WEIRDLAND: Noir & the American Dream's Dark Side, Mr. Robot Season 2 Heads-Up

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Noir & the American Dream's Dark Side, Mr. Robot Season 2 Heads-Up

In the 1950 film noirs, all the women who had been strong powerful individuals before the war, or during the war, like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck, were now suddenly playing victims - females terrified by a mere phone call. The message being: stay in line, or you might be brought in for questioning. At worst, you could be investigated and interrogated on television for un-American activities, or at best, judged by your neighbor.

The fictional noir characters on screen weren't participating in this societal model in any way, shape or form. Whether they were the criminals, or the private dicks chasing them, or the showgirls, or the molls, or the mysterious widows, they were all refusing to play house. Many people who should have only chased criminals and chorines might have been happy with only that. Some should have only hung at the racetrack and had dinner with friends. Or others should have spent time mostly talking on the telephone, dancing, and doing their nails.

The pressure was so great to live in a perfect 1950s television family that, by 1958, Americans finally believed they had the dream overall in the nation and film noir became far less popular as a form of relief from conformity. That was until 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated, which showed there was a very healthy dose of the darkness still out there after all. The shock of Kennedy's death blew the fantasy of how family life will protect you, and the nation, all to hell.

Film noir characters are primarily emotion driven. Auteur Stanley Kubrick said only two emotions drive them: desire and threat. I would add adrenaline. Noir characters get bored easily. Adrenaline is a physical addiction and not necessarily a desire. But as long as those in the burbs question their static lifestyles, and they wonder internally if the sacrifices they make for that peace are worth it, or worse, suspect they have given up their coolness for stability, there will always be noirs to serve the explorations of their own natures. Source:

Film Noir and the American Dream — The Dark Side of Enlightenment: A.M. Karimi has suggested that noir protagonists “are the negation of the American Dream.” These toughened protagonists, adrift in a world they do not fully understand, remain constrained by their circumstances and “dark” pasts even as they seek the transcendent status promised by the American Dream. Yet by the Archimedean logic of enlightenment, toughness is also a self-defeating strategy, blocking one from further enlightenment in a cycle that may be conceptualized as “the eternal return of the same,” where toughness must be constantly performed, a self-imposed boundary only transcended at the price of a loss of identity status — the noir protagonist is frequently a traveler on the byway of urban technological culture.

And unlike, for example, screwball comedies such as The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941) or Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941), where movement up the social ladder equates to personal success, if a noir character moves from low to high cultural status, he or she often remains unchanged, discovering that life at the top is as rotten as it is at the bottom. In a world where life at the top is no better than below, and where upward mobility offers little chance of cosmopolitan enlightenment, the progress myth appears dethroned. As discussed by Leo Marx (in The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America), Jefferson linked the purifying qualities of the American natural landscape to the “naturally” superior character of American citizenship.

Nevertheless, films such as Detour, Gun Crazy and The Killing still convey something of the polyvalent contexts within which character and environment intersect, anticipating Michel de Certeau’s observation that “each individual is a locus in which an incoherent and often contradictory plurality of relational determinations interact.”

Several noirs also imply that “natural” beauty is a power flowing from good luck — hence the “beautiful” Lauras, Johnnys and Gildas escape the body bag. It follows that, within the misogynist logic of The Big Heat, the errant Debbie Marsh, also denoted as beautiful, must be disfigured so that she then can be killed.

The post-war period witnesses the emergence of an economic model connecting identity with consumption. The act of consumption increasingly is linked to the production of one’s individual identity as a shiny commodity without a past. The past, whether tainted by fated indiscretion or polished by nostalgia, occupies a less and less central role in the new consumer economy than in an earlier pre-war economy predicated on an understanding of personal identity as productive, responsible, and continuous in time.

An identity too firmly linked to a past becomes superfluous, and films such as Double Indemnity, Laura, and Sorry, Wrong Number, with their fatalistic emphasis on past mistakes coupled to a fascination with the complexities of characters’ motivation, are on the pivot point marking this shift. These characters “strike a pose.” Yet the resulting performances are less about the existential ideal that “what I am is for me to decide” than they are commodity-identities revealing that the absurd price of toughness is loss of intimacy.

If noir toughness depicts a Hollywood recognition of an individual’s relative powerlessness, they frequently are depicted as seeing themselves as rotten or losers or both. The protagonists are often out of step with the values of postwar mass culture, and at their best a number of these films question the socio-political contexts within which individual political realization is unequally organized. This remains a critical intervention largely absent in current Hollywood film. —"Multicultural Film: Essays" (2006) by Ken Hillis

Mr. Robot stars Rami Malek, Christian Slater and Portia Doubleday will be appearing at the 2015 New York Comic Con in a press panel on 9 October 2015. Maybe the fans will get more clarity on the season 2 storyline, maybe the network will release a teaser?

Sam Esmail shed some light on what fans can expect from Mr Robot in season 2: "I wanted the story of Mr. Robot to be Elliot actually accomplishing his goal, setting the world into chaos. What would happen to society if something like this occurred where, basically, if the consumer debt industry were to be erased? To me, that canvas was something I was interested in exploring so, for me, that's what that last scene sets up. We're about to watch Rome burn. That's the world Elliot's going to enter next season," he said. Source:

"Angela's character arc is really fascinating because she's the path of the American dream. She is the sort of person that has the mentality of, if you work hard enough, you'll get the big job offers, you'll get the big job promotions, and you'll work your way up the ladder. If you want to affect change, you do it within the system because the system allows for that, allows the younger generation to come in and influence society, and the point is to have a bottom-up strategy of having change come from the younger generation. That, to me, is a very interesting parallel to have running through the series in contrast with Elliot, who's very much trying to affect change from outside the system." Source:

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