Colossal Death Machines

As Saturday draws to a close, I seat myself before my computer with the intent to unleash my wit upon the Web in such a way that all will tremble before my greatness and shower me with gifts of chocolate and roses. Unfortunately, precisely because Saturday is drawing to a close, I find that I lack the energy for such an artistic undertaking. Should I, then, simply keep my thoughts to myself, and in doing so, silently fail the NaBloPoMo challenege after a paltry three days?


When I finished Machines that Kill , I made in the book’s journal entry an obscure reference to an animated series, the Big O. As it turns out, Cyberkedi , who originally registered the book, is also a fan and sent me a message to that effect. So let that be tonight’s topic.

Like most viewers, I was a little baffled by the ending of Big O. For those of you who aren’t fans– most of you’ I’d wager– the series ended with the Enigmatic Female Character presumably awakening a giant robot named Big Venus, which then proceeded to apparently delete the setting and all characters within. I, like many other viewers, felt a bit shortchanged by this ending since it didn’t seem all that contiguous with what had gone before. I later discovered that this was because there had apparently been a miscommunication between the writer and Adult Swim, not to mention an internal power struggle at the latter, which left little chance of closure for the viewers.

Since the manga diverged from the TV series, its story and ending were somewhat different and offered little insight into this mystery. I visited Web forums, fansites, and Wikipedia, and found few answers that I liked. The psycho-symbolic analysis came closest, but I still wasn’t really satisfied with it, because it didn’t address the tomato subplot.

Tomatoes? Yes, the first leader of Paradigm City, Gordon Rosewater, grew tomatoes by implanting the "memory" of past tomatoes into present tomatoes. Rosewater apparently did the same thing with a group of children, implanting in them the memories of the founders of Paradigm City. The reasons for this were never fully explained.

So how can the tomato subplot and a robot with a fetish for deletion be reconciled into a framework of symbolism? Easily. Consider the final scene to be a statement on the state of Science Fiction. Nobody in Paradigm City could remember anything beyond forty years in the past. Since the Big O was produced at about the turn of the century, forty years previous to that would be about the Sixties, whereas the Golden Age of Science Fiction was the Forties to the Fifties.

Viewers of the show will note many homages to Science Fiction (and other genre) writers of the Golden Age. For example, many viewers are quick to note the similarities between Big O and Warner Brothers’ animated Batman series, itself a reference to a comic book. The android Dorothy’s name is certainly a reference to the Wizard of Oz, a movie that was based on a book. Dorothy’s appearance is strikingly similar to Lal, an android daughter built by Star Trek’s Data. Data’s positronic brain is a direct reference to Isaac Asimov. (An homage to Asimov’s Lije Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw is made in one Big O episode.) There are also numerous references to Blade Runner, a movie based on a short story. I could go on, but you should get the picture.

Viewed in this sybolic light, Gordon Rosewater is trying to re-create the Golden Age by creating homages to homages. The question is, can he create a new L. Frank Baum, Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick in this manner? The answer is no. He creates only a watered-down soup that echoes their flavor and leaves him unsatisfied. This is why Big Venus destroys Paradigm City and the homages upon homages, so that something truly new can take its place.

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