Posts tagged cyborgs
On March 31st, 10 years ago, a film called The Matrix hit movie theatres and took the film industry/pop culture world by storm. It lead to copy-cats in content, style, and in technology (The Matrix‘s ‘Bullet-cam’ became the ‘effect to do’ for the first several years of the 21st century in action movies)
It was lauded for its originality, but really, it was a combination of a plethora of influences and cultural properties which helped/help define a generation (Gen X, as the creators, Andy and Larry Wachowski). It was Hong Kong cinema made in the US, it was a live-action anime, it was pop-philosophy and comparative religion, it was cyberpunk and a blockbuster film all rolled up into one.
It also launched one of the more successful transmedia properties of the last decade, as indicated by its use as an example in Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture chapter “Searching for the Origami Unicorn: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling)” (Jenkins 2006).
The Matrix universe has grown from one cultural work to include three films, a collection of animated shorts (The Animatrix), several video games (Enter The Matrix, The Matrix: The Path of Neo), including a MMO (The Matrix Online), comic books (The Matrix Comics), and a variety of merchandising tie-ins.
As Jenkins says,
The Wachowski Bros. played the transmedia game very well, putting out the original film to stimulate interest, offering up a few Web comics to sustain the hard-core fan’s hunger for more information, launching the anime in anticipation of the second film, releasing the video game alongside it to surf the publicity, bringing the whole cycle to conclusion with The Matrix Revolutions, then turning the whole mythology over to the players of the massively multiplayer online game. Each step along the way built on what has come before, while offering new points of entry. (Jenkins, 2006).
In the hands of fans
An intrinsic part of successful transmedia storytelling is the creation of a setting that is generative of many stories. The premise of the Matrix allows for a nearly limitless number of stories to be told in a number of genres (A Detective Story is much more in line with the look and feel of Film Noir, whereas “Program” is steeped in samurai action (Chanbara). Since the Matrix itself is a programmed shared universe, it can be modified to fit different desires and perspectives. Why is it that Detective’s Ash world looked so different than Neo’s world? It’s not difficult to read in the possibility that there are/were a number of servers, with different settings (a noir world, a cyberpunk world, etc.) But even without having to fill in the gaps of the setting by making these readings, there are many different places for a number of stories. This allows for fan creativity to enter into the picture, another essential part of a vibrant transmedia property.
The Wachowskis/WB can lay out the official path of transmedia cultural flow between games and films and comics, but if transmedia storytelling universes are maps, there is space beside the roads and outside the buildings in addition to those official pathways and locations. There is always room for fan-fiction, other games, fan art, vidding, and much more.
I remember playing a home-brewed Matrix table-top roleplaying game the summer of 1999, a game designed by friends so that we could tap into the awesomeness of the Matrix setting, even drawn in as limited a fashion as it was when the only data point was the original film. The mythology/setting of the Matrix had proven compelling enough to lead us to make our own ways to interact with the Matrix universe on our own terms, when not provided with an official outlet. A smart transmedia author/creator will encourage this informal/unofficial play/interaction, as it inevitably leads fans/customers back to the official parts, the ones that convert into sales.
Benefits of the transmedia approach
Unofficial transmedia play is free advertising. It keeps fans thinking about the property and shows/develops their level of involvement and investment. The more you play in the world of the matrix, the more it can matter, and so the more you will continue to play, and the more you will reach out to others to join you.
The Matrix universe was far from the first transmedia storytelling venture. George Lucas’ Star Wars had become comics, video games, action figures, trivia games, board games, memorabilia and more decades before The Matrix. However, The Wachowskis & Co. did utilize new media technologies and digital cultural socialization to further its popularity with a strong online presence. The Matrix Comics were first shared online, and preview videos of the Animatrix were available exclusively on the web before the DVD release.
A transmedia approach also allows a cultural property to become a franchise, with film, television, comics, video games, and other media to be tied in, allowing a tv show to reach out to video gamers and to comics readers, building its fan base with every new node in the transmedia map.
Other properties since have followed the transmedia model, but we can remember The Matrix property as one of the most commercially successful examples in recent memory. While opinions on the 2nd and 3rd films vary wildly, it is hard to deny the economic success and cultural impact of the Matrix property, and much of that is due to a transmedia storytelling and marketing approach.
More than five years after the 2004 miniseries, the re-imagined version of Battlestar Galactica reached its conclusion with “Daybreak,” a two-part, three hour series finale.
Ron Moore, show-creator and acknowledged Guy In Charge has been on the record as having prioritized character arcs over plot resolution in the finale. This choice is made apparent especially towards the end of the finale, as grace notes for characters are chosen over clear resolution.
The first hour and change is pure adrenaline, final preparation for Galactica’s final mission, the so-crazy-it-has-to-work plan, and then the entirety of the show’s remaining CG budget put into a glorious swansong fight sequence for the Galactica and the series.
There’s already been a lot of talk about the show’s epilogue. By jumping ahead from the end of the character’s story to contemporary Earth and having the ‘angels’ muse about the state of technology, the themes of the show became almost painfully clear. To me, the angels’ dialogue at the end wasn’t clearly a condemnation of robotics or a cautionary tale, but could be read as either.
To put on my writer hat for a moment, I would have sufficed with ending on Hera walking up to a (male) child of the indigenous tribal peoples and making a connection You get the idea of how Hera acts as the future of the survivors, and you can see how the name repeats in a cycle. But then again, it’s much easier to say how you would have done something better than to do it the first time on your own.
Roslin’s ending is the only thing it could have been, and Bill Adama hitched his carriage to hers for an ending. Between this and Kara’s ‘So I guess I was an angel, and now that I’ve done my job I can vanish’ leaves Lee to go off and finally live for himself rather than be defined by his relationships to other characters (his father, his president, Kara, etc.)
Battlestar achieved enough mainstream success as a drama to be ‘escape’ the Science Fiction ghetto (such as it still exists, which is to say only somewhat, and to some people). The finale concerns itself more with answering the character/drama questions than the science-fictional ones. We don’t get a final explanation of what Kara is, but she does make the connections and delivers on the prophecy associated with her by the Hybrid(s). We don’t have the secret history of Earth like we could have with buried starships and many Atlantises, but we do have the Fighting Agathons surviving to the end as a family unit despite all exterior threats.
The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica will likely be remembered as the best SF show of the Aughties decade. It was deeply reflective of post-9/11 USA and a turn towards gritty moral gray areas in mainstream SF television. Just as post-9/11 entertainment included a push towards clear black & white heroism (superhero films, early 24), it also explored the gray areas as we tried to find meaning and humanity in the horrible things our country has been associated with (torture, jingoism, invasion, etc).
There is a TV movie coming this fall (The Plan), but it is unlikely that it will substantially change interpretations of the ending.
Battlestar is back, and the WTF? factor is high. Here’s my breakdown of the episode, Spoilers Galore.
- Starbuck finds her own wreckage, with her fin #, and a corpse with her dog tags.
- The Final Four all have memories of living on Earth.
- Dee breaks down and commits suicide after one last happy memory with Lee.
- Tigh flashes back to Earth and sees Ellen, leading him to identify her as the Fifth Cylon.
- Earth is uninhabitable, and the remains discovered there are all genetically Cylon, accompanied by Centurion-style Cylons unlike those made by the humans of the 12 colonies or the Cylons they made.
1. This fits in with the fact that the Raptor that Starbuck arrived with after her dissapearance was fresh-off-the-line clean. This leads us to believe that Starbuck is a Cylon, or that she was somehow cloned by the Cylons, based off of the tissue samples they could have taken during the time she was held at the farm during “The Farm.” This is of course all interpolation. Leoban is shocked by the revelation, as it disproves/disagrees with his visions. His religious certainty is shaken, and the connection between him and Starbuck is now in question again.
2. From Tyroll walking the marketplace to Anders remembering playing “All Along the Watchtower,” this fits in line with my reading that that the humans of Earth are descended from the intermarriage of Cylons and humans who settle on Kobol and then leave for the thirteen colonies, as a part of the cycle (hence “all of this has happened before, all of this will happen again”) — This would allow for our civilization as is now to be a part of this cycle, between when the 13th tribe reaches Earth and when nuclear war destroys civilization on the planet.
The Final Five would then be the people who remember their previous incarnations elsewhen in the cycle, who are ‘Cylons’ in that they are the descendents of the re-connected species.
3. Dee’s suicide is used as the personalization of the collective despair expressed by the fleet after being let down by Earth. The people had held up hope for years and years, thinking ‘if we make it to Earth, it will all be ok.’ — and now that Earth has been removed as the great hope, people’s defenses are down and they’re crashing. Everyone of the survivors have PTSD, first from the destruction of the colonies, likely again from the events on New Caprica, and many things in between and after.
Dee had already lost her connection to Lee, before that she lost Billy, on top of the destruction of the colonies. She showed signs of breaking down throughout the episode, from the return trip from Earth to speaking to Hera to the musing about the picture from when she was five. And then, after one more happy moment with Lee, she takes her own life. This is the personalized version of the despair rampant throughout the fleet that we can see on Galactica with people breaking down in the hallways and from the graffiti.
4. Ellen was originally suspected as being a Cylon because of her mysterious appearance in the fleet, then discounted because she was too human-ly screwed up. And by the time she let Saul kill her as they departerd New Caprica, she had achieved a measure of redeption. And now by revealing her as the fifth Cylon (confirmed in the ‘next episode’ preview), they open up the question of another instance of her being alive or able to be activated. It also makes for more of a reason to stay on Earth for archaeological excavation to uncover more information and/or unlock more memories of the Four that remain.
5. This supports my ideas from 2, positing that once humans and Cylons intermingle, they will just distinct enough from humans now so as to register as ‘Cylon’ (ie. ‘Other’) — But I imagine that Hera and Nicholas, our two known human-Cylon crossbreeds would register as ‘Cylon’ under the same analyses.
Next episode — Vice President Zarek makes another power play, looking to divide the fleet. Meanwhile, people try to figure out what the hell to do now that Earth is no longer the safe End Point. Cavill’s fleet is still out there, meaning that there will be more chances for explosions and dogfights and such.