1. THE PREMISE
in the beginning, a man emerges, with a big six pack, covered in white cream, and pulls from deep in his throat a long tube. he then, naked, wrestles the nearest man to him. afterwards he has a shower and a cigarette.
in more detail, altered carbon is about the supremely nihilistic takeshi kovatch (not looking it up). takeshi-san, as he’s sometimes called, is a japanese man trapped in a six-foot-five chiselled white man’s body (‘sleeve’), i.e. a white nationalist wall-scroll loving weeabu’s internalisation of the ideal masculine form.
takeshi is, against his will (“i never asked to be born, mom!” — “look I just asked you to take out the trash, Norman”), brought back to life by the three-hundred-and-sixty-five year old winner of future late-late-capitalism (presumably jeff bezos’ great great grandkid). consciousnesses (‘stacks’) are now in sleeves — that is, minds are separated from bodies, and can be transferred as such. thus, granny can inhabit the body of a white nationalist, for example. this is all possible because the humans found some alien technology in a secret rock, or some shit.
this show is not materialist, and fully subscribes to cartesian dualism. that is, in the show, the nature of one’s brain, as matter, has no bearing on conscious thought, structure etc. this is despite the fact that a ‘re-sleeved’ “fake” Ortega has Ortega’s accent, and that the ‘re-sleeved’ granny does not have the accent of the white nationalist’s body (‘sleeve’) she inhabits. also, since i’m nit-picking, takeshi complains that he’s been put in a nicotine addicted sleeve … does that mean the brain does have an effect on the sleeve; how is the stack separated, then? (just don’t think about it.)
takeshi’s consciousness itself is exotic – it was trained by a black ninja woman in the forest two hundred and fifty years ago, in a civil war presumably lost by marxists (‘envoys’), who would have, by the time the show is set, been screaming about the stupid structure of late-late-late capitalist society for something like … five hundred years?
it is fascinating and prescient, only in concept – that is, it makes clear (and then shits on) the current and universal fear of late capitalism as a destructive force; and, further, it also contains crystallised the idea, as described by adam smith and karlmund marx (almost) several hundred years ago now (for fuck’s sake), that personhood itself might, you know, degrade under capitalism, extreme commodification. so, quite subtly, a lady-hologram asks, in the first episode, selling herself, “why not put your wife in me?”.
in the show, the bourgeoisie (‘meths’) live in towers, gated off from proletariat (liberalism: there is no word for this). this part is not fiction. it is happening, right now.
up in the clouds, jeff bezos’ grandon’s house is called ‘sun–(SUBTLE ICARUS REFERENCE)–touch’.
uhh meths also violently kill-fuck people in a special kill-fuck hotel called — wait for it — … ‘head in the clouds‘. for real.
2. AN EPISODE
each episode starts with a non-truism. what i mean by that, is there is a “profound” statement offered in “takeshi’s” voice, noir-dubbed, that, on even the barest of analysis, neuronical processing, crumbles. consider:
“sometimes in order to see the truth, you have to look behind the lie, and what’s revealed … is what you knew all along.”
“when you look behind the mask there is only time. in this time all becomes nothing, even death.”
“when the pooter goes beep beep the beep beep is as strong as the boop boop. accordingly, you find only pain and suffering.”
“please kill me, i am a sad man.”
more generally, an episode is thus: takeshi hangs out in his british bar with his british friend who is quaint and british and wants to be human but is a computer. this friend says some things in his quaint little accent and takeshi grunts about being sad. then takeshi looks annoyed and walks out the bar. then it cuts to sexy ortega, probably in the shower, or in the police station, who is trying to discover something, but struggling against the system. cut back to takeshi, who’s probably on the way to meet her. when they meet he probably says something about how he doesn’t care about topic-of-episode x.
then: somebody pushes around takeshi, treats him with “disrespect”, injures his property, or acts rude. this is a mistake because they don’t know the rage and emptiness and power he, the man who never asked to be born, who has literally studied the blade, has stored within. he uses this “hidden” rage and power to get back at person that has wronged him by a) shooting them with his totally cool guns, without discretion — guns drawn from his unicorn backpack, like the one you would take to school; or b) breaking their bones, with crunch!; or very rarely c) cutting off somebody’s head and putting it in an ice bucket; or d) cutting himself because Ortega loves his body and sho on and sho on. you shee, ze problem liesh in ze very nashure of ze *sniff* probalem sholveeng eetshelf. it eesh, in fact, *sniff* of ze capitalisht shyshtem that he musht keel. ze anal father *sniff* [— that’s enough].
indeed, to get it all in there, so to speak, towards the end, he even has a crazy ex (‘sister’, GAME OF THRONES: HAVE YOU SEEN IT!) who betrays him and is seemingly only motivated by her mad lady hormones, who can’t stand the idea of him being with anybody else. one minute she is threatening to kill him, another she is saying he can have his old girlfriend back, another she is saying that she loves him more than anything else. “why don’t you understand? just do what i want, brother!” to which i replied, at my computer, “what is it that you want!”. women ayy, am i right lads?
anyway Ortega fucks Takeshi-sans-san — it turns out Takeshi is wearing the skin of her boyfriend, who’s consciousness is in storage. reddit has a few opinions about this scene.
3. TAKESHI IS LIKE SO COOL I WISH I WAS HIM
in the show there are two categories of person: 1) takeshi and his immediate friends, and 2) ‘people who deserve it’ – ‘it’ being death, abuse and murder. examples of 2) are the employees of a virtual torture and / or real organ harvesting facility, where he, poudboy takeshi, was tortured by a russian man, a russian man who has a thick russian accent and is the sort of person who would do torture. unlike the rest of us, who are not russian. (that is, not gina haspel). never mind that this world weaved is one of capitalist inequality, that there could be large systemic forces “forcing” people into jobs they dislike, or actively morally feel wrong about — no, the externally white man (who has a japanese soul), is justified in “fucking up” hundred people, with a gun, drawn from his literal unicorn backpack, in a scene that redditors are loving, because the employees work for a morally disgusting company, and they therefore must die — that is justice. takeshi has the highest kill count of anybody on the show, probably.
speaking of gina haspel, my favourite episode is when takeshi uses his toxic masculinity to mentally withstand torture, by thinking really hard about it, and using his badassness. then, in this same episode, he literally pulls out his virtual heart and gives it to his dead girlfriend (in a torture simulation), which is significant because “the heart was always hers” — that is, he loves her, so he literally — i mean literally — gives her his heart, as ripped from his own chest, by his own hands.
again, he withstands torture because he is able to think really hard and lure the torturer into thinking he is weak, and then once he has done this he escapes anyway, for seemingly no reason, considering that the reason he wakes up is because he stopped his own heart and the time in the torture facility ran out anyway. here is the suggestion for what to do if you are being tortured, as documented by a lord redditor, as espoused by the black ninja lady:
anyway, when he wakes up from his torture, takeshi-san, kills everybody with his guns and it is totally badass.
4. ULTIMATELY THE SHOW IS CONTEMPTIBLE
i dunno man, like i don’t want to sound like those people going on about videogames in the early 2000s, or whatever, but i feel like there has to be some kind of connection between these things, these shows, and the behaviour of subjects of late capitalism. it is so violent and wrong about torture — it is so hyper-masculine in its depictions of takeshi and his problem solving. perhaps though the blame can go the other way round — that is, this show is the product of a distinctly violent culture, and it serves to normalise that which is unthinkable. for particular study, is episode 4, which features a graphic normalisation of torture, as Something That Can Be Dealth With … If Only You’re Hard Enough. the thing is, it feels like these shows don’t believe that torture is something that actually happens, that we currently have, as the coming head of the CIA, somebody who has given the go ahead on torture, who has actively participated in torture.
JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT I GUESS