When many artists try to be deep and philosophical, they aim to be creepy and/or dark. I don’t mean “creepy” in the most contemproary usage of the term which has become deployed so liberally it has lost most of its meaning or even use in describing red flags in men or anything else. It just describes any guy a girl finds unappealing. Art is, of course, supposed to illustrate truths of the human condition and philosophy and while darkness feels deeper, it is like cooking meat to well-done; darkness in art often uses its vibe of depth to mask a lack of depth.
Ex Machina, an example I have used before, is a perfect example of that. It says almost nothing but feels deep and philosophical. When I took my pen to it, I rewrote the fates of the characters so that Caleb and Ava got happily married but while he ages and she doesn’t, he will look like a creepy sugar-daddy and the couple fears society’s judgments of them. With her expertise in cybernetics, Ava can make him a cyborg and keep him looking youthful or they can make her look old or they can do nothing and stomach society’s judgments.
That version is much deeper and more philosophical and poses a lot of questions which challenge the audience. Should we judge the private lives of consenting adults? If so, what should our metrics be and is it appropriate that they are so shallow? Perhaps, these types of relationships are so often explotative or used to unfairly advance the status of one of the parties to the detriment of more deserving but less lucky people and while this example is an exception that the stigma is justified? There are countless more questions that version asks but the point is the questions get to philosophy and the human condition way better than the original.
It is sublimely horrific given they are terrified of society despite doing nothing wrong and they lead charitable, kind, and decent lives. I think I put them in Haifa and they work in cybersecurity but while they may cross the border into Lebanon to volunteer with refugees from Syria, if he ages, then he will be deemed creepy by most people who don’t know their story and just see them in passing. In that sense, it is dark. The content of their character does not matter; only something as superficial as the contrast of their skins. Whatever the answers are in the above paragraph, in the end, the story is horrifically cruel and dismally tragic.
Of course, ultimately, their story is marketable and they end up selling the rights to it and Ava has an eerie resemblance to both Alicia Vikander and Lara Croft and befriends them both after Alicia gets cast as her. Caleb does end up becoming a cyborg and staying youthful. Ultimately, the happy ending is superficial and the sublime tragedy remains. The Deus Ex Machina leaves the philosophical questions unresolved and society hasn’t changed to be less cruel, less judgmental, or more empathetic. I mean, once I have made my point I tend to land my protangonists gently since the psychological studies say that raises the serotonin of the audience. Once I do the dirty work of the Franz Kafka, I do my John Stuart Mill.
As dark as it may be, the protagonists are honest people who truly love one another intimately and humanity, generally. It lacks creepiness, in the earnest sense, because creepiness ultimately is a dishonesty of will and character and ignoble ambition. The stereotypically and classically creepy is the worldly and wise predating upon the pure and innocent which is the original Ex Machina. My version’s villain is not a creepy predator but a confederacy of dunces. As a commentary on human nature, it takes Hanlon’s Razor to the original. Nancy Grace’s villians can be stopped by heroes and that’s the original, Thomas Hobbes’ villians are nebulous and far more difficult to overcome which is mine.
The protagonists are, despite everything, characters with characters of steel who withstand the confederacy of dunces, ultimately partially surrender to them, but, unlike in the original, aren’t the hapless prey of smarter evil. Harm comes to them more by ignorance than anything else. Which reflects the truth of human nature more and while it is less creepy, in the true sense of that word, it is no less horrifying. Typical darkness in art is creepy because when the villian is a gnarly-faced, wordly-wise, sociopath then it can be defeated or, even, on occasion, be reasoned with. The less typical but more accurate villian of the confederacy of dunces cannot be. The former is the nightmare people want to be true while the latter is that nightmare that is true.