Paranoid Visions: The False- or Simulated-World Film

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

Unlike cyberpunk anime, cinema, and television, which explores the increasingly blurred borders between the human and the machine, simulated-world films concentrate upon the borders between reality and simulation. Whereas most cyberpunk films question any sharp distunction between humans and cyborgs, robots, or AIs who exist in cyberspace, these films question the very nature of reality. Obviously, Haraway and other theorists of the cyborg provide the intellectual context for cyberpunk, and Baudrillard provides that for simulated-world films.

These films occur in both what we may call both strong and weak forms of this concern with simulation and illusion. Works in the weak form, like Wag the Dog, center on the use of mass media and digital information technology to create politically or commercially deceptive information. In contrast, the strong form, which embodies an even more paranoid vision, argues that our entire world is a simulation for the benefit of some, usually alien, entity. Works in this mode, which derive from Orwell's 1984 and the writings of Philip K. Dick, include

  • Truman Show (USA, 1998)
  • Dark City (USA, 1998)
  • The Matrix Trilogy (USA)
    • The Matrix, 1999;
    • The Matrix Reloaded 2003,
    • Matrix Revolutions, 2003
  • Avalon (Poland, Japan, 2000)

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Last modified 25 March 2005