The Cyberpunk MediumPosted by Sinnyo
Whilst nobody would have cause (or would wish to) write cyberpunk’s obituary just yet, it’s clear that the theme has diversified, and its ideals have been adopted by many more media, since the 1980s. Lawrence Person wrote to Slashdot about the modern-day iteration of this theme, labelling them ‘post-cyberpunk’. Our own Psychochild has speculated upon the post-cyberpunk future too.
Cyberpunk works have taken a different tone, partly because writers today grew up with this science fiction sub-genre. The content has arguably changed because its once-radical themes have become passé, just as space travel once held a much larger sway in science-fiction. We see cyberpunk everywhere from games to comics and blockbuster films, and not just in our cult bookshelves. Does this dampen the message, or does it actually lend it strength? Are we losing sight of the way cyberpunk is delivered?
Tron and Tron: Legacy may prove a good example of this evolution from cyberpunk to post-cyberpunk. Kevin Flynn was very much the typical cyberpunk ‘hero’ in Tron. He was a gifted programmer, determined to deal his own justice upon the corporation which had robbed him. Although his son (the sequel’s protagonist) is described as ‘rebellious’, it is clear that Legacy does not share the original’s anti-establishment theme. Instead we find a cyberpunk aesthetic and world derived from an ‘authentic’ template, delivered in a different way. The hero is one we all recognise and the enemy is an individual, not the centre of a massive corporate empire.
One could argue that this is good – most cyberpunk films have been cult hits, picked up after the masses have passed them over for the blockbusters. Being in the mainstream allows a film to make money of course, but it allows wider audiences to enjoy its content. It’s not very “-punk” though, which raises a point for discussion – at what point does the cyberpunk theme give rise to cyber-punk media? We should bear in mind the fact Tron:Legacy was marketed through viral media.
Blogs, indie video games, small-scale films.. almost anything bootstrapped or run on a shoestring budget stands good chance of being recognised as unequivocally cyberpunk, because in this modern age it is actually possible to do what those 1980s stories foretold. Blockbusters have taken note too, and many films which deal with shadowy corporations or an online conspiracy will have planted their campaigns long before any formal marketing is released. There surely aren’t many other themes which could do this: deliver cyberpunk content to our own cyberpunk world.
How often have you been struck by the ‘cyberpunk-ness’ of an ad campaign or a project, whether or not these creations lived up to each other’s hype?