Robocop in the age of Occupy Wall Street?
By Marlo B. Brown
(an excerpt from Wolferine and Cosmonaught)
If you stick to interstates like John L. and I did on the 1500 mile round trip to Michigan and back you will see a sprawling wasted land. You may even get the idea that perhaps, all of North America is like this. John, not wanting to believe what he saw, asked me somewhere between Ohio and Western Pennsylvania if this was true.
This continent is very different from all the rest, this country is big, too big to be contained under one heading. This country is so big that apparently not just towns, but entire cities can go nearly vacant. Detroit was a testament to this as more an more articles appeared in the papers about the desertification of this once great city built by the automotive industry, but long on the decline.
As Verhoven’s Robocop had in someways presented, the last 100 years of development had been conducted aggressively looking towards the future. The young hurtling the old. The results and fallouts of failed experimentation are evident everywhere. However, even more than the land, it is the American, who ever they are, who bares the most evident symptoms of the virtues and failures of our collective ongoing experimentation. We are all the sites as well as the actors of this massive pyscho-drama. What better representation of this than Robocop in the age of Occupy Wall Street?
Alex J. Murphy is a cop and Catholic family man who has been transferred to working a beat on the crime ridden streets of a near future Old Detroit. Performing his job, he follows a bunch of criminals to their hideout in an abandoned steel mill with his partner, officer Anna Lewis where they are apprehended by the criminals. Anna Lewis is incapacitated while Alex Murphy is tortured. The criminals proceed to first maim officer Murphy by blowing off his right arm and then taking turns they fire their shotguns blasting holes in every part of his body. In the final act of this sacramental moment, amazingly, Alex Murphy is still alive on his knees. His expression is transcendental, his body clearly useless. Clarence Boddicker, the main crime lord, who was also responsible for shearing off the arm, fires one last shot into the head of officer Murphy. This gunshot could be viewed as the symbolic gesture for the new beginning of a new type of man.
Although one can dissect the heavy handed, overtly corporate fascist criticisms behind the politics of Verhoeven ( all of which I enjoy and admire), one is forced to look for something more incomprehensible. The fictional corporation in this film, Omni Consumer Products being the representative of this overt fascist criminality which is monopolized crony capitalism . This is the company that is in essence responsible for the fate of Alex Murphy, just a simple, hard working, man. Had the company not bought the police department and cut the budgets, perhaps Murphy would not have been blown away on that day. But just as they are responsible for this family man’s destruction (as we find out later this was a consciously planned deceit since they needed the corpses for the Robocop program), they are also responsible for his resurrection. This man, or what was one a man, does not belong to himself as he has signed a waiver that makes him the property of this corporation. This is all very scary and significant and quite possible if not already familiar realities, Facebook being the closest to this in a virtual sense.
We find out that because of internal struggles within the OCP elites this Robocop program had come to pass as the young hurtle off the failures of the older generation. This is important to consider because that too is the driving force of our future. We have abandoned the old comparison/competitive models of man vs. machine for something far more elaborate: man as machine against himself.
What is left of Alex Murphy is then turned into Robocop, primarily most of his brain and face. His memory wiped clean and replaced by the objectives of the corporation. Notice, that the figurative heart is no longer necessary nor is a reproductive mechanism. A man with no heart and no dick confined into a superior mechanical body, possibly immortal, yet a thoughtless, powerless slave.
Although Verhoven being the impeccable satirist that he is leaves a loophole in the design. Placing a probe that erects from Murphy’s new right hand that he is capable of accessing computer databases (information). This symbolic sex organ is now linked to the hand of knowledge, capable of accessing the truth. It is also this hand that wields the large automatic firearm. Inevitably, it is through this hand that Murphy receives the truth of what has happened to him. Knowing the full truth however, Murphy does not go on to kill his “master”. The head of the OCP corporation an old man (a benign god figure like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz?) cowers behind his desk when Robocop finally breaks free from the imposed programing placed over his brain by probing (fucking) the main OCP database and later destroying the older, clunky, humanless robot.
Instead, Robomurphy goes after the criminals that have maimed his body. I find this to be a strange transference of personal responsibility. This is a very complex and structured final statement from Verhoeven, one that haunts me to this day. What exactly is he saying here? Why do we never destroy the enslaver? Does this have something to do with our total fear of Anarchy, for assuming total responsibility for ourselves? Verhoeven, in a way has exposed the double sided nature of fatalism.
We take the attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events which are thought to be inevitable as well as, we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. In another sense, man has no power to influence the future, or indeed, his own actions. But what about a man machine, a cyborg?
These effecting thoughts haunted both John L. and myself as we drove through the night and early morning into Ann Arbor, envisioning a derelict, cold, semi-abandoned town where man and machine wage war upon each other. In a way Michigan State University could be supplemented for a more complex version of OCP. Who knows what kinds of experiments are conducted in the Sleep Disorder laboratory that we passed at 5:34 in the morning?