Monday, February 09, 2009

Read Below as I am Schooled in my Use of the Term Cyber-Punk (see comments especially)

Here is where I'll actively admit I over-use and mis-used the term Cyber-Punk.
Bad geek...Lara...Bad!

Okay, so I'm getting a lot of flack for my last post about Macross Plus because I apparently used the term cyber-punk a little too liberally. Allow me to apologize but state that I feel the liberal use of this term is necessary to integrate it into the English Language.
That being said, here is the collective wikepedia (albeit not 100% accurate) definition of cyber-punk:

"Cyberpunk is a science fiction genre noted for its focus on "high tech and low life".[1] The name is a portmanteau of cybernetics and punk and was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story "Cyberpunk," published in 1983,[2] It features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.[3]

According to Lawrence Person,

Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.[4]

Cyberpunk plots often center on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galactic vistas found in novels such as Isaac Asimov's Foundation or Frank Herbert's Dune.[5] The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators ("the street finds its own uses for things").[6] Much of the genre's atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.[7]"

Now my justification for using the term in Macross: (SPOILER ALERT!!!)
1. There is a hacker who is obsessed with Sharon Apple. He wants to be a part of her so much he starts to try to hack her code. When unsuccessful he uses his hacking abilities to destroy her because she is going to be a part of a society where people are no longer needed (and computers will battle for us)......oh and by the way she goes bat shit crazy and tries to kill everyone and capture Isamu.
2. The setting is near-future.
3. The society, though not well described, is very much infatuated with Sharon Apple even though she is a virtual entity and she has the power to control their thoughts and emotions.
4. Society nearly collapses when Sharon Apple goes crazy and tries to destroy everyone at the ceremony near the end of the film.
5. Myung has to aid the artificial intelligence in becoming complete which makes several references to cybernetics.
6. Macross makes several references to ghost-in-the-shell like technologies...and as far as I know Ghost in the Shell is about as Cyber-Punk as it gets in anime.
So there....nerd girl defends her right to liberally use a term....
Isn't English fun?

Here are BETTER films to exemplify Cyber-Punk:
Equilibrium, Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, etc.
- Lady Lara Jones -


Ian said...

Ok, addressing the examples:
1: Indeed, Sharon Apple is very much an Idoru-like figure: an artificial celebrity with a functional AI which gets out of hand. The way this is executed in the story is far more over-the-top and gaudy than one is likely to encounter in a Cyberpunk setting.

2: The setting is far future, after a war with aliens fought with giant transforming robot-planes with laser weapons. 'Nuff said.

3. The society is not dystopian in any real sense and the love story is so much the focus of the plot that there are virtually no details given regarding the social climate of the universe (exception being the alusions to the war with the Zantredi and Guld's mixed blood being a hot-button issue once or twice).

4. The AI attempts to destroy the world leaders with a SUPER giant robot and a secret UCAV plane. Not a cyberpunk reference at all, with the exception of the already-mentioned grandios AI.

5. Myung does interface with the AI, which is pretty cyberpunk (man-machine interplay), but there is no reference to cybernetics in the process. In fact, it is not even invasive (electode patches are used to relay signals to the computers). Furthermore, when Isamu is hospitalized, his healing process is rapidly increased by a "magical" suspension liquid and he is shortly back on his feet with only some braces and support tools to aid him. Had this been a cyberpunk setting, it would likely have bankrupted him, gotten him addicted to painkillers and had most of his body replaced with metal or synthetic prostheses.

danicus said...

Here's a list of more cyberpunk film and TV examples, since Ms. Jones made me think of them, then didn't list them. :-p


The Terminator (kind of, if you allow that the movie is set in the past, with the War Against the Machines as the present)

Total Recall

Repo! The Genetic Opera

A Scanner Darkly

Harsh Realm (TV Series)

Cowboy Bebop is borderline, given that most of the elements are there, but it takes place in the far-flung future. If it isn't direct cyberpunk, it is at least Sci-Fi Noir.

I would add books and comics and stuff, but i'm kinda lazy.

Bartholomew Percival Osgood said...

This list gives a good representation of the genre in multiple medium.

The common interpretation of the genre seems to emphasize the relation of the distopian culture and everyday acceptance of high technology in everyday life which closely resembles our own problems. People need money and use the technology at hand to get it.

I found it striking the similarities in the opening of Gibson's Count Zero to Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream. Two sons with mothers trapped by addiction and television, looking for a way out and a way to make money. Its a story about people, the only difference is that instead of drugs, Conway turns to hacking.

From my exposure, cyberpunk's central concept is the agency of actors in a distopian setting filled with high technology. Steampunk does the same in a neo-Victorian setting, usually focusing on the traditional themes of the literature of that era, namely man vs. himself and detective/pseudo-horror literature. Cyberpunk embraces the technology of the future setting, but does not make it the focus, only a part of the lives of society.

Far-future media is much the same as high-fantasy; there is an emphasis on action and the ficitional elements present such as teleporters or the magic of the latter. There is no reaction by the individual to any sort of internal or societal crisis of conscious. Characters are predictable, whereas those of a cyberpunk storyline may react in an assortment of ways that does not fall into a distinct archetype. Stories such as Neuromancer or Judge Dredd could be taken out of a future setting and put in the present. The same could not be said for the majority of Star Trek episodes.