So I Watched Altered Carbon...Sort of.
I’m not gonna lie. I was looking forward to this show. I was looking forward to it a lot. I shared early teaser trailers on my social media, I kept an eye on the release date, I mentioned it to a couple different people. In fact, a few of my friends laughingly told me “that is right down your alley”.
You see, I’m a Science-Fiction writer and specifically a Biopunk and Cyberpunk writer. Sure, I have and will write in other genres, but Biopunk and Cyberpunk will always have a special place in my heart. My first published work was Biopunk, after all.
And Altered Carbon is nothing if it’s not Cyberpunk. Taking full advantage of the aesthetic of the genre, it plays with all of the most strict cliches. Neon lights, overcrowded cities, awesome guns, Japanese culture, and that all-important Noir undertone ripped right out of Blade Runner. I am actually writing a short story with those same exact hallmarks right now for Phoenix Fiction Writers. If you haven’t heard of them yet, check it out, because this short story (and some others) will be EXCLUSIVELY available for their newsletter. But on to the review.
I was hoping that this show would be another “Expanse” type experience for me. It seemed to have all the right pieces.
Those delusions of grandeur were very quickly dashed. And when I say quickly, that means I got through all of two episodes...barely.
You see Altered Carbon has a great premise but the biggest problem with this show is that it’s not about the premise. It’s about the sex. The sex and the nudity.
I’m dead serious, the characters were more often naked on screen than they were clothed.
So I quit. I couldn’t do it.
And here is where the review turns a bit more into a discussion blog.
Why can I not stand to watch a TV show full of sex and nudity, even if the plot is good? If you have followed me for anytime, and if you have read Malfunction, I hope you have come to understand how passionate I am about personhood.
The truth is, just because someone is famous, doesn’t mean you have rights to their bodies. And we as a culture have forgotten this. We shake our fists and Harvey Weinstein, but the truth is we support the very culture that fosters this mindset. The mindset that tells young people that if you are in need you sell your body, and if you have excess you buy those of others. The mindset that tells, particularly our young women, that they are not worth anything if they are not “sexy”. That turns them into objects for our lust.
I’ve heard it said many times of sex workers. “They want to be there.” Or “They like it”. It’s a saying that is used to excuse the abuses done against them. Even if that is true (and it very often is not) their consent to evil makes the perpetrator of evil any less guilty.
And we could use the same argument of actors. “Sex sells,” we say. “They get paid very well.” and “They love the attention.”
As if that excuses the fact that we have taken a whole person, cut away anything unique or beautiful about them, and whittled them down to an object to meet our needs. As if our guilt is any less because we are drooling over a chest that was willingly bared. It's such an issue that I more often hear conversations about if sex has a place in television than I do about what kind of emotional damage it could be doing to young actors and actresses who are told this is just a part of their job.
I don’t hate sex. I’m a married woman. I find great value in it. I think sex is a precious thing, a level of intimacy that surpasses everything else, in the confines of a healthy marriage. I think the human body is beautiful and of great worth. I don’t think either of those things should be cheapened.
Altered Carbon had an amazing opportunity to explore themes such as personhood, the value of human life, and what it means to be “alive” beyond and outside of the body. But instead of delving into the depths of personhood, human nature, and the soul. Instead of showing the value of humanity that goes deeper than the skin, this show, in themes and in the simple act of production, tells us that the body is the only thing of worth. And it couldn’t even manage to create good characters and pacing to make up for it.
So here it is. Even if this show was the best thing to ever happen to Sci-Fi. Even if it blew shows like The Expanse out of the water. Even if it literally everything else about this show was perfect, I would still refuse to watch it. If you go to such lengths to sexualize and reduce human beings, you won’t have my support or my viewership.