The Child’s Play Reboot and Social Commentary

On July 1, I saw the reboot of the horror movie Child’s Play, inspired by a review I read in a Vancouver free daily newspaper.

I haven’t seen the original movie, but, from what I’ve heard and read, the doll Chucky came into being by way of a serial killer using voodoo to transfer his soul into a nearby doll. In the reboot, the dolls–one of whom become Chucky–are run by way of artificial intelligence; thus the reboot offers social commentary on how artificial intelligence is a double-edged sword, and, if humans aren’t careful, something like Terminator can become a reality.

Spoilers ahead

The movie comments on other aspects of society, however. Going into the theatre, I wondered why Chucky absorbed only the worst of human behaviour, when even actual children absorb the good and the bad. My mental question was answered practically at the beginning of the movie: In the Kaslan factory in, of all places, Vietnam (most factories for American corporations, in the real world, are in India, China, the Philippines, and various parts of Latin America), a supervisor verbally abuses, then fires, one of the workers, who then disables every function (including the ones that stop the doll he’s working on from becoming violent) in the AI tube going into the doll, and inserts it–all while displaying great relish in his actions–in a subtle comment on what happens when you treat the people who work for you like crap. Now, I understand that, in the real world, not all workers whose bosses abuse them develop sociopathic tendencies, but certain people, given enough reason, will turn on the world around them in their own ways and wreak havoc. And the Vietnamese worker in the Child’s Play reboot wreaks havoc–and how–via the last doll he worked on before he was turned out on his ear. This scene also comments, I believe, on First World corporations exploiting Third World labour.

Chucky is part of a line of toys called ‘Buddi’ dolls, whose tagline–given to them by the Kaslan Corporation–is ‘a friend to the end.’ Never mind the fact that, at some point, kids stop being kids and thus outgrow toys, and people, even children, can drift apart over time, for various reasons. Andy is a preadolescent in this movie, and initially doesn’t want a Buddi doll, but his mom, Karen, gets him one anyway, on impulse, possibly thinking the only consequence of doing so will be the doll collecting dust from never being used. Little did she know…

Karen and Andy are apparently new in town, and Andy clearly has trouble making friends–which changes after Karen gets him Chucky, as he befriends two of his neighbours, who get Chucky to curse (which, according to my memory, is the worst thing they do). But things go off the rails when Andy and his new human friends guffaw at a TV showing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, during which Chucky tries to kill the friends after seeing a scene from the movie; when Andy chastises him, he claims he was trying to make Andy happy.

And it doesn’t stop there. Andy hates his mother’s boyfriend, Shane–who is, to a degree, abusive (and who is also cheating on his wife with Karen)–and Chucky sees this as a licence to kill him. But Chucky doesn’t want Andy to have any friends beyond him, either–case in point Karen and Andy’s neighbour Doreen (whose son, Mike, is a cop), who Chucky eventually kills upon seeing camera footage of her, Mike, and Andy having dinner and hearing Doreen tell Andy he’s her new best friend after Andy shows her how to use a phone to order a car to take her to bingo night. As well, Chucky tries to turn everyone against Andy–by, in one instance, showing video footage of Shane’s decapitated head in Andy’s bedroom. Friend to the end, or possessive?

What I took away from the Child’s Play reboot–besides recognizing technology is a double-edged sword (as if I didn’t know that already)–are the possible social consequences of buying products from seemingly domestic businesses but which were actually manufactured in downtrodden foreign nations; the possible consequences of impulse shopping; and that some relationships can become toxic, especially if boundaries and ground rules aren’t established. The film also hammered home for me that pieces of popular culture–such as this movie–can, even unintentionally, serve as social commentary, disguised as entertainment.

Alien Abductions and Near-Death Experiences

OK, so stories about alien abductions and near-death experiences aren’t as popular now as they once were, but they are, by no means, a dead issue, either, thus they are still part of the popular-cultural landscape. And I’m commenting on these stories as part of popular culture because, as there is no tangible evidence to suggest any of them are true–and one of the people who told one of these stories admitted the story wasn’t true–they are merely part of popular culture

Others have commented on this, and I will add my own voice to the chorus: Stories about alien abductions and near-death experiences sound awfully similar to each other. From what I’ve heard of either kind of story, the people who tell them merely parrot those who came before them, and/or are ripping off books, magazine articles, movies, TV shows, etc. The people who tell these stories are either: a) poorly educated, if at all; b) lonely, highly suggestible, and/or need to get out more; or c) shysters, especially if they’re making a shit-ton of money off of books, movies, etc.–unless they’re children, in which case they’re just being exploited.

Which brings me to the one person I mentioned in the first paragraph, who admitted his near-death-experience story was made up. This individual, a boy named Alex Malarkey, was in a car collision, which put him in a coma for several months; Alex is now a paraplegic because of the collision. Alex’s story of having gone to heaven has apparently made quite a bit of money, from book and movie deals, none of which has gone to Alex himself. Oh, I think I should mention, for those of you not in the know, that ‘malarkey,’ when not used as a family name (surname), is another synonym for ‘bullshit.’ And has anyone noticed that no one who has claimed to have had a near-death experience has ever claimed to have gone to hell? At least none that I’ve heard.

You know, I can play this game. I’ve never been abducted by aliens, or had a near-death experience (unless you count my mother’s having nearly miscarried me), but I could claim one or the other, or both, write a book, possibly make a movie deal, and with that pay off all of my debt and live high on the hog for the rest of my natural life–even if it came to light that I was never abducted by aliens or had a near-death experience, as there is a subset of credulous people who will deny the truth about my claims. All I have to do is parrot what everyone else is saying. The only thing stopping me is what I see every time I look in the mirror; principles matter more to me than money.

Unless and until cold, hard evidence–as opposed to post hoc rationalizations, arguments from: ignorance, incredulity, authority, popularity, or other logical fallacies–presents itself, I hold the position that anyone who writes and sells books, or makes movies, or otherwise makes money off of the alien-abduction or near-death-experience stories is either suggestible themselves or, unless children, con artists making money off of other people’s suggestibility.