Although I don’t believe Connor Willumsen wrote Anti-Gone with the intention of making any grand statements about consumerism, I find it interesting how rampant consumer culture is throughout this comic. For instance, even when Spyda and Lynxa are in the middle of the ocean on their sofa boat, a vendor approaches them and sells Spyda movies. It seems as if the pair cannot escape the pull of consumerism, even when they’re deliberately isolating themselves from society. Furthermore, the pair travels to a shopping mall where they buy clothes and drugs, and Spyda even forks over $100 to prevent people on the street from further harassing them.
Even the designer drugs’ primary purpose is to enhance consumer experience. For instance, the “no spoilers” drug is intended to allow people to watch their favorite movies as if they’re seeing them for the first time. When the drug dealer describes the “near-death” drug, she tells the pair to imagine that they’re on a plane that’s about to crash, but instead of panicking, they calmly resume watching a movie on the headrest in front of them. The drug dealer states, “even in the proximity of horrible demise you can appreciate minimum tokens of humanity.” However, when Lynxa takes the near-death drug, she states, “I can’t die in here,” and runs out the movie theater, which contradicts the drug dealer’s description. Lynxa flees to what appears to be a swamp, and she floats on her back, holding a creature in her hand. Interestingly, in the beginning of the comic, Lynxa spends most of her time reading a book and distains the presence of the creatures, which is especially evident when she states, “I thought that this was supposed to be like a private paradise retreat. It’s crowded.” Did Lynxa have some realization at the end of the comic about the importance of nature over the media? Is that why she chose to die while floating on the lake?
Since Spyda chose to remain in the theater, I began to wonder what effect this capitalist society has on Spyda overall. In the beginning of the comic, Spyda admits, “I’m hiring a guy to help me lose…no like, weaken…the ability to make references.” Ironically, he actually has to pay someone to help him stop thinking in terms of quotes and movie scenes, yet he continues to purchase movies and attend showings at the movie theater. If popular culture references are dominating his own unique thought process, perhaps the comic is suggesting that consumerism belittles our identity by snatching our individuality from us.
I found it interesting to consider the parallels between the Handmaid’s Tale and “Contact High,” which is a topic we haven’t had the opportunity to discuss in class. For instance, the suits worn in “Contact High” prevent people from directly touching others, whereas the costumes in the Handmaid’s Tale hinder interactions between others by limiting vision. In both stories, policing the senses is the ultimate form of control. For example, when Offred takes a bath in the Handmaid’s Tale, she explains, “Merely to feel my own hair again, with my hands, is a luxury” (62). Expressing gratitude for the most basic freedom that can be granted to us exposes the complete removal of agency in this story. Our senses, such as touch and sight, allow us to perceive and interpret the world; however, if authorities control our senses, they’re eliminating our ability to autonomously observe the world, and thus, skew our perception of reality.
At first blush, the concept of controlling the senses appears to be a dystopic idea that does not directly resonate with our lives in the present. However, in our recent history, interracial and homosexual marriages were outlawed, and forbidding this specific subset of the population from safely conveying their love mirrors the controlling tactics that occur in both stories. In present day, many people still hold implicit biases that may discourage others from expressing their affection in public spaces. Furthermore, policing women’s bodies is a common practice in our society. Abortion and breastfeeding in public are two topics that have unfortunately been discussed in political discourse.
In class today, we talked about how the Gilead censors the Bible. However, censorship is a form of suppression and deletion of specific content, and I wanted to point out that the Gilead goes beyond banning sections of the Bible. After a man reads the statements, “Blessed be the meek. Blessed are the silent,” Offred states, “I knew they made that up, I knew it was wrong, and they left things out, too, but there was no way of checking” (89). The Gilead altered the Bible by adding a phrase that fit their own agenda. Blatantly rewriting the Bible implies that the Gilead even holds power and authority over God himself. If anyone else questioned the authority of God, their actions would be considered heresy. In this case, though, adding content to this sacred text is not considered heresy because the change was implemented by those who claim the power. By changing the Bible, the Gilead also has the ability to alter history itself. Although Offred still has memories of the Bible’s content and therefore knows that the Gilead has manipulated the Bible for its own means, future generations may not be as tempted to question the Gilead’s authority. For Offred, knowledge of the past and memory itself is a form of power. Without knowledge of the past, as is the case with young children, the Gilead would be able to gain control of their minds, teaching them a skewed version of history by rewriting the past.
In class today, I wish we had the chance to discuss Death’s statement, “You people always hold onto old identities, old faces and masks, long after they’ve served their purpose. But you’ve got to learn to throw things away eventually.” It seems as if Death is saying that it’s actually Rainie’s attachment to the past, not her distorted face, that isolates her. I think people often interpret the present through the lens of their past, which sometimes creates the illusion that the past was better than the present and that if we lose the past, we’ve lost ourselves. With the memory of her past self juxtaposed with her new image, Rainie can’t bear the thought that she lost this aspect of her identity. When Rainie discusses a dream in which she still resembles her old self, she states, “I still look like me,” as if her past identity is the real Rainie, and her distorted face doesn’t belong to her. Therefore, instead of detaching from the past in order to appreciate her current life, Rainie wishes to die in order to escape from the unfamiliar version of herself.
At first blush, the message that Death presents to Rainie is almost inspirational: let go of your past self so you can move on. However, the very idea that we have multiple identities and that our identities serve functional purposes is actually quite disturbing. If we wear different masks depending on context in order to achieve a particular goal, then do we have a true identity, or is our entire life an experience of wearing different masks?
After reading “On Exactitude in Science,” I began to wonder if that vast map is useless, or alternatively, if simulations can stop becoming a mirror and become reality itself. I think that if the original artifact does not survive and only the copy remains, that copy becomes the new reality. The concept of a copy replacing an original reminds me of Dream of a Thousand Cats and the idea that history can be erased and replaced. In the story, since “dreams change the world,” humans dreamed that they would become the superior species, and through a collective dream, they changed the future as well as their history. I was intrigued by the idea that people can claim ownership of history and that a dominant group can control people’s knowledge regarding the past. People can propagate fictitious information about the past, and that false story becomes the accepted reality. I actually saw a post on Facebook the other day about a children’s Canadian textbook that falsely presented information (the book was recalled in 2017 after receiving criticism). The misinformed quote reads, “When the European settlers arrived, they needed land to live on. The First Nations peoples agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.” Is rewriting history in this way a form of virtual reality? Also, who owns history, and what gives people the power to weave their own stories?
As I mentioned in class, I believe that immortality can be conceptualized in multiple ways. Since people cannot obtain immortality by literally living forever (or at least, not yet…), people can strive to preserve their identities by existing in the minds of those who are still alive. For instance, celebrities have achieved a form of immortality by having their images copied and projected. However, why should someone’s image or reputation matter after he/she dies? The narrator states in The Invention of Morel, “anyone would surely believe we were in love and completely dependent on each other” (103), but would the narrator truly gain anything if people visited the island and believed that the narrator and Faustine were romantically involved? He claims that “It is consoling to die while watching such satisfactory results” (103), so technology may serve as a form of protection, or a way to shield us from the harsh truths of reality. He didn’t actually have Faustine’s love. He only had an overlapping projection of the two of them. Perhaps The Invention of Morel is a cautionary tale after all. It’s possible that constructing a virtual image doesn’t even help us while we’re alive; in fact, it may harm us. Becoming preoccupied with the pursuit of projecting a specific image of ourselves may corrupt the integrity of our true identities. In our lives, how many of us post pictures on Instagram or make a Snapchat story in order to portray ourselves in a particular manner? We’re catering to an audience; we’re crafting a virtual version of ourselves for our audience to view. In this age of advancing technology, are we all becoming Faustine? Are we turning to the virtual to protect ourselves from reality?
For my virtual object, I created the door leading to the throne room where the Wizard of Oz resides.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how creating objects in a virtual realm impacts my creativity more broadly. For example, thinking in a virtual space has allowed me to be more inventive with my creative writing, and I am no longer restricted to writing about the world as I actually perceive it. Instead, I can craft a unique world through my writing, much like we’re doing with creating a virtual space in Unity. Not only am I now incorporating more dream space into my poetry, but I also no longer feel obliged to write about my experiences exactly as they happened. Instead, I can use my own experiences in conjunction with new landscapes and environments that I envision. I can write narrative poems in unfamiliar realms. Through this class, I learned that writing does not have to specifically resemble reality in order to be relatable and have meaning. Inventing new virtual realms has actually helped me to describe my own emotions in my writing more accurately. Hopefully, using virtual realms can help people understand the severity of a situation or how impactful it truly was for me. This notion is similar to the sentiment in the story “The Secret Miracle” when the narrator states that time stopped for Jaromir and that he actually saw the stationary shadow of a bee; this fantastical description allows people to understand that the moment truly felt like an eternity for him. I find it interesting that the virtual worlds we create may actually ring more true than reality itself.
Although Baum certainly presents a distinction between reality and the virtual, I would also argue that he creates a boundary between reality and imagination. Whereas the virtual exists in the land of Oz, imagination can alter reality regardless of the realm the characters are in. As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post, Dorothy perceives the cyclone as being much gentler than it’s actually described. In this case, she views reality through the lens of her imagination. The people of Oz, on the other hand, view reality as much more threatening than it actually exists. For instance, the people of Oz fear Oz’s power, since their imaginations invent extraordinary projections of his image, which is revealed when Oz states, “Usually I will not see even my subjects, and so they believe I am something terrible” (184). Fear has the capacity to be so debilitating because it defies the logic and laws of reality. When Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Woodman visit Oz, “They [keep] close to the door and closer to one another, for the stillness of the empty room [is] more dreadful than any of the forms they had seen Oz take” (181). This situation demonstrates their fear of the unknown, and this uncertainty scares them more than seeing Oz’s strange and seemingly magical forms. Does their minds’ ability to alter reality imply that their imagination is more powerful than reality itself?