Doppelgangers

How does Mountfort (2018) argue that the technological doppelganger differs from its Romantic precursors?

 

The major differences Mountfort (2018) cites are that in the shift from supernatural to scientific origins the doppelganger is now intertwined with an “ambivalence” or outright distrust of scientific progress. As such there is a greater focus on urban environments, especially facilities in which these doppelgangers were created (Lynda as cited by Mountfort, 2018). While they keep the idea of the doppelganger as a sign of ill fortune this is now tied with society’s anxieties about the development of new technology.

 

 

What other TV shows or movies can you think of which have sinister doubles in them and which of the above category do you think they belong to?

 

Bioshock Infinite

The premise of Bioshock Infinite rests on multiverse theory, and takes place in an alternate history where a city in the sky called Columbia was created which separated from America to form a nationalistic, racist state of it’s own. This makes the game as a whole part of the uchronie genre and explores how society could . Much of the appeal of these stories comes from what they reveal about the decisions and turning points made in history, as well as the possibility of synchronicity which may underly all of it (Mountfort, 2016). The doppel gangers are quantum doubles in a true sense and many references are made to many worlds theories, and they become a vehicle to explore the various

As such the main characters encounter various doppelgangers both of themselves and others, many of which reveal a darker side to their personalities. For example, the character of Daisy Fitzroy is portrayed as a pragmatic freedom fighter at the beginning of the game, but in another world she leads a violent revolution which throws the city into chaos and results in widespread death and destruction, to the point that she is willing to kill the child of one of the city’s noble elites. It is left up to interpretation whether the Daisy from this world and the one from the previous one would act under the same circumstances, but exists

Similarly, the main antagonist of the game and ruler of the city of Zachary Hale Comstock, who is revealed at the end of the game to be an alternate version of the main character. Although I would argue it did not make for effective gameplay and the story was not very cohesive as a whole, the inevitability of fate is a recurring theme in the story both in the gameplay – no matter the player’s choice that are lead down a linear path, and although the main characters try to escape their  mistakes they unknowingly recreate their sins. Despite the endless sea of possibilities, all roads lead back to their sins. At the end of the game it is revealed that the many parts of the game paralleling the first game where more than simple homage, but an intentional distortion of the previous games. The city of Rapture under the sea founded on Randian Objectivism may at first glance seem like the inverse of Columbia’s ultranationalist religious segregationist state, but they stem from the same roots and suffer similar fates as broken dystopias.

 

 

Doctor Who

Doctor Who – There are various examples of sinister doubles scattered throughout the franchise’s, but one of the more recent and direct versions of them are the Gangers from the series 6 episodes The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People. They are officially called “The Flesh Avatars” but gain the name “Gangers” from the word doppelganger, and possibly a pun on the fact that “Ganger” is a British term for the foreman of gang of labourers. They are genetic doubles (Mountfort, 2018) but are an unusual example of such, with more disconcerting implications for working-class people than anyone else in society. Mountfort draws parallels between Orphan Black and real world cases attempting to copyright DNA –  “late capitalism’s relentless commercialization of life” (Mountfort, p. 71). While the birth of Gangers are an accident rather than the result of careful deliberate control over the populace they raise similar questions about the value of human life as it becomes increasingly easy to duplicate and exploit cloning technology, and the ethics of treating these genetic doubles.

 

The Gangers are made from a flesh substance which takes on the shape of the humans they are based off, and are telepathically controlled by factory workers in order to work in toxic or dangerous environments that are too dangerous for human beings to work in. The show introduces us to this concept by showing one of the workers in a hazard suit falling into a vat of toxic waste only for the others to roll their eyes, indicating that this sort of death and lack of workplace safety is commonplace among them. It is only after a strange atmospheric event and a bolt of lightning that they are animated and begin to move on their own, containing the memories of the people they were made from.

 

Knowing that they have a double threatens the human workers’ sense of identity and security in their unique qualities as human beings, fearing that they will be replaced or made obsolete in some way by the existence of their Gangers. On the other hand the gangers are also forced to confront the existential terror of knowing their memories are constructed and must consider whether they are equally valid. This seems almost a variant on the Ship of Theseus thought experiment (Worley, n.d.) in which an object has all its parts replaced (e.g. a car or a ship) and the question raised is whether they can be considered the same object as they were before.

 

At various points they are shown to be sympathetic and at one point a ganger and his human counterpart discuss the possibility of raising his child together. For most of the story the show seems ambivalent about the positive effects of this technology, and one of the Gangers is revealed to be killing the rest of the cast, deceiving them through her . Notably, as she kills more people she becomes more deformed, a corrupted version of humanity, and the Gangers themselves often lose cohesion and their features are distorted as the telepathic link grows weaker. Ultimately the Gangers are concluded to be just as valid as human life as plot twist reveals that a double of the main character has sacrificed his life to save the rest of the cast, and even his closest friends could not tell the difference.

 

This also plays into the themes of the episode, as the workers themselves are considered disposable by their employers and they work dangerous, low paying jobs far away from their homes. The parallels to migrant workers are obvious, and the episodes speak to working-class anxieties of being easily replaced and disposable.

 

References  

 

Mountfort, P. (2016). The I Ching and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Science Fiction Studies, 43(2), 287-309. Retrieved from: https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4926610-dt-content-rid 10490437_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Mountfort%202016_High%20Castle.pdf

 

Mountfort, P. (2018). Science fictional doubles: Technologization of the doppelgänger and sinister science in serial science fiction TV. Journal of Science & Popular Culture, 1(1), 59-75.doi:10.1386/jspc.1.1.59_1

 

Worley, P. The ship of Theseus. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.philosophy-foundation.org/enquiries/view/the-ship-of-theseus

 

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