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  1. “Posthuman” refers to the form of life that a person can potentially transform into thanks to the achievements of medicine, biotechnology, cybernetics, engineering and other sciences. There are many assumptions about what the postman will be like and how safe these or other modifications will be for himself, society as a whole, and for the Earth's ecosystem.

    Today, theorists, transhumanists (I will put them in a separate paragraph, since I still haven't been able to figure out for myself whether this is a sphere of philosophy or a whole new cult) and, of course, artists are talking about the posthuman — they would hardly be able to bypass this problem rich in vivid images.

    Here you can talk about a lot of authors who work in a variety of genres and directions, especially if you define the term “art” broadly, rejecting the problematic division into “high” and”low”. Since it is impossible to see everything relevant to the topic in one short text, from the image of the posthuman in modern painting to the “biomechanics” style in tattoo art, from cosmists ' fantasies to cyberpunk novels, I decided to narrow down the question and try to understand how the posthuman theme is presented in cinema.

    The first post-human on the screen is a woman?

    Most of the films in which the authors reflect on the posthuman can be attributed to the genre of dystopia. In them, the posthuman future looks far from rosy, and the achievements of science most often lead to disastrous consequences for society and the planet-well, or at least do not make people's lives more complete and happy. In their predictions, directors and screenwriters most often find themselves in solidarity with the ideas of the philosopher Francis Fukuyama. His book“Our posthuman Future: the Consequences of the biotechnological revolution” (2002) is filled with an uneasy premonition of a dehumanized, extremely conflicted posthuman world, the onset of which, according to Fukuyama, is already inevitable.

    Fritz Lang's silent black — and-white Metropolis (1926) was the first film to feature the image of a man “perfected” by technology. The posthuman theme is not the main one in Metropolis, it appears quite unexpectedly, and the story associated with it is frankly knocked out of the whole plot. One of the heroes of the film, inventor Rotwang, creates an ideal creature-a female machine. This takes place against the backdrop of revolutionary events, and the authorities use cyborg to put down a workers ' uprising. In “Metropolis” there is a very symbolic episode of the frenzied dance of a cyborg woman, who drives the men watching him crazy, including the main character. Here we see the demonization of the simultaneously feminine and cybernetic in a single dynamic scene.

    Shot from “Metropolis” (1926)

    It seems to me that this particular film tells us more about Lang's perception of the social processes of the present, such as women's emancipation and the ultimate liberation of morals in 1920s Weimar Germany with its numerous cabarets and vibrant dance culture, rather than about fears of a cybernized future. Why the image of a cyborg appears here is still a mystery to me.

    Inhuman suffering

    To follow the further evolution of the image of the posthuman in cinema, you will have to go almost 60 years ahead, to the 1980s. In one decade, a whole pool of films devoted to this issue was released on the screens. First of all, this is, of course, about “Blade Runner” Riddy Scott, a cult film that became the standard for subsequent science fiction films and cinematic cyberpunk. But I want to write more about another important film text – “Robocop” directed by Paul Verhoeven (1987).

    The World of the Future in Blade Runner (1982)

    The main character of “Robocop” is a young police officer Alex Murphy, who at the very beginning is brutally killed by a gang of drug dealers. Researchers led by Dr. Mary Lazarus “resurrect” Alex, creating a cyborg with a human brain and a super-strong titanium body. The cyborg police officer is many times superior to his human colleagues in strength and accuracy, which allows him to successfully fight crime. But the public good that he brings to his city turns out to be a personal hell for him. Alex gradually begins to return to the memories of his past life, which bring him unbearable suffering.

    What do we see in the case of Verhoeven's Robocop? Abstract “benefit” to humanity, the result of experiments in bioengineering, has its dark side. Scientists create a “new person”, but what is new in him is not only his special, multiplied abilities, but also the unprecedented suffering that he has to endure. What these sufferings will be, the average person is unable to predict or think.

    Still from “Robocop” (1987)

    The posthuman and social inequality

    So, a cybernized future can bring a person not only new abilities, but also new torments, for which it is impossible to be prepared in advance. But what if all sorts of bio-and psychomodifications cause suffering not only in people who are directly exposed to them? What if they lead to discrimination against entire social groups, new forms of oppression, and social conflicts?

    Such reflections also appear in films about the posthuman. For example, in the already mentioned “Blade Runner”. In general, this masterpiece of Scott requires a separate discussion, including in the light of the release of the remake of “Blade Runner 2049”. Here I would rather talk about less well-known films, such as Gattaca (1997), which deals with the potential threat of a new form of classism that will be brought by the development of genetic engineering and biotechnology.

    Gattaca is the “brave” world of the future, where scientists have managed to completely decipher the human genome and find a way to correct any potential defects. Children in Gattaca are conceived in vitro, carefully calculating the most successful combinations of parental genes. There are also those in this world who were created “in the old-fashioned way”, created by chance, and not by a wise scientist in a white coat. Such children are called “God's children”, and in the new world they are deprived of any prospects and opportunities. “God's children” work as service personnel for the so-called “fit”, they are perceived as “second-class” people and are treated rudely and dismissively.

    The main character of the film, Vincent, is from “God's children”. He is pathetically and” old-fashioned ” short-sighted, weak in health and absolutely no one in the world of the future is interesting. However, Vincent is not going to put up with this state of affairs — he decides to “break the system” and succeed at all costs. A small spoiler: you might think that the film will end with some bold gesture of Vincent, an attempt to show solidarity with other oppressed people, their struggle for their rights: on the way to the goal, the main character learns about the increasing injustice of his world, which deeply affects him. But don't expect much from him. The problem raised remains depoliticized, and the system is being cracked with the help of the good old do-it-yourself scrap metal-that universal key to the “American dream”.

    Vincent, still from “Gattaca” (1997)

    In general, I couldn't think of a single film in which the posthuman theme was revealed in a less abstract way. The problem is not the modifications per se, but the forms that these experiments will take in the context of a particular economic or political regime — this idea is only glimpsed in some films, for example, in the recent “Ghost in the Shell” or in “Genetic Opera”, a bizarre post-apocalyptic movie musical from 2008. It shows a future where organ transplants become first a vital necessity, and then “the new black”, a fashion in which the GeneCo corporation makes a fortune. The beginning of the film looks quite “hopeful”: the “Repo Man”, the “Confiscator”, the bloody collector of the future, stalks the streets of the metropolis at night, pursuing debtors on a loan for a new heart or improved eyes. However, neither here nor anywhere else do they dare to speak the political side of this horror clearly and pointedly. Problems are solved with the help of “god in the machine”, or by shifting the focus from the public to the deeply depoliticized personal, for example, to a mawkish love story.

    A shot from the “Genetic Opera” (2008)

    The creators of my dearly beloved Johnny Mnemonic (1995) were the most honest (although, again, not sharp enough for my taste). In the film, Keanu Reeves ' character makes a living selling his modified, augmented memory, in which he transports classified information on request. To fit more data in there, he decides to erase his childhood memories. The detail is very symbolic and vivid: in modern European culture, thanks to the research of Freud and other psychoanalysts and the popularization of their teachings, these memories are perceived as one of the foundations of personality, the soil from which the inner world of a person “grows”. New technologies here become just another tool that allows you to drain all your resources from a person, use his body and consciousness to the maximum, without stopping at any possible destruction. Marcuse with his “One-dimensional man” in a terrible dream could not have dreamed of such inhumane exploitation.

    Or maybe it's not so bad?

    Of course, there are also films in which the view of the posthuman is much more positive. By my estimation, they are an absolute minority, but nevertheless, they exist — and some of them turned out to be very popular at the box office.

    One of them is Luc Besson's film “Lucy” (2014). In it, the main character, thanks to the modification of her body (albeit accidental), develops previously untapped brain capabilities. Throughout the film, we observe how Lucy improves and learns more about the surrounding reality, in order to merge with it into a single whole, which other people are not yet able to imagine. Here we see an obvious reference to Besson's cult“Space Odyssey 2001” Stanley Kubrick (1968), in which a person, in order to move to the next level of his development, renounces his material shell, in principle. True, in Kubrick, he makes this leap thanks to the intervention of an alien mind, and not by the forces of scientific research.

    Lucie in Besson is obviously an image from the Cyborg Manifesto Donna Haraway (1984). On the way to the knowledge of the “kind of foundations”, it goes beyond not only material existence, but also stable identity, refuses self-determination in the framework of binaries-male and female, human and animal, living and technological, receiving in return inexhaustible opportunities.

    Still from the movie “Lucy” (2014). Vertical lines — lines with text, something like the” source code ” of reality, which the heroine of Scarlett Johansson begins to recognize. This is, of course, an obvious reference to the Matrix

    The anxiety that the agenda of post-guanist philosophers (Haraway is one of them) causes in modern people, the desire of these thinkers to redefine the boundaries of female and male, human and animal, was well conveyed by the director Vincenzo Natali in his “Chimera” (2009). In this film, the focus is also on a creature on the border of the mentioned binaries, a miracle created by a couple of enthusiastic genetic scientists. According to the plot, it turns out to be unmanageable and extremely dangerous. Vincenzo Natali clearly does not trust Haraway's cyberpunk fantasies, preferring them to the traditional categories of the humanist era, familiar — and therefore seemingly salutary.

    Still from the movie “Chimera” (2009)


    I have listed just a few of the brightest films that raise the issue of the posthuman. I did not have the task of making this list as complete as possible, but rather I wanted to show in what key the topic is most often considered by cinematographers. Many important things were not included in the text, for example, the sensational “Surrogates” (2009) or a huge layer of animated cyberpunk, which is extremely diverse and interesting for analysis. In general, I must immediately admit that my review turned out to be extremely West-centered. I will be glad if someone adds to this picture. It is especially interesting to learn about films of different national cinematographies and a little-known art house dedicated to the posthuman and posthuman. Maybe you've come across something unusual in your scientific research — or just nightly searches for something to see?

  2. The image of a posthuman being in Hanya Yanagihara's novel “A Small Life”is interesting. If they didn't comprehend it, then they were ironic.

    “Or “you have to be so unclassifiable that you don't fit in the usual measurements at all.” Then J. B. turned to him, and he went cold with horror. “Just like Judy: we don't know if he likes boys or girls, we don't know what race he is, we don't know anything about him at all. Here's post-sexuality, post-race, post-identity ,post-history. He smiled, indicating that there was some humor in his words. – Post-human. Jude is a Posthuman.

    “Posthuman,” Malcolm repeated, always willing to divert attention away from himself at the expense of someone else in awkward moments. And even though the nickname didn't stick– Willem rolled his eyes at the joke as he entered the room, “which dampened JB a little-he realized that no matter how much he” told himself that he was one of them, no matter how hard he tried to hide his ” painful dissimilarity, he couldn't fool them. They knew he was weird, and it was stupid of him to tell himself that he had convinced them otherwise. Still, he continued to come to his fellow students ' rooms for nightly gatherings: he was drawn to them, even though he knew they were dangerous for him.

    In the Russian translation, Malcolm's remark was called a joke, but it is not obvious to the reader what the actual irony is. In the original, the joke is obvious. The point is that a POSTMAN is a POSTMAN.

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