I’m always a bit sad when a well made, thought provoking movies gets hated on by reviewers and does poorly at the box office. My wife and I ventured out to a local movie theater last weekend to catch Surrogates despite the poor reviews spread across the internet.
I left the theater impressed with the production values and the story the movie told. The basic premise is that later in the 21st century, technology has progressed to a point that humans are able to control a robot with their thoughts. The story goes deeper because not only do people control the robots, but they also feel anything good that their surrogates feel while being insulated from any pain. It’s a system that has made murder virtually nonexistent because every human simply stays at home while their surrogates go out and about doing jobs, buying groceries, and living life while the humans controlling them sit at home in an easy chair hooked up to a device that allows them to control the surrogates.
The movie was a solid action flick, but what set it apart from standard action flick fare was the questions that it asked about where we are heading as a society. The technology the surrogates provided allowed humans to simply stop interacting with each other. We see a wife who refuses to talk to her husband except through her surrogate. We see people so dependent on their surrogates to do their living that they become sickly, pale, and either emaciated or obese due to rarely having to move except to eat and sleep. It is a society that is built around people creating ideal images of themselves and then locking their real selves away and living life behind a fake mask.
Is this social networking taken to its extreme? Facebook, Myspace, blogging, and Twitter all allow people to create images of themselves that may or not be true. In Surrogates there is nothing to stop a balding fat man from controlling and experiencing life from the perspective of a blond female who looks like a supermodel. The other surrogates have no idea that the pretty blond girl who works at the beauty salon (for surrogates) is actually an old, fat, and perverted bald guy.
Facebook, or any other social networking tool, lets us create an image of ourselves that we wish to project to the rest of the world. Social networking also encourages people to create shallow relationships that exist only in a digital realm and built on nothing more than an easily falsified profile. Surrogates forces us to take a hard look at where we are headed as more and more people do more and more relating completely digitally.
The moral of the Surrogates story is that you miss out on life when you live in such an isolated manner and under such false pretenses. If all you know of a person is their idealized image through a social networking site, do you really know them? If your life is consumed by the digital world and you spend more time relating in that world than in the real world, how much of life are you missing? Sure, it’s easier to maintain a relationship over a social networking site but you miss out on the physical contact of a hug, the emotional impact of a face to face conversation, and the joy of having someone to share life with.
Who knows if the premise of Surrogates will ever resemble reality, but if there is one thing history has proven it is that science fiction has a way of becoming reality in some form. Surrogates reminds us in a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on indirect and impersonal forms of communication that nothing should ever replace human to human interaction. People are created to relate to other people and technology has made it easier to know something about a person (whether true or false) while letting us off the hook of doing the difficult, but rewarding job of building actual relationships with people. If you are looking to catch a flick this weekend, give Surrogates a try. It’s a solid action movie that asks some thought provoking questions and I always appreciate a movie that is both entertaining and engages the old gray matter a bit.