The Message Of Netflix's Altered Carbon, According To The People Who Made It
A lot to say.
It's no surprise that a show that combines sci-fi, cyberpunk, and noir as deftly as Altered Carbon has a lot to say about the general human condition. But that also means interpretations on exactly what Altered Carbon wants us to take away from its 10 episode first season will vary.
At the new Netflix show's premiere red carpet in Los Angeles recently, we asked Altered Carbon's cast and creators what they think the point is. Click through to find out what they said.
8. James Purefoy (Laurens Bancroft)
"All dystopian sci-fi is about extrapolating where we are now, or taking current trends into consideration, following those trends to a logical conclusion, and saying, 'If you don't alter our path, we're going to end up with a world like Altered Carbon.'"
"The trend of the gap between rich and poor, which gets exponentially larger every year--that's a massive trend. Global warming, that's going to be a massive trend. There are all kinds of trends that we see--access to technology, access to medicine. You know, we're in a country right now which just dropped 13 and a half million people out of health care. Those are the kinds of trends I'm talking about. Access, especially, is vital, and in Altered Carbon, of course, the access is to the technology that gives you immortality, or the access to be able to re-sleeve in whatever sleeve you want to sleeve in. And in our world, it's access to a doctor, it's access to drugs."
7. Antonio Marziale (Isaac Bancroft)
"Well, I think it has a lot to do with class. I think it's a big commentary on class and how technology, if it moves forward in a certain way, will really make that divide even bigger. I think it has a lot to do with what it means to be in your body--if you can clone a body, what does that mean about life and death? Is it acceptable or not? I think there's also comments on religion there as well, which I think is really cool."
6. Byron Mann (original Kovacs)
"I think it's second chances, you know? You have a chance to continue your life, or to relive your life. So it's a chance to be better or make amends."
5. Kristin Lehman (Miriam Bancroft)
"When Richard K. Morgan wrote this book, he wasn't speaking about the present. I think he's talking about the existential crisis of being human--that once we're born, we're born to die. I mean literally, if you think about it, once we begin our first breath, we begin our journey to death. And clearly there is an absolute, painful struggle with humanity regarding that, and [we] will go to incredible, great lengths to A) not die, but then B) distract ourselves from the idea of dying. That's age old, so you could hold that mirror up in any time throughout history, and my answer will be the same."
"I do think that there has never been a greater, more vast chasm between the 1% and the rest of the world. Hopefully the examination of poverty and privatization and elite and haves and have-nots, hopefully the painful portrait we paint in our show of that disparity, is meaningful."
4. Chris Conner (Poe)
"I think there's several, and that's why the series hopefully will get expanded and we can deepen what that is. The idea of the haves and the have-nots is obvious, right? It sits on top. The idea of wastefulness as humans, what we've created around us. The continual throwing away of even our bodies, at a certain degree, that's what we've become as humans."
3. Ato Essandoh (Vernon Elliot)
"I think technology, in our time, right now, is usurping our ability to be humans. [Altered Carbon] is more of an extreme case, but with cell phones and social media and stuff like that, that's changing our humanity already. And we sort of can't evolve to keep up with what technology can do."
"I think the central question is, what do we love and what makes us human beings? The interesting thing is the thought that we can switch bodies, and so is there really an 'other,' or are we all the same thing? And so what are we angry at? Why do we think, 'Oh, those brown people,' or 'Oh, those white people or those black people,' or whatever? What are we worried about, when bodies are interchangeable? And it makes you think about why we otherize other people. I think that's sort of the grand theory for me. It really makes me really think about what I love in other human beings."
2. Joel Kinnaman (Takeshi Kovacs)
"I think it shows the danger of continuing this trend of growing income inequality between people. You know, this generation of Americans is going to be the first generation that is projected to live shorter lives than their parents. But at the same time, the richest segment are living longer than humans have ever lived before. So we're already seeing this trend where rich people are almost becoming a different species, and Altered Carbon is the extreme exaggeration of that. It does what all good dystopian sci-fi should do: It's holding up a mirror toward us and saying if we don't change paths, then this is where we'll end up."
1. Laeta Kalogridis (creator, screenwriter, and executive producer)
"There are a great many interlocking ideas that we're trying to bring forward. One of them is that there is a disposability to the human body once you create this kind of technology, and that our worst instincts as human beings have to do with our carelessness with natural resources. And when the body itself becomes just one more of those resources, how will we treat it? Will we treat it with such indifference and with such de-personalization that it becomes more like a very fancy car than it does like a repository of the self?"
"This world imagines that body as a luxury item, an ultimate luxury item, and then for people lower on the scale, which is almost everybody, it's very much about knowing that the body that you're in is somehow automatically inferior to that which, if you only had enough money, you could afford."
"The most ironic thing is, for me, right at this instant that we're existing in right now, I started writing this, obviously, before the reckoning. It was before Harvey [Weinstein], it was before [Larry] Nassar...But the idea that right now, right now, the wholesale abuse of women based on their gender creating helplessness around them, based on other people using their gender to enforce helplessness--speaking specifically of that particular scandal at the moment--we are not creating something far fetched here. The dynamics underpinning our story are not far fetched. And the cautionary tale is a good one, and I'm proud to have made it."
Altered Carbon is out now on Netflix.