From Mute to Dysaguria

Alexander Skarsgard in MutePictured left is Alexander Skarsgård (imdb | wikipedia) in the new Duncan Jones (imdb | wikipedia | blog) movie Mute (imdb | Netflix).

Skarsgård plays Leo, a mute bartender searching for girlfriend who has inexplicably disappeared in Berlin in 2052. In an interview in last Sunday’s Observer, he takes up the story:

… [Leo’s] search takes him deep into a neon-saturated underworld, populated by gangsters and a pair of anarchic American field surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) … “It’s very dystopian, but not that far-fetched unfortunately, because it’s a society run by corporations,” says Skarsgård. “You subscribe to a corporation and then they will provide everything for you – housing, healthcare, food – but they basically own you. …”. …

So we could be looking at the future then? Skarsgård looks a little traumatised and then sighs: “Hopefully not.”

I’m looking forward to the movie; but I’m not sure I agree that the best adjective to describe it is “dystopian”. It is entirely appropriate when a state goes bad; but it is not a good adjective to describe “a society run by corporations”. In fact, we don’t have a word for when a corporate society goes bad, so I’ve suggested “dysaguria”, as a noun meaning “frightening company”, and “dysagurian” as the adjective to describe that frightening company and the associated society run by frightening companies (see here | here | here). We can’t easily discuss a phenomenon until we have the proper words to describe it:

In his speech on leaving the US Presidency in January 1961, Eisenhower warned against the growing power of the military-industrial complex. In modern surveillance terms, we might term this the security-corporate complex. And we already have a word for when the military/security state goes bad, … That word is “dystopia”.

However, we don’t have a word for when the industrial/corporate society goes bad, … I think it’s beyond time we had one … I suggest that we need a word for “frightening company”, and that we can devise one by following the lead provided by More and Mill [in coining “dystopia” as a counterpoint to “utopia”] provides a guide. … Let’s keep “dys” [meaning “bad”] as the prefix, and look for a suitable word to which to add it. Greek provides “aguris”, which means “crowd” or “group” … Hence, from “dys” meaning “bad”, and “aguris” meaning “crowd” or “group”, I suggest “dysaguria”, as a noun meaning “frightening company”, and “dysagurian” as the adjective…

In my view, therefore, “dysagurian” is the perfect word to describe the society in Mute‘s Berlin in 2052.

Update: Mute did not find favour with Donald Clarke in the Irish Times. Further update: I’m with Donald on this; for all the production values, the movie is curiously flat.

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