The Hopeful Cynicism of Mr. Robot

[image02Spoilers Abound! Just an FYI.]

The Really Interesting Bit, IMO

When I decided to start watching Mr. Robot, I didn’t expect much. After watching the first few episodes, however, I was struck by something unique about the show.

The concept of a brilliant, social outcast with various neuroses and a desire to “save the world,” I should note from the onset, is not what I found to be particularly compelling. This trope is, frankly, old hat. I also wasn’t won over by the loving, but misunderstood, drug addict girlfriend who makes Elliot Alderson (the main character of Mr. Robot) a “better man.”

What, then, was it that I found so compelling? The cynicism which gradually becomes clearer and clearer until it reaches its peak in the season finale.

You see, while Elliot is busy trying to take down the world’s biggest business conglomerate (E[vil]Corp), what he doesn’t realize is that Dark Army (an underground, mercenary hacker society that is helping him) is working with his target. There is no overarching purpose to Elliot’s hacking endeavors, in other words, just more corporate profiteering.

Elliot is a delusional paranoiac who sees and speaks with his dead father (Edward Alderson), forgets that Darlene (his accomplice in taking down E-Corp) is his sister (and tries to kiss her), and is generally off-kilter. Yet the real delusion, and one that the audience implicitly shares with him, is his belief that he can put an end to the tyranny of sociopaths who occupy legitimate(d) and illegitimate seats of power.

Whereas Elliot’s encryption of E-Corp’s data, and the erasure of all the debt incurred by those under E-Corp’s rule are meant to free citizens from the iron fist of economic servitude, the resultant fiduciary blank slate is welcomed by E-Corp’s successor. Why? Because it gives him a chance to build his own empire, to start afresh, to be the king and not a lesser noble in the kingdom.

Demolishing the infrastructure of corporations, and by implication governments, will not usher in an age of peace, prosperity, love, harmony, and equality. The removal of one despot will only usher in the next despot. The erasure of debts will only provide a vacuum which will need to be filled with – you guessed it – debtors and debtees.

The solution to these societal ills will not come about through an anarchic revolution.

image01Will There Be a Solution?

As far as the TV series is concerned, I don’t know if there will be a solution. What I do know, however, is that the show will leave the attentive viewer with a proverbial pebble in his shoe for the following reasons.

Firstly, note the ironic mirroring of E-Corp and f-society [Elliot and his hacker friends]. Both are faceless organizations which aim to destroy social infrastructures. E-Corp seeks to reify and commodify people, and thereby eliminate meaningful social relations; f-society seeks to eliminate corporate social relations [e.g. consumer/buyer, boss/employee, etc] and thereby restore meaningful social relations [i.e. natural social relations]. What is at issue is not the desire to destroy a social infrastructure in order to achieve certain group-specific goals. Rather, what is at issue is the fact that both groups are engaged in this kind of behavior. Which group’s goals are better? Why? Says who? If E-Corp wins, then tyrannical corporatism reigns over society; if f-society wins, then anarchism and the power vacuum raises its ugly lawless head [and there are some intimations of this taking place in Mr. Robot subsequent to f-society’s completion of its intended goal]. Neither anarchism nor corporatism have bright prospects for the future.

Secondly, Dark Army and E-Corp are business partners, faceless entities that manipulate social revolutionaries like Elliot Alderson and his hacker friends to further exploit the masses. Elliot is, in a very real sense, a papier-mâché savior deluded by an ideology no one with power takes overly serious. If the corporate profiteering is what drives not only the despicable business practices of E-Corp, but the very overthrow of E-Corp itself (apart from Elliot’s knowledge!), then is thereany hope for a viable sociopolitical solution to the seemingly impenetrable corporatism/anarchism binary? It would seem that there can be none.

baYou Must Be Born Again

Nevertheless, the cynicism of Mr. Robot, ironically, is hopeful, for it underlines a basic Scriptural truth: Man is depraved. Fallen man cannot construct a sociopolitical future that is not rife with errors (accidental and purposeful), powered by frivolity and greed; even if he could, he would remain errant, driven by base and sinful desires, out for only himself (even in his “better” moments of feigned altruism), and willing to destroy the lives of others in order to achieve his goals. Mr. Robot, at least in this first season, openly comes to terms with the depravity of man. As Elliot’s paranoiac hallucinations, selfish motivations, and irresponsible actions are unveiled episode by episode, the viewer is left trusting no one, becoming paranoid, realizing that he has invested a fictional madman with the fictional future of a fictional America.

Interestingly, Mr. Robot acknowledge what many professing Christians don’t – Men must be born again if (a.)they are to see the kingdom of God and (b.)they are to enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God will not be seen by the spiritually dead, nor will it be entered into by the spiritually dead, but is given freely by God to the Bride of the Lamb of God (i.e. the Church universal).

Today, as the world stands on its hind legs in rabid opposition to the children of God, there are many who desire desperately to usher in the kingdom of God, to see it established on earth, to have Christ reign as a “bread king.”[1] There are many who erroneously believe that by changing the political structure of a society, the kingdom of God will be established progressively, restoring a kind of heaven on earth eventually.

Yet what does the Scripture say?

Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.

Unless a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

And this rebirthing is not a human act, but Divine. The kingdom is neither seen nor occupied by unbelievers. The Christocracy to come, in other words, will be one in which all of Christ’s subjects are regenerate believers. The kingdom to come will not be part of this present age, which even Mr. Robot recognizes is fraught with sociopolitical problems stemming from the depraved heart of man. Instead, the kingdom of God is the age to come, where anarchism and corporatism are extinct, for God’s glory will be the single goal of all of the kingdom’s occupants.

This is what Mr. Robot doesn’t address, because it cannot. The hopes of secular society are withinthis present age, in the establishment of better laws, in a more faithful execution of justice.

The hope of the Christian Church is in the coming King Jesus, not social activism, where sin and unrighteousness and wickedness are dealt with once and for all.

Soli. Deo. Gloria.


[1] See John 6.


2 thoughts on “The Hopeful Cynicism of Mr. Robot

  1. sofianesisters says:

    I like the parallel you draw between F society and E corp.
    I also liked the theme of “You must be born again”
    I find it interesting that in one of the halllucinations, Angela tells Elliot that he was born a month ago. But I don’t know what to make of that.

    Liked by 1 person

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