Death row psychos, so what? They had it coming anyway.

One of the main points that Heidegger makes in The Question Concerning Technology is that there is great danger in enframing man, or treating man as a standing reserve. In the film Gamer, the enframing of man is everywhere. Ken Castle has set up an entire enterprise based solely on controlling another human being for entertainment.

In Castle’s second game, Slayers, the inmates are put into serious danger by being enframed. A gamer is put in control of their every action during a round of combat. Being put into the game is basically a death sentence. Kable is the only slayer to have come remotely close to surviving the 30 rounds needed for a no strings attached release back into the real world. The requirement of 30 rounds is set high so that the game will continue on indefinitely. Basically, the government is just sending inmates to their death through Slayers so they don’t have the blood on their hands. This is all disguised as entertainment though so the general population has no problem with this major enframing of fellow humans.

In the scenes of combat, the camera quickly follows around Kable. There are quick shots of the other slayers but they don’t show emotion, they are on autopilot. Lots of blood and guts are flying around along with faceless bodies. No one reacts to the blood raining down on them. To the gamers and fans watching the sessions, it is more fantasy than reality because the slayers seem more robot than human. This helps the public accept Slayers as entertainment without noticing the enframing of the prisoners.

The prisoners within Slayers are completely stripped of their humanity and what they are put through completely tears apart their mental state. After coming back from one of the sessions, the slayers are sitting in silence in a locker room type area. When one of them begins to have a psychotic break, no one attempts to stop him. The prisoner starts to rip into the back of his own neck, pulling his brain stem and committing suicide. A guard walks up and simply questions, “What happened to this one?” Who cares because he’ll just be replaced and forgotten.

The locker room that the prisoners are in is very grey. There is no natural light. It is a very dark and depressing room and the prisoners look just as dark and depressing as they reflect on the last session they just endured. In this scene, there is a nice close up of the blood pouring out from the prisoner’s neck as he rips into it. To a normal viewer, this is a pretty shocking scene. Here is a man committing suicide by tearing out his brain stem and blood is pumping out of the back of his neck yet none of the prisoners react. To the film viewers, this should convey how messed up these prisoners have become. However, to the fans of Slayers, they don’t get to see behind the scenes. They don’t see anything but the action packed battles where the slayers put on a show.

The prisoners are extremely expendable to not only to Castle and his enterprise, but also to the general population. They don’t fully realize that they’re putting real humans to death and they don’t question the morality or ethics of it. They don’t question the mental toll and damage being done to the slayers. When Simon used the walkie talkie cheat, Kable tried explaining how terribly atrocious and wrong the game is. He says “These are real humans,” to which Simon responds, “Death row psychos, so what? They had it coming anyway, right?” ­

One can argue that this is a parallel to the views that society has about inmates. While Gamer shows a very extreme and drastic approach to handling convicted felons by making them fight to the death for entertainment’s sake, the concept is still the same in real life. A large portion of society has a prejudice towards inmates. They assume that once you commit a crime, you’re unable to change in your ways and that you’ll always be a danger to society. We are enframing inmates in a sense that we only see them for the crime they committed and we disregard their humanity. They are seen as a burden to tax payers and only become useful for any labor that they do while incarcerated. Looking at the prison system this way shows its flaws. A person convicted for a crime should be brought to justice but should they be treated as lesser humans? Is there a way to bring someone to justice without taking away part of their humanity? However, this really pertains to those convicted of lesser crimes. Certainly serial killers shouldn’t be set free in hopes they learned their lesson and that they’ll assimilate back into society.

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4 Responses to Death row psychos, so what? They had it coming anyway.

  1. I like how you brought up the aspect of standing reserved where people will simply be replaced one after another. This is far from a new or unique concept, but it’s interesting to view it in a setting that is unfamiliar to a degree. Using people as nameless, faceless resources is hardly new, but it brings to mind totally different implications when it’s presented in such a way that it seems cruel or farfetched.

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  2. I said in my post that this movies setting is unlikely to ever happen simply because there are a lot systems in place to prevent the selling of products that could be so harmful to the person purchasing that product. However the use of criminals for slave labor and cheap entertainment seems like a policy that has been around for thousands of years such as with the Colosseum back in Rome. I think I am more skeptical of the society aspect of the movie than I am of the slayer aspect. It is like my immediate reaction is to be more revolted by hedonism than sadism. I am not sure if that is more a comment on myself or the society I live in but either way I hope that I never live to see the day where humans gain the ability to so completely control another person.

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    • strikefacehwc says:

      I actually found myself thinking the same thing, that something like Slayers seems much more likely to catch on than Society, and I think it’s more a reflection on our culture than anything else. We glorify violence even in modern sports (I’m looking at you, boxing and MMA), and so it seems a more natural extension that with a more “disposable” player base like what was presented in the movie, that violence could get turned up to eleven strictly because the audience doesn’t care about the people being hurt. Is it understandable? Yes. Is it morally right? Absolutely not.

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  3. shupp1217 says:

    I agree with your opinion on how society views convicts. I do believe that our judicial system (as well as our legislative) is broken. Not that it is truly possible to find out how many people in prison are indeed innocent, I have heard many instances where the system failed to find the correct criminal. If Gamer’s plot were to become reality, a lot of possibly innocent people could be in more of a shit-hole then they had unfortunately already been in.

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