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ADVANTAGEOUS. Jennifer Phang, director and co-script with Jacqueline Kim. USA: Netflix (video)/Film Presence (theatrical), 2015.[1] Dara Wishingrad, production design.

Discussed by T. S. Miller, SFRA Review #315 (Winter 2016): pp. 36-38.[2]

Advantageous is set in an unidentified megalopolis where anti-technocratic[3] terrorist bombings have become routine and advances in holographic information technology easily facilitate instantaneous personal communication – as well as mass surveillance. Significantly, we only ever see corporations and private individuals conducting such surveillance, rather than governments. The nature of this corporatist future, with government apparently subordinated to capital, clearly signals the film’s cyberpunk influences and ambitions, although this is cyberpunk with a distinctively 21st-century spin. [...]

The Center [“Center for Advanced Health and Living”] has always specialized in unnamed alternatives to “invasive cosmetic surgery,” but [the protagonist] Gwen would be volunteering as an experimental test subject for a complete transfer of her consciousness to another body. [...]

[...T]he rapid pace of technological progress [...] and the cutthroat, all-or-nothing nature of the scholastic and social competition among young people depicted in the film bring out the Darwinian undertones suggested in its title. Yet Advantageous is not really interested in the gradual replacement of the human race by Homo superior or a race of intelligent machines: all of that seems to be happening, but only in the background, and there are no battle sequences with robots or violent uprisings led by super-genius youth. Instead, Advantageous is a film about parenthood, precarity, and above all the classic science fictional theme of alienation [...].

The camera lingers on skyscrapers that evoke the shape of a female torso “perfected” by technology, and employs this visual conceit of the robotic fused with the sexualized female body to far better effect than did [...] Ex Machina [...]. Of course, all human bodies seem rendered vulnerable in the future that Advantageous imagines – explosions threaten to shatter them, machines threaten to replace or obviate them, and even communication technology threatens to render them insubstantial, invisible, non-bodies – yet the female body becomes particularly exposed to the devastating power of social control and the promises and perils of technology. (pp. 37-38)

Miller references Tiptree's "The Girl Who Was Plugged In". Cf. and contrast also, the non-cyberpunk, early 1950s version of a corporate-run world in Pohl and Kornbluth's The Space Merchants; the theme of surveillance in works from We and Nineteen Eighty-Four to The Circle; body transfer or consciousness uploading/downloading as in original Star Trek "What Are Little Girls Made of?" or Janet Asimov's Mind Transfer — except that here the transfer is partial, here severely flawed;[4] the theme of machine takeover;[5] meritocracy as dystopian; and the trope of the sexualized female robot,[6] in, e.g., METROPOLIS.


For graphic art, note that however they were shot, what looks like a montage of stills gives an impressive series of images of humans undergoing the (memory, anyway) transfer process with fiber-optic cables attached to the head, looking like Medusa rendered at various ages, and of different sex and races. It is an image to which the phrase "terrible beauty" may be applied without hyperbole.

RDE, finishing, 19Aug21, 7Oct21