Laughter: The World’s Worst Medicine?

We have all been told that laughter can be the best medicine. Researchers have connected laughter with a physical response that significantly improves your mood, and have concluded that if we laugh more, we’ll be happier. But the research can also be interpreted to support the opposite claim. Laughter cheats happiness because it temporarily tricks your body into thinking you are happy; it is a vehicle that enables you to avoid confronting pain and suffering. Adorno claims that the mass production of consumer culture “replaces pain, which is present in ecstasy no less than in asceticism, with jovial denial. Its supreme law is that its consumers shall at no price be given what they desire: they must laugh and be content with laughter.” Adorno’s claim is devastating. Laughter – what we take as an outward expression of happiness – actually indicates unhappiness. What does this mean for those of us who have laughed – as I presume many of us have – at least five times today, and expect to laugh at least five times tomorrow?

Laughter and misery can converge in the form of stand up comedy. Comedians utilize their ability to reach a wide audience to present social commentary, drawing on historic and contemporary social patterns and inequality for material. Dave Chappelle’s famous comedic commentary on racial and gender inequality in America repositions the interplay between laughter and misery: he tries to use laughter to attack suffering head on. What does it mean to laugh at a joke rooted in misery and unhappiness – both for our society and our own personal happiness?

In his stand-up routine “Killing Me Softly,” the audience’s laughter validates the truth to Chappelle’s social commentary, acknowledging the general unhappiness present in our society. During one bit, Chappelle describes how his white friend has no fear of the police – and has even asked a policeman for directions while completely intoxicated – while Chappelle hides out of fear of persecution. The audience laughs because they can, in some capacity, imagine this happening; we understand that racial inequality manifests in police treatment of civilians, and we laugh. Our laughter exposes Chappelle’s commentary as rooted in some real reality – if the joke is so out of left field that it is incomprehensible, we wouldn’t laugh. So what moves us to respond to this commentary by laughing? If we are laughing at an expression of unhappiness and pain, then this laughter cannot be an expression of happiness. Can it be possible that we are actually deriving pleasure from suffering and misery?

John Limon offers a different reason for why we laugh at pain in his book “Stand-up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America.” He argues that the art of stand-up revolves around the abject, or the incorrigible parts of our identities that strain our sense of self. However, another layer of abjection emerges from his analysis: Limon describes laughter as the “social equivalent to pain” because it minimizes the weight of your abjection. Laughter can temporarily relieve your incongruous understanding of yourself, or your desire to rid yourself of the role in your life that you believe has become your only character.[1] In other words, comedy and laughter – by revolving on the subject of the abject – abjects, or casts off, pain. Furthermore, “the specific benefit of laughter is obliviousness. In this respect, laughter has a strange intimacy with pain…the use of laughter to combat disease must have something to do with the capacity of pain and humor for creating exclusive, hence mutually exclusive, worlds.”[2] Humor and pain are spheres that push each other away – so using humor (which we are inclined to do because it feels better than pain) – keeps pain at a distance.

The argument that laughter pushes pain away does not necessarily place laughter in a negative context – trading laughter for pain seems like an obviously easy trade to make. However, laughter in the context of stand-up comedy and social commentary has negative implications because, as Limon explicitly says, it makes us oblivious; laughter allows us to brush away specific ideas that are too important to ignore. It allows us to push away pain that cannot just be pushed away because it is so deeply systemic and important to understanding the individuals and communities of our society. The pain and suffering that Chappelle draws on for material should not be ignored because it the pain of ourselves and the pain we feel for others.

So how does humor distance us from our pain and what implications does this have for our happiness? In their research entitled “Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter,” Julia Wilkins and Amy Janel Eisenbraun explore the physiological basis of the humor theory – which can be broken down into three main segments: the relief theory (humor is outlet for tension in order to provide relief), incongruity theory (laughter from contradictions between expectations and experiences), and the superiority theory (laughter derived from sense of supremacy over others).[3] Their research supports the relief theory and suggests that one of the main reasons we value humor is for its physiological relief of tension: laughter is a social coping mechanism that allows us to distance ourselves from pain and unease.

Stand-up comedy has many moving parts: the comedian on stage, the audience comprised of individuals, and future viewers. Laughter in the context of stand-up is social. Dave Chappelle described a situation about being brought “to the ghetto by a cab driver” and finding himself in the middle of a drug deal. I (watching on a computer), along with the audience, laughed at this segment, even though I have definitely never been in that situation, and I would guess other audience members could also not explicitly relate. The joke creates a divide between those who share this experience with Chappelle and those who don’t. I found myself laughing because the joke repositioned me in relation to Chappelle and other audience members: I was made aware that my privilege has kept me out of this situation, but that the same could not be said for Chappelle, or likely other audience members. The joke exposes a division of experiences and privilege, which creates tension. Each audience member may each be partaking in complex laughter for different reasons, but we are laugh together in order to release tension.

Laughter can also distance us from pain felt by our society by marginalizing our role in the specific issue of the social commentary. During his routine, Chappelle often switches from playing caricatures of stereotypical black and white men. The humor theory’s third facet – the theory of superiority – would suggest that audiences laugh at his attempt to satirize a classically racist white male out of a sense of superiority. The racism portrayed seems so explicit that it seems impossible to fathom acting that way yourself. The group laughter denotes Chappelle’s portrayal of racism as ridiculous – we laugh because we think it’s just an exaggeration, and hold ourselves to a higher moral standing than the actions and attitudes of the caricature. We believe that racism as Chappelle portrays it is not a real issue for us because we are above it. The distance between us and the reality of suffering grows.

In this sense, humor positions negative situations in a more positive perspective, and thus it also enables us to hide from the truth of the social commentary. Although comedians like Chappelle try to utilize the lightheartedness and inclusivity of comedy as a platform to address important social issues, comedy actually pads the issue because we as a society are not ready to just address them head on. In the police-officer routine mentioned above, Chappelle says with a straight face, “we, as black people, have very legitimate reasons to fear the police.” Cue audience laughter. The cold and simple truth – sandwiched in the context of a stand-up comedy routine – produced laughter; if the statement had been delivered in a different arena, it would be considered far from funny. Laughter takes away the sting and discomfort of seeing the truth in plain sight because the truth.

Another avenue to humor and pain is asking what would happen if we did not laugh. If we don’t laugh at the joke that satirizes racism – if the room just has an air of solemn silence – then the weight of that joke and it’s roots in real suffering crash down on us. The realness of the issue hits hard and fast…unless we laugh. Our laughter instead reduces the heaviness, acknowledging the situation as “not that bad” – we detach ourselves from the responsibility of actually trying to do something about changing the issue. Even if we were ready to see the truth of the joke, laughter enables complacency in the face of social inequality. And so it becomes even more evidently clear: laughter – even as a means of attacking pain straight on – cheats us out of happiness by distancing us from our pain and enabling us to not put in the work to make ourselves happy.

But we never have to face these truths head on because we have laughter. Chappelle seemed to come face to face with this realization when he decided to cancel his show Chappelle’s Show in 2005, during the peak of its success. He realized that his show – and caricatures of black stereotypes – gave audiences permission to laugh at real suffering. He revealed on Oprah that he felt like “some people understood exactly what he was trying to say with his racially charged comedy…while others got the wrong idea.”[4] When he puts a line or joke in his show, it is immediately released into the public hands; using humor for social commentary can have effects out of the comedian’s control. The joke or caricature can be taken out of the context of the comedian’s greater social commentary and lose its greater significance. It becomes relegated to the comedic realm with very little chance of having any real agency over social change. The very real suffering that served as the basis of the joke is marginalized and allows people to be complacent about the misery.

Comedy has become a socially acceptable platform to present grievances with social orders and hierarchies; but why can’t an explicitly bold and polite presentation of social commentary be just as acceptable? Sure – it is tense when someone comes out critiquing and exposing privilege – but maybe if we resisted the (natural) urge to diffuse the tension and just sat with it, we could actually be moved to make changes. Now seeing that Adorno’s arugment holds truth, are we going to remain content with laughter as a consolation prize for happiness? Perhaps we prefer the immediate (physiological and psychological) gratification of laughter – and pushing pain away – over putting in the effort and hard work it takes to reconstruct and initiate social change. So, are you ready to give up laughter for the sake of a life worth living – for yourself and generations to come?



Works Cited

Limon, John. Stand-up Comedy in Theory, Or, Abjection in America. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000. Print.

Wilkins, Julia, and Amy Janel Eisenbraun. “Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter.” Holistic Nursing Practice 23.6 (2009): 349-54. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

“Chappelle’s Story.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
















[1] Limon, John. Stand-up Comedy in Theory, Or, Abjection in America. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000. Print.

[2] Ibid, 104.

[3] Wilkins, Julia, and Amy Janel Eisenbraun. “Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter.” Holistic Nursing Practice 23.6 (2009): 349-54. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

[4] “Chappelle’s Story.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Food for the Active Consumer: Napoleon Dynamite and the Creativity of Pop Culture

It is easy to take for granted the notion that our interests in movies, music, comedy, and entertainment of all forms are a reflection of our “personal tastes”. But this idea is far from settled. There is compelling, although not immediately apparent, evidence that trends control us – the consumers. Put more precisely, producers of those trends control consumers by setting a trend, which then shapes and homogenizes society’s interests. This notion is not a new one, and it was most famously summarized by cultural theorist Theodor Adorno in the middle of the twentieth century. In his view, people’s interests are not a function of anything unique to themselves. Rather, their “tastes” are forged by the producers of the cultural artifacts. As Adorno put it, “The autonomy of works of art, which of course rarely ever predominated in an entirely pure form, and was always permeated by a constellation of effects, is tendentially eliminated by the culture industry, with or without the conscious will of those in control.” (Adorno and Rabinbach, 1975) If culture producers set and manipulate society’s tastes, then people are passively engaging with their culture instead of actively shaping its contents. Their tastes are being controlled by the “culture industry.”

To find that this compelling view is not the case we need to identify the trending themes in our culture. Then we must show that popular cultural artifacts exist which differ markedly from those trends. If such artifacts exist apart from the mass produced cultural products, then they have become popular because of people’s independent tastes, not because of influence from the existing cultural trends. This would imply that consumers are not just passively receiving their culture and accepting its mainstream products. Rather, they are actively shaping it based on their own interests. As it turns out, there are many examples of popular artifacts which differ from cultural trends. One such example is the film Napoleon Dynamite, which became popular because consumers found something unique that they appreciated in it, not because it fit in with any mass produced cultural pattern.

To see how consumers deviate from the cultural trends, we must first establish what those trends are. One major trend in film is toward big budgets. Big budget movies put their names out with extensive marketing efforts. They often involve fantastical scenes with violence, complex settings, or extraordinary stunts intended to wow the audience. Examples of such movies include: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Avatar, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. These movies all feature significant use of graphical modifications and computer adjustments. These features drive up the cost themselves, but also facilitate the other aforementioned commonality among these movies that makes production expensive: extreme action and stunts. Movies with such characteristics all have a commitment to leaving the audience awestruck by portraying physically extreme events: explosions, chases, duals, etc… This feeds a culture where a movie series like Fast and Furious, an action packed series absent complex messaging or markedly different plots, can be on its eighth film. These movies are consistently reproducing the same type of film, a type that people evidently enjoy despite its lack of complexity.

Another major trend is that most movies have some clearly established purpose or conclusion that they are driving toward. In many cases, this comes in the form of a conflict/resolution structure which is fundamental to much of storytelling. An excellent example of this is present in The Breakfast Club, a film renowned for addressing topics of adolescence and social adjustment. In bringing together five students of different social swaths for Saturday detention, the film highlights uncomfortable, but accurate features of teen social structure. This was, unequivocally, a component of the film’s purpose. As Harold Foster put it:

For many of its viewers, the film has that ‘this-is-real, slice-of-life’ quality. You can just hear its teenage audience saying, ‘That’s me.’ I contend The Breakfast Club was much like The Big Chill in that the makers of this film knew what buttons to press to get the intended audience into the shopping mall theaters. Like the old World War II movies, each person represented one stereotype. There was the popular girl, the brainy nerd, the flake, the jock, the troubled rebel, and the dumb, authoritarian teacher. Characters spin their stories predictably with the same superficiality that characterized characters in A Chorus Line. To many viewers, this is a realistic, sensitive portrayal of troubled kids. (Foster, 1987)

The filmmakers intended to use the set of stereotyped characters they created to bring to the surface some of the key challenges of adolescence. Not only films with serious subject matters, but many other types such as comedies and fantastical action films operate with a similarly clear sense of purpose. For instance, it was hardly ever ambiguous what the conflict or resolution was in any Spider Man or Batman film ever made.

While cultural trends are captured and magnified in many movies, this is not universally the case. Napoleon Dynamite exists as a popular artifact removed from mainstream productions. When we search for a purpose in this film, we’ll find only a few vestiges of mainstream appearance. Initially, the movie presents as if it may show the evolution of a kid who struggles to fit in. Napoleon is harassed at school for his tater tots, gives an embarrassing current events report on the Loche Ness monster, and has only one friend, a quiet new student named Pedro. On top of this, Napoleon has trouble getting along at home. With no parents, Napoleon lives with his grandmother, has a poor relationship with his unemployed, chatroom-obsessed, older brother Kip, and cannot get along with his strange relative, Uncle Rico. Toward the end of the movie, there are some suggestions of solutions: Napoleon gives a legendary dance performance in front of his school, Kip finds happiness with his new girlfriend, Pedro wins the school presidency, and Uncle Rico reconnects with an old friend. But the semblance of a mainstream story in this movie ends there.

Despite the humorously negative events that the film shows many characters going through, chiefly Napoleon, there is no illustration of a clear conflict. Napoleon seems largely blind to the degree to which he fails to fit in. Although he is often ill-tempered, this doesn’t appear to have its roots in his lack of popularity, but rather, simple things, such as chapped lips, or a lack of steak in the fridge. Kip also seems perfectly content with his chatroom and television filled lifestyle. While his failure to engage in any conventionally meaningful endeavors may paint a depressing picture for the audience, it fhardly appears to phase him. And then there’s Uncle Rico, whose extreme nostalgia and desire to live in the past leaves viewers painfully chuckling at his extreme delusion. Yet, he appears fairly pleased with his life. Each of these examples demonstrates that the problems with the characters as the audience perceives them, are not challenges that the characters themselves feel. In essence, the movie does not present any clear conflict, even for Napoleon.

Beyond not presenting any clear conflict, Napoleon Dynamite does not outline any substantive solutions to the minor challenges it suggests that the characters face. While the movie ends with a series of positive events for each character, these illusory solutions don’t actually address what viewers likely perceive as the fundamental problems in the characters’ lives. Specifically, Napoleon’s success dancing in front of his school, while it may provide momentary gratification by temporarily impressing his classmates, fails to fix the underlying personality traits that serve as barriers to his social acceptance. It also fails to address his dry life at home and strained relationships with his family members. For Kip, finding a girlfriend, who he quickly declares to be his “soul mate”, provides him considerable happiness. But it does not alter his otherwise dismal future prospects given that he is jobless and devoid of any apparent skills or meaningful resources. For Uncle Rico, meeting what may be an old girlfriend at the end of the film does not fix his persistent disillusionment and nearly nonstop obsession with the past. With no clear problem, the movie provides no clear solution. And beyond this, the movie does not offer any escape from what viewers would likely take to be mildly depressing lifestyles.

At this point, it is apparent that Napoleon Dynamite is certainly not a mainstream film. It has no identifiable purpose, particularly not one which relies upon a conflict-resolution structure. We know that what made the film popular were not its trendy, mainstream qualities. But then what features did cause viewers to flock to it? While answering this question is not essential to demonstrate that Napoleon Dynamite exemplifies active consumer culture, it can provide positive affirmation of this point. The main unique aspect of the film which seems to garner viewer interest is the way it attempts to characterize reality without signaling to the audience that it is doing so. Viewers are left, after the film, wondering what the takeaway was, searching for something in a plot that appeared to be about nothing. But then it becomes clear how, in telling a story which entertained by focusing humorously on the eccentricities of reality, the film captured reality so perfectly. The vast majority of the time, reality does not have violent chases to defeat a villain, or a relationship that goes awry but eventually falls magically into place. Reality is far simpler than that. It has far more bike rides, farm animals, and tough days at school than it does car chases, explosions, or scandals. And there is humor in it. The film’s critics complain that Napoleon Dynamite is about nothing. These viewers have been conditioned by the mass media to enjoy that which is dramatic or clear in purpose. The film is proof that pop culture can be creative. It is proof that, even in a culture dominated by big budget dramas, a film can be made which subtly, but humorously characterizes reality and still gains popularity. And that can only happen in a society with active consumers, not passive ones.



[1] Adorno, Theodor W., and Anson G. Rabinbach. “Culture Industry Reconsidered.” New German Critique 6 (1975): 12. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

[2] Foster, Harold M. “Film in the Classroom: Coping with “Teenpics”” The English Journal 76.3 (1987): 86. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Image Sources:






Encoded Shadings


When the word “dystopia” is thrown around during a debate, most people’s minds jump to thoughts of 1984, The Hunger Games, or The Matrix. Normally, the visionaries, who portray such societies, pit a revolutionary protagonist against a seemingly indefatigable, fascist system. There is always this sense of absolutism that equates dystopia with totalitarian repression. Such is the message, that cultural pieces, like the ones mentioned above, seem to show us. In The Matrix, yes, there is clearly a struggle on the part of the “enlightened, real-world minority group” to overcome the prescriptive, coaxing, materialistic world of the matrix, controlled by the agents. It’s the modern reinvention of David and Goliath, where a charismatic, weaker force overcomes a dominant one. This, however, would only be a simplistic, with-the-grain reading of the film. Let us not overlook the fact that Morpheus’s crew, namely Neo, only overcomes the antagonist, Smith, so that he might replace him as the alpha in the matrix. My point being, the matrix actually has some redeeming intrinsic values. The matrix may support a dystopia of sorts, but it has utopian qualities. Even those individuals, who have been brought out of the matrix to the real world, appreciate the seductive possibilities when jacked-in. The matrix offers entertainment and culture, which, even, regretfully, in the eyes of the protagonists, holds promise of a better life. Ernst Bloch, the renowned Marxist academic, maintains a similar line of though, “seeing utopian potential in cultural artifacts ranging from advertising and display to Beethoven and opera” (Kellner 5). Though very anti-Adornian, Bloch seems to uphold that, what one may see as, “controlling” aspects of the culture industry might actually offer utopian qualities.

Much like critics before me, we can settle on the fact that the world of the matrix is fundamentally dystopian. People within society follow through with their lives under the assumptions that consumerism puts before them. They work, they buy, they work more…the cycle continues. This is the way in which Lilly and Lana Wachowski, the film’s directors, lead us to believe life in the matrix persists. Essentially the agents, the human-like subjects of the machines that control the matrix, act as the Big Brother authority figures that, ever so inconspicuously (to the everyday citizen’s eye), manage everyone’s lives. One might subsequently pair a conception of rigid control with dystopia. Jill Dolan, English department chair at Princeton, professes, however, that, “Fascism and utopia can skirt dangerously close to each other” (2). By this token, one might find parallel qualities in both dystopian and utopian societies. Hence my claim, though The Matrix depicts a dystopian society, it has shadings that give it utopian qualities.


Cypher, a proven villain of the film, finds resolve in the world of the matrix. It is important to note that Cypher, like many other characters of the film, is a human, brought from the world of the matrix to reality. Having experienced both worlds, Cypher cuts a deal with Agent Smith to live a better life, within the matrix, as a famous actor. Fully aware of the “dystopian” consequences to which he is sentencing himself, Cypher voluntarily seeks out Smith. A critic might choose to ignore such a plot detail, or merely dismiss it as the action of a thoroughly materialistic antagonist. Cypher, however, is not the only one coaxed by the promise of the matrix—I will discuss that later. The intent of the rebel group, who lives in reality, is to enlighten people and pit them against the matrix. Once they are brought over, the assumption is that they will see the poison that seeps ever so quietly into the minds of those that live within the matrix. Having seen both worlds, Cypher decides to go back. Logically speaking, only an utter fool would choose something truly dystopian over something as liberating as reality. Cypher, however, through his systematic destruction of Morpheus’s crew, proves he is no fool. Why then, would he choose to go back? The matrix has certain utopian qualities that offer something reality cannot: limitless possibility.

Neo, our protagonist, only has the ability to be a kung-fu master, a parkour legend, a weapons expert, and a bullet dodging superhuman when he is jacked-into the matrix. Similar abilities go for other characters in the film, like Morpheus and Trinity (disregarding the last, god-like ability to dodge bullets). When cops come after Neo and Trinity, police prove no match for the martial arts masters. Furthermore, in the conclusion of the film, where the all-powerful agents are obliterated, Neo exercises divine powers. His abilities are only possible when he has entered into the matrix. In the real world he is a weak, unconfident, pasty man. Contrastingly, when in the matrix, Neo is, as we see in the film, nearly invincible. The matrix may in fact be dystopian, but such abilities and changes in character present viewers with a problem: the matrix is almost too good to be true. When Neo jacks-in, he’s hooked. What he can do in the matrix makes him worth something to the crew, and it gives him character. Douglas Kellner puts it quite well, in that, “many people wear masks…to get a new and more satisfying identity through immersion”(5). One can’t deny that Neo, along with Trinity, appreciates the matrix more because of what he can do in it. It makes grey, listless people great. Everyone, who enters the matrix from reality, becomes super-human. Given, these abilities they are granted are materialistic, but they shape the development of the film’s characters so much that they seem to scream utopia. What in fact gives us our identities is a combination of what we do and how we reflect on what we do.


Not only does the matrix give one superhuman abilities, but also one can have most any skill uploaded to their mind. Nearing the end of the film, Trinity desperately needs to know how to fly a helicopter in order to save the day. Within seconds a file is uploaded to her animus and she is a professional pilot. Similar things happen throughout the film, from learning advanced martial arts to speaking several languages. Essentially anything that our protagonist and his crew need can easily be provided. This aspect of the matrix is borderline comedic. When a problem arises, a solution is almost always within reach. Oddly enough, in such a cruel, repressive world as that of the matrix, one can find effortless perfection. This persistent deus ex machina aspect of the film sheds light on the utopian characteristics present.

Let us also not forget that the romantic relationship between Trinity and Neo was sparked in the matrix. The eroticized excesses of tight leather clothing, slicked back hair, and promiscuous shades that Morpheus’s crew bear far outweigh the grey, tattered, sub-thrift rags that the crew wears in reality. They could wear whatever they wanted, but they choose to wear sexy, tight clothing. Even though they have all left their former lives in the matrix for a promise of something better, it is evident that they still appreciate the clothing they wear in the matrix. Though speculative, one might add that Trinity’s seductive outfit played a large part into why Neo even listened to her in the first place. Jill Dolan goes as far as describing aspects of utopian unity as “clinging to the fleshy seductions of old-fashioned primal emotion and presence” (3). Clothing enhances physical attraction and image. The tight leather garb Trinity wears simulates her wearing no clothing whatsoever. By this token, the matrix offers solutions to primal urges. The clothing Neo and Trinity wear in the matrix plays very much into their relationship, affecting their sense of character. Neo goes from being a low-life computer hacker to being a decked-out badass. Such sexually amplifying materialism makes even those that have been enlightened (the crew) more intimidating and cohesive. If the “pure” specifically appreciate what they wear, there must be a certain degree of utopian qualities to clothing. In no doubt is flashy clothing consumer culture. Obviously, however, it has benefits in the eyes of those, who ought to know better.


If you want to become “aware” and leave the matrix, essentially you have to trip on drugs. Morpheus offers Neo a choice, roofies or DMT, a blue pill or a red pill. The blue will make him forget and the red will make him essentially experience the most vivid trip anyone has ever had, thus “awakening” him. It’s kind of ironic that one can leave the matrix, a dystopia, by taking a drug. One might suppose that Morpheus’s choice of narcotics as a solution to a system of oppression isn’t quite so favorable. It makes one question whether “finding reality” through vices is really all that genuine. Within the matrix, at least, you’re not about to be drugged by some cult-leader who claims he has answers. I digress.


The dystopian nature of society in the matrix must not be seen as an absolute. The matrix has several utopian qualities that provide our group of protagonists with various popular cultural choices. As it seems, even though our group of protagonists have made it their goal to undermine the power of the matrix and its subsidiary agents, they cannot seem to evade the luring utopian qualities that permeate from the lines of code. Neo, among others, enjoys the feeling of invincibility. Cypher recognizes that the matrix is full of culture and vibrancy that gives one a sense of identity. In the visceral minds of each crew-member, there exists this burning desire to advance beyond a reality of grey, cold, faceless monotony. For this exact reason, even those that have seen beyond the matrix choose to live the better part of their lives in the matrix, where power is transcendent. Unbridled potential lies in the dystopia critics call The Matrix. Why would the forces so deeply pitted against a dystopian regime be so coaxed by its influence? What appears to be a dystopia, in the absolutist sense of the term, actually has various shadings of utopian qualities. Such can be seen in all that our utopian-oriented protagonists, Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, etc, strive towards.


Works Cited

Dolan, Jill. “Performance, Utopia, and the “Utopian Performative”” Project MUSE. Oct. 2001.     Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Kellner, Douglas. “Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique.” Illuminations: Kellner. Web. 20    Apr. 2016.

The Creative Fans of Rooster Teeth


In 2003, a group of college dropouts were about to make the best decision of their lives. These friends had been making articles and videos about video games on the internet for a couple of years, but when an old video of theirs was going to be featured in Computer Gaming World, a popular PC gaming magazine, they decided on a whim to use the publicity to launch a new video series (Rigney). That series would go on to be the longest running web series on the internet, winning many awards.


Still running today with 258 episodes and 14 seasons, Red vs Blue spawned one of the most successful internet entertainment companies of the past decade, Rooster Teeth. Around this company is a large fandom with fans that aren’t just passively consuming the content. The unique internet culture fostered by companies such as Rooster Teeth offer many opportunities for their fans to be creative in their own right.

Rooster Teeth's setup to make an episode of RVB. Each controller is a different camera/actor. This is from 2004

Rooster Teeth’s setup to make an episode of RVB from 2004. Each controller is a different camera/actor.

Red vs Blue is a machinima, a film that uses video games as a medium for its production. All the sets, characters, and action are filmed inside of a video game (Lowood). When the founders of Rooster Teeth made Red vs Blue, they had no idea there was even a term for what they were doing. Though the art form predates Red vs Blue by a few years, it is by far the most popular machinima to date. It was the first machinima that many people ever saw, including the current CEO of, a popular machinima hosting website (Rigney).

Rooster Teeth's current setup to make an episode of RvB.

Rooster Teeth’s current setup to make an episode of RvB.

The creation of machinima itself is a great example of how fans can be creative with the media they love. Rooster Teeth has gone on to produce live action shorts, web comics, game shows, news shows, animated series, documentaries, podcasts, and most importantly let’s plays

Let’s plays are recorded videos of a game being played as the player provides commentary on their actions (Fjællingsdal). This phenomena has grown in popularity in the past decade thanks to video streaming sites such as YouTube. Rooster Teeth entered this market with their Achievement Hunter division. By this point, Rooster Teeth had grown to such an extent that it was comprised of many different divisions, one such division was Achievement Hunter. This was a group that produced videos that showed how to attain certain achievements, challenges that can be completed in a game for a point value, for new and upcoming games. They then ventured into entertainment let’s plays with their aptly named Let’s Play label. This started with just Achievement Hunter, but has since grown to include many subsidiaries of Rooster Teeth including Funhaus, Screw Attack, Kinda Funny, and the Creatures. Rooster Teeth continues to be popular, with videos hosted on their own site as well as YouTube. As of 2016, the Rooster Teeth YouTube channel has 8.5 million subscribers, and the Let’s Play Channel has 3.5 million subscribers.

Though they became a viral phenomenon in their first year as a company, they did not see monetary success for some time. In fact, hosting a website where people could download that week’s latest episode was costing them more than they ever anticipated. This prompted them to offer sponsor packages. For a small yearly fee, fans could become a sponsor which allowed them to view videos early (Rigney). This eventually grew into their community website. Similar to Facebook, fans could have a profile where they could post pictures, have blog posts, and form groups with other members. Rooster Teeth staff all had profiles and would often join in discussion with fans.

The Rooster Teeth website predates YouTube by a couple years, but they started using YouTube early on as a second location to host videos. YouTube has fostered a participatory culture where members can contribute in a number of ways. Members can view videos, which adds to its view count. This seems like just a number, but it determines how much ad revenue a channel receives, making it very important. Members can also post videos of their own and comment to have discussions about the video in question. This creates a community between the members. Through the medium of YouTube, “members build a connection with the community and the media content creator when providing feedback through comments and video responses” (Chau).  Through these connections, media consumption becomes more of a discussion than just a one way relationship. Viewers are able to share their ideas with the content creators and it’s not uncommon that they are actually listened to.

Rooster Teeth takes these discussions to another level with their live podcasts. In these podcasts, a rotating cast of Rooster Teeth staff have candid conversations with each other about their jobs and their everyday lives.

Set of Rooster Teeth's main podcast

Set of Rooster Teeth’s main podcast

Because they are streamed live, fans are able to use Twitter to send messages that will be seen by the podcast members. Many of these messages are replied to during the live broadcast, creating a direct discussion between the fans and the creators. Fans often produce images based off of stories or jokes that are said on the podcast. They are then able to tweet these images to Rooster Teeth, where they can be featured on that very same podcast. In this way, creative fans can affect the media they are consuming as they consume it.

In addition, fans are constantly sending original artwork to Rooster Teeth. This might include paintings, sculptures, knitted apparel, written works, and even swords. Any notable submissions may be featured on a video or a podcast. The relationship Rooster Teeth has with its fans is much more intimate than those of TV shows or movies. They have candid conversations with their fans through blog posts on the community sites, comment threads on YouTube, and their live podcasts. This gives fans direct access to the people behind Rooster Teeth, making them feel as if they know the Rooster Teeth staff and are friends with them. This is why many fans send in gifts, because they genuinely like the people they are giving gifts to. It helps that any artwork sent in has a chance of being featured by the staff themselves; this encourages creativity in order for your work to be shown on the media you love.

Let’s plays are creative works. Few successful let’s play channels are silent and only show off the game, viewers are drawn to amusing commentary or activities done by the players in the game.

Achievement Hunter's Michael (left) and Gavin (right) during the making of a lets play

Achievement Hunter’s Michael (left) and Gavin (right) during the making of a lets play

Successful let’s play channels add their own personality and creativity into their videos (Fjællingsdal). Furthermore, in order to make a let’s play, you need to enjoy video games. That seems very obvious but it’s important. The audience of a let’s play and the creator tend to share a love for video games. This is why, “Let’s Plays meet the definition for interest-oriented communities; they consist of groups of people sharing the same passion or interest for games…” (Fjællingsdal). Because of this, the audience members are able to see themselves in the content creators they are watching.

When fans see Rooster Teeth, they see geeky fans who love playing with video games. They feel as if they’re not much different from the people they idolize. This entices them to make their own videos and become creators themselves. But they don’t need to go that far to flex their creative muscles; they can assist in the creation of the let’s plays by suggesting games or activities that can be the subject of a new let’s play. Like I said earlier, let’s plays are creative work but that doesn’t mean all the creativity has come from the creator. If fans have an idea that they think would make for a good let’s play, they can pitch the idea in the form of a comment on a video or a tweet. On top of that, in certain games where players can make their own maps, or levels, fans can even make the set on which a let’s play can be filmed. Rooster Teeth will often take these suggestions and will credit fans who come up with good ideas at the start of those videos. This connection with the community allows for the fans to be a part of the creative process, and so allows the fans to be creative themselves.

Due to their success, Rooster Teeth has been able to work on ambitious projects, such as their own video game and their own feature length movie. These are both things that require a lot of resources, but the core of Rooster Teeth, the let’s plays and machinima, only require a video game and creativity. Fans can set out to mimic the products they love by making their own let’s plays and their own machinima. The unique nature of the content Rooster Teeth produces allows anyone to try and copy the content they love with the same quality that they enjoy. Rooster Teeth actually offers a platform on which community members can post their own videos. Fans can create achievement guides and let’s plays for the rest of the community to watch. Each week, Achievement Hunter has a weekly update video. Towards the end of each week’s video, they highlight a community video of the week, congratulating and giving publicity to the creator of that video.

The online entertainment industry is full of successful young people who became sensations overnight.  Rooster Teeth itself was conceived by a few guys in their twenties. In fact, “seven of the ten most subscribed [YouTube] partners are teens and young adults ranging between ages fifteen and twenty-four…” (Chau). This tells fans that they themselves could be successful in this industry. It doesn’t require a lot of experience or connections, all it takes is a fan with a video game and creativity.

Rooster Teeth is well aware of the creativity of its fans. In an interview with the online website Indewire in 2014, Burnie Burns, a founder of Rooster Teeth, estimated that a third of their staff had their start in the fan community (Konow). They frequently ask the fans for artwork, suggestions, and names for their products. In the Rooster Teeth store, you can find countless designs that started as a fan submission. The current creative director of the company, Gavin Free, started as a fan over 13 years ago. As a young teen in Great Britain, Gavin loved their content and was an active member of the community for years. Now he lives in Austin, Texas, where Rooster Teeth’s offices are located, and plays a big role in many of the company’s productions.

The fans of Rooster Teeth receive many opportunities to be creative and contribute to the media they love. This is only possible due to the staggering amount of communication between the fans and the creators. There doesn’t seem to be as big of divide between the two as there are between Hollywood stars and their fans. This unique relationship owes itself to the internet and the culture it has created. I predict we’ll see more media take this form in the coming years, with more collaboration between content producers and consumers.



  1. Fjællingsdal, Kristoffer. Let’s Graduate: A Thematic Analysis of the Let’s Play Phenomenon. Thesis. Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 2014. DiVA. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
  2. Chau, C. (2010), YouTube as a participatory culture. New Directions for Youth Development, 2010: 65–74. doi: 10.1002/yd.376
  3. Rigney, Ryan. “How Rooster Teeth Won the Internet With Red vs. Blue.” com. Conde Nast Digital, 25 May 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
  4. Konow, David. “Rooster Teeth’s Burnie Burns On Why Massive Crowdfunding Success Shouldn’t Hurt Its Brand.” Indiewire. 27 June 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
  5. Lowood, Henry. “Found Technology: Players as Innovators in the Making of Machinima.” Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected. Edited by Tara McPherson. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 165–196. doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262633598.165


Summer Camp Provides Children With a False Sense of Happiness


What do you want to be when you grown up?

“I don’t know… I want to go on adventures I think; not get stuck in one place” -Suzy Bishop

Summer camp is a fake environment in which kids are freed from their responsibilities, (namely parental rules and school work) and supplied with a cornucopia of activities to ensure they are constantly entertained. These children live a fantasy world for a couple months only to return to their everyday lives come mid-August. Summer camps purposefully hire young, energetic, single adults to entertain said children for 24 hours a day. If a child is not constantly entertained they may choose not to return next summer– and thus the camp fails. Summer camp is an entertainment industry not unlike Paramount Pictures. Both provide an escape from ones’ everyday life through the form of selling entertainment (i.e. a film or a camp activity). According to the Oxford Dictionary the very etymology of the word ‘entertain’ comes from the French words entretenir, which means ‘nourish/keep in repair’, and tenere, which means ‘to hold’. The point of a summer camp is to temporarily amuse children so that for a little while they are temporarily relieved of the discontentment in their lives. Yes, it is ironic that children, the only members of our society that are taken care of and do not have to work, need to be relieved from their everyday lives. Using this contradiction, director and writer Wes Anderson sets the plot for Moonrise Kingdom and attempts to teach his viewers how to be happy and live lives worth living.

 In Moonrise Kingdom, two children, Sam and Suzy, are both classified by their peers as being ‘emotionally disturbed’, and ‘troubled’–so they are each other’s only friends. Because they live on opposite sides of the island, they only interact through letters. Since Suzy does not have any other friends besides Sam, she is often very bored. So, at her young age Suzy feels discontent with her life and begins to seek alternatives. At first, Suzy seeks out superficial pleasures and thrills (laughter). She is constantly reading books and listening to music to escape from her reality. She also steals books from the free library for the thrill of doing so—to have a secret to keep.

According to Adorno, “laughter is a means of cheating happiness; it is the consolation prize you get for not having a life worth living”. Watching a movie, taking drugs, or attending a summer camp are all like laughing: they temporarily provide a false sense of happiness and escape from ones life. “People are deluded into believing their desires are [being] gratified while in reality they are [being] cheated of happiness.” (Ghose). “As Adorno famously argues, ‘Fun is a medicinal bath which the entertainment industry never ceases to prescribe.” (Ghose). It is through the false sense of enjoyment; a person is being cheated from happiness.

In Moonrise Kingdom, Sam realizes this Adornian concept; that at camp he is only being temporarily relieved from his sad life (that he must soon return to). Sam decides he wants to be happy and live a life worthy of living; so he starts a new life for himself by running away to the woods. Like Sam, Suzy is also looking for more in life beyond her temporary enjoyment of stealing books, and runs away with him.

By using troubled children as the carrier for Adorno’s concept, Anderson points out the various way that the adults in the film are unhappy in their everyday lives. People in real life face the discontentment the adult characters face. By using real life examples, the audience is forced to ask themselves if they are genuinely happy with their own life. To ask, do I actually have a life worth living or do I just seek out laughter. For example, Suzy’s mother is quickly characterized as being unhappy. She does not sleep in the same bed as her husband, and unhappily prepares family dinners. To escape from her life, She has an affair with the local “sad, dumb” police officer. This affair is a form of entertainment she subscribes to in order to temporarily forget about her sad life. The only adult in the movie to act “happy” is the camp councilor Scout Master Ward. But even he admits he typically teaches math, but prefers to escape from his reality every summer at camp.

Since Sam and Suzy had no friends, they both felt an emptiness inside of themselves that couldn’t be filled. In order to fill their voids, they ran away to be together. In life, you can choose to do something that makes you feel happy and complete, or you can just do what is expected of you. Sam and Suzy often found themselves in trouble during their attempts to be happy, but to them it was worth it. In order to be happy, a person must make a genuine attempt at doing so. A person cannot be a bystander in their lives, and allow the world to create entertainment for them. Although Suzy had a plethora of books and records, she was still not happy. Although Sam was at summer camp, he still felt an emptiness inside of him. It was only when they did what they wanted to do and took control of their lives did they feel genuinely happy.

Sam and Suzy realize that they will probably grow up to be like their parents—and do not want this reality for themselves. They are sick of feeling empty and sad in their everyday lives. The small island in which they live on cannot provide them with the stimulation and adventure they crave. Suzy wishes that she was an orphan so that her life would be more special, and spends her days looking out her window with binoculars. Suzy is looking out into nature and dreaming about a different life for herself. Suzy believes that a better life can be found in nature.

A study by Zelenski and Nisbet found a direct connection between a person’s happiness and their connectedness to nature. The more connected a to nature a person felt, the happier they were. It is not until Sam and Suzy enter the forest, do they become happy. They go from having sad lives, to being genuinely happy. Through their story of finding happiness in nature, (rather than ‘entertainment’) Wes Anderson is literally telling his viewers how to be happy: disconnect from ‘entertainment’ and connect with nature. In order to be happy one must also disconnect from ‘laughter’, which only provides a false sense of happiness.

Throughout the film, Wes Anderson is teaching his viewer how to be happy through the story of Suzy and Sam found happiness. When a person is able to be content with themselves and their life, then they will be happy. In order to have a life worth living, a person must do something that genuinely makes them happy. They cannot just rely on the entertainment industry to make them laugh, but rather they have to seek out happiness. In fact, they have must disconnect themselves from the things that provide entertainment and temporary happiness (laughter). Furthermore, it is not just a disconnection from ‘entertainment’ that is necessary, but also a disconnection from a sick false sense of happiness that ‘entertainment’ provides. If a person is genuinely happy in their life, they should not feel empty inside. In order to live a life worth living, first you must form a connection with nature.


Utopia In Tears

In the eighth grade I was introduced to the most horrifying film I have ever seen. I am no expert critic of horror or drama film. As a person who considers herself a fan of both genres, however, and as someone who has seen innumerable films of both types, I can say with confidence that no film left me more disturbed than Kurdish Bahman Ghobadi’s 2004 movie “Turtles Can Fly.” Its plot could be best described as every parent’s nightmare, with hundreds of orphaned children living in an impoverished war territory. Picture the tragedy of a movie like “The Boy in Striped Pajamas”, but multiplied and compounded by dozens instances of children in distress. I am talking about a movie that’s effects on the viewer are hundred times more heartbreaking, and infinitely more traumatic. So traumatic, in fact, that 8th-grade-me, along with many of the friends I watched with, had to watch multiple episodes of Modern Family right after finishing “Turtles Can Fly” to prevent sudden teary outbreaks at any point later that day. Yet, in a movie that appears to be so dystopian, expressing the horrors experienced by the Kurdish children living in Iraq near the Turkish border, Ghobadi decided to include certain events that express themes inconsistent with the mood of the rest of the film. That is, throughout the film, it appears that there are glimpses of what might be considered by some, a utopia.
Symbols representing traditionally considered virtues or of positive utopian notions contrast with the scenes they lay in. “The red fish”, for example, representing a beacon of hope, is a spot of color in a world of grey and reminds us of the beauty still left in the world. In the film it seems a bit out of place as it appears after a scene about how three children drowned looking for said fish, and is followed by an unhappy young girl running off home from the river to deliver water to what is left of her family. Or for example, a scene where a boy’s leg being blown off by a land mine contrasts with the symbolism of an arm broken off a Saddam Hussein statue, representing the breaking away from the oppression of Hussein and the beginning of a revolution that potentially could lead to peace.


( Watch: 1:21:30- 1:23:05)

Making the argument that this film has an utopian aspect based off these few symbols is a bold position. The waves of positivity from these symbols, however, is reinforced by various random yet significant acts of kindness and perseverance scattered throughout the film. In the town where the movie was filmed, everyone is equally poor and living in the same fear that any day the town can be attacked and and life would end, yet everyone keeps relatively calm and works together to make the most of the situation. Surprisingly enough, even the children become equal to adults as they take on many adult jobs like mine defusing, bartering for satellites and guns in a nearby town’s marketplace, gas mask distribution, or for one of our protagonist, managing large bodies of people to complete such tasks.
In addition to this unity of young and old coming together to create a better environment, there is an overall embrace of the disabled members of the community, another surprising silver lining to the horrors displayed in the film. There are scenes where one’s disability is used as an insult, but for the most part these disabled people work and are treated as everyone else. In fact, the managing protagonist even goes out of his way to make amends with another protagonist, an armless protagonist, that he has had previous quarrels with. While the manager may not be a fan of the armless boy, he puts his personal issues aside and tries to keep his composure to maintain peace. The crippled protagonist also offer’s some examples of kindness, as he goes out of his way to make sure that his own sister does not do anything to harm of her child (that, I should mention, was a result of a rape by a member of band of guerrilla fighters that came to their town.) In addition, in between scenes of our managing protagonist screaming at children working, and quarrels (sometimes ending in a bloody nose) between the two male protagonists, the crippled boy offers help to the managing kid, just to benefit the greater good and safety of all people.
These two aspects, along with some reoccurring positive references to America, combine to point to a central beacon of utopian hope: American Intervention. Following a scene where our single female protagonist, the sister of our crippled protagonist, has a flashback to the night she was sexually assaulted, there is a scene of hundreds of people gathering on a hill to have American helicopters fly overhead and drop flyers with phrases like “It’s the end of injustice, misfortune, and hardship.” and “We will make this country a paradise.” This scene of America-provided inspiration to carry on fighting through the town’s harsh life is followed by the image of a group of kids going to a marketplace to try and buy machine guns with land mines (AMERICAN lands mines to be precise).

(Watch: 1:00:25-1:00:50)
These faint moments of lighthearted kindness, subtle compassion, and lingering hope can most obviously be justified as being placed to relieve the audience from the heavy stress of the movie. Yet, this idea backfires against itself. The “optimistic” moments in the movie juxtapose with how heavy and distressful the rest of the movie is. It can be argued, in fact, that these moments accomplish the exact opposite of what initial role one may think they have. In these scenes it appears that just as we, the audience, begin to become desensitized to the tragedy expressed, we are provided with a moment of hopeful light , just to be then thrusted back into the tragedy, once again needing to readjust to the heavy material.
Why would Ghobadi, or any director like Mark Herman of “The Boy In Striped Pajamas”, try to bring about this ridiculous emotional-rollercoaster inducing glimpses of optimism into a movie about such a somber subject? What we get is a heightened desire for a perfect world through these things, also known as a desire for “utopia.” Utopia is a term that has been defined differently by philosophers and writers alike. There are different ideas as to what a utopia should or does encompass, and as this movie’s protagonists and plot revolve around children, it is apparent the utopia here, whether to appeal to adults with kids, or to kids themselves, puts focus towards providing children with stability, peace, and the ability to enjoy childhood, without having to deal with mature problems.
Utopia does not end there, at least not for this movie. It would not seem right to say that a movie like “Turtles Can Fly” is flat out utopian. The idea of utopia is ingrained deeper into the movie than that. With its plot rooted in Kurdish,Turkish, and Iranian history, intwined with glimpses of relationships between The United States and various Middle Eastern groups, and as hopeless as the end seems, this films intentions are not any different from some more popular and more openly utopian films such as “Hotel Rwanda” or “Peter Pan”. What is special about Ghobadi’s work is that it is approaches utopia in a non-conventional way. “Turtles Can Fly”’s goal is not to provide us with a potential utopia, but to make the viewer realize how badly you want the sort of utopia it hints at. The juxtaposition between a perfect world, and the cruel realistic setting depicted in the movie provides a heightened desire for a utopia, especially for children. After accepting this notion that the movie serves to introduce utopia via juxtaposition, the context of the scenes mentioned above become more clear. In scenes like that of where the managing protagonist shows some compassion to the crippled protagonist, wedged between shots of abandonment of young children and attempts at suicide, it is apparent that the positioning of compassion between young children between scenes depicting neglect is a conscious and carefully executed decision to strengthen the effect of appeal of utopian themes.
Naturally, in any movie with a few optimistic scenes sprinkled across heavily saddening content to emphasize utopianism, the question of why the film is not just called dystopian will arise. That of course is a logical conclusion to come to. Thomas Halper and Douglas Muzzio provide a description for dystopian based media that seems to encompass what “Turtles Can Fly” is. They write, “Like utopias, dystopias critique contemporary society; but unlike utopias, dystopias offer not a hopeful vision of what ought to be but an angry or despairing picture of where we are said to be headed—or perhaps (though we may not know it) where we already are.”(Halper and Muzzio 381) It is easy to interpret the film as dystopian, especially based on Halper’s and Muzzio’s description. But to suggest that dystopia and utopia are mutually exclusive in every aspect does not float well with a film such as the one at hand. Yes, the film is not utopian in the way that it has a happy ending, or provides a glimpse in to an alternate reality better than what we have now, but it is utopian in the emotion it elicits from the viewer. In some ways, I may even suggest that the movie is so dystopian that it reinforces the lack of the desired aspects of utopianism. Seeing the dystopia of “Turtles Can Fly” gears toward extracting our desire to achieve utopia and bring it to the characters in the film. Films provide a means of escape from daily life. What better way to encourage escapism than to create a completely anti-utopian movie and show the potential or current horrors of our world. It makes the audience thirsty for social justice.
Why does it matter than the film has utopian motivations or not, or what even is the reason for adding utopia into a film at all? That can all be attributed what has become of pop-culture that is, to fulfill the natural tendency of pop-culture to push us towards an ideology. In the case of “Turtles Can Fly” the ideology is hinted through various symbols, like, as listed earlier, the red fish and the Saddam Hussein statue’s arm. Both these things, framed with highly anti-utopian scenes, suggest the theme of a hope for an improved future and the fall of oppression and instability. In fact with further analysis, these symbols, especially the arm of the Saddam Hussein’s statue, paired with the scenes of The United States as a savior during some of the darkest portions of the film, appear to suggest that an improved future and the fall of oppression may have something to do with America’s help. Not to suggest this is the only ideology implied in the film, as its plot and history is more complicated than can be addressed in a short time, but the film appears to be propaganda advocating pro-American ideologies. To accomplish such advocation effectively, a sense of utopia must be tied in with the ideology. Ideology virtually runs on utopia, as utopia is what can make an ideology attractive to people. As put by Fredric Jameson, “…the hypothesis is that the works of mass culture cannot be ideological without at one and the same time being implicitly or explicitly Utopian as well: they cannot manipulate unless they offer some genuine shred of content as a fantasy bribe to the public about to be so manipulated.”(Jameson 144)
Do you enjoy seeing children collect mines, practice shooting guns, have to wear gas masks in fear of being attacked? The movie is not even set in the United States, yet I, as a “viewer” of the film can attest to having my emotions personal affected by the events observed in the film. Why is there still a pain felt while watching the movie? It is because the movie is geared toward bringing out the little voice (some call it the conscious) in every rational and moral person’s head. Naturally people crave a perfect society, a utopia. What better way to express an ideology, be it an actually message or theme or even the just the desire for people to consume more film, than to bribe people with insights to utopia. The film is incredibly complicated, and to try to weed out every aspect of each ideology it suggests, and every glimmer of utopian themes it may include, would take hundreds of pages of analysis. But superficially, even a basic analysis such as the one above can reveal the power of utopian themes to support and strengthen the desire to adopt the ideologies intended on spreading throughout the movie.

(Watch: 1:13:45-1:16:45)

1. Halper, Thomas and Douglas Muzzio. “Hobbes in the City: Urban Dystopias in American Movies.” The Journal of American Culture 30 (2007): 379-390. PDF
2. Jameson, Fredric. “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture”. Social Text 1 (1979): 130–148. Web.