I am so glad that teenagers today have Janelle Monáe. Her nerdy sex-positive attitude is exactly what I did not get from media when I was a teen. There were so many struggles that I experienced that I think might have been easier with a celebrity such as her to appreciate. But in addition to sexuality and nerdcore, she has also really made a name for herself with dystopian science fiction.
Monáe’s spectacular “emotion picture” Dirty Computer absolutely belongs next to 1984, Brave New World, and A Handmaid’s Tale as a seminal work in the genre of near-future authoritarian nightmares. Dirty Computer is a unique recipe. There’s haunting authoritarianism which reminds one of Brazil or The Wall. There’s an over-arching Born This Way theme of bisexual and polyamorous normalization. There’s a sense of youthful playfulness that’s even a little Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. And there’s a spectacular fashion sense that’s all Monáe.
The story follows Jayne (Monáe) who has been captured for the crimes of being an independent free-thinking youth. Her memories are being wiped and she is being reprogrammed to no longer be a “dirty computer.” Attending to her in this process is her lover Zen (Monáe’s real life partner Tessa Thompson) who has already had her memories wiped. As Jayne begins to forget who she is, Zen feels troubled and senses their connection. Meanwhile, one of the two technicians deleting the memories is confused by the surreal nature of some of Jayne’s thoughts.
The film ends in a way that is not too dissimilar from 1984, but there’s a very rewarding twist if you stay for the end credits.
I’ve always turned the video off at the end of the end credits scene, but on a rewatch today, I watched to the end of the credits and was surprised to see a second end credits scene. I won’t spoil it, but it was brief and had troubling implications to Jayne’s story.
Unlike Lord of the Rings whose multiple endings began to grow tiresome, I enjoyed how this short film actually has three unique endings depending on when you stop watching it. Different possibilities we face.
If you’ve not seen it yet, you can watch the complete video here: