Freudian Delight — The Depiction of Narcissism in Netflix’s Altered Carbon

Sigmund Freud (if you don’t already know who he is, Google is more than capable of telling you all about the Austrian pioneer of psychoanalysis) divides the basic drives of human beings into two things: Sex and aggression. In the show Altered Carbon, the same two things occur in both a crazy amount and a crazy level. One of the things I like about Altered Carbon (though this could easily be a turn-off for some people) was that it isn’t shy about showing the many sexual intercourses and nude scenes along with the various-levels of-fucked-up violent scenes throughout the course of its 10-episode season. There were many times when I was thinking to myself, “Oh, no, they wouldn’t go there,” and they went there.

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Nudity and violence are the norm.

It all ties back to one of the main existential questions that ties the show together: What would mankind be if they are stripped from their mortality?

To go back to Freud’s theory of basic human drives, the drive for sex, or for life (also called Eros after the Greek god of sexual attraction), could be divided into four basic shapes. The most basic drive, the one everyone has and starts during infancy, is narcissism. Freud defines narcissism as the “libidinal complement to the egoism of the instinct of self-preservation”. In simpler terms, narcissism is the drive for sex, love, and passion directed exclusively towards oneself.

Freud argues that a level of self-love in adulthood is healthy—which he further elaborates in his concept of secondary narcissism—but what happens if the narcissism within us grow along the possession of the status of near-immortality? Would immortality not simply magnify what we already have and twist it into something that could possibly go beyond human?

In Altered Carbon, the most glaring example of this is the character of Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy), who is an all-powerful, ultra-rich man at the top of the food chain in the Altered Carbon universe. Bancroft calls on Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) to investigate his own murder. With 48 hours missing from his memory per being killed before his data backup was completed, Bancroft believes that, although all the evidence seems to point there, he could not have possibly killed himself. “There are lines I am very careful not to cross,” he says to Kovacs. “And even if I did kill myself, I’d not have bungled it in such a fashion.”

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James Purefoy portrays Laurens Bancroft, the main subject of this article’s analysis.

Spoiler alert, he really did kill himself.

The character’s narcissism is emphasized by his conviction of his own personal code of conduct, believing that no matter what happens, he would never cross them. As revealed in the final episodes of Altered Carbon’s first season, Bancroft was encouraged by drugs and circumstances to make him go over the edge and break his own codes, RD’ing (that’s real death for you, as in destroying people’s stacks and thus rendering them impossible to be brought back) a prostitute and driving another one to suicide.

Whether or not the man’s actions, as they were, were validly identified as being his decision is debatable, but one thing is for certain. It hurt his narcissism so much that he botched his DHF’s backup sequence to make himself forget that, despite how much he holds himself in high regard, he eventually cracked. In this sense, Bancroft is reminded that he is human—not the demi-deity he thinks himself being. His suicide was, ultimately, an act of self-preservation, because he could not live with the knowledge of his own actions.

Bancroft’s trait of apparent narcissism is further portrayed by how he treats his children. The man is over 360 years old—over the years, he’s sired 21 children with his wife, Miriam, who’s quite protective of their children. Bancroft, though himself unopposed to indulgence of the weirdest kinds that only the richest could afford, choose to control his children by linking their inheritance with his own status. If he dies, his children get nothing of his unthinkable amount of wealth. In addition to that, he keeps his children in young sleeves to keep them from having the visual authority that an older sleeve would inevitably hold over others. It was almost as if he was saying that he’s the best—nobody, including his children, could or should topple him off his throne and replace him.

It seems like Bancroft is incapable of projecting the sex drive outwards—a state of maturity that’s Freud’s assigned meaning of love. Even though, at one point, he does say that loving his wife for 100 years is experienced as “something close to veneration”. This veneration, ultimately, doesn’t extend to regular schedule of sexual intercourse; Bancroft instead chooses to go to brothels to satisfy his sex drive by fucking and choking prostitutes to sleeve death. Here, Bancroft shows both expression of Eros and Thanatos in the sex drive manifestation of sadism—concepts that often overlap each other in Freudian psychology. More on Thanatos later.

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One of the high-end recreational sites that Laurens Bancroft frequents.

When confronted by Kovacs, “So you’re saying you love her too much to fuck her?”, Bancroft responds by saying, “I love her too much to let you fuck her.” Ultimately, perhaps the reason why he “loves” Miriam is because having her provides him with the pride and self-satisfaction he craves—which traces back to his narcissistic tendencies.

Furthermore, his reluctance to have sexual intercourse with his wife might speak more about his narcissism. The reason why he wouldn’t have sex with Miriam might well be because, unconsciously, he thinks himself unworthy of her, and thus wishes to commit acts of (sexual) violence on her. (“Veneration”, anyone?) One of Freud’s ego defense mechanisms, displacement, might be at play here. Displacement is an expression of a repressed thought or behavior, done when an individual carries out an unacceptable act onto someone or something that is not the real subject of that act. Instead of committing violent sex on Miriam, Bancroft unleashes that side of him onto prostitutes—who, conveniently, share similar physical attributes as his wife.

Bancroft’s narcissism is not, by all means, possessed only by the character. The Meths (short for Methuselah, the name for the crème de la crème of the Altered Carbon rich society) seem to display the same affinity for the trait, even building their homes high above earth “to avoid looking on the ground”, to quote Detective Ortega. The symbolism of the Meths’ dwelling is glaring; they hold themselves in such high regard that living on earth, breathing the same air with the less wealthy population is simply not an option. They are, quite literally, on top of the world.

There are other manifestations of the Freudian sex drive, as well as another drive called aggression. In the next posts of the series, I will be examining those aspects closer from various fictional universes.

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Putting the Ash in Slash-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 ‘Ashy Slashy’ Review

 

Welcome to the madhouse that is AvED’s episode 8. After Ash’s slow spiral into madness in last week’s psychological horror of an episode, ‘Ashy Slashy’ returns to usual form, though with a darker bent.

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As we find the Ghostbeaters preparing to assault the mental hospital where Ash is being brainwashed, the body count starts to mount as Sheriff Emery and Lacey meet their gruesome, heartbreaking ends.

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Watch out, he’s a biter

The highlight of this episode is again Bruce Campbell, going almost full-on slasher villain as a brainwashed Ash. With way less quips and more ominous appearances, it’s almost enough to put even Jason Voorhees on notice.

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Heeeeeere’s Ashy!

Puppet Ash also makes another hilarious appearance, this time tangling with Kelly in a Woman vs Puppet battle for the ages. The banter between Pablo and Ruby in this episode is also something of note. For the record, I’d visit Pablito’s Fish and Chips.

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The Jefe has never been so scary

The ending has to be one of the worst cases of emotional whiplash in the show so far. After Ash manages to play EVERYONE for fools, the gang manages to finish off Baal…let’s just say Pablito’s Fish and Chips won’t be a reality anymore.

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It’s an eye-opener

This season has been all about exploring the sides of Ash we never see before, and this is no exception. We finally get to see Ash being smart, after the sporadic flashes of brilliance all throughout his appearances. With two more episodes, I hope AvED can get even better.

Madhouse-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 ‘Delusion’ Review

Once again, AvED shows why it’s one of the best shows currently airing on television, period. The growth of the series from pure guts n’ gags to a show with a well-developed cast, amazing character dynamics, and riveting storylines while keeping the franchise’s signature feel intact is really something to behold. This latest episode is one of its most ambitious yet.

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This might come as a shock for some of you

After the predicament Ash found himself in last week, he wakes up as a patient in a mental hospital. A doctor who looks suspiciously like Baal explains that he’d been commited there after the cabin incident thirty years ago and that the whole of Evil Dead was something his imagination cooked up to deal with the murders.

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Finger counting taken to its extreme

The episode that ensued is quite possibly the darkest Evil Dead has gone in its whole lifetime, eschewing most of its tried-and-true formula of slapstick, gore, and one-liners for a more psychological horror, following Ash’s journey in this weird insane asylum that Baal’s put him in. Or did he?

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He’s like Ash. Only with a hand up his ass

This outing seems to give quite the spotlight to Bruce Campbell and Dana DeLorenzo, giving Ash and ‘Kelly’ more room to flex their dramatic chops to amazing results. Newcomers to Campbell’s body of work may be surprised at the range he displays here, with Ash going from full-on ‘Ash’ all the way down to resigned, broken down Ash, which came as quite a surprise to me. Puppet Ash also came out as the breakout character of the episode, being annoying enough to make you want to kick him across the room but charmingly funny enough to make you want to keep him.

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Apparently they finally set him strait

While insane asylum episodes are hardly new territory, AvED’s take does it well and throws in just enough twists to keep you guessing about things in the insane asylum, if not necessarily the nature of Ash’s supposed delusions itself. That said, AvED travels outside its comfort zone in this episode and finds its mark well.

Home Invasion-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 ‘Trapped Inside’ Review

We’re past the halfway point of AvED’s sophomore season and things don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Following right up from last week’s brouhaha in the police station, our heroes hole up back at Casa Williams to deal with Pablo’s new…development. Elsewhere, desperate after the quick divorce last week, Sheriff Emery starts getting devil whispers from Baal himself, urging him to take action against Ash and his crew.

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Shouldn’t have had that Necronomicon for dinner

For a thirty-minute episode, this episode manages to juggle three plotlines like a circus clown without it ever feeling like they were shoved in without care. At the front of the house, Linda and Kelly are holding the fort against the angry mob roused by Emery, plus a little help from our friendly demon Baal.

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Upstairs, Ruby and Pablo are doing their best to find the spell that can banish Baal back from where he came from…on Pablo’s body. And they have to do this before Pablo gets turned into a walking Necronomicon. No pressure, right?

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She’s baaaaack!

A little further down the hall, Ash faces a blast from the past. Cheryl, his dearly departed sister is brought back as a Deadite and the requisite action set piece of the episode is as much emotional as it is intense.

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Heartwrenching. Literally AND figuratively

This episode, in one word, is a rollercoaster. An intense ride from top to bottom, with lots of laughs, scares, pure d’aww moments, and maybe a few tears along the way. Of particular highlights were Kelly psyching Pablo up with the laugh-out-loud callback to the vagina line several episodes back and of course, Ash’s whole ordeal with Cheryl. Emotionally, this might be one of the strongest sequences throughout the series and Cheryl convinces us once again why she’s one of the most dangerous Deadites in the franchise.

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This season’s Primitive Screwheads moment?

All this combined, plus the references to the classic movies is more than enough to convince me that this is the strongest episode of the season so far, and a powerful proof that Evil Dead isn’t just blood, guts, and slapstick. While it’s true that those are its major selling points, it’s only through character development sneakily put in throughout the show’s run that makes us care for the cast this much in times of trouble. If this is the direction Evil Dead is taking going forward, then I’m in for the ride.

Assault on Precinct Elk Grove-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 5 ‘Confined’ Review

As I missed last week’s episode due to reasons, lemme recap Episode 4 quickly for you: DELTA DESTRUCTION DERBY FUCK YEAH. Now that’s out of the way, onto the fifth episode and we’re already halfway through season 3. And how.

Baal finally makes an appearance here, cutting into the scene in one of the best gore scenes I’ve seen in the franchise so far.

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CRAAAAAAWLING IIIIN MY SKIIINNNN

Meanwhile, our heroes (and assorted others) are holed up in a police station, just in time for Baal to make his debut. This episode plays very different from most other Evil Dead things so far, though, concentrating instead on tension between characters and a little claustrophobic horror thrown in.

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It’s a Michigan Standoff!

This episode tries to do something very different, by concentrating on character work and the building of tension between them, sort of like The Thing only with the threat of Baal looming over them.

But when Ruby goes down to retrieve the Kandarian dagger, all the suspicion the others are putting each other through turns out to be for nothing as Baal is actually downstairs with her. Cue awkward reunion.

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HEEEEEERE’S BAAL!

Oddly, even with an action set piece near the end, the tense interactions between everyone held up in the police station is what makes this episode a great one for me. This episode provides a lot of insight into the characters and sets up a lot of potential plot points for the coming episodes. Plus it’s a lot of fun seeing Ash trying (and subsequently failing) to woo Linda.

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Sumerian letters on your body. Never a good sign

 

Only five episodes left, and the stakes couldn’t be higher! Bring on the next five!

 

Digital Wonders (and Horrors) Never Cease-Black Mirror Season 3 Review

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With Black Mirror returning for a double-dose third season, digital life just got a little bit scarier. Charlie Brooker’s Twilight Zone for the digital age once again serves up a healthy helping of suspense, thrills, and general uneasiness that’ll make you just a little bit more wary the next time you pull out your phone.

Since Black Mirror is a dish best served cold, I’ll stay light on the spoilers on this article and stick to personal observations and opinions on each episode.

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The first of the bunch, Nosedive, stars Bryce Dallas Howard in an anvilicious sendup to the social media and ratings-obsessed world of today, set in a world where your ‘ratings’ determine what you can and can’t do, like if Yelp took over the world.

With all the subtlety of a Nokia 3310 in your face, this episode makes its intentions clear from the get-go, the in-your-face fakeness of almost its whole cast, and its sickeningly saccharine diabetes-inducing yet aggresively bland aesthetic completely sells the concept in a great season opener that might just make you think twice about Instagramming your next meal or that next status update.

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Episode numero dos, Playtest, stars Wyatt Russell as Cooper, a thrillseeker who might’ve bitten a bit more than he could chew when he took a job playtesting new augmented reality tech for a games company. In true Black Mirror fashion, this is exactly where things go wrong.

Dan Trachtenberg, of 10 Clovefield Lane fame, takes us on a horror trip combining the best of horror games and movies into one genre-savvy package that just might be a little bit savvier than we are, keeping us guessing until the end. Wunmi Mosaku also excels as Cooper’s ‘handler’ Katie and the always enchanting Hannah John-Kamen as the witty Sonja rounds out the cast in this clever horror tale, one of my personal favourites this season.

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On to round three with Shut Up And Dance, this tale starring Jerome Flynn and Alex Lawther is a thriller where blackmail is the name of the game. Because when you have someone by their dick pics, it’s hard to break free.

While it’s an effective enough cautionary tale to keep in mind before doing anything genital-related in front of a webcam and a depressing look at how blackmail ruins someone, this episode didn’t resonate well with me. It does have its darkly funny and actual thrill moments and hits rather close to home as it’s something that could happen to any of us, but for some reason I found it a bit lacking. Even so, it’s still a well-made thriller and a nice watch.

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Past the halfway point, we flash back to San Junipero in the 80s. Or was it the 90s? Not a problem, it’s San Junipero! Mackenzie Davis is shy nerd Yorkie and Gugu Mbatha-Raw is outgoing party girl Kelly. A chance encounter in San Junipero kicks off a bond between them that transcends space, time, and maybe even existence itself.

Owen Harris, a Black Mirror alum of Be Right Back fame helms yet another deeply emotional tale of love, loss, and dealing with grief. At its very core, this episode is a romance story, and it feels that way all the way through. Supported by the visuals and aesthetics of San Junipero as it changes through the years, alongside a kickin’ soundtrack and one of the most clever song-to-scene puns I’ve ever seen, San Junipero is a rare episode of Black Mirror that keeps you smiling for most of its runtime and one of the season’s strongest.

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The penultimate episode, Men Against Fire stars Malachi Kirby in a military-centered tale about soldiers fighting a vague Nosferatu-like enemy simply called ‘roaches’. But this wouldn’t be Black Mirror without an extra twist, am I right?

A scathing commentary on military propaganda and the toll battle takes on soldiers, Men Against Fire delivers its point with no more subtletly than a .50 through the eye socket. That said, the acting is great and the action scenes are intense, making for a suspenseful first half and an uneasy second half, if a bit predictable at times.

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This season’s closer is a feature-length episode entitled Hated in the Nation, which stars Kelly Macdonald, Faye Marsay, and Benedict Wong in a thriller tailor-made for the social media generation.

We’ve all sent online vitriol to someone else before, and this episode takes it to the extreme conclusion. If the people you wish death on social media actually died, would you still do it? Clocking in at 89 minutes, this is the longest Black Mirror to date and is one of the season’s highlights. Aside from the not-so-subtle jabs at keyboard warrior culture, this episode also manages to throw in a few pokes at hot-button issues like government tracking and an oddly prescient mention of a certain recent online bullying incident. Tightly written with great performance and a simple concept executed well, Hated in the Nation manages to steal the show in another amazing season of Black Mirror.

Overall, this season of Black Mirror brings a much more diverse aftertaste than the almost uniformly bleak past two seasons. You’ll laugh, you’ll shudder, you’ll cry, this season has it all. The future for Black Mirror is bright and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

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Did they tweet this through a broken Twitter or did they broke Twitter to tweet this? That’s the question

As an endnote, kudos for the Black Mirror Twitter admin for the past 24 hours of tweeting reactions to viewers and the one bomb-ass tweet they somehow posted while Twitter was down. And the trailer, my god, the trailer. The whole marketing team deserves big ups as well for another season well done.

Helldelta-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 3 ‘Last Call’ Review

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#Goals

The day before this episode aired, Evil Dead celebrated its 35th anniversary of its premiere. Fittingly, this episode begins with one of the stalwarts of the Evil Dead franchise, Ash’s trusty Oldsmobile Delta, given a lovely tribute video package showing just how much the Old Classic means to Ash. And how. For all intents and purposes, the good ol’ Delta becomes more of a character in this episode.

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Not many bonds stronger than a boy and his car

After the car got stolen last episode and taken on a joyride with some high school students, the Drafter finally finds a way to the Necronomicon, possessing the Delta and ending up with it going on a murderous rampage giving even Ghost Rider and his Hellcharger a run for their money. Elsewhere, we finally meet Ash’s high school best buddy, Chet Kaminski (Ted Raimi), and it is GLORIOUS. Their friendship is exactly what you’d expect from a guy like Ash and his equally dopey buddy. It’s actually oddly heartwarming.

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It’s like the an R-rated Hellcharger

In other news, Ruby finaly gets sick of Ash’s harebrained schemes and persuades Kelly to join her, hinting there’s more to Kelly than what we’ve seen so far. And Ash finally sets aside his differences with his dad….IN A GLORIOUS DUEL OF MECHANICAL BULL. But considering this is Ash, the feel-good moment is quickly dashed and another mystery is thrown into the mix. Ash vs Evil Dead, everybody!

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Old man’s still got moves in him

This episode has it all. Crazy demon-possessed car, father-son bonding, laughs, tears, everything. It’s definitely the strongest in the season so far, and it opens a whole new can of worms for Ash to deal with other than the imminent coming of Baal and Ruby breaking off from the group alongside Kelly. Can’t wait for next week! And remember kids, never take a Pink Fuck.

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World’s. Worst. Swirlie.