Imagine a world where religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, social status, race, and everything in between are out of your control; a world where showing individuality gets you slaughtered. The short-animated film “‘Being Pretty’”: Dystopian Animated Short Film (2017)” was created by David James Armsby and published on his personal YouTube channel Dead Sound. As David states in the description of his film, “This short explores themes of individualism, innocence and brainwashing which were very fun to play with,” however let us take a deeper look into what can be observed and taken from his video. I want to look into the idea of conditioning and subliminal messaging can be used to shape society; how old concepts we thought were buried in the past are still prevalent in today’s society.
In the video David pushes the boundaries of what society used to be, but has it really changed that much? Although we have progressed for the better there are still mass amounts of the same problems that were once prominent to everyday life. Are we just covering up the underlying problems by celebrating our small victories? Imagine a dystopian society fueled by the goal of conforming each of its members to an idealized standard that reminiscent of a blend between American Exceptionalism, 1950’s American Dream, and Nazi ideals of the ‘perfect Aryan German. Both ideals that constructed the city of Autodale have a centralized concept of some form of conformity that promotes the unrealistic idea of perfection; erasing the existence of human “flaws”. Hive-minded robots regulate the citizens of Autodale have a driving urge to purge those who think or act differently against the programmed standard.
A strict society of a dull lifeless grey that smothers any chance of individuality. The masks are a display of a facade of false identity, the identity that the system wants from us rather than true happiness and sense of individuality. The “ugly” people are a representation of the of free will mixed with the lack of control that the society could have over members. The conditioning of the roboticide government over the “pretties” cast a binding shadow over the realm of right and wrong; these foreboding blind spots allows the “pretties” to oppress the “ugly” people without hesitation. The lack of mask on the children is represented as not brainwashed, however, their minds are still easily perceptible to the subtle subliminal messaging in the daily PSA’s presented by the robots. Such is that most children of a young developmental age are still able to see the world their own way as they are yet to be touched by society. The daily PSA’s slowly shape the children over time on how they should act, believe and perceive the world with no freedom or rights and are eventually forced to put the ‘mask’ on and live to society’s expectations. Each of these representational things are prevalent all over today’s society, from forms of artistic media to advertisements and celebrities. Today everything is branded in some way to influence some form of an idea for people to follow or be heavily influenced by. David chose to explore the depths of modern society through a startlingly similar outlook that the past once had. He approaches controversial topics in a subtle but effective way.
Without realizing it at first a viewer is able to see this as an interesting animated short; the many faults that we are still struggling with today are just a deeper depth of what someone can take from this film. He expresses the idea of a society in a symbolic way as a functioning machine. His video explores dual perspectives and explores not only the idea of what society once was mixed into a dystopian future but the hidden bits of society from the American dream that are still prevalent today. The key element to this is displayed in the propagandized public service announcement that citizens are forced to watch but also through the publics’ perception of these messages drilled into them. Repeatedly you see and sense suggestions of compliance, uniformity, blind submission, faceless as you watch how the citizens carry on. Each human in this society is like a mindless doll of expressionlessness having their minds manipulated into what they should believe.
The masks not only are worn as a symbol of status or uniformity but are further evidence of how many members fall victim to the bystander effect of injustices. Each citizen wears the facade of a forced expression turning a blind eye to many underlying problems such as racism, sexism, and any form of discrimination. This short is modeled as if some artificial mind was given control to govern an entire civilization of people. Modeling its perfect world after the American dream; the car, the house, the husband who is hard working, the wife who does the domestic care, and the kids wide-eyed and brainwashed into becoming exactly their parents when they become old enough. The people are mindless cogs ever turning, the children growing up to be exactly like their parents and the parents will die and be replaced by their children, it’s an endless cycle of a perfect machine. A society void of individualism where mindless robots control the fulfilling roles of society and are only obsessed with being pretty and proper at all costs. The society is that of one ruled by artificial intelligence that plans the shape and design of that cookie cutter standard that must be applied to each citizen.
The result of letting an emotionless and expressionless entity control beings that are, by nature, ever changing and adapting. These robots would purge the “system” and label those who didn’t fit as “uglies” before disposing of them. The “uglies” are a result of individuality and are therefore terminated from the system for not fitting amongst the systems standards. These “flaws” are the only natural thing in this environment as the controlling power of society shapes each human being into something that isn’t human anymore.