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Sleep Dealer

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mrxworm
Words 1306
Pages 6
The science fiction film “Sleep Dealer” is set in a future, dystopian Mexico where advanced technology has become a pervasive part of society’s everyday life. Technology is typically perceived as an augmentation to society. However, the uses of the technology depicted in the film are not only unjust, but also destructive and incriminating to society as a whole. One particular technological advancement depicted in the film that appears to have the greatest impact on its people is the “node”. Such “nodes” are implanted into willing “workers” that are then able to “connect” into a virtual world through the nodes. In this virtual world, they are able to perform any type of labor through robots. Because of the existence of these nodes, society has become subjected to corruption, especially Mexico. Such exploitation of this technology includes: the corruption of the United States military by power abuse and dehumanization of the people in Mexico by using migrant workers through preprogrammed virtual labor. Despite the fact that the nodes carry the destructive nature brought on by the effects of their existence, the symbolic image that these nodes depict undergo fluctuating evolution throughout the film and ultimately ends up transforming from a symbol of destruction to a symbol of connection between the protagonists as well as the oppressed people of the film.
The node’s symbol changes throughout the film. As the film progresses, the symbol of the node changes, depending on the scene that the node is depicted in. In the beginning of the film, the node symbolizes a mysterious source of technology that enables people from around the world to connect and work different jobs. The mystery that the nodes project unravels as the story progresses; it evolves into a symbol of connection while retaining its dark and cold attributes. The symbol of the node fluctuates through the film, swaying back and forth from a prominent darker symbol to a more benign symbol of connection.
In the film’s opening scene, Memo Cruz the protagonist, narrates his story through flashbacks. From the start, we understand through his narration that the use of nodes is dangerous: “Sometimes, during long shifts we’d hallucinate … [and] end up blind. We call the factories ‘sleep dealers,’ because if you work long enough, you collapse.” The brief description by Memo indicates that working with the nodes is a risky job and also suggests its frightening nature. This symbolizes the potential destructive capability of the node, since one is physically exhausted and can possibly die of from an overload of work.
In the following scenes of Memo’s flashbacks, he is shown fiddling with his homebuilt satellite which he uses to hack and intercept radio frequencies. While he taps into the satellite, we are able to overhear the different conversations that Memo has intercepted. From these conversations, we learn that many people around the world are talking about the nodes that they have just gotten implanted. A woman says, “I went to the node doctor last week and I already got a job!” A man also exclaims, “Of course, you can do it too! Anyone can connect.” Despite the dangers that have been well manifested, people are still knowingly and willingly to risk their lives to work with the nodes. Because that the media does not truthfully broadcast the physical calamities that the nodes have imposed on their users, people cannot possibly understand the danger that they are putting themselves in. Here, the danger symbolized by the node is intentionally mitigated and successfully appears to be safer than it really is.
The symbol of the node is again altered when it is depicted in the scene where Rudy, who works for the US military, detects Memo tracking the frequency used by his military drone. In the scene, Rudy is sitting in a dark room where he is connected to his drone through his nodes. Rudy is wearing a robotic mask with lit up red goggles that makes him look even more intimidating than he already does in the dark room. Through this depiction of Rudy, the symbol of the nodes changes back into a more menacing image with the capability of his drone to demolish his blindly assigned targets.
As the film progresses, the symbol of the node shifts again towards its connective nature when Memo leaves Oaxaca to Tijuana to seek work. On his way to Tijuana, he meets Luz who has nodes on her body through which she uses to upload her memories to TruNode, a company that downloads and sells such memories to viewers. Luz directs Memo where to get nodes implanted after he asks her, and she uploads her memory of meeting Memo on to TruNode. Rudy, who has been curious about Memo’s motives for traveling to Tijuana, discovers Luz’s uploaded memory of meeting Memo and pays her for more memories to be uploaded. Luz, owing a sum of student loans, agrees to his request. Subsequently, Luz finds Memo and continues to socialize with him in order to upload more memories. As Luz uploads more memories of her encounters with Memo, we see that the symbol of the node shifts away from its destructive nature and back towards its connective qualities. The memories that she uploads to TruNode are able to be purchased by anyone who wishes to view them - in this case Rudy. The use of nodes in this fashion again demonstrates their peculiar ability to connect people from around the world.
After Memo has his nodes implanted, he is taken to the large factory where many node workers provide labor around the world. Here, the symbolism of nodes are once again changed to appear threatening and risky. As Memo walks through the factory for the first time, the lighting in the factory is bright blue and green, giving off a very cold feeling about the technology. This change in feeling about the technology is further emphasized by the factory boss’s words, “This is the American Dream. We give the United States what they’ve always wanted… all the work, without the workers.” The workers are drained of their life force, and when they collapse from exhaustion, they are cast off without any form of reimbursement. As such, destructive nature is once again symbolized by the nodes used by the factory workers since the detrimental effects of the nodes are largely ignored for the temporary salary compensation.
The final evolution of the symbol of the nodes appears by the end of the film, where the nodes are used to bring Memo, Luz, and Rudy together in an attempt to stop the oppression by the United States on Mexico. After Rudy discovers that his elimination of Memo’s innocent father was a terrible mistake, his guilt brings him to Tijuana to seek justice for Memo. He finds and asks Memo what he could possibly do to help. Memo unites with Rudy and Luz to enter his factory, where Luz helps Rudy engage his military drone to destroy the dam in Oaxaca. With the dam destroyed, Memo’s family back home celebrated the availability of water, despite not knowing whether the dam would be rebuilt. In these final scenes, the catastrpohic symbol of the nodes perceived from the beginning of the film ultimately fluctuatingly evolves into a symbol of connective power.
The symbolism behind the nodes in “Sleep Dealer” undergoes many changes throughout the film, changing back and forth from a symbol of destruction to a symbol of connection. The film starts off revealing the nodes as frightening and mysterious technology, then repeatedly softens its dark nature with a more benign nature while constantly reintroducing its menacing capabilities. The usage of the nodes in “Sleep Dealer” carry a destructive nature due to their dark capabilities, but throughout the film, the nodes’ meaning constantly fluctuates, ultimately leading to a final symbol in the greater connective power of technology.

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