Mindreading, Memories and Intimacy, Electric Dreams’ ‘The Hood Maker’ vs. Black Mirror’s ‘Crocodile’

The Hood Maker is the first episode of Electric Dreams, an anthology series based on short stories of Philip K. Dick. It starts with a mob protesting against the telepaths (called teeps, mutants who can read minds). The people want to secure their privacy and they fear that the teeps will take over. The teep’s situation doesn’t look too attractive; they live in hostel-like circumstances, thrown together, bunk beds, working for the normals and sometimes that includes sexual services. They are easily recognized by the signature scar in their face, and shunned by normals. Reading minds is visibly painful for them: they cry.

protestersEDHM

The story follows police man Ross and teep Honor, who work together to deal with the unrest .

Honor’s mindreading of a suspect is violent: it trespasses all boundaries. She sees who someone is: their most forming childhood experiences, their inner most being, their biggest fears, shame, desires, and confronts him with it.
‘So much anger and pride in you.’
‘You wish your older brother was here, to see you are finally good for something.’
‘You are sexually attracted to your mother.’
At times Honor becomes what she witnesses, yelling like the mother of the suspect. She is taken over by the suspects memories.
‘I can see everything,’ she says as her face changes, from the pained tears to a much more dominant, agressive stance.

In the Black Mirror episode Crocodile mindreading is done with a device, a Recaller. Shazia, an investigator for an insurance company, goes around with this handheld screen and a little box with plugs and chips to gather evidence for claims. The chip is put on the witness’s temple, songs or smells of the time of the event are supplied to help the memories flow, and the witness can start thinking. Shazia can see and listen with the Recaller everything her subject saw and heard. Other witnesses are easily found with facial recognition and all possible witnesses are obligated to cooperate. She needs more tapes, because memories are not completely accurate, they are subjective or warped by emotions. Shazia needs a ‘crowdsourced picture of reality’ as evidence.

Shazia comes across sexual images at times, but she makes it clear that she is only looking for the evidence of the case she is working on, the rest will be deleted plus that she has seen it all, so not to worry too much. ‘I feel like a specimen,’ says one of the witnesses lightheartedly, but nobody is too worried about privacy. At least the ones who have nothing to hide.

Intimacy

There is a romance blossoming between Ross and Honor in The Hood Maker. However, there is trouble in paradise when she finds out that she can’t read him (another mutancy). Her trust is broken. He wants to prove her wrong and let her read him, but now she can see his initial disgust with her. She is clearly hurt. Some things are best unknown. He keeps trying to convince her (also to safe himself at this point): ‘you can read minds, but you cannot read hearts.’ At the same time her fellow teeps are tuned in, telling her not to trust him.

This is one of the elements of The Hood Maker I enjoyed: the relation amongst the teeps. They seem to have a form of organic unity, a continuous connection. They cannot keep secrets from one another, and they seem in a way to be one being, to be very intimate. What they are, or what they have together is something unknown. And a bit scary. Especially when you see them approach together in animal-like ways, going for their prey.

teepsEDHM

The lack of secrets and privacy creates their intimacy with each other, but disrupts Honor’s romantic love for Ross. Privacy plays a double role.

In ‘Crocodile’ it does not. Protagonist Mia has an enormous fear that an old secret will be found out, because she is afraid that it could disrupt her marriage, her family life, which for her is equal to life.
‘I’ve got a life, you don’t understand, you are not married.’

Memories

Black Mirror’s Crocodile comes much closer to what we nowadays think about memories. Memories are not objective registrations that are stored somewhere in the brain. They are subjective, and subject to change. To read someone’s mind doesn’t mean you know someone immediately, simply because we don’t have fixed identities, shaped by drives created in our childhood’s desires and denials. The Hood Maker is in that way more old fashioned and Freudian: people can be fully known, if you know their secrets. Memories are objective registrations.

The people in The Hood Maker don’t want to be known and looked into, they protest and rebel. Understandably. We would surely protest too. Or would we? Would we be more like the Crocodile society, smiling, working along, because we have nothing to hide?

At first I thought that The Hood Maker, based on a 1955 story, simply was too old. It is a story, with some very interesting elements, but more like a fantasy. Not in the way we would portray a future society that could tell us something about now. Until I read the actual story. In the story the people throw a riot about people who wear a hood. ‘Nobody’s got a right to hide.’ And to me, in this regard, the original story is more telling about today than the adaption. (The story can be found in his We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.)

It is interesting that the writers decided to make the people protest for privacy. But they also changed the teeps situation, -in the original story the teeps were basically the typical alpha rulers of a society – and their organic relation to one another which was definitely for the better.

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