So, where to begin with this one? For those interested, there are previous posts that cover Mr. Robot Season One and such things as metaphors and references; White Rose; is any of it real?; and the end of consumer-debt society.
Well, the trailer is out and things are set to get darker in the world of Mr. Robot, and Sam Esmail seems to have full control of his project, but the one thing that is still being wrestled with, and that has not fully been shaken off since first binge-watching season one, is: at what point will Mr. Robot and its anarchic sensibility be corrupted by the inner-workings of a “Hollywood” system that rarely engages with such subversive forms of fiction, or is there scope to consider that the eventual, and perhaps unintentional outcome of the show will be a nationwide, perhaps even part-global raising of the collective state of consciousness to such an extent that people will start to wake up to the fallacies (freedom (generally), autonomy, the capitalist model and “democracy” as fundamentally linked, and so on…) of contemporary life in, primarily, post-industrial cultures?
Or is there nothing more to it than that it’s just another form of contemporary media that keeps us glued, zombie-like, to our screens? Surely not…
In the final episode Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) asks: “is any of it real?” What are we meant to take from this, a TV show, a work of fiction that serves the primary function of entertaining us, and which does so by captivating us as viewers so completely that we sit zombie-like, staring at a screen filled with pixelated images on viewing devices that make those images look as real as, and often better than anything we experience in daily life?
And is Mr. Robot’s proclamation supposed to be a revelation to us? How can it be when it is exposing what we already know we know? Has TV gone beyond its initial remit of pure entertainment? Is this TV with a conscience? TV that will eventually bring down TV? TV that has somehow by-passed irony and entered a new phase of enlightenment? Or is it really just entertainment, but way cleverer than it used to be? Would we even know what “real” looks like if it were presented to us?
What does White Rose’s Trans character signify in terms of her appearance as a businessman in Season One’s final scene of Mr.Robot?
Businessmen populate the interior of the Gatsby-esque mansion: drinking, talking, and enjoying entertainment. Those who are females are employed as servants (passing drinks/food around), and there is also a single female playing the harpsichord, watched as she is by Phillip Price and White Rose’s alter-ego. Is this gender-split, then, merely a reflection of how Sam Esmail views the world of the corporate “1%,” or is it more political than that, something that is meant to provoke a reaction from viewers?
Hypothetically, we can assume that the very richest of the 1% will prosper and increase its wealth. After all, the 1% alone have access to tangible items of wealth: gold, gems, oil, etc. Everyone else will struggle to function in a world where access to money has been compromised – and this in spite of the fact that debts have been wiped out. White Rose’s actions as leader of the Dark Army serve only to make her wealthier.
By subverting the present system of capitalism as White Rose, a Trans woman, she reaffirms her status as a businessman. In spite of such power, can she only ever appear as a “he” in the upper echelons of the 1%. What is this telling us about 21st Century capitalism? What would happen if White Rose were to reveal her identity amongst the 1%?
Having binge-watched Mr. Robot on its initial release on Amazon Prime, probably the only thing I’ve ever felt compelled to watch episode after episode in such a manner, I have just revisited it and am left feeling just as troubled as after the first time of watching. The thing I’m struggling with is the question of just what is Sam Esmail’s show meant to convey? Does it foreshadow events that are happening currently, with the likes of Anonymous and its threat to take down the U.S. financial system in 2016? Is it another vehicle that exposes the possibilities that exist with respect to the emergence of technologies that can be accessed by “everyday” people, such as Elliot Alderson? Does this then speak of instances of injustice like Aaron Swartz and his family have faced, with tragic outcomes? Or is it raising awareness of conspiracy theories that are concerned with the ruling elite and their influence over the vast majority of the earth’s population?
Can any form of mainstream medium actually do anything other than just merely “entertain?” That’s the real issue I have. Much of the conflict I’m feeling stems from metaphors and references that are found within the show.
Metaphor 1. Tyrell Wellick paying some homeless dude to be beaten to a pulp. This speaks of the present capitalist system where most of the world’s population puts up with some form of exploitation on a day-to-day basis, no matter how minor, for the sake of money.
Metaphor 2. (NSFW) Terry Colby’s insistence that he won’t divulge anything meaningful about the circumstances surrounding the decision that ultimately leads to Angela’s mother’s death until she stuffs her mouth with his private parts before repeating the question back to him. Which works very much the same way as Met. 1.
Metaphor 3. Gideon’s conversation with his finance director. They discuss the fact that since the inception of Allsafe there has never been a moment where money has been viewed positively. Money is a constant worry. Things have to be done to ensure money keeps coming in. Again, similar to Met. 1. and Met. 2.
Reference 1. Mr. Robot carrying a copy of Tolstoy’s Resurrection. Is this bit of intertextuality necessary, or merely whimsical?
Reference 2. The repeated references to Pulp Fiction. Just why?
Can anything meaningful be taken from any of this? Or is it just throwaway pop-culture (keep consuming)?