by the Forward

How ‘Mr. Robot’ Captured Life in Our Anxious Society

‘Mr. Robot,” in its second season, seemed to show up on the scene out of nowhere. Partly this may be because it aired on the USA Network, and so the first season didn’t make an impression until it hit the binge-watching warehouse of Amazon Prime. Or maybe, more likely, it’s because the show was a few steps ahead of its cultural moment. In either case, it’s breathtaking. Both in form and substance, it points the way toward a new way of looking at and talking about America. The spikey, nervous aesthetics of the show — the deep focus camera work that places the characters in uncomfortable positions vis a vis their locations, the washed-out, yet simultaneously garish color schemes, the heavy, ambient music that’s used for narrative purposes, discomforting the viewer in much the same way that cheesy soft rock is used by lesser shows to yank the tears from your eyes — all evoke the anxious experience of what it’s like to live now. But furthermore, the cast, all of whom are excellent, break from both of the usual types of homogeneity that our cultural products usually use to indoctrinate us with their lies; these actors and the characters they play are not just multiracial, but also multiethnic, by which I mean that they’re allowed to be human beings with multifarious cultural roots, not just rich, successful people who happen to be something other than white. This show evokes the economic and culturally diverse reality of present-day New York City better than any art out there, in any form. Which shouldn’t be a surprise. It was created by the grandly talented Egyptian-American writer-director Sam Esmail, who’s married to the American Jewish actress Emily Rossum.

- Joshua Furst
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