Derrida and Baudrillard in Maniac-The struggle to connect in a Posthuman world

The four most recent episodes of Manic are all centered on people struggling to connect with each other. Owen and Annie are linked in B-pill experiences by the grieving GRTA. They share the memories of lifetimes together through technology. Owen is uncomfortable about what happened between them when Annie questions him about it. Technology brought them a closeness they had never experienced with any other person, yet simultaneously drove them apart. The simulations of the GRTA are an extreme realization of Baudrillard’s theories on modern communication. “What was projected psychologically and mentally, what used to be lived out on earth as metaphor, as mental or metaphorical scene, is henceforth projected into reality, without any metaphor at all, into an absolute space which is also that of simulation.(Baudrillard 128)” Their deepest thoughts, which had previously only manifested through their actions and motivations known only to their inner selves, were now made perfectly clear to each other.

Dr. Mantelray and his mother Greta also saw a related conflict over the nature of this drug trial itself. When discussing the GRTA’s fusion of Annie and Owen’s hallucinations, Dr. Mantelray and his mother come to very different conclusions; Dr. Mantelray proposes a simple technological malfunction (something physical, understandable, and fixable), while Greta proposes that perhaps there is something mysterious and cosmic about their connection (something spiritual, metaphysical, and beyond the realm of technological science). The struggle between posthumanism and humanism is present in this exchange. Dr. Mantelray believes he can simplify the mind down into a chemical equation that can solved with the right combinations of drugs (similar to Hughes ideas about happiness in society), while Greta believes that there is more to the human mind than chemicals in the brain. Dr. Mantelray exemplifies a posthuman belief in mastery and control over the mind, while Greta expresses a humanist reverence for and romanticism of the complexity of the mind.

These conflicts also exemplify a presentation of phenomenology as discussed by Derrida. The hallucinations experienced by Owen and Annie are an extreme manifestation of an entirely phenomenological world. Nothing is objectively real; everything is created through their past experiences and other elements of their psyches. For example, the lost chapter of Don Quixote manifests itself from Annie’s remembrances of her sister’s childhood fascination with the book.

Overall, these episodes of Maniac viewed through the lenses of Baudrillard and Derrida present the issue at the core of communication in a posthuman era. Technology, allowing us to be more connected than ever before, changes that communication to something never before experienced. As Baudrillard says, we can upload versions of ourselves onto the internet; we “interface” rather than connect. People can know each other and manipulate what is known about themselves with never before seen capability. Technology has turned communication into a phenomenological interface. Everyone connects with everyone else through different versions of themselves, and the objective “truth” is almost always locked behind lenses of subjective experience.

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