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‘The Uncanny Valley’, Mimesis and Imitation in Team America

by on October 14, 2012

I was considering Mori’s ‘Uncanny Valley’ and how it is relevant to modern entertainment. I have considered the use of puppets in the film Team America and applied Mori’s ‘Uncanny Valley’.  The audience can relate to the human qualities of the puppets in Team America but is still very aware that they a non-human objects with human qualities; an imitation.

The balance of the human qualities and non-human qualities the puppets possess means that they do not slip into the ‘Uncanny Valley’. This is because they are familiar, however not too human that they become uncanny; we are still aware that they are objects, for example the visible strings.

This made me consider their purpose and the choice to use puppets in a comic satire. As they are not human they can voice strong political opinions, which can at some points be viewed as offensive. If the film was acted by human actors, this would not be the case; the plot and script would be viewed as highly offensive, racist and controversial. We accept the puppets as ridiculous caricatures of humanity, as an extreme representation of us. I find that we can learn a lot from this, as through imitation of the human race the film strives to change our opinion of American politics and current Middle-East conflicts.

This then lead me to consider how mimesis can change reality, as if reality is constructed through imitation and simulations, then if we change the imitation using simulations, we can change what we think of as reality. The makers of Team America are trying our change reality.




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One Comment
  1. jb496 permalink

    I heard that in the late middle ages of Italy (if I recall correctly) there was a puppeteer who’s character spoke out against the government. An arrest had been attempted on him for treason, but he simply told them that it was the puppet being treacherous, not him. They actually tried the puppet and sent it to prison. I think they hanged it, too. If this story is true, it’s a great example of distancing – the artist can speak his most honest opinions as long as it is through the voice of a character. It can still hold gravitas and be controversial, but any anger is absorbed by a fictitious character, and the artist is more easily forgiven.

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