Peripheral City

Peripheral City
Peri, played by Josh Elrod

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Love in the Connectivity Age, Violence in the Cartoon Age

I wrote Soulmates after a failed relationship of a similar nature as the protagonists, but also a fictionalizing of deep frustrations from societal anxieties of separateness being masked as connecting technologies. Modern intimacy forever altered by technologies meant to help us connect: cell phones, texting, internet, Skype, online dating, and how they seem to be replacing real interaction, an invisible substitute with a real emotional hits. These emotional “hits” or “highs” from devices alter our body chemistry, create endorphins from feel-good interactions without any of the culpability or time constraints of being face to face. How do we authentically connect within this apparent realm of separation? It has become the norm. My belief is that separation is the worst possible thing that can be inflicted upon a human being; without practice in true partnerships (face to face), we lose intimacy, culpability, responsibility to behave well with others, physicality and touch, and then suddenly find ourselves obsessing over whether or not that text message is coming, or if you're going to get that “like” on your status update. First of all, face-to-face-ism becomes a scarier and scarier option, when the reality is that you can get this emotional hit or high off of just a mere response. Your time is your own, your body can be imperfect, judgement eluded. How do we get back to being alright with ourselves with others when these hits are so readily accessible. A great article about online porn taking over real relationships in ____ has been an enlightening read.

It’s a Western Civilization paradigmatic communications technology take over dream come true/real nightmare, where the image of the lone wolf, the entrepreneur and the individual, taken to the kind of extreme that sets the average Joe/Jane up for unrealistic expectations of him/herself within the relational world and potential mental illness and misinterpretations of life. Our protagonist, Josh, of Soulmates, is one of these modern kids with unrealistic expectations of self, while his counter, love interest, older woman Porter, still old enough to remember a time of being physically responsible to a mate, suffers from a generational difference in relating. This paradigm of separations technologies gives us the illusion of feeling connected while alone with our device, engenders and nurtures the technological replacement of lasting human connection.

So this is backdrop one. Backdrop two is a world at war steeped in advertisement, which cartoonizes and makes surreal a sense of heroism and violence, where media images of unrest/war/terrorism intermingle with and are steeped in advertisements and action movies. It’s all one big ad. It’s no wonder our female character Porter, whose POV as the witness, is a cartoon artist/graphic novelist. She witness her relations with ADD, emotionally deadened lover, Josh, from the POV of a non-media person. Mass destruction media billboards and movies flash simultaneously with Barney or Hello Kitty, mixed in with skateboarders and grafitti artists, our cultures last gasp at rebellion commodified by the same profit machine as war, flash high above Times Square, in the first scene we see Josh amidst all the other numbed out, digitally addicted pedestrians. The random back-pack search in the subway is a non-event here in New York, a real yawner, as are destructive, broken relationships, as on-line dating becomes acceptable, where if you don’t like your date- replace them, quick! Terror comes in many forms. The Uni-Bomber paradigm that has cropped up in this century is one of a perverted individual warrior (sometimes a man with a bomb, like Timothy McVey, and sometimes an angry man-boy set loose with a gun amidst a flock of innocents, like Columbine), who think come-across at first as engaged in a fight against “The Man”- but upon closer look, could be a thwarted love interest, unable to communicate real intimacy in a world where that is less and less expected. Where community and family are indeed a growing thing oof the past (although grass root communities pop up all over the place to ward off this anti-intimacy-ism). Meanwhile, this unappreciated anti-hero, Uni-bomber, David with his Goliath- is a cartoon caricature of the modern day warrior. As we watch intimacy and communal tendencies fall away, we also see that physical expression of batttle becomes more and more perverted, and men are not allowed their war on, their fight. It's merely a noticing of the removal of physical interaction being replaced by emotional hits from machines, which is why World of Warcraft, and XBOX video war culture is so popular. We are subverted away from the physical. Josh and Porter wrestle, punch and make love like it's a battle. Josh takes terrorism upon his body like it's the last landscape left to someone who has an unarticulatable, incomprehensibly unexpressed rage about the separation form his own body. I fear this character, Josh, because I understand his male desire for rebellious, explosive expression, something very human by right, while understanding death and devastation is not the correct answer. I also understand both his and Porter's desire for excessive physicality in a more and more removed world. It's not quite 1984, but it approaches it on a more insidious level Fight Club dealt with a lot of these issues, irreverently and made palatable for narrative media. I am trying to do that, myself, with Soulmates.

This trope of the body as the last landscape of terrorism left really interests me. Visual/performance artist, Marina Abromovic worked with this concept a great deal. We witness Josh and Porter’s relationship unfold through technological tropes, video surveillance, video taped interview, through text messaging- over half the communication in the film is through connectivity technology, skype, text, email, data transference, a safe way to communicate from a distance and keep intimacy at bay, while the other half is a dramatic and overblown physicality, as the only recourse for this great divide created by contemporary “communications.” Porter and Josh wrestle, punch, make love- as if all cultural anxiety and suspense of this separation is their own personal burden to bare, and their relations becomes its own form of terrorism. Acts of terror against oneself and relationalism may be the last landscape left to a person who has nowhere else to put any kind of dissidence or questioning of a clearly in-trouble socio-economic system ruled by separating technologies. Because of technological translation problems with the language of intimacy, this very technology can be a potentially hostile structure of separation that creates too large of a gap from authentic human soul connections to even grasp in an everyday consciousness.

I reiterate: The electronic media billboards in Times Square blast media images of war, most likely fabricated by the same profit machine, where skateboarding and graffiti artists are the only rebellious acts left to a young man, even as their images are commodified by this same profit machine advertising culture- Josh, our anti-hero, struggles to find a voice in the herd, but nothing more comes out than angry raw will, his goal perverted. Soulmates is for times when a young man is only allowed to express his warriorness through the kind of antics befitting a secret rebel, and for an older woman trying to find family and love in times when actual connection seems less and less likely.

1 comment:

stantheman said...

Modern intimacy forever altered by technologies meant to help us connect: Amanda, my fav story by e m forster is titled The Machine Stops....ever since I read this I have scripted this movie in my head....this is a film I'd like to make some day....The story describes a world in which most of mankindlive their lives inside their own cells ,never having human contact....with all their needs met by The Machine until it stops...a very moving story written in 1909 but like all good sf, a fortelling of things to tech can dehumanize us