Anxious masculinity: a comparative study of Philip Dick's Scanner Darkly and Richard Linklater's adaptation.
Paltry people who will not know the dreadful war we've gone through, and the losses we took, unless in some footnote in a minor history book they catch a notion.... There should be a monument somewhere, ... listing those who died in this. And, worse, those who didn't die. Who have to live on, past death.... The saddest of all.
--Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (268)
Gender researchers introduced the ideology of traditional masculinity in seven areas: 1) homophobia, 2) autonomy, 3) escaping femininity, 4) violence, 5) limiting emotion, 6) achievement 7) non-relational attitudes toward sex (Levant and Fischer, 1998; Levant et al. 1992; Wetherell and Edley, 2014; Levant and Richmond, 2007; Shepard et al. 2011). This article tries to trace the distortion of these seven ideological values and hegemonic masculinity in Dick's Scanner Darkly and Linklater's adaptation. The ideological hyper-masculinity, embodied in war hero, finds its crisis in postwar American literature and movies. In Stiffed: Betrayal of the Modern Man (2011), Susan Faludi depicts the crisis in masculinity that afflicts contemporary American society. In post war culture, the repetition of "brand-new" looks like an elevation in the definition of masculinity. Yet, it represents the enforced postwar domesticity. Two types of anxiety surround the image of masculinity: the damaged soldier and homosocial man.
The damaged soldier transports the aggression and violence of war into peacetime world and the homosocial man cannot breakaway with the relationships he forged between his fellow worriers. This relationship is threating the heterosexual normative of domesticity and masculinity. Vietnam War (1954-1975) serves as the background for the emasculated men in Dick's postmodern novel, Scanner Darkly (1977). Almost thirty years later, Linklater adapts (2006) the novel in a similar social background of Iraq War (2003-2011). Though the war is officially ended in 2011, in 2006 a referendum on war shows great tendency to end or reduce American military involvement in Iraq. The literal war in the social background of novel movie is metamorphosed into war on drugs. The sciencefictive aura of the novel and its adaptation is the very proof of the anxiety since both artists recontextualized their postwar setting. Man is deprived of his manhood in the 1970s (the time of novels' publication), and in early 21st century (Linklater's adaptation). Interestingly, both novel and film put emphasis on the continuation of this anxiety in their dystopian future.
Since Dick and Linklater's male heroes are the object of violence rather than practicing it, this article focuses on the image of "homosocial man" rather than "the damaged soldier." The term "homosocial" is introduced by literary critic Eve Sedgwick in Between Men: English Literature And Male Homosocial Desire (1985). The term is obviously coined by its analogy with "homosexual." It means social bonds between people of the same sex. This male bonding is shaped in homophobic societies, where hatred and fear of homosexuality is dominant. In this case, the desire is silenced and the continuum between homosexual and homosocial is either invisible or drastically disrupted (Sedgwick 1-2). The anxiety and fluidity of gender roles and sexuality is embedded in this continuum. For Steven Cohan, the writer of Masked Men: Masculinity and The Movies in the Fifties (1997), the anxiety is mirrored in challenging the domestic and economic structures of capitalist America (42-44). He claims that "hegemonic masculinity" is introduced to postwar American literature and culture where the figure of "breadwinner" is the central point. Any other definition of masculinity is regulated according to this image in ahierarchal order. This paper argues that the anxieties concerning civil, economic, and social organization are arranged around the term masculinity. It traces the definition of new masculinity in Scanner Darkly, novel and film, where men are domesticized by social and economic structure. The plot of drug-culture novel/film revolves around psychedelic substance D that is a means to domesticize the deviants of the society. The "brand-new" masculinity is the continuation of William Whyte's Organization Man, one of the most popular nonfictions in American 1950s. The 1950s is the time that America was struggling to cement its super-power stature. In postwar era, the definition of new masculinity is introduced: men are evaluated in terms of financial successes that can be read as Levant's achievement. At the same time, hegemonic masculinity, demasculinizes men by depriving them of adventure and heroic actions of wartime. This article aims to fill the gap of recontextualization of masculinity defined by two artists in two different eras: Dick as the novelist in late 20th century and Linklater as the director in early 21st century. It aims to find the importance of similarities and differences in two versions of Scanner Darkly. In the end, what is revealed or concealed by this comparison is the significance of this paper. The literal war, be it Vietnam or Iraq War, is concealed. The anxieties are revealed in a decontextualized setting: a fictive paranoiac world where war against drugs is doomed to failure. This failure is mirrored in the failure in understanding and demarcating masculinity. Though this paper emphasizes on anxieties that men face in defining themselves, it can refer to the anxiety of a nation experiencing the constant state of war after three decades. Two artists, Dick in cold war era of Vietnam War and Linklater in post 9/11 era of Iraq War depict not only the anxiety of their male heroes but also the anxiety of their nation.
The Emasculated Identity: Socio-Historical Perspective of Dick and Linklater's Scanner Darkly
Unlike the scientific texts, literary texts "do not integrate prefabricated textual elements without alterations, but rather reshape them and supply them with new meanings" (Plett 9). Thus, interpreting "masculinity" in Scanner Darkly is more a matter of understanding the text as interrelated sociocultural links rather than straightforward references. The anxiety and crisis can be seen even in the title: "Scanner Darkly" where masculine identity is darkly scanned. A Scanner Darkly (1977, dystopian science fiction) is Philip K Dick's quasi-autobiographical novel depicting the 1960s drug subculture. The definition of masculinity in novel/ adaptation is three-dimensional. As for being science fiction, it lives between the scientific medicalization of male body and the fictive paranoia of control. This dialogic interrelationship of science and fiction is well played in the novel. Furthermore, Scanner Darkly is an autobiographical mingling of personal definition of factual masculinity and the fictitious quality of ideal masculinity. It is not simply the multiplication of the text since the author changes history to fiction; it is also the multiplication of the postwar context. The narration of self-referential hallucination, drug abuse, digital camouflage clothing, and technological snoop drowns readers in anxiety and crisis.
Male characters oscillate between their real self and their phantasmagoria. They are emotional creatures with no achievement. Such oscillation represents Plett's "perennial interplay between identity and difference" (17). The novel's autobiographical text, writer, characters, and readers experience the phantasmagoric definition of male identity in different degrees. Among the introduced seven areas of masculinity, autonomy, violence, limiting emotion, and achievement are best represented in paranoiac visions in the novel and its adaptation. Male characters are unable to create an autonomous masculine identity because they are homo-social, unable to limit their emotions and hence act femininely.
A brief summery casts light on different dimensions of problematic masculine identity in Scanner Darkly. The informant narc protagonist, coded as Fred, becomes addicted to psychedelic Substance D. He has to be addicted to Substance D so that nobody suspects him. Fred loses his sense of self and his identity when he plays back the camera surveillance of Bob Arctor (his real name). As an undercover narc, Fred/ Bob Arctor, like all police agents, must wear Scramble Suit to camouflage his features. Scramble Suit challenges his gender identity as a man. His gender constantly changes in every second. Donna, Arctor's beloved and a drug dealer, turns out to be another narc. Fred/ Bob Arctor's identity is evaporated to the extent that he cannot even remember his own male name when he goes to rehab clinic; that is why he is later called Bruce (i.e.: Fred/ Bob Arctor/ Bruce). Because of the drug abuse, and Fred/ Arctor/ Bruce's increasing paranoia, the parameters of "reality" and "masculine identity" in the novel and film fluctuate. As a result, the readers are unsure of believable facts and unbelievable delusions. Actually, reality exists by mutual approval. With a few more participants, any illusion becomes less unreal. Even drug delusion is another dimension of reality and another definition of self and masculine identity (Kucukalic 175-6).
In Hitchcock, Homophobia, and the Political Construction of Gender (1996), Corber claims that the generalized crisis of identity is the byproduct of postwar politics. The interrelation between gender norms and cold war (19471991) brings homosexuals, women, and communists under the umbrella term of Other who deviate from male normativeness. Heterosexuality is closely linked to capitalist ideology. Ehrenreich's The Hearts of Men: American Dreams (2011) investigates homophobia, fear of homosexuality, in terms of capitalist ideals. The social or economic failure of men denounces them as Other or "irresponsible" contrasting the ideal definition of masculinity: the heterosexual conformist. She draws an ingenious equation: "I am a failure = I am castrated = I am not a man = I am a woman = I am a homosexual" (25). That is how Levant's criteria for masculinity norms, homophobia, escaping femininity, violence, and limiting emotion, are closely linked. Furthermore, the postmodern atmosphere of the novel/ movie augments male identity crisis. Thomas Byers finds strong links between homophobia and pomophobia, fear of postmodernism (5-33). For him, postmodernism equals "Kissing Our Selves Goodbye" (6) since the orientation of gender, sexuality, history, memory, and knowledge is skewed. As identity is tightly linked to these orientations, the impression of masculine identity is totally changed. Identity crisis may approach the verge of absurdity when every image of identity is marginalized and even annihilated by institutions. When the anxieties and fears of MacDonald, feminism and gay fandom meet, "pomophobia" is shaped. As for the Hollywood adaptation of the novel, we can draw on Tasker's interconnection between postmodernism and Hollywood male hero. She declares that postmodemity indications significant shifts in the definition, understanding and availability of masculine identity. Shifts in the representation of Hollywood's male hero mirror his anxieties about masculine authority and identity (242-243).
In "Terminating the Postmodern: Masculinity and Pomophobia," Thomas Byers, meticulously studies the destabilization of the superstructure reflected in the Hollywood representation of male hero. He well justifies that economic crisis not only re-/ displaces but also misplaces "material anxieties into hatred of and violence against the marginalized" (5). He claims that labels like homophobia and antifeminism push different sexual and gender orientation to the margin. Such crisis existed in the time of Dick's Scanner Darkly (1977) taking place in post-Vietnam War era as well as its film version (Dir. Linklater, 2006) adapted in post-9/11 period of Iraq War. Bearing in mind Faludi's definition of masculine anxiety, one can see the image of the damaged soldier in Scanner Darkly. For her, the crisis is located in the failure of fatherhood in the postwar American society. The veteran of war cannot follow his path to virility in the safe family life. Both Dick and Linklater highlight this fact since they emphasize how Bob leaves his family to become the undercover agent, Fred. Thus, we can see how Levant's violence and autonomy are related: through violence, the male hero tries to assert his autonomy.
For Byers, economic crisis explodes into violence against the margin. That is how Levant's violence is linked to economic achievement. Both novel and its adaptation depict examples of violence against the marginalized. Both the novel and the movie start with the violence of police system against the suspects. The suspects are the deviants by every definition. They are poor and addicted; they are mentally unstable; their being straight is questioned and they are both undercover agents and minor drug dealers. Thus, both the police system and drug mafia marginalizes them. Even the marginalized drug addicts are asserting their masculinity by violence against their friends. Now Levant's violence is associated with homophobia and escaping femininity. Their rehab clinic is the best site of personal, public, and institutionalized violence against the marginalized members of the society. However, the institutionalized violence of the rehab clinic is somehow silenced in the adaptation. While for Dick the violence is both institutional and personal, Linklater prefers to depict violence in private scale. It is perhaps because Hollywood, this gigantic corporation, frowns at institutional critique.
Many works like Postmodernism (Jameson 279-96), "Nostalgia for the Present" (Jameson), "After Armageddon: Character Systems in Dr. Bloodmoney" (Mullen et al.), and Bukatman (48-55, 93-99) praise Dick for fitting and literally predicting Fredric Jameson's definition of capitalism. On the other hand, Andrew Hoberek undermines those ideas and finds Dick not as a theorist but as a vehicle to deliver anxieties. All those seemingly contradictory ideas lead us to one place: the masculinity crisis in postwar period. Instead of labeling Dick as "fictional theorist of capitalism," Hoberek introduces his works as the "experiential and ideological matrix through which Dick's model of capitalist/ postmodern culture [is practiced]" (375). One decade after the World War II, we witness the rise of a new form of multinational capitalism, which shifts production to consumption-based industry (Hoberek 375). This shift is definitely challenging gender roles and causing masculine anxiety. The analogy between masculinity--production and femininity--consumption has been drawn by many critics (Cohan 52). The shift from masculine production to feminine consumption defines a new white-collar, working-class: one that has to sell his mental labor, one who will be subject to downsizing without the protection of unions, and one who is deprived of decisionmaking in the hierarchal corporation (Hoberek 375-76). The identity, social and organizational value of every man is embedded in his domesticity and consumption. That is how Levant's escaping femininity, and limiting emotion are challenged. The man of war and adventure, the hero, is emasculated and domesticized. Shifts from the heroic production-oriented to emasculated consumption-based industry are not only studied by Fredric Jamesonian definition of capitalism in Byers (5-33) and Hoberek (374-404). Even Dargis's film review of Scanner Darkly focusses on consumption and domestication as vogue (10).
Capitalist definition of masculinity, problematic and even emasculated, is not only favoring consumption-based industry but also applying consumption-craze strategy. The crisis in masculinity is embedded in the growth of contraceptive technology in one hand and the explosive expansion of pornography on the other (Levant's non-relational attitudes toward sex). Journalist Ann Marlowe believes that the mainstream pornography is a desperate need to assert masculinity since it "becomes less and less essential to reproduction, we brandish it even more defiantly" (qtd. in Albury 128). One side of capitalism is the homogenization of masculine identity: white, virile, muscular, and sexy. Woman's body is considered as consumer's commodity but men's consumer-oriented visibility is a new subject. Not only women but also men are objectified and hence feminized. The new definition of masculinity in the time of novel's publication and adaptation (Tasker 73, Edwards 2) represents institutionalized control over masculine body. This control is mostly embodied in masculine sexuality. For Michel Foucault, "control" and "institutionalization" is not always seen in suppression, but through great visibility (History of Sexuality, 1990). The maximal visibility of male body indicates a type of sexualized masculinity that silences any resistance or opposition to the norm. For Beynon, visible male body does not indicate the decline of patriarchal ideology in the objectification of women; it is the very cause of anxiety (77-79). The hegemonic masculinity that puts breadwinner at the center is declined and hence anxiety is born. Being unsure about their masculinity, men are abused by different drugs in Scanner Darkly. Drugs are born for correction, medicalization and control: drugs to alleviate by hallucination, stronger drugs to reduce that hallucinations, and the strongest Substance D to terminate the hallucinations and pains by annihilating the user. In Dick and Linklater's paranoiac world, many men are unsure about their identities while they are on duty because they have to wear scramble suit. "This man ... once within the Scramble Suit, cannot be identified by voice, or by even technological voiceprint, or by appearance. He looks, does he not, like a vague blur and nothing more? ... In his scramble suit, Fred, who was also Robert Arctor, groaned and thought: 'This is terrible'" (22-23). The same words are exactly found in the first half of the adaptation. In Scanner Darkly, a junkie poses as a narc and the narc fakes a junkie where nobody knows who is a junkie and who is a narc while he tries to evade them both.
The Emasculating Cybernetic: Dick and Linklater's Science Fictive World
The post-1960 era marks the advent of computer science and programming. With the invention of the first microprocessor, world's first personal computer is welcomed by market. The link between Dick's paranoiac fascination with technology in late 1970s and Linkater's adaptation in early 2000s is traced in the nostalgic manifestation of heroic masculinity that is threatened by cybernetics. In other words, Levant's autonomy and sense of achievement are challenged by cybernetics. The late 1970s is one step after the mass production of personal computers and one step before the popularity of WWW. The popularity of science fiction novels and movies in the end of cold war (1970-1990) and post-cold war era, mirrors the continual struggle to create a kind of space for heroic masculinity since the technocratic and bureaucratic structures ruins the possibility of individualism and autonomy. For King and Krzywinska "good" guys are opposing "bad" bureaucracy which is a part of the "network of potentially sinister state forces, the favorite demons of the contemporary frontier tradition" (25-85). In "Endopsychic Allegories," Laurence Rickels links technophobia, paranoia and identity crisis in Dick's Time Out of Joint and Valis trilogy. That is how postmodern fluidity of identity is closely associated with masculine identity crisis and emasculation. In "How to Build a World That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later," Dick is criticizing hegemonic masculinity with his ironic conclusion: "I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes that do fall apart ... two days later" (262). However, he is obsessed with finding the answer to: "What is real?" He finds himself under the emasculating bombardment of "pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms" (ibid). There is no objection to the sophisticated technologies. The outcome looks problematic and even apocalyptic. Masculine sense of identity and integrity is evaporated. Dick reveals that "I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power" (ibid.). Later in 1980s, critics claim that the supremacy of "built" bodies in action star reverberates another phase of masculine crisis (Tasker , Edwards  and MacKinnon ). Any other male body construction, (i.e. not-built), is culturally stigmatized and marginalized. Marginalized masculinity is interpreted as homosexual, feminine and emotional (i.e. Levant's homophobia, escaping femininity, limiting emotion). Discussing Hollywood heroes and villains of the 1990s, Byers (1995) introduces many affinities between anxious masculinity and Pomophobia (postmodern phobia). In the 1990s, twenty years after Scanner Darkly, Stuart Moulthrop repeats Dick's paranoiac vision when he discusses the influence of postmodern culture on media and the controlling power that cannibalizes identity. The title of the article, "You Say You Want a Revolution?" is as audacious as the conclusion: "The question remains: which heads do the changing, and which get the change?" (par. 53). It is not coincidental that Manohla Dargis entitles the New York Times film review of Scanner Darkly as "Undercover and Flying High on a Paranoid Head Trip" (emphasis is mine).
It takes almost thirty years that Dick's male hero can enter Hollywood. Hegemonic masculinity finds its way in the built male body of the stars in 1980s like that of John Rambo. Later in the 1990s, the fluid mercury body of T-1000, the villain of Terminator, adds more to this masculine anxiety. In the 2000s, Hollywood heroes are allowed to display their anxiety. That is where Linklater enters the stage and adapts Scanner Darkly. Still, such a fluid definition of masculinity for hero is not customary since Linklater's Scanner Darkly is set in science fictive universe. Dick's literary text of the 1970s can permit the emasculation of the hero only in cyber-culture. Though emasculated heroes are present in American literature of the 2000s, Hollywood accepts this emasculation of American man only in an imaginary time.
Scrambled Masculinity: Reading A Scanner Darkly
Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, ... he deliberately deceives himself about that little precious fragment ... A portion of him turns against him and acts like another person, defeating him from inside. A man inside a man. Which is no man at all!
--Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (novel and adaptation)
The watching eye of the scanner and the fluidity of identity in Scramble Suit are the causes of crisis for Fred/ Bob and all male characters who wear the suit. Carrigan, Connell, and Lee's (1985) definition of hegemonic male is very helpful to interpret Fred/ Bob's character. For them, masculinity is a plural term because different kinds of masculinities are created in relation to, and through struggles with, each other (Wetherell and Edley 356). In this part, we examine the rivalry between the privileged form of masculine identity (i.e. Levant's hegemonic masculinity) and hero's redefinition of masculinity. It is understood that despite their struggle, the heroes (novel/ movie) fail to define their own version of masculinity: "A man inside a man. Which is no man at all!" (Scanner 133). Whenever Fred/ Bob/ Bruce tries to prove his autonomy, to escape femininity and emotion, or to actively participate as hegemonic male, he fails. Different instances in the novel/movie show that he hates to be the ordinary man, Mr. Average, or what Whyte calls Organization Man.
From the very beginning, Fred/ Bob is introduced as: "A vague blur and nothing more" (Scanner 22; Linklater's adaptation). This lack of autonomy and identity is what "Fred, who was also Robert Arctor, groaned and thought: 'This is terrible'" (ibid.). The most important female character in the novel/ movie is Donna, "Bob's chick" (27). Bob's girlfriend is introduced to the reader by Barris who claims that he can "lay her for ninety-eight cents" (27) despite her frigidity. Bob embarrassedly replies: "I don't want to lay her. I just want to buy from her." (ibid.) While projecting their own frigidity on Donna, male characters are all fanaticizing to be with her. Expectedly, none of them are able to build any relationship with women be it Donna or anybody else. Only Bob meets a prostitute to prove his masculinity.
Bob's meeting with the prostitute, Connie, is an assertion of his failed masculinity. Though in his male gang, he is the only one who picks the girl, instead of Connie, Bob is the object of her gaze. Connie is baffled by Bob's homo-social lifestyle. Their short conversation bears witness: '"You're queer?' 'I try not to be. That's why you're here tonight'" (165). Connie continues, "If you're a latent gay you probably want me to take the initiative. Lie down and I'll do you" (ibid). He fails to answer the fundamental question: "'Are you putting up a pretty good battle against it [being gay]?'" (ibid.). Instead, he sympathizes with Connie who is a drug addict and has nothing to sell but her body. For him, every junkie is a recording machine, unable to take the initiative. Substance D is an emasculating drug. That is why he is brooding over male's integrity when he claims: "Every junkie ... is a recording [machine]" (166). His relationship with Donna is a failure since he does not have the courage to take the initiative. Numerous examples in the course of the novel show how Bob and his male friends fail to have women despite their sexual availability. One can refer to the girl in "short plastic jacket and stretch pants" (9), the pretty girl "wearing an extremely short blue cotton skirt" in NEW-PATH (49), "the short girl with the huge breasts" (96), and the ethereal girl, "atmospheric spirit" (269). Linklater is graphically depicting the scene with the prostitute while Fred/ Bob's inability to take the initiative with other women is totally absent in his adaptation. Instead of Bob's sexual impotency, Linklater depicts Donna's superiority in terms of autonomy and achievement. Interestingly, Linklater's Donna turns out to be Fred's boss in the police department. Thus, her sense of achievement is signified. She drives Bob to the hospital and fully sympathizes with him after understanding the result of psychology testing lab. The result shows that Fred, the undercover police agent, is addicted to Substance D. Donna is strong enough to create a balance between her conflicting identities as police and drug dealer (autonomy and integrity). In the novel/ movie, Bob's identity is lost to Fred. Both Linklater and Dick's Bobs are equally weak. Yet, unlike Dick, he does not reveal men's impotency directly. Thus, his Donna is stronger. This alteration can be traced in the popularity of feminist movements in 2000s in America. In the 1970s, only one decade is passed after Betty Friedan's commencement of Second Wave feminism. Her Feminine Mystique (1963) delivers audacious critique of Freudian psychology. In the fifth chapter, "Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud," she challenges the eligibility of "penis envy" though Freud was popular and valid in her time. In the post-9/11 era, the position of women is drastically changed in America. Third Wave feminism has been initiated in 1990s and women have served as soldiers in Iraq War.
Hegemonic masculinity treats women, as sex objects who must be pursued as conquests and if a man is unable to do so, his manhood is challenged (Altmaier and Hansen 380). For Dick and Linklater, the strength of Donna's character is embedded in her unattainability. She has rejected every man in Barris' drug gang. Not just that she is virgin but also she does not allow any man to drive her car. Bob is the only man she cares for. Yet, he is incapable of conquering her. The virginity of a female drug dealer lacks verisimilitude for 21st century audience. Thus, Linklater emphasizes Donna's obsession with her car to signify her sexual unavailability: "nobody else can drive my car! ... no man especially!" (Dick, 109; adaptation). Bob's impotency is portrayed in many scenes. When he lies near the sleeping prostitute, her figure is metamorphosed to Donna's body though he is not hallucinating (ch. 10). The chapter ends with Fred's dialogue with another undercover agent: "'Saw some kinky sex?' a scramble suit asked. 'You'll get used to this job.' 'I never will get used to this job.'" His embarrassment about sex directly revels Levant's non-relational attitudes toward sex. Interestingly, the movie replaces this bedroom setting with another scene that has more science fictive flavor. Fred sits before whirling holo-playbacks and watches the bedroom scene. Suddenly, he feels that the prostitute is Donna. The moment that he tries to touch her, Donna's figure is changed to Connie again. In the novel, this scene is followed by an epiphanic moment when Bob picks the provocative Picture Book of Sexual Love. Instead of arousal, he delivers the most philosophic speech of the novel: "Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, and very often, ... he deliberately deceives himself about that little precious fragment as well. A portion of him turns against him and acts like another person, defeating him from inside. A man inside a man. Which is no man at all" (Scanner 133). Linklater changes the scene into a concluding voiceover when Fred is going to be committed to the rehab clinic.
Confined in their blurry Scramble Suit, characters are tangled in a world where they can only "see darkly" because they are unable to break through the hegemonies of life. For both Dick and Linklater, Scramble Suit is a "super-thin shroud-like membrane large enough to fit around an average human" (14). "Seeing darkly" is a key phrase that is connected to manhood. Because of the fluctuating nature of Scramble Suit, Fred/ Bob/ Bruce--the ever-present character of the novel (and film)--turns to an enigma. Dick and Linklater call the wearer of the Scramble Suit "Everyman in every combination" and therefore "any description, of him--or her--was meaningless" (23, adaptation). Scramble Suit keeps the reader and characters in a threatening suspense: nobody is recognizable; everybody can be anybody; everybody informs on everybody but nobody knows who is who. The cyber world authorized a paranoid situation. The cyber-creation of scramble identities is ironically echoing the drug-created identities that lack autonomy. These identities are fluid and ungraspable.
Bob's identity is revealed to him and to the readers not through a set of consistent or coherent actions and reactions but through interruptions. Nothing has consistency or authenticity but the "interruption" and the "inverted space" that he is "infinitely pulled through" (Ford 66). He is deprived of identity by being domestisized in a family and finalized as an organization man. William Whyte's The Organization Man (1956) is groundbreaking in the mid 1950s. It is equally influential in the 1980s since he is re-invited to Richard Heffner's Open Mind interview show. Twenty-six years after his first appearance, William Whyte still needs to defend and redefine "Organization Man." Stretched between the definition of Organization Man of the 50s and the 80s, Scanner Darklys hero happens in the late 1970s. Whyte describes "Organization Men" not simply as "clerks" or even "top managers," but the "middle class" people who are "the mind and soul of our great self-perpetuating institutions" leaving home, spiritually and physically to "take the vows of organization life" (3). Bob Arctor does not want to be the American "Everyman" cliche. He struggles to shape an identity in another formless from of life. The "pain" in his domesticity "cleared away the cobwebs [that] he hated his wife [and] his whole house"; his "life" had "no adventure" (ch. 4; adaptation). That is how Bob deviates from the norms of patriarchy dictating every father to be the provider of a safe home. He tries to redefine masculinity in adventure and opposing "bad" bureaucracy but he loses his identity in physical and mental levels. In the end, when he returns to the supposedly normal pace of life, he loses his power of articulation. He is now the mentally dysfunctional Bruce who is nothing but an echo (273). He gives away Bob--etymologically "bright" and "glory"--to gain Fred or "ruler"; but he ends up in Bruce, a Norman name, totally alienated from his two previous Germanic origins. Both Dick and Linklater build their hero on the same structure: the man who tried but failed.
Scanner Darkly, with its struggling hero of fluid identity, is a good choice for adaptation. Bob is not the first nor will he be the last Hollywood male hero who embodies "anxieties about masculine identity and authority" (Tasker 243). From the beginning of the narratives, novel / film, the theme of fabrication of reality and lack of autonomy is ever-present. It is depicted in the scene of collecting imaginary aphids that are pestering the defenseless nude body of Jerry. Scanner Darkly (novel/ movie) threatens hegemonic masculinity by such objectification of male body. Expectedly, Bob's body that appears masculine and clear in outline shows many subversions of the identity in masculine body image. By representing Bob--the used-to-be family man--in a male gang, Dick/ Linklater challenges the authenticity of "straightness." They highlight the phoniness of "objective" reality and its social supporting systems that sets straightness as norm. His last name, Arctor, is signifying the artificial nature of his identity reminding the audile of acting: Bob Actor. Bob projects his lack of masculine autonomy on every part of the narrative. Substance D is not natural but a synthetic drug. Fakeness is everywhere: nothing is immune from this contagious fake reproduction. Identity is constantly counterfeited by Donna, Barris, Fred / Bob / Bruce, Spade Weeks (a drug dealer and inhabitant of New Path) and Hank. Everybody shapes a new identity to hide his previous forged identity. Even tapes, cocaine, flowers, aphids, Jim Barris' sandwich, and dog excrement can be plastic, sham, and unreal. Needless to mention that a mere physical existence and vegetable-like state of Bruce, who used to be Fred/ Bob, is more tragic than physical death.
Linklater tries to re-create Dick's scrambled masculinity visually. Scanner Darklys "unbounded" visual structure produces a movie that is neither a digital film nor an animated cartoon. In New York Times, Dargis praises Linklater's animation technique called rotoscoping. Rotoscoping means that motions and live-action images, previously traced by ink and paint, are now sketched by software (10). The result is the fluidity of bodies "floating above the background visuals.... [They] appear almost liquid, as if the characters had been recently poured and had yet to harden into final shape" (ibid.). Hence, Linklater adapts Dick's Scramble Suit in every part of his narration. The unreality of animation and the reality of digital filming, the liquid, yet harden final shape represent the "cognitive dissonance and alternative realities, though both the vocal and gestural performances by [actors]" prove the film more of live action than animated cartoon (ibid.). This tension in the identity of male heroes is cracking through Dick's story, Linklater's adaptation, and even the nature of technological improvement in rotoscoping. Audiences are always aware of watching a film but when a film is turned to animation, it augments the alienation effect. Linklater's "curvilinear" narrative structure tries to capture the spirit of Dick's Scanner Darkly (1977).
The lack of solid identity and autonomy in Scramble Suit is traced in Dick's condemnation of MacDonald and Coca Cola. For Dick, they equally force the male hero to abandon his identity. Dick's harsh criticism is silenced since Linklater is aware of and recognizes Apter's "dominance of superstates." Instead, Linklater augments Dick's emphasis on the "militarization of information and intelligence" symbolized by the fascist police system (Apter, 365). Everybody spies and informs on everybody. Police is not just recording what everybody has done, it forces everybody to confess what s/he has not done and commit what s/he does not mean to do. Police military power goes beyond physical "border patrol." The metaphysical power is not only in "information and intelligence" but also in the distribution and manufacture of psychedelic drug, Substance D. Junkies take the drug because they are simply addicted and narcs must take the drug to keep their undercover identity, to be assimilated to the drug culture and hence to become better informers. "Better" is synonymous with "more dependent" rather than "more reliable." With the dominance of Substance D and its systematic hallucination, "everything is everything else"; the drug, the junkie, the narc, the head police, the undercover informer, and the junkie informer are all the same. The narc has to betray his fellow junkie friend to keep his position as a police and the junkie extradites his narc and junkie friend to keep away from prison. And yet, every information is delivered with the anguish of imprisonment. Thus, Linklater and Dick's heroes are not only losing their autonomy, but also they become the object of violence. Needless to mention that hypermasculinity necessitates men to become the subject of violence and they are feminized if they endure violence.
Conclusion: Masculinity Scanned Darkly
This article has tried to trace Levant's portrayal of traditional masculinity in Dick and Linklater's Scanner Darkly. They are exemplified in seven areas: 1) homophobia, 2) autonomy, 3) escaping femininity, 4) violence, 5) limiting emotion, 6) achievement, and 7) non-relational attitudes toward sex. In the 20th century (Dick's novel) and 21st century (Linklater's adaptation), "self' is shaped by and is shaping the notions of "reality." That is why reality turns experimental. Alternative version(s) of reality portrays different kinds of masculinity, including unhealthy mental states or doped-up men. Bob Arctor, like many heroes of postmodern literature and 21st centy Hollywood movies, attempts to create a private or collective version of reality while ironically his identity turns out to be doped-up or scrambled. The pomophobia, for whoever doomed to live in postmodernist hell, means the lack of "core-self' or "an individual soul" (Pfeil 34). That core is identity in general, and the solidity of masculinity in patriarchal culture. The protagonist of Scanner Darkly is perplexed by his triple identity: Fred/Bob/ Bruce. Even his masculinity is under question by quitting his wife and living with male friends.
In masculture (i.e. masculine culture), Scramble Suit represents an anxious body, a borderless physique that reveals fragility of masculine identity. Here, we have focused on men's artistic creation as discursive practice that is loaded with ideological consequences. The definition of masculine identity is complicated and multifoliate. The socioeconomic setting of late 1970s is the basic motivation for Philip Dick to write this novel. Thirty years later, Richard Linklater, finds the same anxiety in 21st century men. This paper does not defend traditional masculinity. Instead, it shows how artists try to criticize hegemonic masculinity in their works. When the dominant discourse of the society is privileging traditional masculinity, Dick claims: "those men who didn't die. Who have to live on, past death [are] the saddest of all" (268). Dick uses words like "sin," "punishment," "Greek tragedy" and "deterministic science" for the characters who challenged traditional masculinity. He finishes the novel with a list of friends who suffer from "deceased," "permanent psychosis" and "massive permanent brain damage" (288-89). Thus, his conclusion is more critical toward masculine hegemony: "[My friends] remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven" (289). In 2006, Linklater concludes his movie in the same way. Our research reveals how different context, like literature or movie, is affected by masculine ideology.
(1.) I gratefully acknowledge the support of a grant-in-aid of research from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in 2015 (code: 30176).
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Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (1), Azadi Square, Mashhad, Iran
Author Azra Ghandeharion has been Assistant Professor of English literature and cultural studies at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad since 2013. Her interest in research includes contemporary Middle Eastern art and culture. Her emphasis is on "Otherness" issues, adaptation, appropriation, body politics, and literature of diaspora. Her critical interests cover the competing discourse of society in popular culture, advertisement, films, and sitcoms. She presented numerous articles in national and international congresses involving social sciences, humanities, and art.
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|Publication:||Forum for World Literature Studies|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2016|
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