The Transhumanism of "Screwball" (2018)
I just saw Billy Corben’s newest film Screwball. It’s good! Reminds me a lot of Errol Morris’s Tabloid. The movie is a “pop-doc” telling one story: the rise & fall of a Miami quack juicing up baseball stars.
The movie itself is worth watching. It’s not objectively Mr. Corben’s best film… His major contributions to cinema are Cocaine Cowboys and The U. My vote is split between Raw Deal & Dawg Fight.
But Screwball is way up there. It’s a solid story told in a charismatic way that’s easily gripping for anybody in the room: sports fan or not. It’s just a fascinating story told in a highly entertaining way.
The narrative device where the interview-subject’s voice telling the story is superimposed with little kids reenacting the story is cute. It’s a device that easily tickles moms & dads everywhere.
It’s also a great place to kick start my non-sequitur rant about transhumanism…
As cinematically this device represents disembodiment. A voice is placed into a different body, to extend the nature of its expression into a new realm… A realm not possible using standard embodiment.
Clearly this is not something being done on purpose. But it’s interesting how these ideas tend to subconsciously connect around an aesthetic vortex, when the thinker thinks the funk.
There’s also a fascinating futuristic moral issue that’s highlighted by this movie…
The idea of taking a performance enhancing drug — one that benefits the user with tangible results — and the separation that causes between you and the other “non-enhanced” folks.
Perhaps within the confines of a game, like baseball, an arbitrary regulation can be imposed in order to stimulate a perception of fairness in the outcomes of said game.
This makes sense as the purpose of this is to maintain audience sociability & participation. I can see how things could get unruly if fans of one team knew the other team was winning because their star players were all on an “illegal” performance enhancing drug.
And so because of the arbitrary rules imposed on the players, and the high incentive for the players to enhance their performance by any means possible, and the intertwined relationship between sports & mass media, we’re starting to see a little glimpse into where the future of society is heading.
We will all be confronted with a day where we have to artificially enhance our performance, or be “left behind” among the other players who simply can not perform at the same level.
It certainly isn’t being stopped or regulated because it’s “bad” for you.
Capitalism has never cared about the well-being of its common participants. They sell you cigarettes without a care for cancer. Why would Capitalism care about the long-term physical repercussions of performance enhancing drugs? Capitalism doesn’t care about you like that.
Instead, a day will come where we will be pressured into artificially enhancing our performance.
And we won’t be in an arena that pretends it’s against this (like professional sports) … We’ll more likely be in an arena that requires it (like finance, law, health, media, etc). It’s hard to imagine society continuing without openly embracing deeper forms of artificial personal enhancement.
The human body is only capable of so much. If we have the technology to extend that possibility, why shouldn’t we take it? Whether it’s computer/brain implants, artificial intelligence, or actual performance enhancing drugs… Long-term consequences being factored into this equation, naturally. No point accomplishing a lot today if it means you’ll have to die tomorrow.
But if a balance were struck between risk & reward… Why shouldn’t a segment of the population lift off into new bandwidths of human possibility? What’s so bad about enhancing your performance, anyway?
It seems like the Major Baseball League thought exactly this during the great Sammy Sosa / Mark McGwire home run extravaganza of 1998. It seems unlikely the highest wigs in the league had no idea. Instead, they allowed human progress to take its course in exchange for higher ratings, revenue, & attention.
A-Rod’s depicted “addiction” to enhancing his performance — being caught repeatedly but still turning back to it — shows this situation is not just about baseball, and it’s not going anywhere. The enhancement technologies are going to get better, the loophole evading is going to get tighter, and the pressures to differentiate yourself in a talented workforce is going to increase.
Screwball reveals baseball as a modern breeding ground for our rising future transhumanism.