I just watched the films for week 2 of the EDCMOOC, and while they’re along familiar themes I think the most interesting piece is the chill/thrill they give me…what the hell is that all about? I always brag about my punk rock soul, but is this trope so culturally constructed that it’s meaningless?
- Yeah! They fought the Man!
- Boo! They succumbed to corporate drudgery (including Microsoft – double boo!).
Is this simply reifying the idea of complete social control? Am I indulging that old Marxist fantasy about having an evil power to fight against, with the surety that if we are good enough and tough enough and brave enough and smart enough that we will win? Whoever we is, of course…
And I can’t ignore the old adolescent sci-fi fantasy that I fell for, the one in which those spaceships were so lonely (deliciously so, with no complicated social relationships like parents and siblings and, uh, girls), and so clean, and food came in pills, and I don’t think we pooped or peed. In some ways I’ve gone in the opposite direction, with my love of dirt and the outdoors and, uh, other stuff, but as an adolescent I think the clean lines of sci-fi and fantasy were what I found so attractive.
So, then, do utopias and dystopias – the sheer act of dreaming about them as well as the imagined spaces – simply mask cultural anxieties. Even worse, do they perform cultural work? Are they glimpses of a false consciousness, glimpses that help us carry on from day-to-day because we see that even if we can’t get to that better future we can imagine one?
Where in the hell, by the way, do dystopic desires fit in all this? Does adulthood propel us (in the industrialized, wealthy West anyway) into a world in which blurred boundaries suddenly seem to make sense, one in which the supposed clean lines of spaceships and high-tech (and those frightening corporate videos, which seem dystopic to me) are laden with the blood, sweat, and tears of labor both organized and unorganized, social relationships that are crushing and oppressive to those on the bottom? Is the desire for dystopia, then, a desire for blurred boundaries that better reflect the compromises and complications of the adult world?