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Visioneers: In a forgotten corner of Martha’s Vineyard George’s bones are rattling

Every once in a while I go through periods in which really depressing things make me happy. I suppose it’s cathartic but I always assumed catharsis had to end in crying or blood. Lots of blood. Pooling in those strange dips in the carpet you’re pretty sure are left over from something dirty the previous occupants of your apartment owned. Anyway, this all started back in college when I read The Bell Jar. Sylvia Plath is, or rather was, the living breathing Debby Downer. Though John Campbell is trying his best to assume the crown. I’d forgotten just how wonderful these times could be. Thankfully I have Zach Galifianakis to remind me. Before his break out role in The Hangover this comedian with an impossible last name starred in Visioneers.

Now I promised myself I wouldn’t dwell on the actors. Even though it was neat to see a few I recognized. I’m afraid my geeking out may be tiresome for you readers. But let me just say I really enjoyed Zach’s work. It’s amazing what he can do without speaking.

If narcissism and self-pity is a bit of a guilty pleasure then literary dystopias are my utopias. Visioneers closely follows the themes of one of my all time favorite dystopia novels, 1984. Orwell’s grim depiction of a society collapsing under the firm hand of a police state most citizens are no longer aware exists. It serves as great fuel in my small government arguments. The Drake brothers transfer the guilt from the government to a corporation. A single corporation has built such an all-encompassing monopoly the President of the United States is little more than a puppet and nearly the entire nation is employed by one company.

In this American re-imagining our main character George, Washington not Orwell yeah, I know, works for the all mighty Jeffers corporation as a low-level manager who seems to do little more than sit at his desk with giant magnifying glasses reading memos that come from a vacuum tube.  But while Orwell’s Winston was worried about the rumors of subversives just up and disappearing in George’s world they explode. Full on spontaneous explosion. They cease to be alright.

Instead of pursuing free thought and dreams, George fears them. These are the signs. Everybody who expresses independent thought and  questions their role as a cog in the corporate wheel seems to explode shortly afterwards. And it seems to be happening at a quickening pace. Even TV personalities are exploding. Still, George can’t help but feel intrigued by the dreams he’s having and the dreams his brother (hood) is leading. The dream of pole vaulting. That’s right.

So George must rebel. But he never sees it as such. He’s merely pursuing a prevention that will work for him. He really doesn’t want to explode. This rebellion takes a familiar form. It follows Orwell’s sexuality theme in which he is impotent in the presence of his wife, but surprisingly aroused by a dark-haired woman he meets in the burbs. Though my sophomoric friends who were more than willing to part with their copy of Orwell’s novel for my benefit will be disappointed to learn George’s relations are far less explicit than Wilson’s.

But the plot similarities are not what makes this retelling awkward and peculiar. It’s Orwell’s vision of the future. He wrote 1984, which in case you were unaware is set in 1984, in 1949 and so his vision of the future is largely based in the pre-war era. The buildings are largely of 19th century origin. The height of inter-office communication is the vacuum tube, not even the tube run computer. Though to be fair his interactive TV was pretty neat. Even if it was spying on Winston. The Drakes offer a similarly modern view of the future. George’s mode of transportation isn’t a fancy monorail trail, it’s an appropriately dated 1984 Dodge Caravan, George’s brother uses outdated pole vaulted equipment by today’s standards, and the TVs are standard definition. Who in the U.S. still doesn’t have high-def? Even my grandparents have high-def and their old enough to see the first ever test pattern broadcast in their county.

Well good morning to you too!

Where Visioneers breaks away is the low brow, yet enjoyable humor. For example, instead of the ever looming presence of the Big Brother face, we’re greeted with the ever-present Jeffer’s logo; a giant middle finger. If that weren’t enough the new customary greeting is “Jeffer’s morning” while flipping off your fellow conversationalist. We also watch the TV personalities degrade in manner reminiscent of Requiem For A Dream in reverse. They’re the ones going crazy, not the audience.

In the end the Drake’s tribute succeeds in being quirky and entertaining but falls short in believability.  Orwell’s fear of a totalitarian government rising to power seems to be an ever-increasing possibility, but a single corporation rising above all others to take control of every aspect of our lives in the days of the internet and the global society is a leap I’m not willing to make. Unless that corporation is Google. They already control a very important bottleneck for information and if this SOPA nonsense has taught us anything it’s that an informed public is a powerful thing. Or maybe just an inconvenienced public is a powerful thing. As long as the end result is always the same I’m willing to accept either explanation.

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4 Responses

  1. Sounds like a great movie and relevant. With the government turning a blind eye to the monopolies and mega-mergers that destroy the fundamentals of capitalism, this future, one corporation totalitarian system is entirely possible. Even likely. Hey, at least we got them to back off SOPA–for now. Zach in the Hangover movies was awesome. When I saw Netflix throw out his standup comedy special, I was stoked. But I ended up completely disappointed. The standup was atrocious, boring and completely unfunny. Hopefully, this movie raises my opinion of him right now.

    • Well, it’s no 12 and Holding but I enjoyed it. The delicate balance between overbearing government and over powered corporations seems to be swaying wildly these days. Though I think a few changes in the tax code could level the playing field for start ups pretty quick.

  2. Until our elected officials, leaders and those in law enforcement start truly following the Constitution, truly enforcing the LAW, protecting our rights via the 1st-10th Amendment, then we’ll always be a Police State or Dictator & not “prosper”. No Freedom. Maybe we should delete the “democratic” part of the Republic. We are really a Democratic Republic. Democracy (everyone votes) Republic (with rights though). Maybe that is the weakest link there that traps us. we can easily forget about the republic (rights) and just stop once we get to democratic (democracy) and by only focusing on that, we have VOTED away our rights, the Republic. You don’t vote for a man, vote on issues & you always preserve liberty. And If you get involved at all, like on election day, you must stay committed and fight. You don’t let corporations or special interests lobby and push your elected officials to pass laws that violate our rights or liberties. That comes first. Do we have the money is second? You don’t borrow money from a private bank with interest or use credit to spread the wealth around. Passing laws should be like convicting someone, everyone must say yes. If one person (Ron Paul) says the bill is unconstitutional, that is violates the constitution and any of the 10 amendments, it should NOT be passed! That is one thing to improve the system.

  3. Sam Palmisano, when he was CEO of IBM told BusinessWeek (April 3rd, 2006) why he places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of business model innovation. He said: “…with product innovation, it’s a certainty that your competition is shortly going to copy what you have done. With business-model innovation, though, if you can come up with a unique way of doing things, it’s much tougher to react to.” Mr. Palmisano spent approximately 40% of his time as CEO on IBM business models.

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