You might not be SMART enough (or geeky enough) to “get” these new shows



For years, the most compelling news coverage has come from late night comedians.  Now, in the void left by our current political climate, the most compelling ethical questions facing our nation are being addressed by fictional series.  And they are ripe for binge watching.

There are two, very different shows that take on the big questions that are not being addressed in the political realm.

Mr Robot is cyberpunk novel set in our contemporary dystopia.   The protagonist is a soft spoken, socially challenged, mentally ill, drug addicted hacker. He narrates his actions and his motivations directly to you, the viewer, who he has embraced as an imaginary friend. You are inside of his head much of the time.  And you are sometimes embarrassed that in spite of his many flaws, his ethical stances are superior to yours.
He is possessed by an uncontrollable drive to right the wrongs in the world.
We are first introduced to his obsession with society’s flaws during this scene.

Later we are introduced to the way in which he is acts on his motivations.

In Season 2, Elliot discusses religion with his church group.

Watch Mr. Robot.  Be prepared to be manipulated in ways you cannot imagine. Be prepared to feel insecure about your own intelligence.  Your own ethical make up. Your own sanity.  But watch it anyway.


Mr. Robot is available on Netflix or Amazon.  


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The second show that really challenges the ethics of our society could not be more different from the first.  Braindead is hard to describe.  It is sort of campy satirical sci fi comedy social commentary thriller. It takes place in 2016 Washington DC, and most of the storyline revolves around congressional representatives and their staff.  The premise of the show is that aliens have invaded and are eating the brains of the most powerful people in Washington.

I watched the first couple of episodes, and found it entertaining.  At that point I probably would have given it a 7 or 8 out of 10.  Rotten Tomatoes ranks it at 6.3. Time Magazine called it a pointless satire.  But they were wrong.  And after I watched a few more episodes, I realized I was wrong too.  

This is a serious 10 out of 10 series.   

It is so much more complex than it seems at first.  The slapstick one-liners in one episode really foreshadow upcoming events in ways that you cannot imagine. Yes. It is very silly.  Each episode opens with a really badly constructed song, providing a recap of the previous episode.  I squinted my eyes and frowned at first. You will too.   Now I have come to anticipate these musical recaps, often laughing so loudly that my kid (who should be asleep) crawls out of bed to see what I am laughing about.  But it is not just a comedy.  Each episode has an oddly long and descriptive title.  Here is the first season.  

  1. The Insanity Principle: How Extremism in Politics is Threatening Democracy in the 21st Century
  2. Playing Politics: Living Life in the Shadow of the Budget Showdown – A Critique
  3. Goring Oxes: How You Can Survive the War on Government Through Five Easy Steps
  4. Wake Up Grassroots: The Nine Virtues of Participatory Democracy, and How We Can Keep America Great by Encouraging an Informed Electorate
  5. Back to Work: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Congress and How It Gets Things Done (and Often Doesn’t
  6. Notes Toward a Post-Reagan Theory of Party Alliance, Tribalism, and Loyalty: Past as Prologue
  7. The Power of Euphemism: How Torture Became a Matter of Debate in American Politics
  8. The Path to War Part One: The Gathering Political Storm
  9. Taking on Water: How Leaks in D.C. are Discovered and Patched
  10. The Path to War Part Two: The Impact of Propaganda on Congressional War Votes
  11. Six Points on the New Congressional Budget: The False Dichotomy of Austerity vs. Expansionary Policies
  12. Talking Points Toward a Wholistic View of Activism in Government: Can the Top Rebel?
  13. The End of All We Hold Dear: What Happens When Democracies Fail: A Brief Synopsis

As the titles demonstrate, there are lots of inside jokes for policy wonks and folks who are paying attention to how government works. But in a strange way, the current political situation seems to serve as a metaphor for a much larger set of questions about the human condition.  


The show is not only about deconstructing right wing / left wing politics, but also right brain / left brain activities.  The show is really about the human brain. What motivates us to act? What stimulates us?  What makes us shut down? Huge ethic questions paralyze us. Stream of consciousness, random associations, can lead us to conclusions that are so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we cannot move forward. Smartly packaged arguments, no matter how trivial, can result in consensus.  

(Very minor spoiler in next paragraph.)

In a recent episode, a “witness” is giving a fabricated testimony to a congressional committee.   He states that he was involved in creating a form of biological warfare in Syria that is now causing the exploding heads that are plaguing our nation’s capital.  When asked if he tested the virus on humans, he said that he did. He was then asked if he tested the virus on animals. He said he did. He is pressured to describe more details.  What kinds of animals.  Giraffes.  Pandas.  The Senator holds up a picture of an adorable panda so that the committee can contemplate the implications.  Pressed further, the witness discloses that baby seals are currently en route to a testing facility in Syria, and that their heads will be exploded next.  There is no further mention of human victims.  


I scoured the internet to find good video clips to share.  But nothing I found was “right.”  Nothing captured the complexity.  The multiple layers of meaning.  So you will have to take my word for it.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch an episode out of order.  Trust me.  The episodes build.  And push past the first few.  This show is not going where you think it is going.  


Watch BrainDead and Mr. Robot on Netflix or Amazon.  

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