Thursday, September 24, 2009

Surrogates: A Movie I Want to See

I want to see this movie for two reasons. First of all, Bruce Willis is in it. Secondly, I think its theme is representative of what's causing the decay of our culture and society.

The story, as far as the trailer says, is that people are able to live their lives through robot surrogates. Their physical bodies stay plugged in to a Matrix-esque computer uplink that they control the robot bodies through. There is some sort of plot or conspiracy going on where people start dying. It almost happens to Bruce Willis and he is forced to "unplug" from the surrogate world and do his job as a police officer with his physical body. From the previews it looks like they've done a good job making the surrogates appear fake and plastic, and it is a stark contrast to the real body of Bruce Willis, which looks rough, unkempt and out of shape. He is forced into facing reality but is still living in a world full of people that are willfully detached from reality. There is an ominous "something" that is threatening the world, and everyone is either clueless about it or apathetic because they don't believe the warnings.

Isn't that some type of metaphor for what's going on right now in our world? We may not have robot surrogates, but we have plenty of other things we distract ourselves with and as technology gets more and more advanced, these distractions will only become more and more enticing. We will reach a point where they are too much better than real life. That was always my problem with the holodeck from Star Trek: TNG. If you really had something like that, people would be in it all the damn time. People might even prefer it to interaction with real people.

We already have people killing themselves over video games. We have an entire subculture of people that has sprung up around games like Everquest and World of Warcraft. Some of them live their personal lives through their online avatars and even go so far as to dress up like them and meet at events like DragonCon as their online characters. Granted, everybody's got hobbies, and many of them are a type of escapism. It can be good to unplug every now and then, take a break and let off some steam. Some might say it's even necessary. But how far is too far? I think we are currently in the process of finding that out first hand.

"Surrogates" interests me because it's a window into a possible future. Jonah Goldberg has talked about the difference between the worlds of Brave New World and 1984. The first is a type of feminine, nanny state environment while the second is a masculine, harsh and tyrannical environment. Goldberg makes the case that where we're headed is the Brave New World type of life. I disagree. We might be headed that way for the moment, but I think that type of system is always destined to fall apart. Somebody somewhere has to be working their ass off so that other people can slack off and live their fantasy lives, whether they live them through video games or Soma holiday. There have to be people working, producing, and ready to defend society as members of the police and the military. When nobody wants to do any work or grow up, either your society falls apart or becomes vulnerable to invasion from the outside.

Right now we're seeing a mix of both. Our society is largely obsessed with pop culture and amusements and is ignorant about what goes on outside of the latest episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8. At the same time, we're under attack from socialists and Islam. We can look at Europe right now and see what the near future holds for us with both of these paths, yet people refuse to see or believe. When you learn what's going on out there and you try to tell other people, don't you feel a little bit like Bruce Willis in Surrogates? You're running around this fake world full of indifferent people who view you as some sort of bothersome anachronism, yet the whole time you're really trying to help them.

I've been very disappointed with most movies I've seen in recent years. I hope "Surrogates" will be a pleasant surprise. I am never able to go out and see movies in the theater anymore, so I will probably have to catch this on DVD. If anyone else sees it in the meantime, I'd love to hear your (spoiler free) impressions.


  1. Haven't seen the film, want to very much.

    I must say that I find that post oddly disturbing, because I see great truth in that very point. Scary, scary true.