When Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), the pale and
nervy hacker protagonist of USA Network’s latest summer drama Mr. Robot (created by Sam Esmail), types
code into his Linux terminal, it’s a safe bet he’s doing the best he can to
change his world which among many things includes hacking the people closest to
him. He’s a stalker with a heart of gold, but he’s a lonely bug in the system
called society. A place where corporate greed is one of the main pillars of the
current Internet age. And with all the power to a large conglomerate called ‘E
Corp’, Elliot’s only objective in life is to capsize capitalism while coping
with a severe case of social anxiety and substance abuse.
Elliot may be perfectly one of us, but what
matters even more is that we all know where the E Corps are ourselves. However,
many of us associate E Corp as a product of an over imaginative work of
science-fiction. Yet by seeing most of the world of Mr. Robot through Elliot’s filter of paranoia, its complexities are
perfectly reduced and occluded. Every time the name ‘E Corp’ is dropped, Elliot
only hears ‘Evil Corp’. It is the evil corporation that typically stands for an
extreme case of capitalist ingenuity, but it’s hard to call E Corp an “evil”
corporation in the traditional sense. There are no off-the-books practices or
plots to bribe world leaders, no villains scheming for a new world order or a
corporate revolution. Instead, E Corp is your average multinational: it holds a
lot of consumer credit debt, it was once responsible for a tragic toxic gas
leak that killed some of its employees and its CEO is basically just another
Steve Jobs reincarnation. In other words, observe closely and you will find E
Corp has its ethical faults, but it is only about as evil as any company in
real life that sells you phones, loans, bananas, or Barbie dolls. Elliot does
not see any difference between the traditional ‘evil corporation’ from the
sci-fi films and a place like E Corp. Mr. Robot asks why we do.
“Corporate greed is a trickle down desire that reaches
even the bottom of the food chain” – Mr.
emphasize E Corp’s corporate culture, Mr.
Robot has created Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström), a very ambitious
Swedish employee at E Corp. Yet there seems to be something very off about him:
Tyrell tries to
seduce and physically abuse his way into a position as E Corp’s CTO. He is
purely driven by ego and stops at nothing and no one to get what he wants. As
the season progresses, it becomes evident that Tyrell’s Macbeth-like ways of
manipulation are actually not suited for life at E Corp. The distrust between
employer and employee goes both ways.
characters on Mr. Robot all
need to decide whether or not to keep eating and tasting the insipid trend
that’s churned out by E Corp. Unlike many of the show’s bystanders, Elliot
resists pretty much every trend, but that only seems to boost his paranoia and
negligence for morphine abuse. Tyrell, on the other hand, starts off by
accepting E Corp’s standards and in the end he’s screwed over by them.
there’s Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday), Elliot’s one and only life-long friend.
She’s standing in a dark room, thinking about a crucial life decision that may
change her future forever. Will she take the job E Corp has offered her? She
sure would be good at it and it would ultimately mean living the life she’s
always dreamed of, but it would also entail a life of shame by working at the
same company that caused her mother’s death. Mr. Robot understands the gravity of the
situation, and by naming tons of excusing to take the job and get on with an
easy life at E Corp, it also scrupulously exploits why all those excuses mean
nothing. After all, the E stands for something.
its goofy title, Mr. Robot is a
conscientious and effective precept against the current corporate conduct and
blatantly ignorant human behavior that follows. The show’s first season
meticulously sketches Elliot’s reality, but is in fact all about his sense of
morality. Surely his view on good versus bad may seem too arbitrary to draw a
comparison to good vs E(vil Corp), but it does raise some questions many of us
would rather avoid. Are we satisfied with the current responsibility
corporations take for their actions? Does social media turn us into highly
intelligent zombies? And do they actually provide tools for human connection?
Or is it all one big lie and is none of it real? Mr. Robot may or may not provide the answer, but it manages to hack
Elliot’s chilling fantasy to see this system overthrown into our minds