Tuesday, August 17, 2010

there's no place, I don't want to be anywhere else

Mal Burns linked a vid on his Twitter feed which used Industry's State of the Nation as a background song. I found I took something far more meaningful from the video, how'ver, than might be intended.

The video opens with our protagonist, a sad blonde woman in a black trenchcoat, leaving her house. Immediately we see she--or whomever's filming this for her--is having machine problems, due to the jagged lags in her walk. Nearly immediately past that, how'ver, we see her playing piano, on a wooden floor that has so many patches of bad texturing and flicker I actually lost count.

This is our world: most of us don't have top-of-the line machines. This is our world: most people don't know how to texture properly.

We focus on her, sadly staring as she breathes, and then inexplicably on what looks like a fur in a hospital bed, unmoving.

This is our world: furs are best when they're silent, or stuffed. Furs might be best if they don't move. In all official propaganda for Second Life through 2009 and 2010, furs were not seen at all. It was blatantly demonstrated that furs, shifters, aliens, nekos, dolls, constructs, and anyone else who wasn't a seven-foot-tall tanned Malibu human, were not needed or wanted on the grid.

The scene cuts to a man listening to his cellphone, and then to a panoramic view of the digital Sydney Opera House.

This is our world: whether or not it infringes copyright, we will make it because we believe we have a right to recreate the things we want, when we want them. From iPods to cell phones, international monuments to the latest fashions off the runway--we want what we want when we want it, and we generally don't consider past that point.

We move to a dance floor: dancers are dancing in sync, having fun by moving in the same patterns, the same rhythms. One man beams in on the dance floor, turns and walks off, then turns around and comes back to where he landed, looking at the ground.

This is our world: we want difference that is unified. This is our world: we expect people to come onto the grid and just know how things work, and we will laugh if asked to explain things. We got this, we think; why can't you? Our world is one at least partially built on exclusion.

The next scene: the blond woman is in the arms of the man on the cellphone earlier. He holds her close. She holds up her hands and tries to detach. He lifts his hands, shaking his head at her. She tries to hold him close.

This, this more than anything, is our world: because we are visual creatures who seek pattern and recognition of the language of small body movements to tell us who we are, and who we're communicating with. The animation was simply unsynched. But just looking at it, it is a dissonant embrace, an argumentative embrace, embattled. We think--because of the facial expression chosen earlier--that this is why she is sad. Moreover, when we see another avatar, we consciously know they are moving and emoting using concepts of movement and emotion purchased from someone else; yet we subconsciously react to the expressions we see, the movements we see, and interpret them as communication.

We see the dance floor again. A couple is embracing. People are dancing. Someone else seems to be on a cell phone. Someone's avatar has bent over, narcosleepy. The DJ dances in time to the song.

This is our world, too. For many of us, dancing together has become socialization. We move to the same patterns, we are one with the rest of the tribe. We are accepted, even if acceptance comes in small doses, dance to dance.

The scene shifts to the skybox we saw the blonde woman in earlier. The chorus of the song goes, "There's no place like home," but as the camera pans around we see her, and four bare walls. No furnishings. No doors out. No doors in.

This is also our world: our avatars do not exist when we are not behind their eyes. But moreover, "home" is exactly what we make it: and if we do not understand what home means, if our RL experience of home was a damaged one, what will we bring in to our virtual homes? Is it better or worse to have no home, then to have bleak, barren walls and nothing in our homes but us?

We see the skybox. It fades to a sour-faced old man in a stained tank, holding a beer. He fades, leaving torn and stained furniture. The scene cuts to twin statues of Anubis, and the dance floor again, where the newcomer to the grid has figured out how to dance, and joins in lockstep with the other dancers. The blonde woman smiles in the sunlight, and we fade to black.

This is our world, as well: the constant juxtaposition of the mystical and the rational, the modern and the ancient. The clutter of possessions contrasted with the sterility of no true possessions. The regrets of the past, the hope for the future.

The fact that someone to talk with is only an IM away, yet there may be no one but the person wishing to communicate on the other side of the screen. Loneliness meets companionship, and is it any wonder we fall in love so completely, so savagely, when we meet anyone who seems to understand us?

This was three minutes and twenty-four seconds of flawed machinima, but it has some unintentionally deep lessons, I think.

Or maybe it's just that I like the song.


Lalo Telling said...

Best. Post. Evar.

I don't even feel as if I need to see the machinima... but I will.

Emilly Orr said...

It's not *terrible*, it just doesn't speak to experienced machinima makers. There's a lot of heart behind it, but the subtext is larger than the text at times.

Serenity said...

Sounds interesting. Don't know if I really feel compelled to see it but it brings up some interesting points to say the least.

Emilly Orr said...

Hey, I do this with movies too. I read faaaaar too much into things at times. :)