Identity

Who am I? This is one of the main leitmotifs in television seriality in the past decade. Contemporary fictions explore society’s consciousness in search for answers to this big issue that surrounds western civilization.

The ontology of existentialism in fiction is located with the great rupture in our culture in the XXI century, 11-S. From that moment on, USA particularly and the western world in general entered in a state of paranoia, anyone could be the enemy, your neighbor could be a Russian spy, the woman you love may be a redheaded doppelgänger, even the great American hero Nicholas Brody could turn out to be a terrorist; And even you could be programmed, without knowing it, to be a killing machine.

Besides all of us acknowledging the possible fact of being sleeping agents,  we need to add something else to these culture (and politics) of fear. Postmodernism and the digital age are characterized for one main feature, fragmentation. Multitasking, multiple and split screens are part of our daily routine, we need to divide our attention among different focuses which, somehow, causes to divide our personality in the same number of parts. We become, then, multiple persons with different profiles. We create a different version of ourselves depending of the situation, just think about social networking. The questions is not anymore ‘who am I?’, now we ask ourselves, of all my versions ‘who do I chose to be?’: a lover, a wife, a mother, or a soldier, those are the options Elizabeth Jenkins has in The Americans.

Meanwhile, Tara Gregson is a trucker, a teenager, a therapist, and a housewife besides herself, in United States of Tara. Her example is probably the best TV portrayal of society’s schizophrenia. Her personality is so fragmented she can’t be made responsible for her actions since she has up to 5 uncontrollable alter egos within her own mind. What about Lost? Where all the characters in the island were able to update their profiles and erase any mistakes form their past lives. They chose who they wanted to be but that doesn’t need to be exactly who they really were. And Dollhouse, where the dolls’ bodies were only empty vessels able to contain any possible personality (or personalities) from a database.

Identity is a concept that may have left to have one singular coherent explanation in the digital era. Everyone of us have learnt to disguise ourselves depending on the context. This may sound dim and gloomy but, hasn’t all the fiction in history been, somehow, a continuous retelling of the same adventure? The search of an inner truth about ourselves, a truth that we may be scared to find out.

J.

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