Re: "Virtual Obsession"

Hal Finney (
Fri, 27 Feb 1998 07:42:28 -0800

I thought some parts were quite funny, actually. The scene where they cut
off the girl's head was bizarre. "Looks like it's about to come loose,
grab hold of it, will you?" Holding the wrapped head with his bare hands,
hair dangling out of the wrapping, the cryonics tech tries to put it into
the container. It doesn't fit very well, and he kind of has to really
jam it in. It reminded me of something out of Plan 9 from Outer Space.
I almost fell on the floor laughing. Someday this will make ideal fodder
for a Mystery Science Theater.

The problem I had with the whole cryonics aspect is that the girl was such
an unsympathetic character. From the very beginning she was presented as
a home-wrecker, a conniving, manipulative person. Creepy music played
when she was on the screen. Her attraction to the researcher was never
presented as an honest human emotion, she was just a symbol of temptation.
So it was impossible to feel sympathy for the prospect of her losing
her cryonic preservation. We can't root for her, so when we see people
working so hard to save her, it just seems stupid and pointless.

Both instances of cryonic suspension mentioned end up tragically. The
researcher's father had been thawed when his cryonic company went bankrupt,
and of course the girl got her head shattered. This may further promote
the image of cryonics as something that will not work.

Philosophically, the movie did not strike a unified tone, but lurched from
position to position. We had speeches about the benefits of immortality
and post-biological man, but then there was the one about how uploading
can not work because you leave the spirit behind with the body. Finally
we have the apparently positive ending, which is inconsistent with what
we have just been shown. If the girl lost her humanity by uploading, why
won't it happen to the guy? Do we need the body, the soul, the spirit,
or don't we? The movie doesn't address these questions, so the ending
just looks tacked-on to give something happy. It doesn't make any sense
in the context of what had been presented before.

It would have worked better if, after the speculation about the need
for a body/soul/spirit which is lost by uploading, the other character
had challenged that explanation, saying that the girl had never seemed
too stable to begin with, and that the changes relating to uploading
had simply been too stressful for her to handle. He could argue that
the basic idea was sound, but that you need the right person as a subject,
someone with a positive mental outlook (namely, himself). This would have
at least made the ending coherent.