Thursday, February 21, 2008

Formal blog #6

Representation, according to means, among other things, “the act of representing.” Art is one method of representing one’s views about the society, the world and life. In Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” the author utilizes fictional technologies to represent his discontent with the society he lived in. One of these technologies he utilizes for his critique is the “mood organ,” a mood-adjusting device.

From the first sentence we are faced with the mood organ residing beside Rick’s bed. It is the only reason why Rick is in the better mood than his wife. This little gadget (I am assuming it is little; it is not physically described) has a say in the discussions he has with his wife. We do not actually witness any of their fights, but we learn that the outcome of the argument depends solely on how high would you set up your “thalamic stimulant”. Rick’s life is governed, in many ways, by this little gadget. It gets him in a business mode every morning as scheduled. If he is unwilling to use the machine, he can set up the mood organ so it can push him to want to dial it. In other words, Rick is just a dial of a button away from feeling the way he wants or needs.

If we are to read Dick’s novel not just as a science fiction novel, but rather as his critique of the society, these pages should sound as a warning against our constant need to escape reality. Under the emotionally and physically heavy burden of the society, we are continuously craving new ways to distract ourselves and escape reality in order to relax. For some people there are drugs, legal and not, that work in a similar fashion as Rick’s mood organ. Unfortunately, they are usually not as successful, but we are working on improving them. For some, myself included, there is television. After hours of looking at shiny pictures flying by, my brain is numb enough for me to go to bed. Not only does my TV help me forget all the bad things that happened during the day, but also I can relay on it to tell me how to live. TV has it’s own representation of life. It shows me what to wear, what colors are in fashion, what size should I be for this season, what should I look for in a life partner, and so on. Also, on many occasions, I am reminded that I might have diseases not yet discovered, but there is a drug that can fix it… with some side effects such as drowsiness, irregular heart beat, cotton mouth, diarrhea, and, in some rare instances, death.

To be fair, TV is not the only media utilized to tell us how to live or to help us escape our everyday lives, but for me it is the most relevant. I am not saying that I am living as happy people from the TV commercials are telling me to, but I cannot avoid comparing my life and level of my success, or lack of it, with what I see on it. I must admit, my life seems pretty good since the arrival of realty shows. However, I must ask myself do I feel and want certain things simply because I see it on TV, or because that comes from my needs inside? Did I train myself, similarly as Rick, to dial that button on the mood organ high enough so I would not care whether they come from me or not, as long as they are the feelings and wishes that help me go through my day?

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Your first couple paragraphs made something occur to me that I've never noticed before. Deckard (and everyone else, presumably) is so dependent on the Mood Organ that - metaphorically - the dial might as well be on his body. We might envision it as one of the fancy monitors that some diabetics wear.

I liked your discussion of television and its essentially anaesthetic effect. And while the mood organ, of course, can create any emotion (but then, don't dramas and comedies, reality tv and Oprah create a similar range?).

Let me note that your discussion of television might have been further enhanced by returning to the novel, and the very substantial role played by television in the life of John Isidore (who seems not to have a mood organ), as well as the androids.

Buster Friendly _is_ television...