BY JOE ALLEN
‘Mr. Robot’ draws influence from almost every thing from the nineties, but something sets it apart-it isn’t so sure about its main character’s ideology.
Say what you will about Mr. Robot and its various nineties influences, but there’s one thing that Mr. Robot does differently than movies such as Fight Club or The Matrix. These movies hated the corporate world. They saw the way that people had become something akin to walking advertisements and responded by aggressively attacking a culture that had become utterly commercialized. Elliot Alderson sees this same problem on Mr. Robot. His corporate culture is condensed. It’s directed at one company that is both representative of the larger culture and a huge part of this culture’s problem.
E-Corp is Elliot’s self-created nemesis, a corporation he fights that never really seems to be fighting back. The finale will probably see Elliot enacting his plan to destroy the corporation, an attack which will supposedly destroy the world as we know it and bring about a kind of anarchy which will allow people to truly make choices (as opposed to Coke vs. Pepsi) for the first time in their lives. We accept this premise. We don’t question Elliot’s thinking, and we live inside his head, so it becomes impossible to think that E-Corp could be anything other than “Evil-Corp.” Elliot’s wrong though.
What Elliot and his audience fail to consider right off the bat is the fact that Elliot’s an unstable element. He’s not completely sure whether or not he knows what’s happening in his mind, and the audience isn’t either. His point-of-view is where we are, and it’s an unreliable place. If we can’t trust what we see through Elliot’s eyes, why should we trust his beliefs?
An excellent, but obscure, example of this comes in the show’s very first episode, when Elliot rants inside his own head about all of the things that are wrong with the corporate culture that surrounds us. His final example, one which comes to him because his therapist Krista is reading it, is The Hunger Games. This example is a throwaway. He mentions the book twice and then moves on to other things. But it works well to help us understand Elliot’s limited understanding and perspective. When Elliot mentions the book, he does so in reference to the idea that it is part of an entertainment culture which seeks only to distract us.
Now, nothing on Mr. Robot is unintentional. The choice of a book like The Hunger Games is a pointed one for two reasons. The first is that the book works as a commentary on how something that is fiercely anti-establishment becomes a part of the entertainment complex it so desperately fights. The Hunger Games is a book specifically about the ways in which mass media is used to distract the culture from its pressing problems (poverty, kids killing other kids in a giant arena for sport, etc.). Eventually, though, the argument could be made that the book became a watered-down version of itself, and it works as ultimate proof that even things that push against the established corporate culture are ultimately absorbed by them.
The second reason a book like this might have been chosen is to illustrate the problem with Elliot’s view of the world. Plainly said, he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. Elliot’s understanding of The Hunger Games is one which fails to consider it’s existence as a commentary in and of itself. Instead, he sees it only as evidence of a world that is unable to wake up because it is surrounded by too much stuff. He sees a world that is horrible and corrupted, but he also thinks that fixing this world is a relatively simple problem. All that must be done is wipe one mega-conglomerate off the map and the world will fix itself. The challenges of this ordeal are numerous, but when you really think about it, the task itself is a relatively simple one. He wants to save the world, but he thinks he only needs to save it from one thing.
Elliot’s issues are numerous. He’s losing, or has already lost, his mind, and I’d like to call his ideology into question as well. I don’t think E-Corp’s end will bring the world to the place he thinks it will. Elliot’s fighting a faceless enemy right now, and what he may come to realize is that the people he wants to save have no desire to be saved. We are complacent because we want to be, and we live in a corporate world because it’s convenient and easy. Elliot’s naive to think otherwise. We’ve given up the freedom to choose because we don’t really want it. Bringing down E-Corp won’t change anything. We’ll just find some other company.