Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blog #3, prompt 1

Throughout Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, we are presented with several ways of looking at the novel. Whether it is at face value of a man trying to capture and “retire” androids or a more philosophical reasoning. During chapter 1 of Marcuse’s text, he says “intellectual freedom would mean the restoration of individual thought now absorbed by mass communication and indoctrination.” This can easily be used to develop a better understanding Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

The first sign of intellectual oppression and the fight that is waged on throughout this novel is in the first chapter when Iran scheduled “a six-hour self-accusatory depression.” (p.2). This is a rebel act because they have the power to just skip emotions, and “dial” whatever feelings they wanted to enjoy. Iran, in contrast to the women of Frankenstein, is active in the process of rebelling against the societal norms. She recalls hearing “the emptiness intellectually”, when talking about turning on the television. This is critical in Marcuse’s thought that to obtain intellectual freedom, you must fight off the “mass communication and indoctrination” of our time. Once she felt this emptiness, she rejects the thought to use her “Penfield mood organ” to adjust how she is feeling(p.3); instead she decides to do something unheard of, she scheduled her six-hour depression session. Her rebelliousness startles Rick, for Rick himself is at this point completely enveloped in the indoctrination. He decides to “dial” her setting that indoctrinates her to have “pleased acknowledgment of [her] husband’s superior wisdom in all matters.” (p.5). So right from the beginning, the novel is started off in a war for intellectual freedom. As I mentioned before, Iran is not just a passive woman, she is willing to fight for what she believes is right for her. She clearly is on her way to becoming free, if not on the threshold already, for on page 83 when Rick phoned Iran, she was experiencing the “six-hour self-accusatory depression which she had prophesied”. This confused Rick, as he is not accustom to this rebelliousness that his wife is displaying. The beauty of this is not the fact that she is depressed, because that in itself is sad, but the fact that she is achieving freedom. If she wants to be depressed she is allowed to be depressed, she isn’t just going to be happy all the time, because that is not truly normal.

Isidore is someone else who is not quite along the road to freedom that Iran is. In fact Isidore, starts his journey during the beginning of the novel. In the first few chapters while he is still alone, we learn just how confused he is, because of indoctrination and mass media. He believes in a religion of sorts called Mercer. Where he is connected with everyone, but because he is connected with everyone, he is in fact at a loss of intellectual freedom. We are introduced to him as a “chickenhead” or a “special” (p.15), which means his IQ is not very high. However, that is what makes him so impressive of a character. Throughout the novel, we see him very little, but every time we do he is making great strides toward breaking through the bonds of intellectual oppression. Isidore is a tool for us to see into the indoctrination of mercer, and the fight that mercer is having with Buster, the universal television broadcaster.Isidore provides us an interesting insight to how there is a war between the two when he has a conversation with his boss Mr. Sloat. Isidore believes, with good reason that “Buster Friendly and Mercerism are fighting for control of our psychic souls” (p.67). This is a direct relation with what Marcuse is saying about breaking free from the people trying to control you. At the end of their discussion, they come to a consensus that “Buster is immortal, like Mercer” and in fact, “There’s no difference” (p. 67). They are immortal, because they are trying to control the people of earth, and thus will continue on forever until the people of earth are able to liberate themselves from that bond they have created with Mercer and Buster.

Without Isidore, we lose sight of how bad it really has become on Earth and how much he is able to change in a short amount of time. As he is a chickenhead, the general populous feel as though he truly is below them. In fact when Mr. Sloat wants Isidore to phone the owner, even Isidore believes that he can’t do it because he’s “hairy, ugly, dirty, stooped, snaggle-toothed and gray” (p. 69). The thought of having to deal with someone outside of his normality, scares him into feeling like he is “going to die” (p.69). This is why he is so sensitive to the indoctrination of Mercer and Buster, however we see that once he calls the owner and doesn’t make a complete idiot out of himself that he gains confidence in himself. He then takes semi-charge and decides to “call them now before it starts to decay” (p.73). If Isidore can become more confident then, it shows that everyone on Earth smarter than him can start to shake the chains of oppression.

*note that my page numbers are slightly different than those we use in class*


Adam said...

This essay isn't really an essay, although it's very close to being two essays, and not so far away from being one. What is it, taken as a whole, is presenting some great thoughts about the role that rebellion against the mass media plays in DADES, along with some thoughts about how we might apply Marcuse to understand that rebellion. Your analysis of Iran is quite good - with the caveat that we should at least need to ask the question whether or not she is really rebelling against the system represented by the mood organ when she is using the mood organ to set her mood, that is, to try to articulate her rebellion (is this rebelling against the system, or is this a weird extreme of what Marcuse views as the ability of the system to adjust itself almost infinitely).

The discussion of Isidore also has considerable merit. Seeing him as being involved in a process or movement (or ascent?) toward some form of enlightenment is critical; seeing that, to an extent, he cuts through the mass media by understanding the conflict between Mercer and Buster Friendly is also important.

But here's something peculiar: note that Marcuse's concept of the mass media, and the one that comes through in your reading of Iran, is a very unitary concept: it's a single system which resists all rebellion, and adapts as needed. But Isidore believes he is seeing through the veil to a conflict at the heart of the system (or are there two system?).

To make this into one coherent essay, you'd need to bring the Iran material into dialogue with the Isidore/Buster/Mercer material. What do you have to say about applying Marcuse *together* to these seemingly very different parts of the novel?

Everything here is very promising - but it's not all working together yet.

Margaret Julian said...

I think that it is somewhat true that Iran is opposing the system, however, she is using the constraints of the systems to do so. Marcuse wants total disconnect from the set values. The point about Isidore is kind of confusing and lacking in places. It is a really interesting way to look at the problem.