WEIRDLAND: Mr. Robot's fractured realities, Coney Island Baby's extended coda

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mr. Robot's fractured realities, Coney Island Baby's extended coda

“Pyth0n-pt1.p7z” begins the process of pushing Mr. Robot into bold new territory, and that transition might be too much for those who thought the show took place in our world. Much like the confusing whirlwind of events surrounding Angela Moss, the show is lurching out of the accepted reality that has anchored it to a universe recognizably our own. It’s threatening to blow open the gates of logic and rationality, and introduce a mysterious sci-fi conceit that would place it firmly in an otherworldly domain. All season, the show has teased the idea of alternate realities, or different understandings of time than our own linear one, and most of these strange proposals have come from Whiterose.

Kidnapping Angela, they drove her out of the city, out of any symbols or signifiers of comfort or familiarity. And they placed her in a room straight out of a David Lynch movie. From the pitch-black shadows saturating the room (after passing by a row of family photos in which the faces have been blotted out with red and yellow squares), to the simple table with old-school equipment, it conjured up images of Mulholland Drive’s red room, or something from Twin Peaks, or Lost Highway. All of which showcase fractured identities, and playing with time. We hope for something more. But there are men beyond our reach, men like Phillip Price, who pull levers and manipulate people, and get their way, even at the cost of the world itself. “This was always the future,” Price tells his hapless government associate. But Whiterose—and now, Angela—have a different story to tell. And it has a very simple, and utterly unbelievable, beginning: What if Price’s inevitable future wasn’t? Source:

Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail credits consulting with a psychologist in order to accurately portray Elliot’s dissociative identity disorder (DID), as well as personal experiences with anxiety and addiction. From the beginning, viewers with experience with depression, social anxiety, addiction, and even autism have praised the show’s sensation of authenticity. Mr. Robot places the viewer almost entirely in Elliot’s reality. Major psychology and psychiatry associations agree that DID cannot be cured in such a straightforward sense and therapy should focus on the integration of alters, or increased coping and cooperation between personalties, rather than one “defeating” the other, as in Fight Club. Source:

Lou Reed was a self-sabotaging, widely disliked man who gave voice to the unwanted and despised. Like Danny Fields said "poor Lou - his act worked too well." Humanity brought out the worst in him, and he returned the favor. Reed had been tormented in elementary school and suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. After high school, Reed eventually made his way to Syracuse and and reinvented himself in an outlandish subculture.

For the rest of his life Reed made much of his relationship there with Delmore Schwartz, who had been a celebrated American poet (at the time when that meant something.) At Syracuse, Schwartz was already in the throes of a death spiral of alcoholism and schizophrenia that would destroy his life.

Coney Island Baby is one of Reed's most interesting works. It's all built on a single strummed two-chord riff, here delivered almost absentmindedly, but with a relentless track of quiet lead guitar filigrees behind it. The song starts out as a sentimental high-school tale ("I wanted to play football for the coach"), but then widens its view to include a somewhat melodramatic gritty urban portrait ("Something like a circus or a sewer"), and refocuses back into something sincere ("The glory of love might see you through"). "Different people," Reed tells us in a ferocious utterance, "have peculiar tastes." He struggled to articulate this passion throughout his career, never more passionately and believably than here. 

Reed's achievements: The towering guitar change-up on "Sweet Jane," heroic nearly a half-century later; the filigreed melody of a song like "Femme Fatale"; the three-note riff, dropping off an emotional cliff, that undergirds "The Bells"; "Walk on the Wild Side," arguably the most subversive hit single of all time. Take No Prisoners, a 1978 two-disc live album, is more revealing than any other of his records.

And yet nothing can compare with the lovely, cathartic version of "Coney Island Baby" here. It's a coursing workout with crushing dynamics and lyrical interludes. At the end, Reed drops the murmured dedication to Lou and the lost Rachel and replaces it with an extended coda. That coda consists of that single hopeful phrase, "The glory of love might see you through," roared over and over, and over again. You can hear Reed babbling himself almost into incoherence. Blaring horns and some game backup singers wail, with almost Springsteenian grandeur, behind him. This closing maelstrom, his insistence that love can and must redeem us in the face of hate, goes on for minutes; let yourself get caught up in it and you believe it. The music finally stops. "Sorry it took a while," Reed snaps to the crowd. Clearly, he'd gotten off. -"Lou Reed: Untransformed" by Bill Wyman

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