‘The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown. Many people understand something of what technological progress is doing to us, yet take a passive attitude toward it because they think it is inevitable.’ Technological Slavery, Theodore J. Kaczynski
There’s a wonderful line from the Anne Sexton poem, ‘Rowing’, where the speaker, presumably the author herself, states: ‘and I know that that island will not be perfect, / it will have the flaws of life, / the absurdities of the dinner table…’ I like bad films because they break free from the endless cycle of my unvaried milieu. In many ways, bad films, those that find themselves universally panned and criticised, show us ‘the absurdities of the dinner table…’ in ways that make us feel more emotion than those films that might be considered a box office success. This would explain, I think, the universal interest in Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Room’, a film that can only be described as characteristically absurd, possessed by an uncanniness so intense that we can’t help but feel intrigued.
The importance of watching bad films can be found in a production like ‘Ghost in the Shell’, directed by Rupert Sanders. This film, in particular, manages to frame an existential nihilism in a way that makes technological slavery seem like a desirable outcome. What’s more, the film hides this awful philosophical proposition under the guise of some superficial controversy surrounding its production.
In brief, countless articles were written about the apparent whitewashing of the film’s casting, with the lead role given to a white woman rather than a Japanese actress, as social media deemed more appropriate. Japanese fans were left surprised at this outrage, with Sam Yoshiba, the director of the international business division at Kodansha’s Tokyo headquarters saying, “we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.”
Countless more articles were written after the film’s inevitable failure, with a particular focus given to the derivative nature of the film’s story, themes, and general cyberpunk aesthetic. Adaptations, by their very essence, are always derivative. They derive the stories, characters and events from their source material. It could be argued that a film adaptation that fails to be at all derivative fails as a film adaptation entirely.
The only point of deviation from the original source material was in the philosophical search for the soul; a point of historic contention in Eastern and Western philosophy, with the scientism of the latter suggesting that no such thing exists. It would make sense then that a Hollywood adaptation would be less about searching for one’s soul in a metaphysical sense but, instead, more about searching for one’s individuality, memory, and origin.
This is, once again, to miss the point of the film. I sometimes wonder if the controversial production points of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ were deliberately accentuated to detract from its central proposition that humanity should either embrace technological slavery or die.
This is the choice Motoko Kusanagi, the main protagonist, ultimately has to make: either find her place in the neon emptiness of this brave new world or take a bullet to her chromatically-enhanced cranium. Within Rupert Sanders’ adaptation, it’s no matter of convenience that the big Hollywood reveal lies in how it was the brains of those who were against the techno-corporations – who wrote manifestos explicitly against technology – that were the first to be used in the illegal experiments that gave way to furthering the goal of technological transhumanism.
The message then is quite simple: we will come to use technology, even if it has to be forced upon us, as was the case with the industrial revolution, and the other technological advances of the past. Technology will begin to inform our very being – there is no stopping it, and I suppose they’d like us to believe it’s totally and utterly inevitable.