The Lawnmower Man And Posthuman Cyberspaces

1957 words - 8 pages

The Lawnmower Man and Posthuman Cyberspaces.

On Becoming Posthuman.

“The posthuman view configures human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines.”
(Niran Abbas, Thinking Machines)

Unlike traditional humanist theory, posthuman discourses place an emphasis on informational patterns over their material counterparts, propagating the idea that the human body as it currently exists is no more than a temporary or disposable prosthesis. In her manifesto How We Became Posthuman, Katherine Hayles writes that this emphasis on information sees the embodiment of the human in a biological substrate as an accident of history, rather than an inevitability of ...view middle of the document...

“The body is our original prosthesis: to extend it through technology is merely another step in an evolutionary process that has already begun.”

The loss of the biological form then leads to that next evolutionary step; the reconfiguration of embodiment in an alternative model, or, the “posthuman”. (How We Became Posthuman)

Posthuman Forms in The Lawnmower Man.

In Brett Leonard's 1992 science-fiction/cyberpunk film The Lawnmower Man, the forms and dangers of a posthuman existence are directly explored through the protagonist Jobe (Jeff Fahey); a somewhat caricatured young man who suffers from a non-descript form of mental illness.

Due to his ailments, Jobe is trapped in a reality in which he is the subject of ridicule and manipulation, from which the benevolent Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) promises to free him. It is through the success of Dr. Angelo's experiments that Jobe quickly reaches the goal of accepted human 'normality', standing up for himself in the face of his tormentors and even beginning a sexual relationship with his neighbour Marnie Burke (Jenny Wright).

As Jobe's development progresses his body becomes little more than an access point for his virtual reality machine experiences, learning to command Dr. Angelo's virtual reality machines --as Hayles wrote in her prosthesis theory-- as an extension of his form, much as he did in simpler times with the lawnmower of the title. During these progressions, Jobe's relationship with Marnie switches from a passive to dominant role, leading to the creation of a virtual reality plane in which the couple can liaise. Within this plane Jobe experiences a liberation from the human body, taking on the guise of a virtual divine entity, able to manipulate his surroundings at will.

This new 'machine flesh' can be viewed as a figuration for the “collapse of the boundaries of the human” (Susanna Paasonen, Cyborg and Cyclops), as the body and thus sensuality becomes abstracted. Rather than providing his lover with an uncharted realm of pleasure, Jobe's attempts to move sex into the virtual world are thwarted by both his unchecked power and inability to detach himself from regularly accepted gender identities; unable to protect Marnie from his own unresolved issues, Jobe leaves her with permanent brain damage.

It is worth noting here that the original title for The Lawnmower Man was Cyber God, for it is exactly that which Jobe strives to become as his cognitive abilities progress far beyond the boundaries of the understood human consciousness. Forcing Dr. Angelo to continue his experiments, Jobe eventually succeeds in becoming an entity of pure information; leaving behind his body to become a new being, free from the “fragility of corporeality”. (Zachary McCune, On the Aspiration to Become Information).

The Body and Gender Boundaries in Cyberspace.

If the world of virtual reality/cyberspace is one of disembodiment, this raises several important...

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