Science Fiction Film & Television

Don Quixote as gamer?

Theorizing new media quixotism through contemporary sf television

Science Fiction Film & Television (2022), 15, (2), 193–217.

Abstract

This article proposes the notion of “new media quixotism” and illustrates it with Black Mirror’s episode “USS Callister,” which is interpreted as a metamedial rewriting of the literary myth of Don Quixote. Specifically, I examine how the myth’s core semantic components are rewritten within the context of an sf narrative that is thematically concerned with the effects of the capitalist system of 24/7 audio-visual consumption. My argument is that Black Mirror, together with other recent sf narratives, seems to suggest that so-called “new media” technologies can generate a form of technologically enabled quixotism in human individuals, developing character traits profoundly akin to Don Quixote’s. Thus, as illustration, I focus on how “USS Callister” updates the myth for a satire of the male gamer/geek/nerd stereotype, who is reimagined as a quixotic embodiment of neoliberal, patriarchal individualism in the digital realm. Nonetheless, my underlying assumption is that the sf notion of “new media quixotism” merits further development and study and that, despite its satirical bleakness and its seeming techno-determinism, it also opens subversive, transformative hopes. Overall, the underlying ambivalence of the critical dystopia productively parallels the ambivalence of Don Quixote, who is both an object of satire and a subject of utopianism.

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Sebastián-Martín, Miguel