You’re not real : Of Mr.Robot and why it matters

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Our world is a mirage in many ways. The bright lights in New York don’t tell you about the homeless people on the streets. War doesn’t tell you other stories, peace doesn’t either. To believe that we live in worlds where things are either black or white is a amateurish assumption. For our world is a grey abyss, and we just paint ourselves in bright colors to look different.

Last year, I started to watch Mr.Robot, albeit a little reluctantly – after one of my friends prodded me to. A full season later, I was recommending it to everybody. What made me do so?

We live in an age where everybody has their own propaganda. Some are subtle, some are in your face. I have grown up in the suburbs and have seen it slowly degenerate and slide into a mad spiral. A once sprawling neighborhood destroyed once all the mills closed, and I have seen people stuck in that time bubble, grabbing that last piece of straw before their existences too ebbed away. I have seen people perish, or take refuge in darkness.

When I moved to the city some six years back, I had a different picture in mind. Like every other kid that came from the suburbs, the city was like an utopia, a place where you could live free, without worries. But six years in Kolkata made me realize that there was no such thing : the free life was an illusion. That people here were disintegrating too – in their own ways. When I was looking at it from my plane that took off in the middle of the night, I still had a part of that illusion sticking with me, making me incredibly sad that I couldn’t get to explore the city that well.

There are people who are frustrated with this façade that every city, every society represents. The illusion of a good life is too difficult to get rid of. Speak with people who are in the thick of it, and their views are laden with hope, even though they can’t make both ends meet. It is that infectious hope that a society slowly injects you with that is the worst kind of propaganda.

If you are fortunate(?) enough to break through this veil, your system starts to unfurl itself from the cobwebs of the juggernaut. Soon, you start to unravel things that are hidden beneath the flashy neon signs. You read bone-signs; you start to check the color of the sky. That can be an illusion too.

Your mind becomes frantic with all these changes. The line between what is real and what is not is blurred. But hey, you broke the rules. You now have to suffer. Mr.Robot brings about this feeling of falling from a tall building inside me. I know how it feels to wake up one morning and feeling insignificant. You don’t know what’s real anymore.

Rami Malek has the eyes of a vacant universe. I can’t express how good he is in Mr.Robot. His wordplay is captivating. The cinematography is brutally in your face, often shaking the viewer out of his/her comfort zone. Christian Slater, in his eccentric role as Mr.Robot, represents the dark sides of Elliot’s universe (Elliot is played by Rami). He is the code-breaker. But is there a code after all?

Elliot keeps all his memories neatly in his CD pouches, just like the old lady in Everything is Illuminated kept hers in shoeboxes. It’s those CDs that represent whatever is left of his sanity. He’s in a security organization, he’s a hacker, he has almost no friends, he doesn’t sleep. He’s haunted by dreams of people in black suits following him. He doesn’t remember his childhood. His memories are shattered, and he tries to glue them together with pieces from the present. That never works. It poisons his mind. He cries like there is no tomorrow, and on the next day, he’s fine. The society presents itself to be the biggest nemesis before Elliot. He can’t breathe. When real people become compact discs, it shakes him up real bad, blending his memories together for a while into something that is hardly recognizable. The scene involving Shayla becomes one of the defining moments of the season, and the story.

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What becomes so intriguing is that in a way Mr.Robot speaks for a whole lot of our generation. People who started to aim for the sky and then saw that it wasn’t really blue. That it had stickers on it, and stuttering, metallic voices were luring people to write poems and stories that would then be converted into textbooks. The perfect life being an illusion is probably why we are seeing so many divorces, so many people just leaving everything and going astray. But like comets they are running around a massive, blank universe, only in hope to collide with their destination.

That seldom happens.

Mr.Robot in its essence isn’t a fight against society. It is trying to fight against the perception of a society. A perfect life is what it finds disgusting. It shows us that our minds and our societies are linked. When one hides itself behind delusions, the other follows suit. Society Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression are pivotal to the story, and Elliot, but where they stem from is what makes Mr.Robot a fascinating narrative to follow.

I had a long discussion with one of my friends many, many years back about what’s real and what is not – Mr.Robot made me find that compact disc and put it back on my PC. It felt like a time when this me was completely different.

The veil used to be too thick.

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