures of other, similar movies. It is another matter whether they sell the consumers what they want or whether the consumers buy what are shoved down their throats, though, and beyond this article.

Lastly, the screenwriter side of me wants hard to find what these artists - that is what screenwriters are despite the commercial nature of the final product - are trying to tell us. I do understand that the original screenplay will change a lot during the production through the input and collaboration with the director, actors and actresses, producers and the studio. But it is unlikely that the overall message of the movie has changed because of that, and irrelevant in this context. This is a very complicated issue and has many interpretations. I'll offer mine and you can offer yours.

I believe the screenwriters are trying to open our eyes to a wider world, to see beyond the World Series, Gap commercials and 16-hour coding sessions. To question everything from the establishment to our own senses and to come up with our conclusions however improbable they are. And to resist and fight if necessary all opposition to our pursuit of happiness, wherever we derive that happiness from.

But why now? Why not twenty or fifty years ago? The time seems to be ripe. There were more pressing issues than personal enlightenment during Cold War and the two World Wars including the depression. Maybe these artists are telling us as a people it is finally time to strive for the next level on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Or maybe this is their distress call, final warning of an impending ruin as we succumb to our own futility.

Whatever the case may be, I find this trend to be far more interesting than the brutal movies of the 80s that were a mirror of the times or the westerns of the 50s and 60s. Not from the POV of a movie critic/goer/writer, but from the POV of myself as a person who tries to understand myself and our culture and society better.

And I can't wait to see what the next trend in movies will be.

"Remember: No matter where you go, there you are"
- Buckaroo Banzai


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What will be the next big trend in movies?
o Classic epics (LotR, Gladiator, Star Wars) 28%
o Subversive movies (Fight Club, They Live) 16%
o Aliens/computers/AI will conquer the world (War Games, Terminators) 5%
o Warm and fuzzy small stories (When Harry Met Sally, Philadelphia Story) 9%
o Complicated and esoteric movies (Pi, Being John Malkovich) 12%
o Artsy fartsy (anything by David Lynch or Peter Greenaway) 1%
o Amateur pr0n (Me and My Husband And His Best Friend's Dog, College Co-eds XLVI) 26%

Votes: 118
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o American Psycho
o Terminator 2
o Maslow's
o Also by MotorMachineMercenary

Display: Sort:
The Prison We Live In | 105 comments (95 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Not a new screen-writing device. (3.33 / 9) (#10)
by sugarman on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 03:47:31 PM EST

I like the article, and I think you raise some interesting points. However, this is not a new device. Other, older movies such as "Brazil", "Purple Rose of Cairo", "Altered States" and a wide range of others also fall within this "altered perception" theme. The vary notion seems to stretch back to some of the earliest films, and the German Surrealist / Impressionist films in particular. (I'm sorry I can't cite more conrete examples, but it's been while since my Movie Appreesh class).

I'm thinking what may have changed is the ability to portray these different realms in new and more vivid ways, due mostly to the decreasing cost of CGI and it's wider acceptance. Moreover, it becomes an easy plot device when you want to add some special effects to an otherwise vapid flick. "Yeah. Virtual reality, that's the ticket!"


Nothing new under the sun (3.66 / 6) (#12)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 04:07:58 PM EST

The subject line holds true, and is painfully apparent to all artists working with all mediums. I agree that this is something that has happened before, but what I'm looking for is the reason for it, why right now.

And although the Matrix and relied heavily on special effects, similar stories could've been told with no special effects at all. Existenz and Thirteenth Floor had hardly any special effects that were absolutely necessary to the story, and they (including Dark City) could've been produced in the twenties if somebody had the need to write and direct them.

So yes, this isn't something new, and although CGI is partly to thank for this, I don't think that's the underlying reason.

My bodyweight is muscle and cock MMM
Tenured K5 uberdouchebag Herr mirleid
Meatgazer Frau gr3y

[ Parent ]
Let me try a different tack (4.00 / 5) (#22)
by sugarman on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:12:12 PM EST

Alright, how about a different approach.

The movie going public, the prized 18-34 demographic, is comprised almost completely with people who have been able to slip into an artificil reality with the switch of a button. In fact, a good portion of this audience have lived their whole lives with a console as much a part of the living-room as a TV.

The same movie-going, game-playing demographic is has also reached the point, where they are responsible for making the very movies that are shown. Maybe not at the production level, but likely the some of the techs, the actors, the writers, are familiar and comfortable with having a console around.

So, to this audience, having this altered existence is not only natural, but commonplace, and in fact, it is at the point where it is now mainstream. Thus, those that are making the films recognize that their audience shares these same notions they do.

Anyhoo, thats the best I can come up with. Oh, and the nature of the graphics don't mind. It is as easy to lose yourself in Ms. Pac-man as it is in Quake3. Both are immersive and absorbing in their own way.

Sound any better?

[ Parent ]

The best rendition of this theme that I know of... (4.00 / 11) (#13)
by error 404 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 04:22:36 PM EST

is a book:

The Futurological Congress, by Stanislaw Lem.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go take my Fukitol pill, before my computer fades out.

It is an old theme, though. There was an entire era of philosophy dedicated to it. Conclusion: while there is evidence to suggest that some aspects of the universe may not completely fail to exist, there isn't any clear proof. There is a philosophy called Pragmatism (like most technical terms in philosophy, it means something other than the usual understanding) which rejects the question of whether there is a real world as having no practical value, since it exists for all practical purposes. In other words, under Pragmatism, kicking a rock causes pain, whether the rock or foot or the pain are real or illusions, therefore it is better to avoid kicking the rock than to worry about whether it exists or not. However, if there is an escape sequence, then the question has value...
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

The problem with these stories (3.72 / 11) (#14)
by spacejack on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 04:39:44 PM EST

Is that they don't say much. While I found The Matrix to be immensely entertaining and probably the best of the recent crop, movies like Dark City, and in particular The Truman Show, I find distasteful. Why? Well basically because they're manufacturing issues. Simply put, the "problem" of being born unwittingly to be the star of a TV show is not really a pressing issue in western culture. Either the moviegoing public has no real issues to worry about, or simply isn't interested in real-world issues and won't pay to see movies about them.

I would much prefer to see a Truman Show, or Matrix in reverse -- where the main character lives life within a society that hides the oppressive effects of the company they work for, and the direct effects their job has on other people in the world. i.e., the news and information about the state of the rest of the world is filtered and censored as to not upset the sensibilities of the suburban worker-drone, placated by mindless entertainment. A global corporate conspiracy to keep their workers mentally stable, while wreaking whatever havok they like on less fortunate populations.

That's the kind of movie I'd make anyhow :)

[and since my original comment was sort of mal-formed like the original story, I've attempted to improve & repost :]

Isn't that what they are? (3.66 / 6) (#15)
by SIGFPE on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 05:16:12 PM EST

I would much prefer to see a Truman Show, or Matrix in reverse -- where the main character lives life within a society that hides the oppressive effects of the company they work for...
Surely Matrix and other such movies are intended as metaphors for exactly what you are describing.
[ Parent ]
What is a 'pressing issue?' (4.00 / 5) (#19)
by eskimo on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 06:21:14 PM EST

I think that is a little too subjective to be able to debate here. Yes, we could come up with issues we commonly see as pressing, but I would argue that movies like Dark City involve very important issues, such as the worth of an individual, and the capicious and finnicky nature of 'God.' The beauty of movies like The Matrix is that at least in theory, all other problems exist in their framework. Hence, all other movies exist similarly.

Furthermore, The Truman Show, and to a lesser extent, EdTV, which I saw on a plane, I swear, portray their subject matter as a pacifier for society, sating their voyueristic impulses. Same for Survivor and the recent volley of clones heaved over the Hollywood sign.

In the really real world, people want to see people either better off or worse off than they are. Making it real (COPS) just makes it better. What I find sort of interesting is the fact that Truman and Ed came before Survivor and Big Brother, and were somehow so right in some ways.

A movie like The Matrix is just a two hour interpretation of you looking into your bathroom mirror with the cabinet door's mirror behind you. They just go deep enough into the illusion to make it interesting.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

You're entirely right (none / 0) (#66)
by spacejack on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:52:18 PM EST

I can see that my comment came off way too self-righteously. But there is a subtle difference I was trying to point out: If you feel trapped/depressed/whatever in our society, there's difference between searching within for answers, and looking to blame some outside force.

sigh. I think I'll give up now. I just seem to lack the words to express what I mean exactly. Probably better that I'm not a screenwriter :)

[ Parent ]
I get you...but... (none / 0) (#70)
by eskimo on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 03:49:38 PM EST

I don't go to the movies for answers. I don't even go to the movies for answer seeds. I go to A LOT of movies, but I do it for fun.

And I don't feel especially trapped or subjugated or anything. Neither of us has the vocaubulary to debate this.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Manufacturing Issues? (3.85 / 7) (#23)
by Morn on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:17:30 PM EST

Is that they don't say much. While I found The Matrix to be immensely entertaining and probably the best of the recent crop, movies like Dark City, and in particular The Truman Show, I find distasteful. Why? Well basically because they're manufacturing issues. Simply put, the "problem" of being born unwittingly to be the star of a TV show is not really a pressing issue in western culture.
I didn't see The Truman Show as being about Truman's "problem" of being born unwittingly to be the star of a TV show, but more as a satire of us, the consuming public. Watching it, you knew that, were it to happen, what it was portraying would be somehow morally wrong, but you also knew that, everyone would watch The Truman Show - that it would be as popular as it was being portrayed to be. That was the disturbing thing.

[ Parent ]
1984 (3.33 / 3) (#37)
by codeslut on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:50:55 AM EST

The plot you've described seems similar to that of George Orwell's "1984". Thinking about it now, that book does fit in with the movies mentioned here. It has all the elements: manufactured world, masses kept unconsciousness of the truth of their environment, a protagonist that sees through the veil for a little while, or thinks he does.
"`The Kerastion is a musical instrument that cannot be heard`.
Now there's a Borges story in ten words!"
- Ursula K. Le Guin
[ Parent ]
Soylent Green (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by rafael on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:53:53 AM EST

Soylent Green is a great movie, depicting a future society where there is not enough natural food for people and where the main food is proteinic tablets produced from [spoiler alert] human cadavers. This society turns out to be only a machine to produce food for its members from its members in a vertiginous circle. But the whole goal and the underlying principle of this society is a secret. The metaphysical dimension of the film allows it to be categorized in this type of movies.

[ Parent ]
One word for you: (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Steeltoe on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 06:46:15 AM EST


- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Strange Days. (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by MKalus on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:35:14 PM EST

I think Strange Day's tackled that in part.

What is reality? It did it in a very very clever way and I was very surprised how it ended.

What I was NOT surprised about was that most people didn't like the movie. It was one of these rare Hollywood movies where you coudln't turn off your brain and still get it.
-- Michael
[ Parent ]
Hmm.. I remember that (3.00 / 1) (#63)
by spacejack on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:47:47 PM EST

What a wierd movie. What sticks out in my mind about that movie was:

- Kathryn Bigalow (sp?) did it so I was keen to see it. I was one of the few people I knew who thoroughly enjoyed Point Break :)
- The trailer was fantastic. Just flashing colours and some close ups of sweaty, heavy-breathing faces and a kick-ass raunchy techno loop -- had never seen a trailer like that before. It got me soo excited about the movie.
- The opening sequence with the "in your eyes" cam was incredible.
- From there it kinda went downhill (IMHO :) My expectations were way too high. Interesting to note how low-key Y2K wound up being as compared to the movie :)

[ Parent ]
Re: The problem with these stories (none / 0) (#79)
by Jeremy Mooney on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:15:22 PM EST

You should look in comedy... Those movies seem to show that more. It would be interesting to see a "serious" look at it though. The first one I think of off the top of my head is Office Space, but there are others...

yafiygi.com - Randomization in web design
[ Parent ]
Boiler Room (none / 0) (#80)
by Jeremy Mooney on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:18:28 PM EST

A more serious one that follows that is Boiler Room (2000).

yafiygi.com - Randomization in web design
[ Parent ]
A possible reason these movies have done so well.. (3.57 / 7) (#16)
by CyberQuog on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 05:18:55 PM EST

Maybe a lot of the American (or international) public feels as if they are living in a prison. Living and dying by the clock, their jobs being everything. Which makes them relate to these stories. I'm sure everyone has felt at one time or another like their life was a prison. These movies also question what truth is, and the importance of the truth. For instance, in The Matrix, the truth turned out to be a harsher world than the simulation, but they wanted the truth just because it was "real". Movies have been made like this before, so maybe it's just good timing that plays the important factor in their success.

Always there are three... (3.54 / 11) (#17)
by kagaku_ninja on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 05:27:48 PM EST

My understanding is that Matrix/Dark City/Existenz, while different from each other in significant ways, were part of the typical Hollywood band-wagon effect. The other studio is making a "reality is not what we think" movie, so we need one too...

My favorite recent reality-bending fiction would have to be The Invisibles, by Grant Morrison.

Re: Always there are three... (none / 0) (#78)
by Jeremy Mooney on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:07:52 PM EST

eXistenZ is a Canadian film. It and The Matrix came out at nearly the same time as well. I don't think you can really say either was influenced by the other...

yafiygi.com - Randomization in web design
[ Parent ]
Feeling trapped (3.88 / 9) (#18)
by dyskordus on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 06:03:00 PM EST

Art imitates life. Sometimes it's exaggerated, but still an imitation

Many people feel trapped and controlled in their daily lives. They wake up and go to a job they hate, come home to their posessions, sleep, and do it again to keep a roof over their head and food in their stomach.

Movies like this are just an expression of those feelings, pure and simple.

"Reality is less than television."-Brian Oblivion.

Decaying ruins of Western Civilisation... (4.11 / 9) (#20)
by kingcnut on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 06:54:09 PM EST

Reality is an artificial construct imposed upon us by a shadowy authority. Now more than ever the rules that govern day to day life appear arbitrarily dictated to us by trans-global corporate interest. The swelling numbers of the type of films detailed above clearly indicates that a threshold of abuse has been passed. Throw in a small amount of Millenial madness to the convoluted greenlighting process that modern blockbusters go through and the message is clear; America is passing the event horizon of disintegration of civilisation.
You heard it here for the 1000th time.
The films seem to be an evolution of "the future is shit" vision (Bladerunner, Terminator et al.) to "the present is pretty crappy too". Turns out cold, inpersonal robots won't be running the earth in the future, rather, cold inpersonal corporations already rule the earth.
Come on, am I the only one who watched the Matrix and figured *of course* I'm living in an imperfect version of someone elses world - and I don't think that other person can really be human?

Of course! (3.50 / 4) (#24)
by kaemaril on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:30:20 PM EST

Come on, am I the only one who watched the Matrix and figured *of course* I'm living in an imperfect version of someone elses world - and I don't think that other person can really be human?

I had no idea George Dubyah had that much influence before he was even elected, but it's all beginning to make sense to me now... ;)

Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?

[ Parent ]
we have always lived according to... (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by cryon on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:22:48 AM EST

...the dictates of others. In prehistoric and peasant days, it was tradition that rules the roost. Yes, now as we grow more sophistcated in the ways of mass media, we, consciously or unconsciously, sense or see the strings that attempt to tug us and move us to where others want. I think this is a more or less a subconscious feeling.

We resist this feeling of being manipulated, because we know that mentally ill people are like this, but to the Nth degree---tehy live completely in their paranoid fantasies. It is a horror to us, and so we resist paranoia.

There is much manipulation, I think, but the manipulators are many, and as such, cannot I think be termed as "shadowy authorities."


[ Parent ]

Shadowy authorities... (none / 0) (#81)
by kingcnut on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:24:03 PM EST

Moot point, but if you cannot discern the true number or extent of the manipulators of your reality, I strongly class that as both shadowy and authoritarian.
In addition we cannot really know what mentally ill people feel like for many reasons, primarily we can only know what they tell us they feel and how we relate that to our own perception, and then this dialogue is usually filtered through the interpretation of Psychiatrists and Psychologists and so forth. Your implied consequence of mental health as living in a paranoid fantasy is both simplistic and grossly misleading.
Romantic love has been alledgedly classed as psychiatrically identical to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). How many of us are mentally ill?

[ Parent ]
Abstract Reality (4.58 / 12) (#21)
by odd_raisin on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:00:58 PM EST

The movie creators are coming to realise that the world that they produce movies for ( Western Culture for the most part ) experiences, by and large, their "reality" through some filtered medium.

For instance in American Beauty, the teenaged male views his world through his camcorder. That's like us. Our world is so filtered and refined that we are now living in a world of unreality.

Fight Club also brought this to the forefront. When they're in the bar they start asking about the importance of Ikea furniture, in the hunter-gatherer sense. Obviously there isn't a great deal.

The ironic side of me likes to think that Hollywood, et al, have seen that they are creating our reality and now they're laughing at us as we lap up films in which we can say "Oh those silly people. Imagine not know what was going on around you all that time!"

What is it they say about art? It holds the mirror up to nature ( nature being a pretty metaphor for reality ). If this is the case, then perhaps the movies are trying to tell us something about our own unreal reality.

Existential Dribble (4.08 / 12) (#25)
by TigerBaer on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:38:24 PM EST

I think as a whole, the media industry was making monstrous leaps at the end of the 80s & start of the 90's, leaving the flaky John Wayne films behind, and feeding post cold-war America's desire for insightful and philosophical movies.

But all that seemed to end as the 90's progressed. The film industry, similar to the music industry and its raping of the term "alternative music" and the sports industry's raping of the term "extreme", began to spew wretched manufactured "question reality" fliks. These, coupled with the over budgeted special effects, have caused the entire Media industry to hit just about rock bottom in 2000 (try and name a good movie this past year!).

i guess what i am trying to get at is the film industries tendency to put out these "question reality" fliks is just a surge onto the public's demand in the early decade.. and can easily be related to the music industry. The move to punkrock and grunge, after teens got frustrated with pathetic late 80s trash, was jumped upon, and is now a major part of the music industry.

It seems that the forefront of society seeks out new, untouched "scenes" to explore, before it becomes popularized, and is featured on MTV *shudder*. The "question reality" fliks have been abused, and now we must seek something new (perhaps back to hokey Waynesque films?, or 60s absurd imagery?) Anyway, I am looking for somethin new, and for now all i can say is:

MTV can SUCK my Left NUT!

Ok, I finished venting..

hehe (none / 0) (#46)
by fluxrad on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:13:03 AM EST

the tao of steve.

ironically, an indie flick ;-)

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Hrm, (none / 0) (#54)
by DavidTC on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:24:05 PM EST

The film industry, similar to the music industry and its raping of the term "alternative music" and the sports industry's raping of the term "extreme"...

Not to mention this post's raping of the term "raping".

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

Drivel, not dribble (none / 0) (#65)
by btlzu2 on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:51:42 PM EST

Sorry, nothing more, I just hate it when people say dribble instead of drivel. It's not about basketball.
"This machine will not communicate the thoughts and the strain I am under." --Radiohead/Street Spirit (Fade Out)
[ Parent ]
Punk (none / 0) (#76)
by dyskordus on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:13:54 PM EST

I always thought that punk was more of a backlash against 70's trash (ie disco). I do agree that grunge was a backlash against 80's trash (hair metal,etc) though.

I wonder what we'll get as a backlash to 90's/00's trash?
"Reality is less than television."-Brian Oblivion.
[ Parent ]

solipsism (3.60 / 5) (#26)
by Hernan Laffitte on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 08:10:12 PM EST

In a lighter note, Total Recall is definitely another solipsist movie to add to the list. Solipsism is a favorite Science Fiction subject since the '60s. Just check the work of: Philip K. Dick, Fredrick (sp?) Pohl, Fredric Brown. Now who wrote that sci-fi short story Solipsist on which the main character's name was something like John Q. Jehova...

In my humble opinion, the current interest in solipsism and the idea that the world is not what appears to be should be regarded as a Good Thing. Promoting skepticism and doubt is a healthy enterprise considering how many people use their belief systems as an excuse to make other people's lives miserable. Also, if you worked on computer simulations for some time, you probably weren't that surprised by the premises behind The Matrix.

conspiracy theories (3.60 / 10) (#27)
by kpeerless on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 08:13:17 PM EST

You want a good conspiracy plot here's one I'll give you. Not too far off the mark either. I've worked in 25 movies and have written a half dozen feature length scripts but I'll throw this one away because it's outside my experience. Ronnie Regan didn't survive the attempt on his life during his first term but was actuslly assassinated. Fact: every president elected in a year ending in 0 has died in office but Ronnie. I suggest that the Republicans ran a double all those years and that Ronnie isn't wandering vaguely around his attic with a case of the forgetfulls but his double is actually chained in the dungeon somewhere happily zoned out on thorazine with his mind washed clean. Explains a lot doesn't it. Lemme know if you want to colaborate.

wouldn't that be... (none / 0) (#61)
by StackyMcRacky on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:19:48 PM EST

just the same as that movie _Dave_????

the pres had a stroke, but they hired a double to be the pres.

[ Parent ]
solipsism (3.40 / 5) (#28)
by Hernan Laffitte on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 08:22:26 PM EST

In a lighter note, Total Recall is definitely another solipsist movie to add to the list. Solipsism is a favorite Science Fiction subject since the '60s. Just check the work of: Philip K. Dick, Fredrick (sp?) Pohl, Fredric Brown. Now who wrote that sci-fi short story Solipsist on which the main character's name was something like John Q. Jehova...

In my humble opinion, the current interest in solipsism and the idea that the world is not what appears to be should be regarded as a Good Thing. Promoting skepticism and doubt is a healthy enterprise considering how many people use their belief systems as an excuse to make other people's lives miserable. Also, if you worked on computer simulations for some time, you probably weren't that surprised by the premises behind The Matrix.

Another theory (3.88 / 9) (#29)
by kwhite on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 08:28:06 PM EST

I have always wondered whether all of this what are they trying to say is a bunch of hooey.

While in school and even outside of it we read literature and wonder what did the author mean by this, or what is the deeper meaning behind this point in the book. My biggest questioniable person of all this is Mr. Bill Shakespeare. Did he write all these plays and poems for some higher purpose or did he say cool story I think others will like it? I'm not saying there aren't movies, books, etc that don't have deeper meanings but why does everything have to be some big philosophical question about reality, morality, or something else. Why can't it just be some guy thought there was this neat idea and I think I'll try to put it on the Screen or in a book.

I mean I really wish I could be around in say 500 years and see what people have to say about some of our contemporary people. Someone like Stephen King would be real interesting to break apart and see what the symbology of the "whole" thing was. Or how did one of his books relate to another, or any of this other stuff that we get in Literature classes we take.

For the most part all I want is to be entertained while watching a movie or reading a book. For me its about escaping reality and not wondering what the larger meaning is for the most part. Now if it comes up I'll discuss it, but not everything is this all powerful higher ideal.

Please let me know what you think, either through here or through my email: kenbw@yahoo.com


You're not going insane, you're going sane in an insane world.

defending literary criticism (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by seb on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 05:31:27 AM EST

Sure, we all want to be entertained. I find Stephen King entertaining. But I'd argue there's a defining quality of great art which goes beyond mere entertainment. This x-factor is very hard to put your finger on, but I think we all experience it. Here are some examples:

entertaining         x-factor
stephen king         Edgar Allan Poe
total recall         being john malkovitch
batman comics        maus (art speigalman)
will smith           krs-1
andrew lloyd webber  mozart

Obviously a very subjective list and things like this veer dangerously towards pretension, but hopefully you know what I mean. All of the above are entertaining, but those of the right are just *better*.

I'd argue that works of art that contain the x-factor are usually multi-layered, are externally and internally referential, and shy away from simple resolutions. These elements make the art more like life itself, full of unexpected patterns and interplays. It's certainly possible to write a work of this kind without a conscious effort, but it's very unlikely. Of course there's a danger that you might attribute more to the author's intentions than they meant, but in a work of sufficient complexity, things start to take on their own, often unexpected meanings.

To answer your more specific example of Shakespeare, then, I would say that there must have been significant intentionality on his part to write such rich, multilayered texts. However, his intentions are almost irrelevant; the only thing we can know for certain is that he wrote plays in such a way that they are open for multiple, often contradictory interpretations. That's what makes them great. Literary criticism is as much about exploring why and how such works are complex as it's about what the author was trying to say.

You can read Shakespeare for pure entertainment, or you can read him as a philosopher, or whatever you want. You can do the same with Stephen King, but you'd find the philosophy side relatively restricted and simplified.

For me, reading is about entertainment, primarily. I rarely stop to think about the wider meaning of a book I've just read. But the best books make me stop and think, and for that I'm grateful. As an example, my last two books were Dune and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I choomped my way through Dune and really enjoyed it. The Undearable Lightness of Being, on the other hand, was relatively difficult reading. They both entertained me. But at the end of the day, I'm happier to have read the latter than the former. It made me laugh, cry, think, get confused, see things clearly, and more. Dune just entertained me.

[ Parent ]
Re: defending literay criticism. (1.00 / 1) (#83)
by kwhite on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:51:13 PM EST

Look I'm not saying literary criticism is bad, but like everything there is overkill. Even in my Example of Willie Shakerspeare. I'm not saying he's not a great writer, nor am I saying that he wrote meaning into his works.

What I am saying is that there is a point where words and words, and what they mean is what is written on down or spoken. Over analysis of anything is a terrible thing, especially when it is a relatively well know piece of work. The problem becomes when a piece is so analysed that they all the people that are either teaching it or writing about it agree that everything means the same thing to everyone. This is a problem. Especially when you get an orginal thinker in a class or someone who likes to play devil advocate just because they can. This person can get in trouble because they "aren't right." How can this be when Willie has been dead for awhile now and we can't asked what he meant by certain things in his writings. For example, and I know I'm going to get blasted for this one, how do all the people in the know about Shakespeare know that Much Ado about Nothing is about empowering women and not just a really funny comedy about the things that go wrong when to people that love each other are trying to get together.

Anyway just a thought, even though it may be completely wrong.


[ Parent ]
literature classes (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by StackyMcRacky on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:28:57 PM EST

i took a sci-fi lit class in college because i thought it would be easy, as far as lit classes go.

oh, man, was i wrong! i struggled in that class! everything was some messed up symbol for something else.

example: in one book, i think the sky on a particular planet was green or something. the prof asked what the significance of that was. everybody started talking in psycho-babble "oh, it meant the main character wants to sleep with his mother!" "oh, it meant that he was actually gay!" blah blah blah. i finally spoke up: "uhh...doesn't it mean that the atmosphere had a higher concentration of <whatever> gas, and the light coming from the sun would refract and the sky would look green?" boy, was that shot down!! "but why did the author go in to such a big stink about the main character putting on air tanks and the like because the atmosphere was mostly <whatever> gas?!?!!?" again, it was because he was gay, so the sky was green.

my point is, i agree with you in that all this analysis is a waste of time!

[ Parent ]
Shakespeare... (none / 0) (#87)
by yigal on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 03:20:58 AM EST

My biggest questioniable person of all this is Mr. Bill Shakespeare. Did he write all these plays and poems for some higher purpose or did he say cool story I think others will like it?

It's not an exclusive-or question. I code for a living, but that does not mean I don't try to make the best out of it.

Have you seen 'Shakespeare in love'? I can recommend it. Many parts of the movie give a lot of historical insight. Furthermore the Shakespeare shown there resembles the person I have in mind a lot.

As I understand it, Shakespeare was a gifted guy who could make a living out of writing plays. Please note the "make a living" part. Like the rest of the world, he wanted to eat & have a place to sleep.

He did write excellent plays. Universal themes, witty dialogues, and so on. Of course he wanted to have 'a cool story', he had to sell it to make money. But that does not preclude the fact that he could also give a higher meaning to his plays.

Furthermore, you have to realize that the entire history of humankind is full of metaphores and parables. Just look at the #1 bestseller -- the bible (esp the Old Testament). Did the exiled Jews who wrote down this story believe every word of it? Most probably not; many stories have a deeper meaning about the right way of living and believing, which is merely fictionized into these mystic tales.

People were used to deeper meanings. I believe that cheap movies and real-tv have dumbed us down and forced us to make the or-or assumption. There is no need.

(apart from the need for more coffee, I'm not too coherent I'm afraid:-). YDD
[ Parent ]

second post (4.40 / 5) (#30)
by kpeerless on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 08:35:46 PM EST

Further... Movies are made for only one reason. Money. A novelist may do a novel because he has a story and some characters he likes and a publisher might publish it because he thinks it's important. But a producer only wants to make a movie that will make money. Period. I worked for a producer that had his scripts vetted by his twelve year old son. What his son didn't like was cut (mostly dialogue). On a number of occassions producers have asked me to write a script like (whatever was recently successful). I knew a producer that proudly informed me that the posters on the wall in his office were of future movies and he had chosen the titles himself... and would I be interested in writing one of them for him. Money, folks. Most producers don't make movies they make MONEY. That's all it is about. To know what makes money you go to the video store and watch what people are taking home with them and that's what you make. As cheaply as possible. Norman Jewison, Oliver Stone and a few others are exceptions. There ain't many of them.

Independent cinema is turning in it's grave... (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by Spinoza on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:32:15 PM EST

...and it ain't even dead yet! There are plenty of films made each year for art's sake. Do you think the likes of Hal Hartley, make much money from their movies? Directors like Hartley make the sorts of films they make despite the fact that they could probably make more money turing out Hollywood dreck. (I choose Hartley as an example as he has been offered the opportunity to work in Hollywood and turned it down, as I recall from an interview of his I once read.)

There are some incredible directors in Europe who make films that enjoy considerable success in the realm of independent cinema. They often have their ideas ripped off by Hollywood. (ie. "Dangerous Liaisons", "The Assassin", and others.) Other directors make great films that just don't lend themselves to the Hollywood formula. (ie. Kieslowski's "Three Colours" series.)

There are probably as many, if not more, struggling independent directors in the world as there are directors in Hollywood.

[ Parent ]

Novelists (none / 0) (#94)
by slakhead on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 09:23:33 PM EST

Contrary to popular belief (whatever that may be) novelists are in it for the money too. If they werent making money, they would have to do something else. When it comes to the economics of being an artist, screenwriters, filmmakers, novelists, and even (yes even) free-lance skat poets are under the same pressure to create something popular for the masses.

[ Parent ]
Complex but comprehensible plots (3.16 / 6) (#31)
by ContinuousPark on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 09:03:09 PM EST

I've been thinking that movies as Matrix or tv series as the X-Files are so appealing to the public because they have plots that are rather complex but understandable by almost everyone. That makes the audience feel good; you came out under the impression that you've seen a great piece of cinema, not your regular boy-meets-girl or strong-hero-against-bad-guys sort of plot. It's kind of rewarding to figure out the puzzles presented by the x-files, you have seven years of material to understand what's up with this huge conspiracy Mulder (now only Scully) is caught into. You can marvel at the idea of the Matrix as a simulation or at the recursive simulations of the 13th floor. But it is still sort of simple, not like your so-called esoteric movies such as Pi or some plots found in sci-fi books. This also creates a huge following; how many websites are dedicated to the Matrix? (143 in the google directory) how many to the X-Files? A myth is created around shows like these. And then, as other poster have indicated, many screenwriters/producers just follow the pioneers and you begin to see clones of these shows everywhere or you see the explotation of the franchises (I mean, it will be cool to have Matrix 2 but it's kind of risky in my opinion, same for the x-files)

Starting to question ourselves. (4.66 / 15) (#32)
by Kunstwerk on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 09:50:46 PM EST

There's a theory by a philosopher by the name of Fukuyama that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, humanity has reached the end of history, reaching a mass neo-liberalist "paradise" as its final state of utopia.

I think movies lately are connected with this idea. Look:

For one, the Western World doesn't have the Russkies to combat. We don't have to beat'em in the space race either. Translation, less space-sci-fi, less Rambo, less Rocky, less us vs. the bad guys...

So what do we have to turn against? We can now, finally, turn against our own Western reality. Or lack thereof.

We can now laugh at ourselves. At how much legal infighting is going on, at how much the court system is being hacked away at - hence the rise of the legal thriller. We find that the twists and turns of our own jurisdiction are also turning opaque... almost Sovietese.

We can laugh at our dependence on technology, and at our culture of fear. Fear of what the kids will see, of losing our job, of not looking good enough, of the bad neighbourhood, of becoming old, of taking the time to smell the roses, of being raped, of being robbed, of having our trust abused. Hence the "trust no one" ring of several movies... the "technology is scary" meme...

We laugh at the fake individualism and Disneyland hope sweeping the globe. Which has spawned the cynical outlook of many movies today.

The Western World has had its quirks and foibles all along. It's just that now, with the Cold War finally over, we can look at them and exploit them creatively without being deemed unamerican, or without having a "greater evil" to tackle.

Until, of course, someone eventually invents another external evil... to pacify the TV-gobbling masses and keep them from, god forbid, thinking that there's a lack of reality, a lack of real opportunity (for human development, not for making money, ferchrissakes) in the world many of us live in.

--KW [Diary] /* Do all humans pass the Turing Test? */

Terminator 2 and X-Files? (3.80 / 5) (#34)
by Potsy on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:22:32 AM EST

I don't really see how "Terminator 2" and "The X-Files" relate to the idea of a Descartes-style "evil genius" who creates a fake universe for his victims to live in. Well, I suppose "X-Files" does a little bit, due to the layers of conspiracy and paranoia, although a world with secrets is hardly the same as an entirely fake world, as portrayed in "The Matrix", "The Thirteenth Floor", and "The Truman Show". I don't think it's fair to say that those movies are building on "Terminator 2" or "The X-FIles".

If anything, those films borrow a bit from "The Twilight Zone". A common theme on that show was that what the characters perceived as being "The World" or "The Universe" was either completely or partially illusory. The films you mention are filling the same sort of niche that "Twilight Zone" used to.

clarification (none / 0) (#38)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:36:02 AM EST

When I referred to building on Terminators and the X-Files, I was merely referring to them being paranoia-fests which paved the way for even more marginal movies (or at least they would've seemed marginal before them).

Not a father to the trend, just an uncle :)

My bodyweight is muscle and cock MMM
Tenured K5 uberdouchebag Herr mirleid
Meatgazer Frau gr3y

[ Parent ]
Simply a lack of originality (3.75 / 8) (#36)
by Lionfire on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:30:52 AM EST

I'd say it's simply a lack of originality of the part of the screenwriters. Now, now... wait a second -- I'm not saying the screenwriters are no good and can't write stories, just that the topics they choose are not always as original as possible.

A screenwriter can't help but be influenced by what they see and hear. If they see a movie based on a certain topic, they might start thinking about how they could do it differently (or, in their mind, better). This is likely to happen even if they only hear the premise for a movie in production.

Children are a great example of this phenomenon: how many times have you seen children watch a movie or tv show and then run straight off and spend the next few hours (or months) acting out their own variations on the theme? Adults do exactly the same thing -- I know I do. After watching a great kung fu movie, I still have that urge to go out, jump around and do some cool flippy-kick-type things.

Most adults don't allow this type of influence to affect them consciously, but it does affect them in other ways. Screenwriters are simply being affected by what they see and hear, so we're stuck in a genre rut until someone has a really "cool" new idea. Then we get a new rut :)

[ blog | cute ]
you've been lookin' in the wrong place (3.25 / 4) (#39)
by fluxrad on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:41:23 AM EST

first off. this article comes across to me as though movies were the only form of communication we had with eachother. He asked about the 50's and earlier, and why this type of communication wasn't presented to us back then? I'll tell you it was, and signifigantly better conveyed through other mediums. H.G. Wells' war of the worlds, Brave New World, 1984 (in particular).

the theme of humanity's strugle to free itself is as old as time. Look at the story of the jews leaving Egypt. However, i think the author of this article's approach is a bit too inclusive. To say that we're talking about struggle (which is basically what we're talking about. "humans have to free themselves, either physically or psychologically"). Fuck - somehow i think that theme applies to My Girl 2.

These themes are all old, just repackaged. And, to be perfectly honest, i'm surprised a story like this made it to the front page. It seems to me that MotorMachineMercenary is just waxing philosophical for some sort of mental copulation.

on a final note, please bear in mind that American Psycho isn't really about anyone's struggle to be free. It is a character study trying to provide a satirical look at (most predominately) american values in the 80's. This movie (or book, if you prefer) is most closely compared to Taxi Driver, a look at society's material values versus those that are intangeable.

What it boils down to is that the stories we've been seing as of late are nothing new. I've rarely seen any truly thought provoking ideas come from hollywood. The examples given seem to be more or less tied to a theme that has been with us for a very long time. A fundamental philosophical question has always been "how do we know what is real?" - perhaps we are actually someone's dream, and our world ends when they wake up. the list goes on, i'm sure you can think of more.

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
"new" or New? (2.00 / 2) (#47)
by Steeltoe on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:27:36 AM EST

Of course this isn't New-new! Nothing is. Every process in this world has relations to other results. Newness can only be introduced in a limited system. Therefore you cannot argue generally about newness in a meaningful way, without being biased.

Now the bias: What I think the author meant by this story is that it's quite "new" that paranoia-themes are now being wildly successful at the cinemas. Remember, the people watching are the ones voting with their dollars on this. (Man, that expression is pretty lame ;) It's not something Hollywood is really creating or controlling, it's a money-wave they ride on. It's based on cultural changes. The plays are successful because there are meaningful communication between the authors and the viewers. (Except for those crappy movie-makers that ALWAYS follow new trends, instead of being creative.) Communicating from your wallet is usually not very successful.

What's new to me is that I can discuss this to people and they can and will actually relate to it. Not everyone read "1984" and "Brave New World" when they were nine years old. Not many really understood their implications.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
I have? (2.00 / 2) (#67)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 03:06:55 PM EST

Steeltoe expressed in his reply what I would've said already: nothing new under the sky, and why right now in such large numbers. I am positive that more people have seen the Matrix than read "1984". And although much of the success of these movies can be attributed to special effects and "I gotta see it b/c Jack liked it", I suspect there's a bigger underlying reason for that. I do have this delusion of at least some people making rational decisions...

Why didn't I talk about other forms of communication? Because then I would've needed to write a book. The context was extremely clear from the opening and closing paragraphs: movies. And btw, I don't think the biblical struggle of Jews to free themselves applies here since they surely knew they were slaves and lived in a practical prison, unlike the people in the movies I discussed.

>It seems to me that MotorMachineMercenary is just waxing
>philosophical for some sort of mental copulation.

I prefer the term "mental masturbation" although since other people have taken part in this maybe yours is more appropriate :) . Of course I am! Tell me what's wrong with making people think (including myself in writing it)? Because judging from the numerous replies others found the story thought-provoking, and it's not like me or some editor just decided to put it on the front page. You have your vote, use it (maybe you did). Or talk to Rusty to suggest tweaking the submission process.

And finally:

>please bear in mind that American Psycho isn't really
>about anyone's struggle to be free

[possible SPOILERS for American Psycho]

I disagree. I do agree with the rest of your analysis entirely, but that doesn't close out the struggle part: Patrick Bateman's futile banging on the bars of the prison the society he lives in has trapped him in only makes him hallucinate and lose his sanity. He cracks open the door only to be shoved right back in, not even seeing the light of freedom.

My bodyweight is muscle and cock MMM
Tenured K5 uberdouchebag Herr mirleid
Meatgazer Frau gr3y

[ Parent ]
point well taken (1.00 / 1) (#75)
by fluxrad on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:07:59 PM EST

i see where you're coming from. that being said, i suppose my rather ranting point is that i don't feel that the "slave" theme is that much more popular than it ever was. People like to see stories about others overcoming struggle. Perhaps this theme has been altered to suit the supposed information age a bit, but the fundamental idea that gets the asses in the seats (as it were) hasn't really changed. Spartacus, The 10 Commandments, 1984 (there was a movie too ;-), Farenheit 451. Whatever it is, it becomes a story of joe was wrongfully put in position x. let's find out how joe gets out of situation x. The only hollywood requirements are that A)Joe does, in fact, get out of situation x, and B)the wrongdoers may not go unpunished.

anyway, that's where i'm coming from. My apologies for the slightly provocative tone of my last post. I suppose i'm still getting over /. fever :P

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
American Psycho (none / 0) (#101)
by Radagast on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 09:11:56 PM EST

American Psycho isn't just a wry look at the culture and mentality of the Eighties (although it most certain is that, and a very funny one, too). AP, and perhaps even more Brett Easton Ellis' more recent _Glamorama_ is about the uncertainty of identity and reality in a world where people are interchangable. This is fairly clear in that American Psycho can easily be read and understood as if all of Bateman's atrocities are imaginary (I had this pointed out to me and went back to reread it from that perspective, and it makes as much, or maybe more, sense plotwise, since it explains the whole matter of Paul Allen and his apartment, etc.)

And in both AP and Glamorama, the main character is frequently mistaken for someone else. In Glamorama, Victor Ward even shows up in photos he can't remember posing for, in places he hasn't been, and the eminently confusing but wonderful ending is all about interchangability of identity.

Identity and reality are intertwined. If your perception of your on identity changes, all of reality around you changes. That's the ultimate message of movies like The Matrix and, in particular, Fight Club, and I believe it's what the author of the original article was getting at.

This might be interpreted as a turn towards the mystical (there's certainly a lot of eastern style mysticism in The Matrix), or simply as a turn towards appreciating the importance of identity and self-knowledge in an increasingly superficial and prefabricated society.


[ Parent ]

these movies are a reflection of our existence (3.66 / 15) (#41)
by mattc on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 03:02:18 AM EST

Society is our prison and judeo-christian ethics are our chains (whether you are a christian or not). To break free we must reject the bullshit that has been shoved down our throats from the day we were born.

We are living in an artificial reality molded by socialization... we've learned our so-called "natural" places in society, compulsary education(brainwashing), wage-slavery, democracy (tyranny of the ignorant masses), and other assorted idiocy. What does this all equal? Slavery. Instead of taking orders from our massah, we take orders from our corporations and governments. I don't know about you, but I sure as hell don't feel "free" in our world today. I sure as hell don't feel free when our rivers are polluted, our forests are clearcut, and cities are the rule rather than the exception.

We must discard all values of this civilization... like vomiting up poison. Only when we get rid of the poison in our bodies and minds can we lead healthy lives.

Is it even possible anymore? I don't know. Every time I turn on the television I feel like throwing a rock through the screen or something. This society is repulsively full of idiots and morons. We must resist their slave-ideologies.

We are living in a sick society. When an animal is doing something that is counter to its natural urges, it feels unwell. Maybe you haven't noticed, but it seems like 90% of our work force is on prozac, caffiene, and/or some other drugs. Why do we have to drug ourselves up just to get through our lives?

We are living like caged animals, and we feel like shit because of it. Man was not meant to sit in front of a computer all day and sit in front of a television all night.

We must break out of our societal cage, forget everything we know, and start over again.

Hey someone else had this idea... (3.40 / 5) (#42)
by nobbystyles on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 05:31:14 AM EST

There was leader who:

1. Abolished the cities

2. Got rid of the corporations

3. Abolished the 'brainwashing' you call mass education by executing the teachers

4. Started out all over again at year Zero

The name POL POT ring any bells...This isn't flame but is an example of the brutal methods needed to carry out your programme.

[ Parent ]
Brutal and forced changes are never good (4.50 / 4) (#45)
by Steeltoe on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:06:11 AM EST

A wise man once said it doesn't really matter WHAT you do, but HOW you do it. (My bet ;)

This is just like discussing communism. Utterly hopeless, since people can't distinguish ideas from implementations, making it easy to manipulate and insert irrational fears into humans.

Making people realize these things on an individual level, is quite contrary to blindly following a convincing leader. The ideas that are coming forth is NOT about radical change through a (forced) collective effort, it's about (freely admitted) radical changes in the individual. Those who don't want to, are free to continue their lives under their favourite lies.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
And people say... (1.00 / 1) (#51)
by B'Trey on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 11:12:32 AM EST

... that Slashdot is being ruined by trolls. Not only are they invading K5, people are modding them as a 5.

[ Parent ]
What exactly are you being constrained from doing? (4.00 / 4) (#52)
by meeth on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 11:26:17 AM EST

Blah blah blah... nihilism is good, society's norms are bad. Please explain 1) what you want to do that you're being prevented from doing by the "chains" of modern society and 2) why we should care.

I'll grant that there are many idiotic trends in modern society, but with some minor exceptions, they really haven't impacted my life very much. I've been quite successful in structuring my life to avoid them, by appropriate choice of job, hobbies, friends, etc. I do not see why anyone else with reasonable ambitions (that is, ambitions I should care about them being able to carry out) cannot do the same.

Happily, most people who can talk a good talk about "discarding all values of this civilization" and "resisting... slave-ideologies" do not actually carry their rhetoric out. In those rare cases where they do, thank god for the police.

[ Parent ]

We are the robots. (1.00 / 1) (#90)
by cosmol on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 03:52:10 PM EST

I'll give you the Timothy Leary/Robert A. Wilson answer.

What are we constained by?

We are constrained by societal norms and taboo's
We are constrained by our "tunnel-vision" view of reality that our system is the only one.
We are constrained by the governments control of the monetary system (if you don't have money, you could DIE, even though the concept of money is an imaginary one)
We are constrained by laws, most are just, but a few (illegality of drugs) are definiteteley not.

Basically we are all living within a game with rules set by society and society's elite. Most people think that this game IS reality. Most people's ambitions are simply to fit in as well as possible into this game, which makes them "successful" (and a robot.) But each of us possess our own mind and therefore complete control over what we call reality. We can break out of this game and start our own game, with the goal being whatever you want. See the problem with the game we have now is that to win it you only need to get to the fourth step on Maslow's Pyramid, or the third brain circuit in Leary-speak. We are still robots, attending to our survival needs only (which includes bio-survival tickets, or money.) And "they" want to keep it this way by trying to imprint us to stay within this game of life. "They", the church, the govco., the entertainment industry, the luxury industry want to keep a monoply on this game lest they loose any consumers.

[ Parent ]

Not my question (none / 0) (#103)
by meeth on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:35:51 AM EST

Yes, yes, you've mastered the nihilist cant very well. However, I didn't ask what you are constrained by, because it isn't a particularly interesting question, nor one that I care much about. A more interesting question is what are you constrained from?

[ Parent ]
ok (none / 0) (#104)
by cosmol on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 02:52:38 PM EST

i'm directly constrained from activities like sodomy (laws exist in many states),drug use, etc. Just because the are deemed undesirable by society, even though these actions don't infringe upon the rights of another non-consenting person. I'm indirectly restrained from recognizing my true potential by being brainwashed by society into just another consumer dupe.

and by the way I don't consider myself a nihlist, that's kind of blanket term, like "communist" was used in the 50s to refer to any kind of non-"american" group even some with opposite in ideology than the communists.

[ Parent ]

The four stages of enlightenment (4.50 / 2) (#58)
by weirdling on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:38:44 PM EST

IMO, there are four stages of enlightenment. There may be more; I've only been through four myself.
The first stage is the discovery that something is going on. Rank mysticism exists here. This is your Gaia-type religions, living in harmony with the world, dancing around trees in ecstacy, etc.
The second stage is the discovery that what is going on can be changed. This is the beginning of such things as old-style paganism with child sacrifices and rain dances. Judaism is a much milder form of the second stage and actually acted as a bridge to the third stage.
The third stage is the beginning of scholastic effort wherein people begin to reduce the things that are effective at changing their world. Up to this point, change has been heuristic and artistic; now it is scientific. The revelation is that there are ways to deduce the effectiveness of a given idea or thing. Christianity is mostly third, although the religion itself is a holdover, and, according to this model, must needs go away, eventually to be replaced by either functional agnosticism or atheism.
The fourth stage is the discovery of the capriciousness of life. This is where people discover that it really doesn't matter in a fundamental way. I prefer to call it capriciousness to uselessness or any other nihilistic term. This isn't necessarily nihilistic, although many people transiting the third to fourth do fall into a great depression when discovering the reasons they exist no longer hold force.
In the fourth, one eventually discovers a duality of life: Darwin was right and 'pursuit of happiness' is the only logical goal. Now, before you Christians and Atheists out there start warming up your stake, understand that people *aren't* bad. Most of them are good. Darwinism has seen to that.
Anyway, sounds like the poster is merely transiting the third to the fourth, and it is natural to spend a lot of time berating everyone they see for not realizing the pointlessness of life, but please understand that the vast majority of people will never make the fourth. That isn't any bad reflection on them; they will be happy, and that is their right. Many of them cannot even understand what you are saying at all, as there are plenty who are still in the second, just running a very good heuristic, which has been evolutionarily refined over time.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Yet ANOTHER person believed the same thing... (none / 0) (#91)
by whoozit on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 04:08:48 PM EST

The Unabomber made arguments exactly as above; namely that because the whole of technological society exists (and you a part of it) to serve itself and keep itself going, and not to serve its individual members, naturally enough you and I feel uncomfortable, unwell, depressed, etc. The system does not exist to make you happy, you exist to keep it going. As a result, a part of technological advancement has to be new ways to help people "bear" the pressures of society lest it collapse. (Hence all the Prozac).

Now here's a question - why is it that all the people that realize these things take violent means to change them? (eg A poster above mentioned Pol Pot) or is it that lots of people realize this and repress/accept it in futility?

...Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
[ Parent ]
read... (none / 0) (#97)
by luqin on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 01:05:49 AM EST

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. it's the how, the why, and the what next.

-- I will feel alive / as long as I am free
[ Parent ]

My2p.co.uk (2.66 / 3) (#48)
by dr_doogie01 on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:37:35 AM EST

Perhaps it's something deaper than just a current film fad. Has society grown bored with itself? or are we just trying to justify the problems society brings us by passing blame to "the unknown force" (e.g. the matrix).

"Guns for show, knives for a pro"
"Guns for show, knives for a pro"
Artificial life (3.33 / 3) (#49)
by Mawbid on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:12:53 AM EST

It's not that long since human beings started entertaining the notion that they could create computer simulated worlds that would develop intelligent life. As we imagine ourselves creating a world containing beings like ourselves, we identify with them. We put ourselves in their place, living in a simulated world and we recognise that just as they wouldn't know their world was simulated in an outer reality, we wouldn't know if ours were.

I don't think familiarity with computer simulation is essential to coming up with the embedded reality idea. There are other scenarios. Did you ever imagine that atoms and star systems could be the same thing on different scales when you were a kid? Did you ever imagine that you might be a figment of someone's imagination? Even though those scenarios have been imagined before, they don't have the appeal of the computer simulation idea, especially in the context of making exciting movies.

The oldest story like this I know (4.00 / 2) (#55)
by weirdling on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:26:02 PM EST

Stanislaw Lem wrote a story about this very thing. Sorry, I don't have the dates, but it was a while ago. He wrote a story about how a mad scientist had fashioned essentially finite Turing machines which interacted with each other in a virtual world. In the end, one of his machines began to desgin just the sort of experiment he had and began running it in the machine. Very profound story.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Every movie made since 1975 is crap. (4.40 / 5) (#50)
by cathryn on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:35:25 AM EST

Hollywood's super-huge budgets mean every movie has to appeal to every person. No individual can be offended by any movie. It's been a slowly tightening noose -- and the intersection between what kind of content follows all the little rules about what you can say about this or that race, or about men and women, and anything remotely resembling reality has been getting tinier and tinier. So, the answer -- keep the story, but dump reality. Or at least, our big stinky contemporary reality, with it's crumby jobs, and lousy relationships, and expanding waistlines.

And, nowadays, when Hollywood wants to be arty, it hires a bunch of guys with goofball English accents, it turns down the lights a little, has a few moody scenes with fabulous babes squirming around with no music, lights a few marijuana cigarettes and spits out some banal PC garbage, tosses in some vague happy-happy boiled over Buddhist bullshit, and calls that art. Bleach.

I mean, okay, maybe it is kind of cute where Keanu eats his little pill, and then suddenly sees the 'prison.' But, for a 'real' movie about what kind of prison we live in, go watch One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest. Or maybe look at a movie like Midnight Cowboy for breaking illusions -- and a bit about getting out of the prison. Except that prison is New York City, and the dream is a stupid fantasy about being a male hustler, and the escape is a Greyhound bus leaving to Florida. It seems like there was a brief golden age of the classic X rated movie -- somewhere between the time Television killed off half the movie business, and the time Star Wars clones came around, where a few really mainstream films, took the X with pride, and looked America right into its big greasy, pimply face and just let it all hang out. Yeah.

Ahhh.. PC... (3.66 / 3) (#56)
by MKalus on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:28:42 PM EST

You have to see it that way:

Movies are a business, people associate with X rated porn, and as such you won't see such movies in the mainstream.

The other fact is: People live in their "reality" and don't want to see a bad ending in the end. Why should they? They live in their own miserable little world and don't need to take away from theirs into another for two hours.

Plus there are some Hollywood rules:

1. Kids don't get killed (or if, you don't see it).
2. Dogs / Animals don't get killed.
3. Put some minority in (be it black, hispanic etc.). Usually they have one good scene and then die.
4. Make a happy ending, regardless of how dark the movie was.

There are VERY few movies who don't go by that scheme and come out of Hollywood.

-- Michael
[ Parent ]
PC (3.50 / 2) (#60)
by BehTong on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 01:18:28 PM EST

Well, this is one reason I am so sick of Hollywood trash that I don't watch (Hollywood) movies anymore. It is exactly as you say, throwing in a bunch of canned, oh-so-deep storylines, deck it with some PC crap, spice it with some oh-so-original special effects, with the obligatory voyeuristic/explicit scene (depending on the rating) intended to hook people on the movie.

There's no more creativity in it (or if there is, very little) -- it just feels so *canned*, and so cliche. I can't stand it. And the fact that Hollywood has this "ideal dream world" image associated with it only makes it all the worse. People flock to it not because the quality is necessarily that great, but because of the hype, fad, and image associated with it. Bleh. Reminds me of a Certain Large Software Company :-P

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!
[ Parent ]

One-stop movie link (4.00 / 4) (#53)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 11:46:10 AM EST

For some reason I feel incredibly bad that only until recently, a 1997 movie called Cube has had very little press in most countries. Even now, it is only well known in Europe and Japan. In many ways, it is an extraordinary little movie about precisely everything you've written here.

There is a Cube website as well, but it would probably ruin everything terribly to look at beforehand. Complete with message board. I found it on Google, when researching this movie after watching it.

Yep (4.00 / 2) (#69)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 03:35:21 PM EST

I thought about including the Cube in my list, but discarded since the people do know they are inside a prison. In retrospect that holds true for Pleasantville. Oh well.

And yes, I really liked the Cube, too, and think it is an underappreciated movie. Done with a shoestring budget but that doesn't matter when you have a strong story and an interesting plot to carry it forward. Highly recommended!

My bodyweight is muscle and cock MMM
Tenured K5 uberdouchebag Herr mirleid
Meatgazer Frau gr3y

[ Parent ]
Hell yes. (none / 0) (#95)
by Seumas on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 10:54:14 PM EST

Cube was a very impressive movie. The Sci-Fi channel has hosted it a few times, but I haven't seen it there in a long time. It should have been released here in the states like any other movie -- but I think most reviewers would be lost in it and entirely miss its importants and the statement it makes. The world is too wrapped-up in Varsity Blues and The Emperor's New Groove to appreciate movies that don't vomit the Disney or Teen Angst/Valley Girl standards.
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]
I liked the Matrix allright (3.80 / 5) (#59)
by weirdling on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 12:51:27 PM EST

But it didn't go far enough. The fact is that there isn't any *reason* for life to be the way it is. Ever since ancients deemed the world held up by several various animals who were eventually standing on a turtle swimming in a very large sea, the question of the compelling reason for existence has been around.
Christianity doesn't answer it; it merely puts all the questions in a tidy box and calls it God. Zen attempts to deal with it by simply dismantling logic. I think movies like the Matrix can satisfy your average person's question as to the reason for existence: "Of course, we're in a giant simulation/ruled by aliens/seeded from some other planet/whathaveyou!", but all these do the same as Christianity; they merely put the question at one remove: where does God come from? Where did the aliens come from? Ok, so we're in a simulation. Where does the simulation come from?
That's why I didn't think the Matrix went far enough. The real world is actually quite plastic; reality is a matter of probabilities being resolved by observation. The real world is stranger than the Matrix.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Where I wished the Matrix went... (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by joeyo on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 04:13:44 PM EST

In The Matrix there were some references to how the resistance figured that the computers took over at some date 20xx, and that before that date was the world that we know, and that after that date is the "false" world of the matrix.

There are even little jokes about how everything tastes like chicken to give everyone chills down their spine.

But, to me, what would be MUCH more frightening, is if the resistance came to the conclusion that there might NOT HAVE BEEN a past before the matrix. ie, that all of history was actually fabricated, that the machines were always there, forever into the past.

"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi
[ Parent ]

shhhhh (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 05:54:41 PM EST

It is highly probable that you just revealed something that the Wachowskis had in mind for Matrix 2 or 3...

My bodyweight is muscle and cock MMM
Tenured K5 uberdouchebag Herr mirleid
Meatgazer Frau gr3y

[ Parent ]
Catholicism and God (5.00 / 1) (#82)
by goosedaemon on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:36:21 PM EST

"tidy box" just isn't true. It extends back to Greek philosophy. Some philosopher (forgot who ) came to the conclusion that there has always been something, because if at any point there was not something, that is to say if at any point there was absolutely nothing, not even a lack of something, then there would be no way for there to be something now. It must already and always exist, that is to say be eternal, having no beginning nor end. Hence the name "Yahweh", which means "I Am Who Am".

This is extended to say that this something isn't physical, because that-which-is-physical is bound by time, and possesses a beginning and an end. Hence, since physicality and corporeality exist, Yahweh (henceforth how I shall refer to That Which Is. ) must have created it somehow.

From here we get to the decision that Yahweh is intelligent, because Yahweh made something that Yahweh probably didn't need to continue existence, and we also come to the conclusion that Yahweh is perfect because ... well, er, because Yahweh is eternal and infinite, and therefore not finite, and therefore has no needs. Because Yahweh is perfect, we are not necessary, and hence we must have been created purely for our own sake. To maximize our sakedness, therefore, Yahweh loves us and also gave us free will because otherwise we'd just be machinations rather than being intelligent. However, we are finite and noneternal and therefore cannot exist without Yahweh.

Um... there's more but I can't remember it right away so it must not be as important.

But said more is important, because God communicates with us and it behooves us to learn of this. Abraham came to similar conclusions, and went on to become the founder of all things Jewish. God then directly communicated with us by incarnating as Jesus.

So, uh, in conclusion, the concept of a God isn't a "tidy box". There's loads more interesting stuff about this in, for instance, the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

And as a quick footnote, we don't really have a justification for referring to God as being masculine, because He's not (masculinity is an inherently finite ), but that's how we've always referred to Him and ... well, that's kind of a cop out but anyway.

[ Parent ]
Your argument (none / 0) (#99)
by weirdling on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 02:02:54 PM EST

You start out well: the concept of nothing must needs be an impossibility and therefore existence is pretty much guaranteed. However, the rest of the argument turns on the idea of 'bound by time', which isn't a necessity. We assume that there must be a beginning or an end. Reality could have just as easily been progressing ad infinitum just as easily as a God character may have done so.
Time is a dimension. Things can't be bound by time any more than they can be bound by space. They are limited by laws, but nothing in those laws say the cycle of the cosmos can't have been going on forever and everything in the cosmos tends to indicate that this cyclical nature is the norm.
Now, this doesn't disprove your thesis, which is that God exists, but it does demonstrate that it isn't a dead lock that God exists.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
AI and virtual Reality (4.25 / 4) (#64)
by empathogen75 on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:47:53 PM EST

The world is illusion. Nothing is real but change. These aren't no ideas, they are the central tenets of Buddhism.

One of the core assumptions that has been driving science since Newton and Galileo is that _everything_ is reducible at some level to a mathematical equation. And if everything is math, than anything becomes subject to simulation, including the universe and everything in it, like us...

So, how do we know that we aren't in a simulation? We can't ever know for sure. And even if this all is a computer simulation, what changes?

Does your life all of a sudden not matter? Maybe, maybe not. Belief that this is all just a computer simulation really isn't any different in a practical sense than a strict materialist viewpoint. I mean, if you break us down to fundamental particles, we're really 'just' a bunch of 1-dimensional strings vibrating in 10 dimensional space, and consciousness is just a side effect of a complex brain (and actually completely unnessescary for life, there are cases of people who have lost their sense of self from brain damage and still manage to survive). And its not particularly different from the Christian idea that the world of flesh is tainted and false, and that the true world is the world of the spirit. Or Gnosticism' demi-urge creation myth, Or Plato's story of the Cave (the ur-Matrix).

Regardless of what we are, we still _are_something_, and our lives matter to _us_. Even if we are ghosts in a machine, its all we have and there's no sense worrying about what else is out there.

This universe is a miracle, regardless of whether its 'real' or 'imagined' and we should wake up every day thankful that we have the opportunity to be living and conscious creatures able to question our own existance..

Don't forget Plato's Cave (4.00 / 2) (#68)
by Onan on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 03:23:59 PM EST

When I saw, The Matrix I was reminded of Plato's Cave analogy, another ancient theme to which the movie certainly owes some debt.

But I don't think that alternative realtiy is really a new trend in story telling. Essentially any story that deals with any kind of revelation is really a story about alternate realities. The reality that existing before enligtenment, and the post enlightenment reality. Achillies realization in The Illiad that honor and glory in war is essentially meaningless because it can be taken away from you when it was taken away from him by Agamemnon. Uncle Tom's Cabin, which introduced people to the reality of slavery, specifically that it degraded and destroyed both black and white families. These are obviously just a few examples of revelations in stories that expose a new reality against the common assumtions of the day. Of course they're not as obvious as waking up in a plastic bubble full of mucus, but I think they're more meaningful.

Finally, I don't think that the new, more overt, movies on the subject of alternate realities are a sign of anything more meaningful than the the phenomenon of a rash of science fiction movies or westerns appearing in the same general time frame. It's just a theme Hollywood has seen work before, so they'll work it until we get tired of it or they have a big flop.

[ Parent ]

About that "tainted flesh, true world is spir (none / 0) (#88)
by kostya on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 03:13:36 PM EST

I can't cut and paste right now because I am in a mall in Ohio (this crazy terminal has an unworkable glidepoint and the worst keyboard ever).

But about Christianity's belief in "the tainted flesh" and the real world being the "world of the spirit": that isn't actually Christian. Funny you should mention gnosticism in the sentence after that, because what you ascribed to the Christian belief-system is actually gnosticism, not Christianity.

Granted, if you asked the Christian on the street if your statement was true according to the Christian beliefs, they might say, "Uh, yeah, I think that's right." But that is because much of popular Christian teaching has picked up gnostic leanings without knowing it.

One thing to understand about gnosticism (that is, if you say, "So what's the difference?") is that was vastly influenced by the early Christian church and vice versa. Most of the theological decisions of the first 500 years of the Christian church were in response to gnosticism. Gnostics found Christianity agreeable to them, and they integrated their beleifs into the churches they attended. Much of their teaching was "one-off" type errors, so close to the accepted views that many Christians then, and today, are unable to see the subtle differences.

However subtle, those differences end up taking you to vastly different places.

That being said, Christianity (orthodoxy or neo-ortodoxy, that is) believes that the world is good and very real. It is marred by the corruption of death and sin, but the physical world is very much part of our lives and a source of good. This is very different from the gnostic world-view, in which the physical world is an illusion and true enlightenment is found in transcending it and seeking the arena of the mind and spirit. There are actuakky many, many "isms" that have branched off of Christianity that are basically gnostism reborn. Christian Science (Mary Baker Eddy) is one. I'd gve others, but I don't have any of my references here with me in Ohio ;-)

Gnosticism, as you pointed out, is very similar to these Hollywood views and stories.

Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
occam cut (3.33 / 3) (#72)
by Rainy on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 04:28:30 PM EST

Simplest explanation - everything's been done. Every topic exhausted. That is, stuff that really happens in real world - war, cowboys, crime fighting, mafia investigators, [...]. So how do you make a movie that people go and watch? Special 3d FX. Oh, but everybody got them now, you have to stand out! Okay, there's two choices then - tackle the regular topic but in an inventive way (i.e. oh brother.. - take escaped convicts, put some witty humor in, paint some surreal depression era landscape and encounters.. ) - but that takes effort and thinking. There's a second, easier way - reality is a lie so we uncover the *real* reality which is different, and we can make it anything.. enter matrix, 13th floor, etc. Spoons can be bent, ya can learn kung fu fast, and so on. Now, don't take it as an attack against matrix - it was a well done movie, it was fresh, it was badass. All I'm saying is that's what underlies this tendency - now we got ability to make such effects for cheap, and as the ration of good idea/3d FX
keeps going down, we'll see more and more of this. Oh yeah, you might say, 'why not just start off in an imaginary world? Like say Star Wars?'. Good question! I think because movies like matrix tie you to the world you already know, which helps you imagine that you're in the place of the hero.. Plus saying 'this is just a video game, anything goes' is easier than making a make-believe world that is internally consistent and yet believably complex.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
Serial Experiment's Lain (none / 0) (#74)
by Giant Robot on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 06:37:46 PM EST

As for movies that portray the fake sense of existence, the Japanese Anime title Lain does an amazing job. It is about a girl discovering that she is really an artificial life program living in a virtual world created by a computer scientist. She began questioning many things in life before she found it. Similar to The Matrix, Lain displayed some hardcore computer hardware, and used it to communicate with the real world outside her world. I guess one of the themes was whether we think of ourselves as instructions written in a world created for no apparent reason, or is there something special about us. It was a really sad anime drama that went into this theme.

Movie making is only one of many trends (3.00 / 1) (#77)
by pocoloco on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:16:41 PM EST

I was intrigued (again) by the recent trend in Hollywood movies: the notion that we are in fact living a lie, living in a world that is not what it seems.

Well, I think this movie trend is one of many. For example the raising number of cults (good or bad), the higher number of people interested or even practicing Yoga or other disciplines, the raising awareness of suffering of terminal ill persons (euthanasia being accepted more and more), and many more.

What all these movies are telling us is that we live in an apparition, caged in an imaginary or physical high-security prison that we do not and can not comprehend or touch without some extraordinary measures or circumstances.

All of these signs and many more indicate us that a growing portion of our society is seeking for a deeper meaning of life and nothing more. Populations of the 1800s were mostly interested in surviving and this is not the case anymore for most (true only for western nations). So, now we have time to ask ourselves the questions of life and death with a fridge in kitchen full of food.

So what about the theories? First of all, aliens.

Well, is only one of many.

Secondly, the cynical capitalist in me has noticed how well this kind of story-telling sells.

Think this way, when there is a population that is shifting from a way of thinking were only the material was of importance to one that says "hey, maybe there is something more than money!", is only natural that the market modifies itself to accommodate these new tendencies. It will be naive to think that Hollywood, and the entire economy for that matter, will not take advantage of this.

Lastly, the screenwriter side of me wants hard to find what these artists - that is what screenwriters are despite the commercial nature of the final product - are trying to tell us.


I believe the screenwriters are trying to open our eyes to a wider world, to see beyond the World Series, Gap commercials and 16-hour coding sessions.

Screenwriters are people like you and me. They have question but also they have the necessary knowledge to communicate this through movies. All these new movies are base in very old traditions, beliefs, customs, etc. All this is not new for mankind. But it's new for our "civilized" society.

But why now? Why not twenty or fifty years ago? The time seems to be ripe. There were more pressing issues than personal enlightenment during Cold War and the two World Wars including the depression. Maybe these artists are telling us as a people it is finally time to strive for the next level on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Or maybe this is their distress call, final warning of an impending ruin as we succumb to our own futility.

Only now, our civilization is ready to let flow in the mainstream this type of knowledge and/or questioning. But also, as you said, this is a distress call (I believe). Many are trying to change the way people think. Now, a small portion of the population can have global repercussions economically but more important environmentally. Imagine if the ratio person:car was the same in China as in the US. But remember, Hollywood is only cashing on this.


Similar, but more to it. (4.50 / 2) (#84)
by WormGuy on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 09:51:19 PM EST

This story is old, old, old.

The matrix, I think has more to do with the pre-Christian gnostic myth which runs loosely like this: The original human is a figure of light in heaven. The demons come and break him up into pieces and hide the pieces. They use the pieces to construct a hell in which the pieces of light (souls) are now trapped. The gnostic hero is a being sent from heaven (the son of God, or Son of Man) who delivers the secret knowledge necessary to escape from the prison of reality, past the prison guards, the demons.

That and the feeling we all have of waking up after a nightmare, when it seems like the nightmare is still continuing. That the real world around us is a thin skin which we could rip away to reveal the continuing nightmare underneath.

Fight Club? (3.75 / 4) (#85)
by cvou on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:29:01 PM EST

I can't believe you forgot Fight Club.

While Fight Club itself is more about a man and his insanity, it does make a VERY interesting set of statements about the world we live in - before Tyler and his gang become what they behold.

"We've been brought up to believe that someday we'll all be movie stars and rock gods and beauty queens.. but we wont."

There are other (probably more famous) statements made in the movie about how to identify and value oneself.

Oddly enough I found this reminiscent of a number of Animes which I regard very highly. Neon Genesis Evangelion gets into identity, self esteem and identification - although I know a lot of people don't like those two episodes, perhaps because there's an utter absence of big hulking mecha battles. Another good one that has already been mentioned in this thread is Serial Experiments Lain (although personally, it was very misleading/confusing until the final episode or two).

I tend to like Hollywood movies which don't feel much like Hollywood movies. Maybe i'm getting tired of being fed stereotyped characters in stereotypical situations, or something.

Perhaps i'm not the consumer Tyler says I am.


Serial Experiments Lain (none / 0) (#89)
by Frigorific on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 03:39:49 PM EST

It's interesting that you mention Serial Experiments Lain along with Evangelion; the former was made by a protege(sp?) of Hideaki Anno, the director of Evangelion.
Who is John Galt? Rather, who is Vasilios Hoffman?
[ Parent ]
Ourselves as Others (none / 0) (#92)
by 0Sum on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 05:10:32 PM EST

i think that these films are aiming at the same thing and that the reason we are seeing more and more plots that explore these existential themes is b/c our generation (well, when i say "our" i mean post-Boomer generations, whether that be Xers, MEs, etc.) is finally coming of age and beginning to control the media, the environment that it plays in, and at large society.

Fight Club (my choice) makes some vaild points that jive with this theory - the idea that we are a generation of men raised by women (single family values,) the idea that we work in a slave world existence where we value our personal shit more than our person, that our work places are degrading corporate worlds that strive to steal our souls, etc.

the main idea in all these films (to me) is to "be true to thinself."

[ Parent ]
My own Jackism (none / 0) (#98)
by QuantumG on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 07:14:14 AM EST

Every six months or so I look around myself and say "I just want to get out of here" and I usually do. See, even though society (and even my own mind) tells me that I have everything I could possibly hope for, I still think there is something missing. "Jack" felt this way. His life was so perfect, the life that we are led to believe is the best that things can be. Jack hated his life, but how was he going to change it? Anything he did would only make his life worse. If you have everything, how can you make your life better? Jack chose high explosives and just didn't deal with the fact that he was rejecting this base assumption of society. It is an uncommon man who can say "I'm happier with nothing." I'm one of these men, so when I find myself sorounded with "things", I just want to get out. The things you own, end up owning you.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
My feelings about the subject in Haiku (1.20 / 5) (#86)
by krushr on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:36:47 PM EST

When I'm sixty four
I will look back with hindsight
question the time online

Psychological interpretation (none / 0) (#93)
by sizzla on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 05:28:29 PM EST

When I saw Matrix, I had just been reading some basic psychology explaining how we all live in our own kind of "unconscious prison" due to the circumstances in our childhoods (Jean Jenson, Alice Miller etc.).

I was really excited about the false reality theme because it portrayed the kind of dramatic revelation that you can also get when you learn more about yourself (or learn some contemporary psychological knowledge, if you haven't been exposed to it before).

I think that in the western society it is pretty easy to escape the basic realities of Life As A Human Being. Too bad there's no coloured pill to take that would expose all that to us, it's hard work.

BTW, I didn't find the second half of the movie all that exciting - just your basic big budget action stuff. (PLUS I was watching it on VCR with two Matrix freak friends who kept discussing various "making of" type details throughout the movie - what a pain!!).

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (none / 0) (#96)
by luqin on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 01:02:19 AM EST

...addresses this very issue, and does it well. Damn good book.

-- I will feel alive / as long as I am free

Other Quinn resources (some online) (none / 0) (#100)
by Iago on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 07:10:36 AM EST

Quinn has other books as well. Follow up Ishmael with My Ishmael and The Story of B. There are also several web sites. Ishael.org is a gateway to most of them. I don't suppose Quinn's the chosen one, but he makes you think. And I can't help but hum the tune in my head...

When Quinn the Eskimo get here...

[ Parent ]

Old philosophy in a newer world. (4.00 / 1) (#102)
by Stalyn on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 12:38:55 AM EST

You can trace back similar theories and ideas all the way back to ancient Greece and ancient China. Yet, I think we see a lot of it today is because we lived in such a shetlered society. (i'm referring to the middle-class society) We take a lot of things for granted and we become comfortable... too comfortable. These artists are trying to tell us that the world is not what we see on TV or read on the web. That this world should be constantly questioned and pryed. They are trying to stir up some critical thinking in it seems a society that has forgotten how to think. Nothing wrong with that.

on the same topic (none / 0) (#105)
by jmd2121 on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 07:53:16 PM EST


The Prison We Live In | 105 comments (95 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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