C. Keith “Total Recall the Ultimate Dystopian Narrative” Total Recall is a movie based on Philip K. Dick’s story, “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” Total Recall is a 1990 dystopian movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, directed by Paul Verhoeven. In order to truly discuss dystopia, we must first define utopia and then in turn dystopia. A utopia is a place, or condition that is ideally perfect in all respects. This applies to its laws, customs, practices, and living conditions.
A dystopia by contrast is an anti-utopia, a place in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society is maintained through bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, tend to exaggerate worst-case scenarios, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. According to Merriman-Webster’s Online dictionary, Dystopian by defininition is “ an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives “.
Wikipedia defines dystopia, as “is the vision of a society that is the opposite of utopia. A dystopian society is one in which the conditions of life are miserable, characterized by human misery, poverty, oppression, violence, disease, and/or pollution”. Both states are fictional states. Dystopian literature tends to be futuristic and imagined. Like utopian writing, there is often a prescriptive element—Dystopian fictions almost always offer some kind of warning (often implicit) of what will happen should present trends continue.
In this essay I will attempt to prove that Total Recall is the ultimate dystopian narrative by using its definition, and demonstrating by example it’s effects on it’s societal statement, that we all should make extreme efforts to save the earth and it’s resources. Total Recall stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as an everyday man, Douglas Quaid, who craves something different in his life. He keeps on having realistic dreams about Mars and decides to visit Mars virtually. He goes to “the Recall Corporation” to get some memories manufactured and installed – ones that are exciting, and speak of Mars, espionage and slutty, athletic women.
Unfortunately, things go very wrong. In the process of getting his new memories installed, he wakes up to find that things are not as they seem – in fact he does not know if he woke up at all, or if whether he is still experiencing a memory impact at the Total Recall Corporation. Quaid’s visit to the Recall Corporation reveals that he already had a implanted memory chip. The memory chip, implanted at the direction of his former agency boss Cohagen. Cohagen wanted to erase his memory and make him forget his life as an agent on Mars.
In this futuristic sci-fi setting, Schwarzenegger plays a construction worker who discovers that his entire memory of the past derives from a memory chip implanted in his brain, Schwarzenegger learns that he is actually a secret government agent who had switched sides and become a threat to the government, or so he thought. In a tricky twist Douglas Quaid, Schwarzenegger’s character watched a video of himself proving that his whole switch to the other side was possible plotted by him and his former government boss Cohaegan.
Using this type of flip flop is a trait in most dystopian movies in this essay I will point out many traits and characteristics of Total Recall that will prove the movie to be a dystopian narrative. In Total Recall, the question becomes, is everything real or just a dream. Those of us who had an opportunity to watch the elections on election night, had the privilege of seeing real-time use of a hologram on CNN. During the election telecast, the host used a hologram to bring” Will I Am”, (the lead singer of the popular Black-eyed peas, band) into the studio, when the nation had just seen him in Chicago at Grant Park.
This 1990 movie made 18 years ago gave us a first look at many of the technologies we use today. Holograms, Touch screen, Flat Panel televisions, navigational systems similar to the GPS, and On star systems, airport x-ray and screening machine’s where a few of the technological advances showcased as futuristic in Total Recall. In 2008, only a few of these inventions are affordable to the masses of people. In the movie only the more fortunate individuals had the trapping and trinkets that displayed there status and need for technology.
This statement still remains true in late 2008, only the wealthy can afford most of these things. Dehumanization, the most common of all the trait of a dystopian narrative, and was brilliantly displayed in many segments of Total Recall. The underworld, were the less fortunate lived, worked and played was plagued by over crowed streets, depression and crime bars and brothel’s. This area was extremely impoverished and, it was a detailed dramatization of life on planet Mars.
Imagine that the earth was so messed that its inhabitant has packed up and moved to Mars, knowing fully that they have to pay for every breath of they had to breathe. The under ground inhabitants of Mars had been so long deprived of air and penetrated by radiation that many people had developed deformities. Imagine if there is a treasure in the earth’s core and one man had possession of it. Knowing that it’s healing effect once it was found could right all the wrongs or reverse the damage society has done to the earth.
Knowing this on thing would restore the earth’s resources. In recent times in the U. S, and around the world we experienced a similar disaster. Throughout the last four year’s the nations saw what it was like when one country had control of one of the worlds most sought after resources “Oil”. The destructive effect’s that were caused by the oil companies, who got rich, while the people of the underground experienced extreme distress, many lost there home, jobs and lots of material possessions.
However the most nothing can compare to the loss of life, mother’s and fathers have lost there children, children have experienced the loss of their parents and it was all over oil, and who controls it. Many lost their minds, through depression and grief over it all. The most shocking of all of the events is that as a society we all took the simple process of putting gas in the car to get from point a to point b for granted for so many years that when the prices skyrocketed, you saw many people walking, biking, or riding public transportation.
Many of the nations experience the soaring prices of gas and had to pay for it in tenfold. Meaning that gas prices were higher because all of a sudden the government falsified a high demand, which opened the avenue for company to pad there invoices with fuel charges. In Total recall peddler’s, prostitutes, cabbies, and palm readers alike were all scamming way’s to pay for the air them to breathe. Crime was high and heavily policed. The miseries of these scenes are indicative of another strong dystopian narrative trait.
Once again, the misery of the movie imitates life. That scene is not far from the state of our nation today. More and more you may hear of a person experiencing a stroke or heart attack, now these medical misfortunes come on from many different sources but individuals have adverse effects to the body because of the stresses of life caused by the extreme loss, in more than one way. Consider a seventy year old who had to make choice of paying the gas bill, or paying for medicine, of buying food to eat of medication.
Once again, life imitates art, the deformities and mutation of the underground inhabitants of Mars are the diseased, and polluted areas are additional traits of a dystopian narrative. In the dehumanization of the underground inhabitants when they did not comply with the authorities to give up there leader there punishment was the loss of their air supply. The powers that be, Cohagan had control of when they would have air to breathe thus affecting their entire existence. Keep in mind, the cause and effect and consider the nation’s most recent gas and oil crisis.
The owner of the oil began to ration out Oil, by raising the price which in turn was passed down to the companies that provide services to all, but because the owner raised the price of there product the service provider raise the price of the service they provide and the consumer pays for it all. In total recall, Quad while on his train ride to Mars, passes a pyramid mine, and he question one of his fellow passenger’s about what it was. The passenger told him with great sadness that that was where he once worked until it was shutdown putting the workers out of work. Counting the many business, banks and corporation that have folded.
This dystopian movie parallels the current state of the world in 2008 even though it was a product of 1990. The criticism of current events is one of the common traits in a dystopian narrative. Total recall not only expression the deprivation and oppression of a society. The people of the underworld feared not being able to buy air, or having high levels of radiation filter through the already tattered dome, or being terrorized by the police, or the keeper of the air Cohagen. Fear and terror are also traits of the dystopian narrative. Total recall also used the trait of fear.
The people of the underground feared that they would lose there air, or the protection they had from the radiation. Many people in the nation today live in fear. Imagine if there is a treasure in the earth’s core and one man had possession of it. Knowing that its healing effect once it was found could right all the wrongs or reverse the damage society has done to the earth. Knowing this on thing would restore the earth to its glory, and splendor it would bring peace and create a Utopia. Total Recall, paints a clear picture of the consequences that the world would encounter if we don’t stop the disrespect we have, for the worlds ainforest, and natural resources and the blatant disregard for our future generations, who would suffer and be in the same predicament as the mutants on total recall. If as a society we don’t stop the destruction of the Ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere or attempt to halt or reverse global warming by eliminating all of these pollutants we pump into in the air everyday. If as a nation we don’t make a change to or uncaring treatment of earth then many of the scene’s in the underworld of Mars will become reality for or nations future generations right here on earth.
Total Recall served as a wake up call to today’s society in several way’s not only to bring attention to , the devices, that we all commonly use for convenience, many of use cell phones that all contain locaters ,this is a great feature in my opinion , because it can be extremely beneficial, in a tragic situation. However it is indicative of the loss of individual freedom, to go were you want, when you want and no one knows where you are. Although this movie was a 199 dystopian it was so far ahead of it’s time.
In 2001, President George Bush passed the Patriot Act, which meant in so many words, “your freedom is limited. In many states, state issued drivers licenses and identification cards contain strips on the back that contain all of your information, while driving down the highway in some states your license tag is scanned by a passing patrolman that lets them know the status of your Insurance, Drivers license and any criminal background that is attached to your name. Much of the technological advances have enhanced our lives, but many have put on invisible chains.
In Total recall, there are certain sections that, the people of Mars are allowed access to enter. If their identification card is checked, and they are not in their assigned area, they are indeed breaking the law. The perpetrators will face arrest. This is the same fate that an uninsured driver would encounter if found on the road without insurance. The same consequence would be for a person with a suspended license would get for driving with a suspended license, not to mention what a parolee would get for crossing state lines they are in unauthorized territory and will be punished to the full extent of the law.
In the final scene of the movie the construction worker find his mission was to free the people of Mars by freeing them from the Oppressor Cohagen , by starting huge reactor that released oxygen, and allowed everyone on Marsto breathe. Open windows and allow the sunshine in the underworld open up a whole new horizon , a new found freedom. In Reality Quad was diligent in his mission to make difference in the lives of the people of Mars and when start the reactor and the oxygen was released a society that had been oppressed and deprived for so long, was now free.
In the final scene, the people of the underworld were relieved that they could breathe freely. This seen gave a utopian view to the inhabitants, but they were still mutants. The prolonged lack of air and their current economic status were still the same. In the last scene, many of the underworld former inhabitants had the look of being lost searching their mental capacities and taking in the scenery. They were seeking for an understanding, a purpose, or a direction in their new lives, as if it would come to them suddenly. That same expression portrayed on the face of Quaid, the construction worker the beginning of the movie.
Quaid had a dream of vacationing to Mars just because he wanted to make a difference, and that he had a desire to be someone. , he though that there had to be something more than the status quo he had as a married construction worker. In conclusion, I am confident that in this essay I have proven to you, the movie Total Recall is the ultimate dystopian narrative. It contains, all of the characteristic by definition of a Dystopian narrative. I have provided several examples of its dramatization of the ills of society, and have shown it strength in a societal message, that we should be protectors of the earth and its resources.
Knowing that any other action contrary to the protection of the earth, and its resources would have detrimental consequences. The portrayal of the former earth inhabitants in this movie depicting the effects of losing our freedom and being forced to leave our land and live, at the mercy of another. In Total Recall, it gave the impression that you might encounter a dictator, who would control every aspect of our lives. The overall messages in summation is,” Go Green” save the world or loss it and leave it behind. Utopia or Dystopia.