“I hear you. You sound like you’re in a lot... | News | Coagulopath

“I hear you. You sound like you’re in a lot of pain.”

“Oh, Jesus fucking Christ! Speak like a fucking human being!”

– Black Mirror S5E2, “Smithereens”

Are you sexually aroused by correct explanations? If so, type “what is a soyboy” into Google, kick back with a glass of wine, and get ready for the least erotic evening of your life.

Nobody gets it right. Even Wikipedia misunderstands the soyboy concept, which feels suspiciously tactical, like a group of libertarians not knowing the age of consent.

“Soy boy is a pejorative term sometimes used in online communities to describe men perceived to be lacking masculine characteristics.”

No. This could describe many male groups throughout history: dandies, SNAGs, beta males, nerds, metrosexuals, incels, and so on. A soyboy is a specific cultural archetype. Urban Dictionary is equally confused, although I like “The darkest nick kerr”‘s definition (“A submissive cuck”), which has brevity on its side.

A soyboy is not someone who uses insults like “arsetrumpet” and “fuckwaffle”. That’s a cockwomble. Cockwombles are frustrated young British men, raised on Monty Python and Douglas Adams, who cloak their seething anger and resentment issues in cutesy swearing and exaggerated “Britishness”.  Soyboys are not cockwombles.

“Soy” is the load-bearing pillar of the word. It indicates a mindset: deferential, milquetoast, pandering, and overly eager to please. It can be used as an intransitive verb (“DrDisrespect really soyed out with his Youtube apology video”), or as a predicate adjective (“when John Scalzi typed ‘dudebro’, it was very soy of him”). There is no matching “soy girl” archetype, but a lot of soy behavior is female-coded, so it doesn’t stand out as abnormal when women do it. Women can be powerful vectors of the soy mindset.

But it denotes something more: an awareness of the DeBordian Spectacle of modern life, and a desire to manipulate it. The soyboy’s emotional displays are always performances, field-tested with an eye toward going viral.

Where did it come from?

“Soy” is the result of the worst parts of Youtube and Reddit getting mashed into a compost and seasoned with various bits of cultural detritus (kiddie entertainment, social justice/wokeness,  overambitious “influencer” careerism, and late noughties blogging culture).

The soyboy has always been with us, but around 2012 he started to rule the world.

Soyboys are creatures built to exploit algorithms. Their traits – lazy puns, phony enthusiasm, and exaggerated feminized mannerisms – are actually social hacks designed to elicit a maximum of attention for a minimum of effort, and the more the world becomes run by filters and discovery networks, the more the soyboy thrives. They are lifeforms optimized to attract clicks and upvotes.

So when you see someone like this…

…Understand that you are witnessing the pinnacle of evolution. This is a beast designed dominate his environment the way the wolf dominates his.

Most of us hated it when the internet “karmafied” itself in 2007 or so (with every site having upvotes and downvotes and reputation scores). The soyboy loved it. He wants a number attached to his name, demonstrating his value. He loves cold data, and abhors context and nuance. Life should be simple, he thinks. People should have numbers floating beside their heads, showing whether they’re objectively Good or Bad.

Soyboys are somewhat pathetic figures, but we should not hate them. We should hate instead the world that creates them.

Ben Sixsmith notes that he possesses cockwomble traits. Sadly, I have soyboy traits. For example, I recently wrote:

One advantage of me being Australian (aside from the whole walking upside down thing, which gets old fast)

That’s soy humor. The stale “hurr hurr, people in the Antipodes stand upside down” gag, along with the fact that I’m basically “othering” myself, becoming a wacky cartoon Australian stereotype to appeal to a perceived American reader. And my trying-so-hard-to-sound-casual construction (“the whole walking upside down thing”) is derived from ValSpeak, which has a noticeable influence on soyboy speech patterns.

I will leave it in. It’s a chance to reflect on my mistakes and grow. I’m listening and learning.

What makes a soyboy a soyboy?

The biggest trait is “fake enthusiasm.” Redecorating their Animal Crossing garden? Unboxing a Funko Pop? Learning that the cast of Darkness Man: Darkening Dark of the Darkest Darkness now has six Chris actors instead of five? All of these reduce a soyboy to helpless spasms of squealing, seal-clapping glee.

Soyboys have one emotional gear and react to everything in the same way. They’re like those poker machines that scintillate with flashing lights regardless of whether you’ve won five cents or five thousand dollars.

Indeed, “react” is the foundation stone of the soyboy identity. They are passive creatures. They do not create, imagine, or dream. Making a original song is risky: maybe it won’t be any good and people will hate you and your social credit score will trend downward and the only solution will be SUICIDE.

It’s far smarter to cue up a song from the critically acclaimed new Beyonce album and film yourself flapping your hands and gurgling and making chimplike noises in between utterances of “yass!” and “slay queen!” Everyone loves Beyonce, unless they’re racist. You can’t fail.

Soyboys seldom make anything original. They attach themselves like barnacles to whatever’s popular and hope for a free ride to the top.

As you’d expect, “reaction” videos are the quintessential form of soyboy content. It’s an easy form of video to churn out, and plays both to the soyboy’s strengths (identifing rising trends) and away from their weaknesses (originality, thought, and effort).

Again, they are slaves to their analytics page. They are not people so much as they are semi-intelligent slime molds that Youtube has trained to slowly wander through a maze, following tiny crumbs of ad revenue.

If you are a child, soyboy enthusiasm will seem infectious. Little Timmy flees his nightmare of a school (with its jeering bullies, girls who pre-emptively reject you even though you haven’t asked them out, and overmedicated zombie teachers) and runs into the soyboy’s technicolor embrace, where life’s a party and everything’s great. A parasocial relationship develops where Little Timmy regards the soyboy as his friend.

But once you’ve seen behind the veil, you’ll find them creepy and insincere. You’ll realize that it’s basically an act. Most soyboys are miserable, living in a hell that locks from the inside.

A good example of this is kandyrew, a “content creator” for the first-person-shooter Apex Legends.

Note the wacky smiles, suggesting he’s just overjoyed to log on and play this wonderful game from EA.

I stopped playing Apex Legends two years ago. It’s a good game, I just got bored with it. Kandyrew has logged more hours on Apex Legends than me by a factor of three. There is no way he’s still excited to sign on every day, get Kraber one-shotted and then t-bagged by MyBallsInYourMouthTTV.

It’s insincere, in other words. A performance. One that never ends. His community expects him to keep playing this game forever. He cannot change course, or his brand will die. Soyboys have taken the DeBordian spectacle and plunged it through their chest. It’s part of the flesh, and if they pull it out, fatal bleeding will start.

Physioynomy

Numerous cliches and stereotypes have emerged from soyboy culture. Occasionally they cross over into the mainstream. There’s the infamous soyboy face, or “soyface”.

…the “soy eyebrow raise”.

…and the “soy point”.

Other soyboy fashion tropes exist, such as soy glasses (thick, with box frames) and the soy beard (a bushy but nonthreatening mass of “beardscaped” facial hair, usually paired with a flannel shirt).

But the clothes don’t make the manlet, and the soyboy’s essence is in his personality: nebbishness, hyper-accelerated and packaged into a commodity.

Is there a soyboy anthem? A song that captures this important cultural moment the way “Smells Like Teen Spirit” does Seattle grunge?

Good question. There are many contenders, such as “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, “Lanterns” by Birds of Tokyo, and various Imagine Dragons songs. My own choice for most soy song ever written is “Fireflies” by Owl City.

Humor

“Dad jokes” are a fascinating example of how soyboys don’t just attach themselves to culture, they mutate it to suit themselves.

Originally, dad jokes were just that: the kind of jokes dads tell. Usually they’re an aggressively unfunny pun.

“What do you call a fish wearing a bowtie? Sofishticated.”

Dad jokes are now extremely soy. In 2023, the median dadjoker is not a dad at all, it’s a 27 year old millennial “influencer” who plays the ukelelie. Why?

First of all, dad jokes are nearly effortless to write. Can you think of two words that sound the same? Congrats, you made a dad joke. They are the reaction videos of humor.

They’re also inoffensive, which is important for soyboys (who live in mortal fear of being “cancelled”). Dad jokes are an accepted and well-known form of cultural expression. We know what they are, and we know how to react when we hear one. Soyboys don’t do anything unless they’re sure of the reaction they’ll get.

But something always goes missing in the delivery.

Dad jokes are trolling more than they are humor. No actual dad could give a shit whether you laugh or “get it”. He lets his joke stand in all it’s awfulness. In fact, if you don’t laugh, that makes it funnier. The hypothetical dad is demonstrating his freedom: the rules of comedy have no power over him.

But “soy dad jokes” are always delivered with an apology, an explanation, a justification. They lack self-confidence, and this destroys their breezy liberation.

“What do you call a fish wearing a bowtie? Sofishticated. Heh…get it? it’s a dad joke. Oh my god, that was cringe. Dad jokes, huh? Gotta love em. Anyway, click like and subscribe.”

It copies the form of the dad joke, but it’s missing the soul. It’s like a freestyle jazz solo where every note is meticulously planned out ahead of time.

Traditionally, trends become uncool when parents steal them from their kids. Dad jokes are a rare example of the trend happening in reverse.

Pop culture

Soyboys are notoriously fond of the pan drippings of pop culture.

When Marvel shits, the soyboy eats. When DC pisses, the soyboy drinks. When Disney farts, the soyboy breathes. When Warner Bros cums, the soyboy swallows.

This is the difference between the American soyboy (say, Robert “MovieBob” Chipman) and the Anglo cockwomble (say, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw). Cockwombles adopt an attitude of smug superiority toward media – they think they’re too good for it – while soyboys present themselves as enthusiastic consumers. Cockwombles imagine themselves above mass media. Soyboys stand inside it.

I don’t mean to insult those who enjoy children’s entertainment. We all have our ways of relaxing: I sometimes watch cartoons. Why not? God doesn’t delete the universe when he detects a 33-year old man watching Blues Clues, even though He probably should.

But the soyboy isn’t motivated by a genuine love of children’s entertainment. He does it because This is what’s popular. This strikes at the crux of why soyboys are disturbing. They’re good at conjuring extremes of emotion…but it’s always at least a little calculated.

Soy-cial Justice

Soyboys are “woke”, but a special kind of woke.

Social justice has a hierarchy, generally determined by whose group has suffered the most. Those at the top often become outright grifters, exploiting their victim status for financial gain.

That’s obviously a joke, but it’s still setting the frame. “Me yammering about representation in TV shows is work, and I should be paid.”

I wish I’d screencapped an old forum thread where some microaggression was commited, Shanley Kane showed up, profanely “educated” the wrongdoer in what they’d done wrong, and then dropped her Ko-Fi link, so that people could compensate her for the “emotional labor” she’d undertaken on their behalf. The high achiever in this class is definitely Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose acclaimed Atlantic cover story The Case for Reparations proposes a redistribution of wealth from America’s white upperclass to its black underclass: a group he himself is a member of.

But soyboys don’t (and can’t) do that. They are at the bottom. They’re typically white men: the historic oppressors.

White males are often called upon to reflect upon their privilege, but ironically, within the social justice ecosystem, they are the ones with the least privilege of all. It’s honestly brave, in a way. Like signing up for the army when your last name is McPutMeOnLatrineDuty.

Their standard mode is to grovel pathetically. “Please give me a chance! I’m not like those other yt males!”

John Scalzi’s Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is remains a foundational text in soyboy lore, as important in its way as the Magna Carta or the Code of Hammurabi. Here we see all the mental processes of the white male soyboy: the self-flagellating, the use of “dude”, the wacky rAnDuMb humor about vampires, the extended videogame metaphor (because we’re nerds, and we don’t understand anything unless it’s related to a videogame). This essay is almost unnecessary in light of Scalzi’s: he’s like a machine that’s sharing its own blueprints.

Again: how sincere is this?

Often, very sincere. I don’t mean to imply that Scalzi and so forth are frauds. But there’s still the confounding variable that social justice is the prevailing cultural wind. It takes no particular courage to stand against Andrew Tate or JK Rowling on a social media platform. You’re kicking the easiest of targets, and gaining social cred in the process.

The EnSoyclopedia

The visual presentation of soyboys comes from Youtube and Tiktok, but their writing style mostly comes from Reddit. If you use the phrases below, you might be a soyboy. Does this worry you? Well, being fanatically curious about your social standing is a soy trait too.

If your response is “fuck you, these words are who I am. I’m gonna say ‘heckin’ doggo’ all I like and you can’t stop me. Go cry about it” then you are probably not actually a soyboy.

“Scientist/doctor here…”

“That’s enough Internet for one day”

“Instructions unclear, penis stuck in blah blah blah”

“Let’s break it down.”

“Louder, for those in the back.”

“Buckle in, we’re going for a ride.”

“This needs to be higher.”

“Sir, this is a Wendys”

“Can confirm.”

“It’s almost as if…”

“Sportsball”

“Sexy time.”

“That happened.”

“As you do…”

“Let people enjoy things.”

“Y’all folks.”

“Amazeballs.”

“Having a normal one.”

“Friendo.”

“Sexytime.”

“Adulting”

“Everybody go home, this comment wins the internet”

“Username checks out.”

“My brother in Christ”

Some of these phrases are from TV. Others emerged from Reddit. All are extremely annoying. It really doesn’t matter, they exist as shibboleths of group identity. “We use these words because we use these words.”

The Fate of the Soyboy

Soyboys have undergone rapid cultural evolution. They exist with their faces pressed against the belt-sander of the Google or Reddit algorithm and anything unique or edgy eventually gets blasted away. PewDiePie no longer makes edgy jokes. The Angry Video Game Nerd swears far less, and uses milder words. Many soyboys are glad to see the forum-based internet of the past die, because it contains posts written by them that would be considered advertiser-unfriendly today. The gradient of the soyboy is toward corporate blandness.

Earlier, I said that algorithms caused the rise of the soyboy. It might be more accurate to say (particularly on Youtube) that they caused everybody who’s not a soyboy to fail.

Occasionally, soyboy tropes get purged for sheer annoyingness. “DoggoLingo” used to be a big soy marker, but I no longer see anyone using it. Even the place that started it all, /r/rarepuppers, has abandoned it. The internet has turned against it in a big way.

I think the “soyface” will undergo the same fate. It’s too famous, and too heavily mocked. Although if I look at the last twelve MrBeast video thumbnails, he’s soyfacing in eight of them, so maybe it has some legs yet.

The nucleus of soy (fake emotion) will never go away, but individual soyboys will. It’s an exhausting life, performing a sick, neverending dance to make a Youtube algorithm happy.

There’s no endgame. No way to “win”. The future is an algorithmic boot stomping on a soyface forever.

Often, you’ll see signs of soyboy burnout. Look  for Twitter updates containing phrases such as “taking a break” or “dealing with life” or “adulting”. Or you’ll see hints of trouble in their personal life – abuse accusations, perhaps. The technicolor world of the soyboy is as shallow as it is fake, and there’s always messy, ugly reality bleeding through.

My advice for the aspiring soyboy is to remember that it’s impossible to stay switched on all the time. Eventually an emotional hangover sets in. You have to unplug, switch everything off, and enjoy the sound of soylence.

The Ungreat Pyramid | News | Coagulopath

Ambien is so-called because it gives you a morning (a.m.) that’s good (bien), Warfarin is thus-titled because it was developed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Lasix is accordingly-dubbed because it lasts six hours, Premarin is hencely-christened because it comes from the urine of pregnant mares, Adderall is consequently-designated because it relies on an organic compound found only in European snakes, Prozac is repercussionly-cognomenized because the chemist was into High School Musical. I started making these up.

So why is this website called Coagulopath?

Well, because of a small but extremely important fact about myself that I’ve never revealed to anyone. A secret, if you will. My time is now short, so I’ve decided to tell the world at last, in the form of a SHA-512 hash.

56bfdd67f46f62375b35cc9cce0a7b75
f2716bfdc98542709c4306c91e2084ee
4b6cb44951373ba5ef6f51b1b0875602
f710ee643fdde00f63aaebe4b7e79aaf

Now you know.

In 2021 I built a PC. I wanted it to be weird, with personal touches.

Parts list:

  • AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 12-core processor
  • MPG B550 Carbon Wifi motherboard
  • Gskill 3600 32 GB DDR4 x 2 (64 GB total)
  • RTX 2080 OC Super
  • Lian Li 120MM Unifans x 5
  • Thermaltake 360mm AIO
  • Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 ARGB 850W Gold PSU
  • Some other decorative parts

The case was the infamous AZZA CSAZ-804 :

This is the first mass-produced[1]In 2009, a modder called Marko Tadros made a pyramid-shaped case, filled with fascinating choices. This was apparently sold as part of a 200 case run. Linus Sebastian and some others have built … Continue reading case with a pyramid shape. The AZZA Pyramid also comes in a a “V” edition (with darker paint and extra I/O options), a “Mini” edition (for mini-ITX builds), and a large edition. I now wish I’d gotten the large one. It has the same overall dimensions (589 mm x 490 mm x 490 mm) with differently-spaced cutouts for a RTX 30** series GPU.

Content advisory: many things about this build are just bad. Don’t copy this unless you are prepared to face terrible consequences.

Problems

  • My GPU is sucking air through a glass panel
  • Many of my installed games are bad, receiving 6/10 or lower from GameSpot
  • My radiator pump is the highest point of the loop, causing air bubbles to gather in the pump (potentially shortening its lifespan, see here.)
  • The case thermals are sucking of horse cock in general, with too much glass and not enough air
  • I have Argus Monitor and Speedfan installed at the same time even though it says not to

The PC is designed as a showpiece, not to perform well. That said, I got 240 FPS in the Apex Legends training range, and I was only about ~40C over ambient on a hot summer day: below thermal throttling for the Ryzen.

First, I unboxed the case, which was huge. The box seemed big enough to hold my entire life. It’s the heaviest case I’ve yet built in: with no parts it’s 14.1 kg / 31.1 lbs of cold-rolled steel and tempered glass. I don’t recommend dropping it on your foot.

The case has two levels. A “basement” where you put the PSU, radiator, hard drives, and cables, and an upper level that the motherboard mounts to.

It comes with a number of accessories: a riser cable for vertical GPU mountings, and a couple of docks for hard drives. I ended up using relatively few of these. I have no use for 2.5″/3.5″ HDDs and I mounted the GPU the standard way.

The “logical” way to set up this case would be to draw air from the bottom and expel it out the top. I used a 360 radiator, and because I wanted the fans to be visible, I set them in pull configuration. Usually, a gap of about 5cm is necessary for a case to ventilate (as found by Gamers’ Nexus Steve Burke). The AZZA satisfies this requirement.

The Unifans were great to work with. They connect in series by physically slotting together, like Lego bricks. The only disadvantage is that they use a proprietary Lian Li cable type and can’t connect to 4-pin / 5v RGB headers. I ended up with a mess of cables underneath the motherboard compartment.

At the top of the pyramid there’s a preinstalled AZZA-branded 120mm fan, which I replaced with another Unifan. I wonder why Azza didn’t include additional screwholes and brackets for 140mm and 200mm fans, which would allow you to put the fan lower down.

Why would you want to do this? Geometry. The 120mm fan has to be very close to the top of the pyramid, meaning the airflow misses the four sidecut vents. Additionally, there are possible static pressure problems, where the fan doesn’t just draw air from above the components (as is ideal) but also from the sides. If you did Schlieren photography of the case, I suspect you’d see a massive mushroom-cloud blob of heat just hanging over the motherboard. But again, this is a showcase. And a show case.

I used a lot of RGB peripherals, including RGB tape (which I ended up looping around the base of the pyramid), Lian Li Strimer Plus V2 24p + 8p*2 cables. To connect all of it I used one of these.

The engraved RGB backplate for my RTX 2080 OC Super came from JM Mods. It would have looked better without the mirror finish, but I didn’t think of that.

I also installed the Thermaltake power supply fan-side down, so the T logo is upside down. Triggered yet, libtard?

The cables under the motherboard tray looked pretty bad. They’re still a WIP.

Anyway, the Coagulopath PC is built. I have many more plans for it.

 

 

 

 

References

References
1 In 2009, a modder called Marko Tadros made a pyramid-shaped case, filled with fascinating choices. This was apparently sold as part of a 200 case run. Linus Sebastian and some others have built bespoke vanity cases for various purposes. But as far as factory mass-produced cases, the AZZA CSAZ-804 is the first of its kind.
Aeon Flux S3E7, or “Chronophasia”, is one of the most... | News | Coagulopath

Aeon Flux S3E7, or “Chronophasia”, is one of the most confusing episodes ever put on TV for any series. You can literally feel your brain get further away from understanding it the more you subject yourself to it.

Tireless on your behalf, I have uncovered a few hard facts. For example, it’s the seventh episode of Aeon Flux’s third season, and I believe its title is “Chronophasia”.

How long does this go on? Always.

This episode triggers brain bleeds in fans.

Just have a glance at can anyone really explain chronophasia?, a twenty-five year old discussion[1]actually a few different forum threads merged into one where three Aeon Flux writers show up. And the result, after a quarter-century of argument?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Some have argued that “Chronophasia” has no meaning: that it’s either very badly written or a troll episode designed to enrage the kind of fan who obsesses over who killed Laura Palmer.

“So, in answer to the original poster, after all these years, with posts from people actually involved in the writing and creation of the short….No.

No, they can not tell you the meaning of it. No, they have not written an explanation of it. They don’t know why the baby was so powerful. They don’t know if the boy was there from the beginning. They don’t know what was in the vial at the end or why it aided in changing their reality. They have no idea why or how the mummified people died.

They have no idea what was created or why it was created(save to make a buck). It’s like watching a David Lynch film minus the few parts that make sense enough to string together a movie.

Absolutely nothing is to be gained on examination of this short other than that pieces have been placed in opposition and are blatantly left without any conclusion. It is not a reflection of life, metaphysics or science. It is a nothing. You can sleep easy now.

They divided by zero and the zero won.”

  • ILXOR user iseewutudidthere[2]Ibid.

I don’t agree with this reading. “Chronophasia” is messy and unfocused, but there’s a dreamlike logic to it. And from a certain perspective, it does kind of make sense..

There’s just too much of it: the plot’s a 10-piece puzzle that has 11 or 12 pieces. There are a few different ways to assemble the puzzle so that it forms a complete picture, but there will always be pieces left over. We just have to be happy with that.

“There was never supposed to be one “right,” comprehensive interpretation of the episode (just as there is no “right” answer to whether or not there is an active virus or which — if any — of the scenarios represents “reality”). Ultimately dream logic prevails — tons of meaning but the solution never quite comes together in a consistent, comprehensive way. A number of possible dualistic alternatives are set up — waking vs. dreaming, madness vs. sanity, reality vs. illusion, virus vs. no virus, science experiment gone wrong vs. ancient evil, baby as victim vs. baby as killer, boy as good vs. boy as evil (also, boy as child vs. boy as man), Aeon knows more than Trevor vs. Trevor knows more than Aeon, and so on — and it’s never clear (to us or Aeon) where things really stand (for all we know this whole thing is Trevor’s elaborate mindfuck/practical joke at Aeon’s expense, with the boy and baby merely players or props). If there is any clear realization at all, it is merely that waking up repeatedly on a stone slab drenched in blood is ultimately not all that much more puzzling or bizarre than waking up repeatedly on a Sealey Posturpedic Mattress.” 

  • Peter Gaffney[3]Ibid.

The story

Aeon is searching for a baby. She trips and falls through the ground into an underground science lab called Coloden, where everyone is dead except for a strange boy.

Soon it’s clear that she’s trapped in a time loop. Events repeat. She wakes up on a bloodstained altar over and over. Plot points and characters are volleyed at the audience: a baby, a monster, and a vial (which may contain a consciousness-altering virus), and several dead scientists. It’s not clear how these relate to each other, and established facts seem to change every time Aeon goes back into the past.

What’s going on? What were the scientists working on? How did they die? Is Aeon losing her mind? Is she infected with a virus? For that matter, is she now dead herself?

Every time you think you’re making sense of “Chronophasia”, the rug is yanked out from under you. Finally, Aeon gives up, mistrusting everything she sees. The facts seem as hollow and insubstantial as dead leaves. Finally, the entire husk-narrative is blown away by a rising wind of textual and literal insanity, with Aeon losing her identity in a sea of possible selves.

Then comes a final scene. Aeon is depicted as a regular suburban soccer mom in 21st century America, taking her kid to a baseball game.

The end. Tune in next week for The Maxx!

Creatophasia

Showrunner Peter Chung had almost no involvement with “Chronophasia”.

The first draft was by storyboard artist and animator J Garett Sheldrew (who tragically passed away in September). He wrote a “whodunit” mystery where Aeon wakes up covered in someone else’s blood, and tries to unmask the murderer. As the suspect list narrows, she confronts the truth that maybe it’s her.

MTV deep-sixed this idea, deeming it too violent.

Peter Gaffney rewrote Sheldrew’s script into a rambling sci-fi tale, sprinkled with references to things like the Diamond Sutra and Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It’s possible that these philosophical digressions are red herrings, not to be taken seriously. Other story ideas may have come from director Howard Baker, executive producer Japhet Asher, and possibly Peter Chung.

Bits of Sheldrew’s original script still exist in the episode like fossils. For example, the monstrous baby is his. I’ve heard that the corpses are his, too – they were supposed to be freshly-killed, but MTV had them changed into (less gruesome) mummies.

“Peter G didn’t like having to incorporate the giant man-eating baby into the script, but that was one element Garett would not let go. I honestly don’t think he had a rational reason for its presence, other than it representingf fear of the responsibility of parenthood (see Eraserhead)– one of Garet’s [sic] infinite anxieties , and no doubt one of Aeon’s as well.” – Peter Chung[4]https://www.ilxor.com/ILX/ThreadSelectedControllerServlet?boardid=59&threadid=18#unread((Ibid.)

Needless to say, the end result is pretty schizophrenic. Its writers pulled it in many conflicting directions (gothic horror, science fiction, trippy new-age philosophy), and it suffers more than usual from MTV censorship. Many viewers failed to realize that the grayish-blue fluid is blood, believing it instead to be fluid from the broken vials.

It’s very well drawn and animated, and has some striking background art. The abandoned laboratory in Coloden is one of the show’s eeriest locales. Even if “Chronophasia” ultimately means nothing, it’s certainly good at creating an appearance of depth.

The story treads ground that no other Aeon Flux episode does. Only “Chronophasia” references things that happened elsewhere in the show (Aeon dreams of Rorty, Una, and so on). Only this episode implies the existence of the real world. And Aeon’s supposed motive – rescuing a baby – is uncharacteristically heroic for her.

Aeon Flux was released on DVD in 2005, and Peter Chung rewrote and re-recorded the dialog of several episodes. It’s notable, perhaps, that he left “Chronophasia” completely untouched (aside from some digital effects).

Was he satisfied with “Chronophasia”? Did he deem it such an incoherent mess that it wasn’t worth touching with a ten foot pole? Both at once? Make up your own mind.

The episode is essentially a series of open questions. I will try to offer thoughts on them.

Is Aeon dead/dreaming?

I don’t believe so.

The camera takes an omniscient viewpoint. There are scenes of Trevor exploring the caves and interacting with his men, for example. We’re not solely getting Aeon’s perspective, as we would if she was dreaming.

At the start of the episode she falls from a great height. It would seem impossible for her to survive such a fall…but the shot fades to black with a soft rustling sound, as if to imply she’s landing on something soft (like leaves). Aeon visibly sickens as the episode progresses. Would that happen if she was dead?

The episode sees Aeon caught in a sort of time loop. That’s not what death is. Death is the opposite of a loop, it’s the end!

Furthermore, although the virus/boy/whatever causes you to slip into alternate timelines, Aeon can still control her circumstances, to a limited extent. She’s not a puppet.

In one timeline, she’s overwhelmed by Trevor’s soldiers. In another, she overpowers them and steals a gun. In one, she ties the boy to the ladder to stop him causing mischief. In another, he’s still tied up (this time to the roof). Things that happen in one universe seem to cast rippling echoes into the next one. And again Aeon keeps getting sicker. She’s not just stuck in a loop. For better or for worse, things are not stable, and the center cannot hold.

There’s a lot of fan theories that the boy/baby represents death. I find myself reluctant to accept this. For one thing, it just seems shallow – the kind of faux-profound film student writing that Aeon Flux normally avoids like the plague.  The episode certainly toys with the idea that she might be dead, but only as a stalking horse for its real thematic concern, which is confusion and ambiguity.

Are you dead or alive? The real horror is that you might not be able to tell.

Who is the boy?

He’s the episode’s most important character, and the key to whatever’s happening to Aeon.

Everyone else – Aeon, Trevor, his men, the baby – ends up mangled by the changing timeline. Dead, alive, insane, or altered beyond recognition. Only the boy remains unscathed: the gravity source that all else wheels around.

He claims to have been around forever, and to have killed everyone in Coloden.

Boy: I was here first, before they came here with their experiments. A virus that produces human happiness.

Aeon: So you killed them.

Boy: Except you.

(Some fun ambiguity: the boy could either mean the experiment involved a virus to produce human happiness, or he could be talking about himself.)

He’s clearly a very old being (many of his words are quotes from things like Othello), but he’s also boylike and immature. He ogles Aeon as she undresses. Later, he half-heartedly attempts to seduce her, his bravado hilariously falling apart. “I will have you! …No, not like this!” It’s a pretty true to how twelve year old boys react around women – that mix of lust and horror.

He says “My time is not your time.” and that’s probably the truth of it. He’s both young and old, an entity for whom age doesn’t quite exist.

Honestly, the child actor’s delivery is pretty flat, and this makes it hard to judge the intended emotion of some of his lines. Maybe that was the direction, though.

Who is the baby?

Aeon’s stated motivation is to rescue a baby girl.

“[she’s] one of the test subjects from the little experiment. I came here to get her out.”

There are several reasons to be skeptical of this.

She doesn’t act like she cares about the baby. She explores Coloden and sees evidence of destruction everywhere: dead bodies, shattered glass, and melted blast-doors. Something horrible has obviously happened and she should be heartsick with worry.

…Instead she wastes time changing outfits and goofing around with the boy.

When Aeon comes to the lab and sees the broken vials, she says: “Looks like it’s all been taken care of. Came here for nothing.” 

The “taken care of” line makes me think she didn’t come for the baby but for the virus. It’s  a key to universal consciousness or happiness, and Aeon traditionally abominates such things (cf “The Demiurge”, “The Purge”, “Ether Drift Theory”). It’s most probable that she’s there to eliminate the virus and all of its works – including the baby, if necessary. As Trevor says, “all she knows is how to destroy”.

I’ve seen people speculate that Aeon is the baby’s mother. If so, she behaves like no mother I’ve ever seen. She displays little interest in the baby’s welfare. She speaks of it conversationally, as though it’s a game piece. She has no personal attachment to the child, and probably only wants it because it’s had contact with the virus.

In any event, the baby is alive, but grotesquely mutated. The boy refers to the baby as “the waker”. “She’s very strong. You have to be good to her.” But then the mutated baby dies, and the odd events continue.

The baby is depicted as a classic teeth-gnashing movie monster, and it’s apparently killed some people (it’s surrounded by bones and “blood”). But I don’t see how it could have committed the stranger events in Coloden – the lapses in times, the mummified corpses, the insanity. My guess is that the baby, like the vial, is only secondary to the events at Coloden, not central to them.

What does the virus do?

We don’t know, Aeon doesn’t know, and little dogs don’t know. Perhaps nothing.

Strange events have already started happening to Aeon before she makes contact with the vial. Either the virus has already saturated the facility (so why care about that one particular vial?), or it’s a red herring, unrelated to what’s going on. Aeon’s first blackout after arriving in Coloden isn’t triggered by the vial, it’s triggered by her seeing the baby. 

For what it’s worth, Peter Chung suspects that the virus/vial doesn’t matter.

“The clear fluid comes from the broken vial and Aeon’s contact with it may be connected to her confused state, but is more likely a red herring representing an object on which to project external causation.”

It’s a clever bit of narrative sleight-of-hand. We think the vial’s important, so whatever something odd happens, we attribute it to the vial. Just as anyone who dies after breaking into a pharoah’s tomb has suffered from “the curse of the pharoahs”, instead of, say, lung cancer.

What’s it really about?

Where “Chronophasia” seems to fit best is as a study of reality, and how little of it actually exists in an actual noumenal sense.

To be clear, some reality exists. At the bottom of the universe is a physical substrate of atoms and forces and things like that. But on top of this is a complex interpretative layer, things which we define into existence. When does bread become toast? When does a living person become dead? How many sand grains make a pile? The answer depends on the asker, and the context.

Philosophers have long mooted the idea of a “multiverse”, generally relying on the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. What’s often missed is that we’re living in a multiverse right now. Every object in the universe has a billion perceptual shadows flying out from it. I look and see a tree. You look and see a different tree. People have varying retinal cone mosaics and ability to perceive color and none of us see it the exact same way.

Even aside from this, the underlying nature of the tree is ambiguous. I might just see “a pine”, a botanist would see Pinus sylvestris of the Coniferae order, a Wiccan would see a source of earth magick, and a freezing person would see firewood. A blind man would see nothing at all: their sensory picture of the tree would be complete at the feel of rough bark, the smell of pine cones, and so on. Like Aeon in the penultimate scene, the tree keeps morphing and mutating while remaining unchanged. To be something is to be everything.

Even when facts are agreed on, context can totally flip how we understand them. Imagine you see a person threatening another with a gun. You are scared by this. But then you step back and see a stage, and footlights, and a proscenium. You’re no longer scared, because the context for these events has changed: you’re watching a play. This, in neuro-linguistic psychology terms, this is a “frame”. And there are as many frames as there are viewers.

Reality is both fixed and in flux, a single base number endlessly operated on. “One thing contains everything” seems to be the lesson of “Chronophasia”. It’s a nifty sci-fi take on the impermanence of the world around us.

Aeon Flux’s body is a set of atoms that could be sleeping or awake or alive or dead. If the quantum dice had fallen differently she would indeed be a regular woman, taking her son to a baseball game. And perhaps she is that to someone – think of how Trevor sees her as a romantic partner, while the baby only wants to kill her. Her essence (to her chagrin) is largely out of her hands, and depends on frames and interpretations.

These questions are near and dear to Aeon Flux. Peter Chung is the son of North Korean defectors, and although the Bregna/Monican border divide seems inspired by North (mostly due to the show’s architectural style), in truth it’s more inspired by North and South Korea. The border line is imaginary, yet you can see it from space. On one side is among the poorest states in the world, on the other is one of the wealthiest. All because of a thing that’s not real. Like two children bouncing up and down on an imaginary see-saw.

Maybe Trevor sums up what the episode is about when he says “So, play it both ways, would you?”

What does Trevor Goodchild want?

Trevor: This particular strain of the virus causes permanent insanity. But don’t worry, Aeon, I’ll take care of you, always.

Aeon: Naturally, I’d prefer to be dead.

Trevor: Odd, the virus has never been fatal. In fact, there’s some evidence. exposure actually extends life. Why, Aeon, you may have another 80 or 90 years of this. Fresh ground pepper?

Aeon: Universal madness? Is that your current project?

Trevor: As usual, Aeon, you only have half the picture. The virus they were working on here does produce…a particularly nasty psychosis, as you’re learning first-hand. The sauce is good, don’t you think? But we believe that at one time, before the dawn of history…a form of this virus existed in every human brain. In fact, it was an essential component of human consciousness. What it produced then was not a madness…but a sense of connection. Of being in and of the world. But somehow, we developed an immunity. That was the fall, Aeon. Ever since, we’ve been missing a part of ourselves.

Aeon: I think your chef uses too much tarragon.

Trevor: Hard to say where the mutation occurred…in the virus or in the human mind, but if we could reverse the process…My project is not universal madness, it’s universal happiness.

Frankly, I’m tempted to ignore everything Trevor says.

He barely knows where Coloden is, and has only sketchy information about its operation (“According to my information, this was a working facility three weeks ago.”)…so how does he suddenly know so much about the virus? And if Aeon’s infected, is it safe for him to interview her face-to-face, without a Hazmat suit or even a facemask?

His speech about restoring universal happiness has the ring of noble-sounding bullshit. He’s clearly just as interested in acquiring Aeon than whatever his mission is (like always, in other words).

He makes some odd leaps of logic. When he sees Aeon in the jungle he assumes she’s looking for the vial. This is correct, but how did he know that? When he finds the laboratory retort stand with the fifth vial missing, he assumes that Aeon must have taken it, based on no evidence.

He has conflated his quest for the vial into a quest for Aeon, whether he knows it or not. Trevor doesn’t need a virus to unstabilize his view of the world, he’s confused enough already.

Who wrote the final scene of “Chronophasia”?

That’s the big question mark.

Gaffney says he doesn’t know who wrote it, and since he worked from Sheldrew’s script, this necessarily eliminates Sheldrew as a possibility.

In the DVD commentary track (which contains Gaffney, Baker, Chung, and Asher), none of them take credit for it.

So where’s it from? Does anyone know?

Also, rewatching “Chronophasia” again, I realized that I’m (possibly) error when I say there are no material changes in the 2005 DVD re-release.

Below is a VHS recording (top), along with the DVD version (bottom). Note the new translucent fade-to-white, which echoes an effect seen earlier when the vial breaks.

This could suggest a disturbing idea: that Aeon still hasn’t escaped, and is still in the thrall of the virus.

Not Dead. Unborn

The secret to a successful magic trick is to make the audience look at one hand, while you perform the trick with the other.

“Chronophasia” achieves this by growing about sixteen new hands and five feet, all of which are doing different distracting things. It gives us a lot to think about – too much? – but maybe one of those hands really does hold a magic trick.

References

References
1 actually a few different forum threads merged into one
2, 3 Ibid.
4 https://www.ilxor.com/ILX/ThreadSelectedControllerServlet?boardid=59&threadid=18#unread