Saturday, February 26, 2011

At Least The Adjustment Bureau Noticed You

I recently saw the trailer for the new Matt Damon vehicle The Adjustment Bureau, and something about it affected me very deeply, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. Take a look if you haven't seen it yet:



When you break it down, the plot seems kind of ridiculous (on a second viewing I'm already wondering why the Bureau doesn't just make the adjustments they're so keen to make, rather than confronting Damon's character in the first place - wouldn't making him aware only incite him to rebel?), but the idea that there's a power or a force out there that's trying to control his/my life in some way and take away my choices generates a very visceral yet conflicting response from within.

As a way of helping clear up the message, just the other day the universe provided me with a great explanation of what was going on in the form of an excellent Radiolab podcast short called The Universe Knows My Name. In it, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich discuss fate and destiny, and use Looney Tunes cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner to explore these ideas. Funny enough, this classic cartoon actually taps into some of the same concepts as the aforementioned movie.


Part of the popularity of the cartoon in the 1940's when it debuted (and to this day), was due specifically to its hapless protagonist. "He's an extraordinarily human animal," says Michael Barrier, and its about the predicaments he finds himself in more than anything.

They use the example of the trap Wile E. sets using a painting of a road set over a chasm. The plan being the Road Runner will run through the painting and fall to its death. Instead, he actually winds up going safely into the painting, and when the baffled coyote tries to follow, he winds up going through the painting and falling into the chasm. As it turns out, the Road Runner isn't Wile E.'s nemesis, it's the universe itself, which bends the laws of physics, gravity and apparently, picture entering in order to foil the hapless creature.

Barrier, along with the produces of the show explain: "I think all of us this latch onto this - 'how can this happen, the universe is out to get me!' Even though [it's] screwing you, at least it's noticing you. You know, it is kind of flattering in a way...on the one hand, it confirms our paranoia, on the other it kind of plays to our vanity."

It's a really brilliant concept to me. I've talked about being a narcissist in the past, and how I used to think of my life as a Truman Show before the movie even came out, and how video games tap into my innermost desire to be the center of the universe. So - an Adjustment Bureau would totally do that, right? You would clearly have to be important if you had creepy men in suits stalking you around, keeping tabs on you 24/7 and leering over you, post-coitus. I think about this, and my reaction to this is two-fold. Part of me is like: "hey, fuck you creepos!" and the other part is like: "well, yeah, obviously you're gonna wanna see this."

When I break it down, I'm not sure what's worse to me: the idea of the Adjustment Bureau showing up one day, tying me up and telling me to "get back on track," and to dump Emily Blunt even though she's smoking hot and clearly super into me, or hearing about the Adjustment Bureau, and slowly realizing I'm not in their book at all.


-Matt

PS: Of course I ultimately want the best of both worlds. I still play the lottery every now and again, and despite my longstanding Atheism, a part of me apparently still thinks some force out there recognizes how special/awesome I am, and deserving of all that sweet sweet cash, which would be the only possibly justification for putting money into some of the worst possible odds in the history of betting.

I guess the ultimate message here is:
"Universe, if you wanna help me get what I want, fine. But don't you DARE get in the way of me getting rich/laid!"

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