The Enframed Cyborg

Ken Castle is the perfect example of a merger between a Harroway cyborg and Heidegger’s standing reserve. This is because the act of enframing as standing reserve and the concept of the cyborg are two intertwined ideas. In class, we spoke about the definitions of the cyborg, also referred to by the term “posthuman”. The definition I will focus on is the cyborg being an “evolved” human. To be an evolved human is to start to modify our bodies with technology. Castle replaced the vast majority of his brain cells, the act transforming him into a Haraway “cyborg”. To transform yourself into an evolved human, as he did, is to enframe yourself as standing reserve. Castle considered his body an external object, a tool, available for modification and to serve his own ends.

Many of Heidegger’s quotes seems to fit Castle to a T. “Man, precisely as the one so threatened, exalts himself and postures as lord of the earth. In this way the illusion comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct.” While walking to the basketball court at Castle’s place for the final showdown, Castle finally reveals his plan to Tillman and to us. “A hundred million people who buy what I want them to buy and vote how I want them to vote and do pretty much damn well anything I figure they ought to do.” He’s a megalomaniac with plans to take over the world. We could have, and probably did, guess that, but it is the first time he went and said it outright. Castle believes the Earth, and everything in it, people and all, are there as his personal playthings, and that his transformation into a cyborg exalts himself as ruler of his dystopian universe.

The scene where Castle and Tillman meet is designed to accentuate Castle’s God complex. Tillman is at the television, crouching down to look at the image of his daughter. Castle’s voice rings out, seemingly coming from a speaker of some kind, but then Tillman starts to hear snapping. He follows the sound. Light is weaving in and out of Castle’s house. The first glimpse of Castle is framed in shadow, facing forward with head down, “center stage”, surrounded by his “slaves” facing backwards. It’s clear that they’re ready to put on a show. Nothing shows his God complex more than when he starts to sing, all ten of his enslaved thugs starting to dance in sync with him. Throughout the majority of the song, Castle remains center screen, shadows flickering over him with the oscillating lights. The thugs dance moves correlates to Castle’s motions, and even when he sends them forth to attack, he continues to sing, ensuring that he isn’t ignored. There aren’t as many non-diegetic sounds during this scene to detract from his song. Castle is the focus, shrouded in mystery and appearing to be invincible.

The following scene only adds to his air of supremacy. He reveals his cyborg status, and monologues about his whole plan as all good villians do, while walking to his basketball court on a replica of the galaxy, with Tillman walking behind him, giving an impression of forced subservience. Then Castle proceeds to use his abilities to stop Tillman from fighting back. There seems to be no way Castle could lose.

Ultimately, Castle’s enframing of himself became his downfall. Castle’s transformation into a human “controller” made it so if he thought it, Tillman did it, regardless of whether or not Castle himself wanted to be thinking of the action. That sounds like a convoluted action film loophole alright, but I suppose it does make sense. It is impossible to force yourself to not think about something.  This scene showcases the danger Heidegger was talking about by enframing humans as standing reserve. It seems like, if I understand the concept correctly, that a technological singularity happened within Castle’s own body. A technological singularity is when technology advances far enough that we lose control of said technology and it becomes autonomous. Castle was so advanced, replacing 98% of his brain cells with nano-tissue as he did, that ultimately he couldn’t control his abilities, at least not well enough to save himself. “As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall;” And fall Castle did, stabbed by the power of his own thoughts.

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One Response to The Enframed Cyborg

  1. Steph Roman says:

    Excellent. Now what kind of meaning can we draw from Castle’s megalomaniacal control-freak personality? Or, rather, does the film offer an alternative? Is there anything to conclude from the presence/absence of an alternative?

    Nice work.


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