Plan for the Day
- Cadigan, Pat. “Pretty Boy Crossover” (1986)
It’s probably obvious that I’m combining the readings for today and Wednesday onto this page.
We need to discuss something that I’d hoped would have come up previously. Infotainment is news or, more accurately, pseudo-news that appears to be more about entertaining than informing. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, notice how “The news was always heavily edited to fit the rhythms of the music” (Chapter 12, p. 96). Need an example of what the news shows find to be important? Here’s a great discussion from John Stewart. (Jump to 1:10 on video…then 5:55)
Montage from Hackers (1995)
Augmented Realities via Science Fiction
Both stories we’ll discuss today and Wednesday deal with augmented reality: technologically amplified or mediated projections of reality. In the late-1980s and early 1990s, this was called virtual reality. Either phrase has its limitations for nailing down exactly what people mean, so let’s just agree that the characters in the stories we read have computer enhanced perspectives. A surface read would claim that augmented reality is just a cool vision of the future. A critical reading would claim that augmented reality is in a story to comment on how human perception is influenced by hi-tech mediated messages. Although we might not “plug in” as they do in Hackers, we’re plugged into the system–society.
As you reflect on these stories, consider how you access information online. The tools you use (computers, smart phones, etc.) enhance your ability to communicate and receive information. We don’t often slow down and think about how we’re conditioned to expect information. We have unparalleled access to information, but do we know how to evaluate that information?
- What can we say about the credibility of the information we receive?
- Media vs. journalism–what’s the overlap?
- News or Infotainment…
I believe I mentioned the term hyperreality some time this semester. It means that the fake seems more real than the actual thing, event, person, etc. When discussing hyperreality, we usually bring up the fact that people prefer the fake (the augmented) to the real thing. Caesar dressing is a good analogy. Much Caesar dressing in chain restaurants has moved closer to a bland Ranch. Many palates can’t handle the delicious anchovy taste, so the lower-end chains give customers what they want–a blander dressing.
Eco’s “Travels in Hyperreality”
Italian philosopher Umberto Eco traveled the United States and discussed the American obsession for the fake. Obviously, I didn’t ask you to read that article, but that article inspires the following:
- simulacrum: the replication (upon replication) of a subject without being able to find the concrete beginning; similarity, likeness. In postmodern theory it refers to a copy or simulation of an item, event, or idea for which the original referent (the reality or real thing) does not exist.
- hyperreality: More real than real!?! Or, as White Zombie would say, “More Human than Human.” The idea of “hyperreality” is often associated with a viewer (an audience in general) believing the media-generated simulation is real or more real than an actual event, personality, condition, or, ultimately, an experience.
- What is the point about telling us we like fake stuff?
- In terms of rhetoric, why does knowing people prefer the fake or assume the fake is “real” important?
- Consider these places/ideas:
- Concord Mills
- Olive Garden
- Busch Gardens (“It’s like being back in the old country”–exact words of someone I used to know)
- What else?
Brent on his experience as a helicopter gunner while playing Battlefield Vietnam (Electronic Arts). (Toscano, p. 17, 2011)
In February 2013, Bradley Cooper was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He discusses his role in the indie movie Silver Linings Playbook. Interestingly, and this isn’t odd to hear from an actor, he talks about how he and David O. Russell (the director) wanted him to “play as real and authentic as [h]e could.”
What does it mean for an actor to be real, authentic, raw, etc.? What’s behind the idea of believability in acting?
- Check out the transcript and scroll down to the line “Jacki Weaver, yeah.”
- How is he maintaining “authenticity” of his character crying when the film is edited?
Pat Cadigan’s “Pretty Boy Crossover” (1986)
As usual, this isn’t just a story about a cool nightclub. This club appears to be quite different from, say, the Gentleman Loser in “Burning Chrome.” However, readers get the sense that both are for a youth subculture. The Gentleman Loser is for young computer “hackers” (an outdated term), and Noise is for those into “the scene”–the places where the cool kids hang out. (Remember scenesters from another novel?) The in crowd and those wanting to be in that “in crowd” go to Noise. How do you picture the place? I picture the place looking something like a Las Vegas night club.
There’s some celebrity worship in this story. As we just learned, actors don’t give “real” portrayals; instead, we think they’re authentic, but they’re just made up. In fact, actors in Ancient Rome weren’t considered to be moral, upstanding, virtuous people; they had a suspect history in Great Britain, too. Viewers want exaggeration or essence–they don’t want to be bogged down by too much of the person’s life. Remember, the montage helps move the story along.
Bobby seems to be larger than life and a better dancer when on the screen (p. 591).
Many texts (sci fi and other genres) use youth as the cutting edge group; they’re the ones who adopt the new technologies and readily incorporate them into their activities. Of course, this is a generalization about contemporary youth (e.g., millennials). The editor’s of the Anthology tell us the following:
- p. 587: “[Cadigan’s] work focused on the interface between corporate culture and youth subculture.
- Also, “human autonomy seems threatened in epochal ways…Cadigans work…bears a strain of cautionary humanism, a lurking anxiety that something irreplaceable may soon be gone forever.”
- p. 588: Later works “explore a looming near-future where human identity has been systematically commodified and dispersed through a nexus of high-tech interfaces.”
- Fortunately, nothing like that has happened. Can you imagine a site that gathers information about our activities being sold for, I don’t know, targeting campaign information? Good thing that’s just science fiction and not real.
- p. 589: Notice the use of shortened words, which is typical youth slang–“def” for “definitely.”
One “benefit” to being a Pretty Boy crossover–becoming pure information and being uploaded into the system–is that the party never stops (p. 591). This is a common theme in stories about youth partying. Oftentimes, the moral is that you have to grow up sometime, and there are usually youth who get in trouble or hurt if they don’t heed that advice (Bright Lights, Big City , Less Than Zero , Over the Edge ). A notable exception to having to end the party is Go (1999)…everything isn’t rosy and great at the end, but the viewers are left with a sense that the party will continue. There’s a difference in moral (moral as a noun: a lesson) between the 1980s films and some 1990s films.
- p. 590: There’s an allure to living forever, and Bobby wanted it so bad he’d have killed himself if they didn’t accept him
- p. 592: The protagonist “can’t remember in his whole sixteen years ever hearing on person say, I love my friend. Not Bobby, not even himself.”
- p. 595: Bobby claims, “I’m happy I’m sad,” and the suit explains, “S-A-D” is “Self-Aware Data.”
- Ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
- p. 595: The protagonist asks Bobby “Do you know the difference between being loved and being watched?”
- And why might Bobby refer to Pretty Boy as “lover” (p. 595)?
One thing that makes this speculation peculiar is that contemporary clubs often want more women than men. In fact, some places let “ladies in free” on many nights. However, in the story, only boys can be Pretty. Do a random image search for Las Vegas nightclubs and see what comes up. Don’t forget to check the dress codes for Vegas clubs.
- p. 592: The protagonist dances with a girl “[o]ver six feet tall, not beautiful with that nose, not even pretty, but they let her in so she could be tall.”
- Eventually, Bobby brings their “phantoms” on screen, and “[s]he is also much improved, though still not Pretty, or even pretty.”
- Notice when pretty is capitalized and not.
- A phantom is an avatar.
- p. 590: In order for the Pretty Boys to be important they let in “dorks…so the rest can have someone to be hip in front of.”
- Always need to maintain hierarchy. Get to the club early!
- p. 596: “the most efficient way to find the best performers [is] to go for the ones everyone wants to see or be.”
- Commodification of trends
- Always trying to find the next big thing.
Because there appears to be a corporation running the show, we can’t ignore the fact that there’s a comment about corporations wanting consumers for life. Advertising is aimed at children in order to have customers for life. Loading into the system is a metaphor for “buying into” the identity consumer products give. Think about all the celebrity (and pseudo-celebrity) endorsements out there. Bobby is a celebrity once he crosses over. The protagonist, in a sense, refuses to “sell out,” so he resists the consumerist impulse. Eventually, the protagonist won’t be allowed into the club if he gets too old:
- p. 595: After all, “We need to get you before you’re twenty-five, before the brain stops growing”
- p. 590: Currently, when the protagonist walks into the club, “[The patrons] all notice him and adjust themselves for his perusal”
The protagonist rebels because “as long as they don’t have him, he makes a difference” (pp. 596-597). After all, you can’t predict human behavior the same way you predict computer programs. However, in terms of mobility, humans are 93% predictable according to physicist Albert-László Barabási’s team.
One more class to go! We’ll wrap up our discussion, watch a video, and see a picture of hi-tech computer “enthusiastis” from 1988! Your Final Exam is December 11th–don’t forget–on Canvas. It will be 85-100 questions, and, yes, the exam is cumulative.
Taylor, F. W. (1967). The principles of scientific management. New York: Norton. (Original work published in 1911).
Toscano, A. A.(2011). Enacting Culture in Gaming: A Video Gamer’s Literacy Experience and Practice. Current Issues in Education, 14(1). Retrieved from http://cie.asu.edu/.