2022 Abstracts Stage 3

An Exploration of Personal Identity in Contemporary (20th and 21st Century) Film and Television

Marcus Steward, 2022, Stage 3

What is it to be a Self?
• My objective is to explore personal identity by using film and television as thought experiments. I want to further my own understanding of my ‘self’, as well as that of others around me.
• Body theory: Our personal identity persists because we have the same body from birth until death. Challenged by ‘Star Trek’ Transporter thought experiment.
• Soul theory: The soul houses our identity, supported by Plato and René Descartes. Challenged by films such as ‘Still Allice’, how does Alzheimer’s damage the soul?
• Memory theory/ psychological continuity: John Locke’s Memory Theory. We have memory links to different stages in our lives, and they are all connected. Films such as ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Blade Runner’ call into question the role false memories can have in shaping our personal identities.
Society and the Self
• Zygmunt Bauman: Timeline of personal identity. We are in Liquid Modern Times, technology dictates personal identity. Explored in films such as ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Her’.
• Friedrich Nietzsche: Flux, we are in a constant state of becoming, so there is no fixed self that persists through time. Christian values of the past should be rejected, instead we should practise Amor Fati.
• Fixed identity: Exists in the Pre-modern Era and in Social Frameworks, i.e. institutions such as the Christian Church. Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’ undergoes an identity crisis in response to the fixities in his life.
• Fluid identity: The transition from Walter White to Heisenberg in Breaking Bad is fluid identity in action. Supported by Bauman and Nietzsche, as it can make for a more tolerant society. However, lacking a solid sense of self can be dangerous.

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