Perfect Blue Excuse me who are you?

by jcurcio on October 2, 2007

Excuse me… who are you?

Perfect Blue

James Curcio

perfect-blue.jpg

In a world where we are expected to play a variety of conflicting roles, in which our lives are all interconnected, broadcast and dissected, we invariably develop situational identities. We are not one person, we are many people who go by the same name.

Though all of us deal with this in varying ways as we go through life, nowhere is it more of an issue than in pop culture. The long list of psychologically and emotionally fractured ex-teen stars is ample proof. “Whoare you?” Mima asks of herself. It is her first line in our ‘play within a play.’ It is a question that really seeks no answer, instead expressing the complete lack of a frame of reference.

Just a decade after its release some of the devices of this film may now seem old – websites pretending to portray the ‘real life’ of pop idols, obsessive paparazzi, frothing J-pop fans – however, many of the questions explored by Perfect Blue remain as vital as ever. In fact, it is possible they have become even more so as the line between reality and fiction continues to blur.
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In many ways it seems downright prophetic. To the Myspace Generation, everything is either performance, or irrelevant. If you can’t photograph, blog, videotape or otherwise record something, it may as well not have happened. I’m sure you’ve heard it before: A.D.D. running rampant in our children, cultish obsession with actresses that only recently got their periods, on and on. I’m not about to contribute to all of that alarmist noise.

However, it is rare that we take a step back and think about how all of these things are symptoms of underlying identity crisis, a crisis that actually transcends most of our other sexual, cultural or racial boundaries. The teen idol, acting out the pre-scripted, cut-out role, and their screaming fans are united in their lack of intrinsic identity. The former plays to the expectant dreams of the latter, yet neither of them actually are that illusion. When it shatters, there is nothing there. Playing to the expectation of a lover is ultimately no different than playing to the hopes of the audience. It is all acted in the mirror.

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Is she Mima the pop star? Mima the actress? Mima the shy girl who loves her tetra fish? Unless if pantomiming is all it takes, the answer is “no.” She is none of the above.

Sure, there are several things about Perfect Blue that don’t quite hit the mark. The film-makers probably could have made their point without busting the 4th wall every couple minutes once the film gets rolling. It may have gone further if Mima’s actress-persona developed an actual personality of its own.

However, despite its occasional stylistic heavy-handedness, this movie is positively brilliant for it’s ability to deal with the ‘heavy’ themes of identity and cultural expectation without being a ‘heavy’ movie. (It doesn’thurt that the animation has the ambiance and grace of older classic anime’s such as Akira.)

“Who are you?” Mima asks herself, never really finding an answer. Everyone in the film is united in their desire to be this perfect idol. This is the reality Perfect Blue gives us a glimpse of, although you see it anytime youturn on the television. Japanese or American, all of our cultures seem to meet at this crossroad: we are a planet of voyeurs.

{ 5 comments }

KT October 4, 2007 at 11:01 am

If you guys liked Perfect Blue, I think you might really enjoy the TV series Satoshi Kon did, ‘Paranoia Agent’. From the themes that come up on this site again and again, I think it might be worth a look for you, as it takes ideas from Perfect Blue but goes even further with it into the culture of voyeurism, escapism and the spectacle. It’s a really interesting piece of work.

Talmadge October 4, 2007 at 11:15 am

This resonates heavily with something I wrote for the basic pamphlet of the §E7EN §TÅR™ Corporation, and I quote:

_Life-Actor_ a Person who is not tied to any one Life-Identity. Someone who recognizes “the World is a stage and we are merely players” and takes that fact to it’s logical conclusion. FACT. You “ACT” differently around your mother than your boss; Your girlfriend than your sister; Your friends than enemies; At school than at home. All these personalities (live in one person) are controlled and regulated by the part of your psyche that names itself “I” and synthesized into a single Life-Identity. Thus the ILLUSION of unity is created. Life-Actors go beyond the constructs and constrictions of “I” to willfully CREATE alternate Life-plays & Life-Identities.>>

Talmadge October 4, 2007 at 11:26 am

That is to say, the line between fiction and reality were blurred when we started to conceptualize information 50,000 years ago. Now we have started to (if not unconsciously) realize fiction and reality have always been kissing cousins. And this realization is currently being expressed as the post-modern breakdown of identity as we move BEYOND language… *wink*wink*

Ps. For those of you keeping score, my new book has changed identity and will not be called “Yer Gonna DIE Someday, the complete Prophecy of R. Talmadge Lacy”, but rather it will be titled, “the BIG BOOK of the §E7EN §TÅR™ Corporation.” Coming out this spring.

SetFree October 6, 2007 at 12:58 am

On Voyerism, they sell binoculars with built in cameras now, I”ve got one thats pretty neat.
The notion, and practice of transformation comes into play when talking about situational identities. What happens when one enters into a situation previously thought impossible, or where the events and players are no longer bound to a certain set of rules, physical psychological etc, and where one must alter the level and manner of ones interaction to fit into living “fictional” realities? People start not only changing circumstantially, but also may begin to express their “situational personas” as new physical and spiritual forms. They may even trancend dimensional limitations, and even species barriers. It all depends on what type of play it is I suppose.

land of the banned March 31, 2008 at 3:50 am

gotta say this is one of my favorite works by kon. Never have read the manga however after seeing how brilliant the movie was i will have to pick it up!.
i love how half the scenes can be interpreted by the viewer such as the rape scene did it really happen or was it only filmed.
This movie is great as it allows the viewer to have to distinguish fact from fiction in a way similar to Mima.
10 /10

Dizzy
Land of the Banned

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