Originally published at: https://geektherapy.org/spiderhead/
#328: Marc and the crew discuss Netflix’s Spiderhead; touching on topics of drug use, emotional manipulation, and unethical psychological research.
Link Keller 0:11
Welcome to GT radio on the Geek Therapy network, where we believe that you can better understand yourself and the people around you through the media that you care about. I am link and I am joined by our crew, Lara,
Lara Taylor 0:30
Link Keller 0:30
Josué Cardona 0:31
Link Keller 0:32
and marc our topic chooser of today. What is our topic marc?
Marc Cuiriz 0:41
Well, okay, first off, I didn’t even get to say hello. First off.
Lara Taylor 0:45
You’re not allowed.
Marc Cuiriz 0:46
I guess I guess
Lara Taylor 0:47
only here to give us a topic, Marc
Marc Cuiriz 0:49
I’m only allowed to just simply present the topic and then I just disappear. I just become a background character. So today’s topic,
Link Keller 0:57
Josué Cardona 0:58
Marc Cuiriz 0:58
guys, thank you, Josué. Thank you. I missed you. You weren’t you weren’t here for last recording. So welcome back.
Josué Cardona 1:06
Marc Cuiriz 1:07
Anyways, today’s topic, guys. So just recently, I was more so strong armed. And I’m kind of glad I was into watching spider head, which is a relatively new movie on Netflix that has Chris Hemsworth in it. To kind of give like a brief description of the movie. It’s basically like, set in like a dystopian type of world where these inmates are volunteers for running tests on certain types of drugs, which can kind of, I don’t know, manipulate emotional states, something like that. And yeah, I initially did not want to watch it. Full disclosure
Josué Cardona 1:52
even though it had spider in the title?
Marc Cuiriz 1:54
Yes. Because simply because of the fact that it said like it was more of like a thriller. And for me, I’ve had such a negative connotation to thriller movies because of how my childhood was and how inappropriately exposed I was those from my dad, because my dad’s a bit of an asshole. But my wife was like, No, I really like it looks really interesting. Like, we just have to sit down and watch it and she like, put her foot down. And was like, we always watch what you want to watch. So tonight, we’re watching this and I was like, Alright, fine. Like, I’ll give it a go. If it’s if it’s something that I don’t like, then I’ll like, close my eyes. And then we watched it. And by the end of it, I was like, Well, damn, this is like a great episode topic. And I think it needs to be discussed and then she looked at me with those eyes of like one I told you so into like, You’re an asshole for not wanting to watch this movie. So did anyone else watch it? Aside from Lara who I know didn’t watch it?
Link Keller 2:58
I watched it yesterday.
Josué Cardona 2:59
First of all, Marc watched it yesterday. Yeah, I watched it today. And thank you Marc for that insight into your home life. Yeah, I did. I did. I watched it. No regrets either. I think I think it’s a it’s a very good topic to discuss. It’s such a it’s such an interesting things. Yeah. Did you how’d you feel about being a thriller?
Link Keller 3:23
Were you thrilled?
Marc Cuiriz 3:25
It made? It made me question the genre of thrillers entirely. I was like, okay, clearly, I don’t understand what a thriller is.
Lara Taylor 3:34
I don’t think you do, Marc.
Marc Cuiriz 3:35
so Exactly. Sounds like clearly I don’t understand what this genre of movies is. So I have potentially been missing out on a lot of great pieces of media throughout my entire life simply because I don’t know. I guess I just, I just don’t, I’m just a scaredy cat. Alright, so anything like that remotely touches on that? I’m like, No, no way, Jose. So unclearly I need to now rethink my entire life and my life choices about movies. And who knows, maybe I’ll come back with like some old movies and like Hey, guys, have you watched this movie and and then you guys are all gonna look at me and be like, yes.
Lara Taylor 4:10
Yeah, yeah, I’m a little sad. I didn’t have time to watch this movie because thriller younger me thrillers were my jam. Like I love like, double jeopardy. And like, yeah, a bunch of them. I can’t even remember the name to a lot of them
Josué Cardona 4:25
We should have an Ashley Judd appreciation episode.
Lara Taylor 4:27
There’s a lot of older like Denzel Washington and Sandra Bullock movies that are thrillers that I can’t remember the names of 12 monkeys. I really liked thrillers wonderful, wonderful genre. I used to watch them on TNT all the time. And they were the TV versions of everything. That’s what you should have been watching.
Josué Cardona 4:50
I missed these conversations. Alright, so it’s got it’s got quite a few topics. I’m so happy that now you know I mean, I think you’ve been here for a while. But this is the first time I remember marc where you’re like, Oh, this is an episode, isn’t it? This is this is something we got to discuss. I can’t just I can’t just let this be. it’s not just a movie now.
Marc Cuiriz 5:12
Yeah, I, I sat there for 20 minutes after the movie was done, and I was just like, ruminating on it. And the more I thought about it, the more I was like, This is gonna be this is this, this has to be an episode like this. Just, I can’t ignore it. And then like, I when I said that to her, she just like looked at me. She was like, Are you actually kidding me right now. So I’m, I’m glad that this this moment has finally happened. And now now, I feel like I’m just part of the Scooby gang at this point.
Josué Cardona 5:41
It’s Geek Therapy, rule number 12. I’ll take time to reflect.
Marc Cuiriz 5:46
So one of the big things that like, stood out to me was just this was the whole concept of like, the drugs in general of like, what they were designed to do, and like, what sort of like the, the intentions were for them. Like I understand like, are we going spoilers?
Josué Cardona 6:08
So I mean, I think we don’t have to go into into complete spoilers. But let’s definitely recap.
Link Keller 6:14
The spoilers are about to talk about is like the main thrust of the movie, and we do need to talk about it. So I think that’s yeah, spoiled
Josué Cardona 6:23
we will talk about Yeah,
Marc Cuiriz 6:26
Josué Cardona 6:26
plot wise, you know, we won’t but but like, what’s what’s happening is this is actually a it’s it’s a it’s a research and detention center. So it is a program where people are have been arrested and convicted. And they are serving a sentence. And apparently they applied to be a part of this program. That is separate from the the general.
Marc Cuiriz 6:59
Josué Cardona 7:00
the carceral System. Yep, yep. Yep. And so they go to this place that is very…is it Denmark that has the, the jails that are like, with clean courtyards, and
Marc Cuiriz 7:13
I think that’s Norway.
Josué Cardona 7:15
Maybe it’s Norway.
Lara Taylor 7:16
like free roaming prison?
Josué Cardona 7:18
Yeah. Yeah. And like, the guards are just like in regular clothes, and they’re just watching, you know, it’s like, it’s more rehabilitation, then. Then punitive punishment. But in this case, they, you know, part of it is that they are, it’s also a research program. So the inmates are participating in these experiments, where they have something very similar to Lara’s insulin pump. But it actually has all of these different substances. And then the researchers controlled them with a, an app on a phone. And they can and they can control how much and which different experimental drug is released into the system. For example, there’s one called What’s this one? Which, which was which one was laffodil? laffodil was what was the number for laffodil though? 4 6 6? it’s not 16?
Josué Cardona 7:20
Josué Cardona 7:32
B. 46. Was it b-46?
Josué Cardona 8:00
No, I think it’s G-46
Josué Cardona 8:24
G-46. was laffodil, basically made you laugh. And I unafraid that they had these moments where they were talking about horrible traumatic experiences. And they still just like, it didn’t faze them. Because they were, they felt so good. And there were others. There were other different drugs that they were using. And so that’s kind of like the premise of the of the movie. Did I miss anything in terms of like the setup?
Marc Cuiriz 8:53
No, no, I don’t think so. I think that’s, that’s kind of a good general overview and recap of like, the basic premise of the movie. But yeah, kinda like getting into like, the, the substances themselves and like what they are supposed to, like, elicit in the person. And my first thought was, like, wow, this, like, I know, it’s supposed to be set and like, more of a dystopian thing. I like these things. I have real like, full on control of like, hey, we want you to be like, like, unable to, like, have a straight face. Like you’re gonna be laughing and here let’s adjust it to make sure of that case. But to me, it’s like, thinking on like how medication is like, in our world right now. And like, to me it the thought came to my mind of like, I feel like we are actually more close, closely related to the movie than we really would like to believe. Because we have like antidepressants and we have like, all these different types of medications that are designed to affect one’s mood like mood stabilizers and things like that,
Josué Cardona 10:01
two of us right now are actually just used like on camera things.
Marc Cuiriz 10:07
yep. So and so for that, like, while these things have like, like they just slide, put the put it on the slider on the app and just like, okay, there you go, you’re injected with this amount. And it’s like an immediate effect, like, it’s an immediate effect of like, a drastic change in their behaviors. But for us, it’s like, we sort of have a system that’s like that. And we sort of have a system where, like, for a lot of people, like they’re reliant on those things to help them be able to navigate through day to day life. And so my thought was, like, when it comes to what these drugs were used for, and what their intentions were for, thinking about, like, if those types of drugs were in our, like, reality, like face of reality, like, how great of an impact do you think like, those types of drugs would have on just the general population as a whole? So like thinking about like, having, like a laffodil, how do you like how would like people like us be like, use that, in a sense? Or how is it that other humans would want to use a drug like that? Or like, the N-40, or whatever it was?
Josué Cardona 11:27
Marc Cuiriz 11:28
Yeah, or like, the, like, all those sorts of things are the one. I can’t remember which one this was, I think it was like,
Josué Cardona 11:36
Marc Cuiriz 11:36
yeah, verbulace, where he like, gets you to talk, right? And like, just thinking about, like, how that like, like, just imagining those things were in our world now. Just like, how much of it?
Josué Cardona 11:50
So I want to I want to Yeah, I want to test something. Lara, do any of these things sound like the effects are the reasons why people smoke weed or take alcohol? Or?
Lara Taylor 12:01
Josué Cardona 12:02
I see it on your face.
Lara Taylor 12:03
Yeah, exactly. It’s not necessarily a direct correlation that this thing is going to make you laugh a lot or this thing, but you smoke enough weed, you’re gonna have some giggles.
Josué Cardona 12:15
depends on the weed
Lara Taylor 12:16
But yeah, depends on the weed. Right? Depends. But like, there are different we already have drugs that do that. That may I mean, the whole point of ecstasy, right. Make you feel open. Love everything. So yeah, there are plenty of substances that we already do use to do that. The psychotropic like the the medications that we use, psychopharmacology-cological I can speak today, those medications also aren’t direct, like, you take an antidepressant, it’s not going to make you happy. It’s going to give you the chance to be happier, more of the time. But, yeah, the
Josué Cardona 13:04
one of the interesting things,
Lara Taylor 13:04
we already have drugs that do these things,
Josué Cardona 13:06
one of the one of the, I thought was more explicit, and clever, maybe I guess it was to me. Comments in the movie was when, like, they are, they are thinking of ways to make money off of these drugs. And so they’re thinking of different ways to market them. And one person comes up with the idea of the laughing one, to sell it to Comedy Clubs
Link Keller 13:33
that character’s name is Mark.
Josué Cardona 13:36
That’s Mark. Yeah, just getting a guy ideas guy. And I think the funny thing about that is, what if we like gave at comedy clubs, or places where there are comedians, we gave something to people, when we sold something that would like have them loosen up and make them think that jokes are funnier? Right? So it’s like, it’s funny the way they they address it in the in the movie gets like, you got to think bigger than that. It’s a on on the one hand, it’s also
Link Keller 14:10
like, there’s a reason why most comedy clubs serve alcohol, like, that’s already there.
Josué Cardona 14:15
Right? Right. Right, right. Like, right, like that’s, that’s one parallel, but then also just the idea of, like this commoditization of, of just any feeling or anything, right like that, you what if we did have a drug for every single feeling, so that we could just adjust our experience that way? And I mean, we try a lot. And we do experiment, different things. But if it were just that simple, it’s like, Ah, I’ll do this. Right. I’ll take one of these. I want to I want to cry during the or like imagine like you go to the you go to a thriller and you take a real inducing drug or you go to a to a sad movie, and it comes As with, you know, crying pills, because the experience is way better, you know, if you cry, it’s like, that’s how you get the full experience. And I know that I think, would would people would people do that more? If it was one? Just easier. two, if it was economical. three, if it was legal. four, if it was. Yeah, and if it was marketed to us in that way. Like, would it? I think? I don’t? I think I think we would, I think we would actually, we absolutely would.
Lara Taylor 15:43
I feel like people would, I feel like this is also a Black Mirror episode in the making.
Marc Cuiriz 15:47
Yeah, you know, the way you talk about it, in that sense, it’s giving me like Bioshock vibes with like, the plasmids, where it sort of becomes this commodity, but then slowly, but surely, it’s like, slowly, like transforming society in a way where now all of a sudden, they’re like, I have a feeling like if it was used enough, or pushed and marketed to a point where soon people are craving it, because then they become overly reliant on it, like, they feel like they can’t exist, like they can’t showcase their own emotions without the assistance of one of these drugs. And then, you know, and then you have things like the darkenfloxx, where that’s something that can definitely be like, miss, like, almost certainly misused. And also, like, it carries those sorts of intentions where you might have someone or like, you have a drug that like increases anger, and then they some people just stockpile up on that. And then all of a sudden, they’re just hopped up, basically, I’m like, adrenaline and anger. And now they can like, tank a few bullets before they’re finally going down. But like they’re on a rampage or something like that. Which then, you know, Will, I feel I have a feeling something like that would just kind of lead to more of like the downfall of society, which, where the, the whole BioShock thing kind of comes into play. But that’s, besides the point like that, that those like parallels, like, are already like something that I’m seeing. And I don’t know, like, I’m also trying to see it in a way of like, how these things can also be used for their, like, the therapeutic process, like the main character, like his whole point of like, he wanted to do this because he wanted something to help him forget the traumatic experience he had of, you know, losing his friend and his girlfriend in an accident. And so for him, he’s like, I want something that’s going to just help me just completely forget about this. And he’d be able to go on with my life. And obviously, like there’s no drug in there that kind of helps with that, but I know like that’s even a conversation that they do have like Mark does have that with, with Steve of like, Hey, he’s mentioning like wanting to forget like, how are we going to like work with this or like, you know, and then he goes on and then Steve, it kind of goes off on a tangent about like, how to market the drugs better things like that.
Lara Taylor 18:08
It’s interesting because that that wanting to forget or the taking the emotion out of the traumatic experience. There was a drug being there’s research being done on a drug at least when I was in grad school talking about if you would take this drug when you pulled up the traumatic memory, it would help reduce the amount of trauma that it would like I don’t know the exact function so I’m not going to speak to that but it would it would reduce the emotionality the emotional connection as you would take it and then bring up the the memory each time it would help reduce that emotional connection to the memory the memory didn’t go away. But it kind of dampen some of the emotion.
Link Keller 18:55
That’s and that’s part of the theory behind EMDR
Lara Taylor 19:01
Yeah. Yeah, and EMDR takes a lot longer. Everybody wants a pill that just fixes things. Well, not everybody but a lot of people do. And so that’s how we could in this situation end up in a situation where people are using these things.
Josué Cardona 19:20
So this this movie the way that they correct me if I’m wrong, but I think each and every one of the drugs that we see in the movie spark an emotion. They don’t create a change. Like they don’t they don’t change people. They only they only let them feel differently about things the moment
Link Keller 19:45
sort of unclear there. They only ever talked about six drugs and allude to there being many more than that, but
Josué Cardona 19:56
the bingo card is 25 right
Link Keller 19:59
bingo cards are 25. But we only ever hear about six of them, most of them seem to be just increasing feelings that you already have. However, I would submit that luvactin the love drug that they use is a little bit questionable and how they show that because they jump right to sex. And that sort of attraction and horniness are not the same as love. And so I feel like that that one’s kind of a little
Lara Taylor 20:40
Link Keller 20:41
it’s a little loosey goosey
Marc Cuiriz 20:45
Well, I feel like that’s kind of like what the point of the whole research behind it was, like, they were trying to see if by, like, in like inducing that those like innate feelings of just simple, like lust and attraction, could that bring about like, a residual effect of some sort of like affection? Or could it be like something that can be used to start, like feelings of love or romantic attraction towards a person. And that’s what the whole I think that’s what their whole point of that whole research. Part of it is. It’s like, Hey, we’re gonna have you do it with this girl, and then we’re going to double your dosage to do it with this girl. And then now, hey, you have to darkenfloxx, one of them, which one and trying to like, then from there gauge of like, Alright, who do you? Who do you have feelings more towards and that sort of thing.
Josué Cardona 21:38
So there was a fault. Like, there was a theory that the researcher has, that, I believe, was continuously disproven. But he kept doubling down and trying, because, because if it just makes people more attractive to you, then that’s, that’s a product. Everything looks better. Everything, everybody looks better, more desirable. But that’s not what he wanted. Because I think you can get that from some substances already. And what he was looking for, was for a love drug. So he was like, oh, you know, working title Luvactin. And he kept asking the research subjects, right, like, Do you love like, watch them? Do you still love them? Right? Do you love them? Is it because you love them? Like, no, no, I don’t. And then and, you know, it kind of played with like, Oh, is he lying? Is it true? Is it not true? What is love? What is not love? And I think I think that they, they they were the movie was explicit about it at least. And that there was there was someone that he cared about. Right? Who he was in love with. And I take multiple people, like, there was probably two, you know, or there were meaningful relationships in his life. And then there were the ones that were induced, right, interactions that were induced, and they just did not have that effect. And, and oh that. I’ll get into the ethics of the critique of like, a scientific research
Lara Taylor 23:22
the research itself. Yeah. Because it was just, you know,
Josué Cardona 23:26
it was messed up. I mean, it was a good villain. Good antagonist. But But I think I think yeah, so every everything in the, in the movie, changed your experience of it, which I think is an interesting conversation. It’s like, do you what is it like? Viktor Frankl talks about like, you can’t control necessarily what you your experience, but you can control your perspective or your like the meaning behind the experience, right? That is harder to do, than it is to say it is it is very difficult. But imagine if you could just choose like, I don’t love my spouse anymore, but I’m going to take something that will help me love them. Right? Or I’m afraid, right? Like, this is something that we do moreso, like, I have anxiety, I will gonna take something’s gonna be less anxious. I’m gonna take something that will help me focus more. I’m gonna take something right. Like, we’re already doing that, like you talked about the plasmids and video games. I think a lot of video games. It’s like, alright, what what weapon am I going to use? What tool am I going to use for this particular encounter? And we we do that now? Right? It’s like, Oh, I’m gonna gotta go visit my family and I need need a little bit of this a little bit of that.
Lara Taylor 24:46
But it’s something to take a flight when you’re scared to be on plane.
Josué Cardona 24:53
Or you but you’re you get dizzy, right? Um, what’s that? dramamine
Lara Taylor 24:56
Josué Cardona 24:56
has the one right
Lara Taylor 24:58
I take that
Josué Cardona 24:59
Yeah, but then right but there’s there’s these emotional ones, right like, and I think I think it’s good to have them in the same conversation like if you’re allergic to something you you know, take a Benadryl Claritin. But what if I’m allergic to certain people or experiences? You know, the
Lara Taylor 25:19
take your people allergy pills.
Josué Cardona 25:21
Yeah, yeah. And so and so. But like, the ideal would be that you could? No, it’s not the ideal, right, assuming that you wanted to change your feelings about something, it would be ideal to be able to flip that switch. It’s not that easy, right? Because we are. I believe we are led by our emotions. And so the way we experience we feel about something that that really paints our reality, our perspective of it. So to be able to, to adjust that with medications. Yeah. They, that’s a that’s a potentially a good moneymaker. And that’s a reason why a lot of things are. They make us feel a certain way. That’s how that’s, that’s how they’re marketed to us. That’s why we buy them over other things. But when we talk about certain drugs, specifically, it gets the conversation gets more complicated.
Lara Taylor 26:25
I mean, it’s not drugs, but I think about Disney and Disney music and how no matter what it makes me feel. It gets me in the feels like they know how to do it, not just the music, but like the experience a commercial for Disney makes me definitely feel and aw I wanna go to Disneyland. They know. we are driven by our emotions For sure.
Josué Cardona 26:48
Yeah. Our spending habits are driven by by our emotions. Yeah. Now the scary part is kind of the the way that they show because there’s that one part where it’s like we’re doing this unethical research, because we want to want to make money. There’s a lot of manipulation in the movie about how, look how good we are to you, like, look how well we’re treating you look how great everything is, you know, sure you’re a prisoner, and you can’t go anywhere, you know, you have a sentence to serve out and we’re using you as a research subject. There’s a lot of manipulation going on, that treating everybody very nicely. Everybody, you know, is taken care of, and they remind the inmates of how they’re being treated in, you know, to basically make them comply with the unethical research. So all of that stuff is is is messed up. But there’s also that device that that is on them, they are asking for consent. Every time they’re asking for an acknowledgement before they give them the medication, which they don’t actually do. And then and then right like they show, and if you if you pay attention, there are times when they don’t
Link Keller 28:07
Josué Cardona 28:07
like did you? Did you notice that? Right? There were times when they they they did not do it. But they kept pretending like they always did it. But the fact that a device like that could exist, it could be remote controlled. I think that that’s also just a general concern about these types of devices.
Lara Taylor 28:26
That concept reminds me of Suicide Squad. A lot of suicide squad
Josué Cardona 28:32
that’s true. That’s true. Yeah. But imagine, right? If somebody hacked your, you know, if you’re if your insulin pump could be hacked, or if a heart monitor could be hacked, which they
Lara Taylor 28:41
that is why the FDA has not Well, finally, that it took them so long to approve pumps that could connect to phones. Because they were worried about hacking.
Josué Cardona 28:55
Yeah. Because sure, I want to be able to monitor stuff, but imagine being able to control right, so this device, it you’re able to just release these medications into people. And in the case of the darkenfloxx in particular that is 100% weaponized negative feelings, like it is pain and despair. In A in the liquid form, delivered intravenously, it is terrible, and just just just the idea that anybody could control anybody else that way. You know, like, like, it is child abuse to just like, you know, give your kid Benadryl so they’ll fall asleep and things like that. But imagine being able to hook people up, or even just a scenario in the movie where, oh, you’re in the, you know, you’re in the corrections system. And now, what if, what if that was part of it? Like, what if, what if that was legal to have people just drugged up that way, in particular?
Marc Cuiriz 30:05
Or do you have to think about even the phobica were induced just unimaginable fear. Like they had like in the movie, they had the example of the woman being terrified of a stapler. And then like after the words when the effects are gone, they’re like, I can’t believe I was so terrified of a frickin stapler. But like, even just seeing that and how that can potentially be weaponized towards people simply by being able to gain access or hack into whatever those packs are, and being able to just be like, Okay, well, you pissed me off. Well, guess what? Now you’re going to be scared of a block of cheese. You can never eat cheese now.
Link Keller 30:43
noooooo. truly disturbing,
Lara Taylor 30:46
Josué Cardona 30:52
Lara Taylor 30:53
That’s the next great American novel right there
Marc Cuiriz 30:56
being terrified of cheese.
Josué Cardona 31:01
Other thoughts on the movie?
Link Keller 31:04
So this movie is based off of a short story called Escape from spiderhead by George Saunders. And I am going to be kind of critical here. I suspect that the short story is better than this movie.
Lara Taylor 31:26
Usually, the writing is better than the movie
Link Keller 31:29
it’s usually that direction. there There are some examples going the other direction, but most of the time. The book is better. The short story is better. I I find this concept very interesting. I think it is an important topic of discussion. But I think ultimately, this movie doesn’t go far enough because and maybe this is my horror background. Or maybe it’s all of the time I spent studying history of psychology and real life stories of real doctors and researchers doing unethical studies, drug studies on people. And while this is fucked up, for sure, like the movie is like, oh, that’s fucked up, That’s not ethical. pales in comparison to real actual history. Sort of disappointing. I mmm Yeah, I don’t think that it went far enough in either exploring, like the dystopian aspect of it. Or if not focusing on that aspect than giving these characters more space to be like real people. A lot of these characters felt pretty flat, which was kind of disappointing. But we’re not we’re not here to criticize the movie. That’s not what this is for. We’re doing Geek Therapy. And I think, like, one of the interesting things that I enjoyed in spiderhead is that aspect of Steve really weaponizing his charisma and good looks, and being in charge as a way to get people to do what he wanted. And obviously, that relationship already exists between the person in charge and the prisoners like that goes without saying, but the way that he weaponized it against Mark, his assistant, slash friend, I don’t think that they were friends. I don’t think Mark would call him a friend. But I think that that that reflecting those, those, the ways that he used his power against the prisoners, and against a mark, I thought was really interesting and valuable in thinking about the ways that people who have power, even when they are nice to you, and they tell you to your face, like I you know, I give you all of these benefits, you get to do the job that you want, you get to have access to the kitchen, you can walk around, you’re not, you know, in manacles or whatever. And then just drops a little like, oh, but like I have unfettered access to your file. I know what you did to get into prison, and I can use that as a way to emotionally manipulate you. And I think that that aspect is really powerful in talking about like, how do people in power weaponize that power to get people to do the things that they want? Whether that is, I’m just trying to get you to do something for your own good, which is a real world thing that happens, but also is like, I am trying to get you to do something that you’ve already said you don’t want to do, which is a big no, no, in research in ethical research. People have to be able to opt out. And it’s a big aspect. IRB is like, anytime you have people do research, they need to be told that they can opt out at any point, and that they won’t be punished for it, which is one of the reasons why prisoners are a special group. Because of utilizing that aspect of being like, I will punish you by sending you back to prison. Yeah. That that part, and then the part where Steve, drugs them without getting the acknowledgement from them. Were both major tells I was like, this is not this is this is secret research. This is not real research.
Josué Cardona 36:25
So there was, there was a part early on that I noticed where Steve just told Mark to turn on the verbaluce without and Mark just did it. And they did not ask for for. I was like, oh, okay, right. It just, it just didn’t How would you know? Because that that one just makes you more willing to, It makes it harder to hold in
Lara Taylor 36:51
cuz there’s no emotion
Josué Cardona 36:52
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I would say it like it reduces inhibition. So like something that you wouldn’t say, you know, it kind of loosens the tongue a little bit. So you want to? You’re more verbose is pretty much I think that was the the way they described it. And, yeah, I don’t think that one’s necessarily an emotion, but it is. Yeah, I mean, I think it does some cool things with I mean, lots of sci fi has touched on these topics before. And again, they are direct parallels to, to society, we and Yes, Marc, we are super close to there, were there were just, we just don’t have as good of a handle on it. I think I went to a bar once that was doing like micro dosing. Right, which is like, you know, like, people are really, really trying to make sure you know, to, to get, you know, just we can we can find if we can measure it, you know, if we can be more precise, you know, to get exactly what we want out of these things. That would be that that is sci fi at this point. But yeah, and, and I did touch this part of the memory. Lara, you mentioned, like real life, you know, research and of course, there’s a lot of that, that people are trying to mess with that. fictionally they I always remember. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That’s a movie that’s all about, I want to forget, I need to forget, it’s my it’s one of my favorite stories. Of that, but there’s, this comes up a lot like, Oh, if there’s just a pill if somehow I could forget, that would be that would be so great. And, and unfortunately, trauma, the way that that works is it’s like, that is like a stamp on your brain. Right? In some theories, it’s like, oh, it’s a defensive mechanism. It’s like, you got to remember that bad thing. So you can avoid it in the future. But it’s like, it doesn’t feel good. And if you can reduce the intensity of it, that’s that’s way better. And so,
Lara Taylor 39:00
brain, just stop telling me that I’m in that experience all the time please.
Josué Cardona 39:03
Stop it brain. Yeah, yeah, you went too far. Come on, stop protecting me so much, dammit. It’s hard. I mean, we don’t we don’t understand the brain enough to really do that stuff well enough. But I like kind of how it mixed up. It did mix up a lot of different concepts again, by by doing it on a jail by by the researcher being so manipulative already without the drugs, you know, he’d already weaponized them. The intentions the relationships, yeah, it was Yeah, I think it’s a good conversation starter. And I think I think where people can really relate to it is the being manipulated part, the use of, of drugs, whether or not you’re using them already, or you would like one in particular, like, again, Jeff was his name? Jeff was the main character? Yeah. And he you know, he’s like, he wants something To help him forget. And all these things like they just make you feel something different in the moment, but you can’t. It doesn’t help with that. Yeah, so I think I think the concepts are definitely interesting. And there’s a lot of relatable stuff there. And I like to get I do like the different take on the jail. Of course, it’s still evil and terrible and worse than so much other stuff. But to be clear, there’s like, There’s nothing. There’s no good thing represented here. It’s all terrible. It’s all bad stuff, just all in one place. what a bummer. If you could have a pill that could give you a particular emotion, which one would it be? Let’s start with you, Lara.
Josué Cardona 39:21
I want the happy pill.
Josué Cardona 40:53
You want the happy pill?
Lara Taylor 40:57
Okay, the happy pill. I don’t need to be happy all the time. But it would be nice to every once in a while be happy. Okay, okay. I feel my feelings.
Josué Cardona 41:12
You feel your feelings. Link what? What do you want?
Link Keller 41:22
Ah, I, I don’t know. I don’t know that I have a satisfying answer for this. Because I don’t
Lara Taylor 41:35
you don’t want it.
Link Keller 41:35
Well, here’s the thing right now, in my body. No, I don’t want anything. But there have absolutely been times in my life where I would like a numbing cream applied to my whole noggin. Because I want to feel less. The idea of taking something to feel more is like, well, that’s what that’s what recreational drugs are for. That’s the stuff. I’ve already got that if I want it, baby! Yeah, I don’t I don’t I don’t know. I think that’s
Josué Cardona 42:13
it could be a more could be a less right. It could be a if you’re talking about emotions. y’know.
Link Keller 42:19
I just I just
Josué Cardona 42:20
and what about a better version of some of the stuff that you have now
Link Keller 42:24
need to get on anti anxiety meds again? uhh You know, I like I guess I guess the least offensive is the laffodil. I like the idea of a drug that makes you find not funny things, funny. I have a pretty weird sense of humor already. So So might say I’m already under the influence of laffodil. But um,
Lara Taylor 42:54
that’s true. you laugh at my wife’s jokes
Link Keller 42:56
they’re very funny! puns baybee. Yeah,
Lara Taylor 43:03
I laugh too
Link Keller 43:04
I i What I always circle back to is like, there is something desirable about the idea of being able to control your emotional states with that sort of specificity. But it always comes down to if, if, if it is something that only I can control for only me, if there’s any aspect of being able to control others, I find it like morally repugnant. And so that’s I just get hung up on that aspect, I guess.
Josué Cardona 43:38
I dunno what to say that, but for Marc, what would you do? what would you want
Marc Cuiriz 43:48
I mean, I’m kind of in the same boat with with Link. It’s like, it’s kind of really hard to give like a definite answer. I was leaning more towards just like, the happy pill just because everyone could use a little bit more happiness in life, especially given how the state of the world is today, or at least just the state of the United States. But I also like the idea of having the laffodil just so that way, my wife wouldn’t actually think that I find her jokes funny, because sometimes, you know, I just I’m not I’m not much of a dad joke person. They grate on me. And she loves them. She loves ’em
Lara Taylor 44:31
wow I knocked on my wife jokes, but like, she knows that I think they’re funny when i roll my eyes
Link Keller 44:37
to all the wives out there. I will laugh at your jokes.
Marc Cuiriz 44:43
There there are some that like it’s just get me like it’s a dad joke that hit like it just like you weren’t expecting it. And like I will scoff and I will laugh but I’ll be mad at the fact that I found it funny to begin with. So I feel like the Laffodil would just kind of be like, Okay, I’m not not going to be as concerned about that piece of it because it’s like I don’t want to think I don’t want to laugh at that kind of joke. And yet here I am laughing at it.
Lara Taylor 45:09
I really want to make Marc play puns of anarchy with me.
Marc Cuiriz 45:12
I’m already. Okay.
Josué Cardona 45:18
How do you feel about the pun, puns of anarchy? How does that make you feel? Marc?
Marc Cuiriz 45:23
Well since it’s a title, it’s fine. But like,
Lara Taylor 45:27
okay, titles are okay,
Marc Cuiriz 45:28
yeah, for the most part titles are fine, but it’s like, it’s like, cringe like a cringe pun, like, you really went out of your way to like, make it work. I’m just, that’s when I just shake my head. And like, seriously, like, why? Or if it’s just like, so like, overused or like so over the top, but you deliver it in a like, in a way that just like, you just can’t help but be like, Why? Those are the ones that like I find funny. And I don’t like or like, like Jungle Cruise. Think a Jungle Cruise, those type that type of humor. I laugh and I hate that I do.
Lara Taylor 45:41
I love it. I love it so much.
Marc Cuiriz 46:08
Like when we like when we did the tour thing at Disney World. She was in love with it. And I just kept shaking my head. I’m like, trying so hard to not not give you the satisfaction that I’m finding this remotely funny.
Josué Cardona 46:23
Mark, remember that you can edit this out if you choose to.
Marc Cuiriz 46:26
It’s fine. She doesn’t listen,
Josué Cardona 46:27
if you don’t. Okay, all right. All right. So, so the question for me, right? Like, what, what I would want, I hate the idea of it being that easy. I hate the idea that this could even exist with such precision, right? Because there are a lot of dystopian stories that show if things like this existed and everybody took them then there’s like, there’s way less individuality, there’s less variety. Everybody finds the same things funny, everybody finds the same people attractive everybody finds. Like it’s suddenly there’s this there’s actually a normal and and that depresses me on one hand. But I also take anxiety medication and, and ADHD medication. Because I want to be able to do certain things. And, and that makes them easier. I resisted taking anxiety medication for a very, very, very long time. Like 15 years. I think I was resisting it. I I don’t like the idea of certain things. This a complicated one, I don’t even know if I can I can express it well. but the idea of just having a pill to feel particular emotions. I don’t like I don’t I would I would then not trust that you laughed at my jokes because you thought it was funny or because you’re on a medication? Or if you know, does this person love me? Or are they on luvactin? Like things like that? Plus, this stuff is so subjective. You know, it would it would make it would make life so easy that it would be boring. And I and I don’t like I don’t like the thought of that. So I don’t know that I would want any of these and I don’t know the way you described marc the way you describe taking medication for the for the sake of someone else. Like to make them feel better. That bothers me even more
Link Keller 49:00
See, I wish that that aspect had been explored in the movie because I think that is ultimately more interesting the idea of being able to hack our own bio systems is a long historied aspect of sci fi, but it always sort of fails to talk about the social aspect is like we are social creatures we do not exist in a vacuum and even in this small prison population of like, eight people we maybe see on screen in total. Like that aspect I think is the most interesting part is like the idea of like, Oh, I could just take a drug to be happy is like okay, but like what what in your life in the world that you exist in, in your environment, in your social circles? How does that interact with your happiness? How does that affect your ability to be happy to express happiness to others right is like you can have an internal feeling of happiness and not express it to other people. If other people don’t see you being happy, are they going to believe you that you’re happy? How do you get into that element of like, the way that we learn to show emotions is by watching other people? There’s the internal aspect. And there’s the external aspect. And I think that that is that’s the meaty stuff. That’s the good stuff, right there is getting into that aspect.
Josué Cardona 50:33
Also, yeah, also the, what is identity? And what is personality? You know, like, if Are they those defined by by what exactly? And I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of Rogers called it incongruence, right? Where it’s this idea that you have kind of an ideal self, and you have a real self. And if those two things don’t align, you are miserable.
Lara Taylor 50:59
Josué Cardona 50:59
yeah. Right. I mean, basically, he looks at it, like, it’s like your self esteem in the middle is because those two things are so far from, from each other, like think overlapping circles. And there’s different ways to, you know, to look at that, but this idea of incongruence, like, I can’t imagine. I mean, it is like taking, taking ADHD medication, to be able to do boring stuff that I don’t want to do. It sucks,
Link Keller 51:27
yeah like, anti-anxiety or ADHD medication have oftentimes less to do with your internal experience and more with your ability to participate in the society that we’ve collectively built. So it’s like, yeah,
Josué Cardona 51:43
a lot of mental health, right? Is is social, right? It’s a, it’s like, you know, I have this conversation with people. And they’re like, Oh, what do you think of this, I’m like, that’s only a problem. Because of all of these other things.
Lara Taylor 51:55
Correct my entire license, I can only I can treat individuals and I only treat individuals, because I have to focus on anything that affects a relationship. If a hermit, is living in the woods, and doesn’t have any interactions with anybody and is perfectly fine with that. That is not a problem. It’s only if it interacts with a relationship and affects that. So, everything,
Josué Cardona 52:23
the easiest way I find to talk about it is within ability and disability discussions. It’s like, oh, is this a disability? like, I don’t know? Is it? Or is it that the world is designed for a different type of ability, therefore, you’re in a minority, nothing’s made for you. It’s harder for you to now it’s categorized as a disability. If you live somewhere where nobody had legs and you didn’t have legs, the, that whole place would be designed optimally for you. And then people with legs would probably struggle, because it’s not designed for them.
Lara Taylor 52:54
There would be giants and building. Like,
Josué Cardona 52:57
there would be it would be.
Lara Taylor 52:59
Now I want to I wanna world like that.
Josué Cardona 53:02
I mean, yes. Somewhere. There’s something
Marc Cuiriz 53:07
Lara Taylor 53:08
somewhere in the multiverse there’s somewhere in the
Josué Cardona 53:10
of course. Yes, so. So yeah. So so this this question. Yeah. I don’t know. Like, I guess I like the option sometimes. But ultimately, I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine that having a unique sense of self would be benefited over time, by being able to manipulate our emotions or control our emotions externally. That well, because we already try a lot. And some of it is like trying to align to a particular self, but it’s, yeah, if it was that easy. I don’t know. Yeah. I think it’s a very interesting philosophical discussion. It makes me uncomfortable to think about it. And yeah,
Lara Taylor 54:08
those are usually the important ones to have.
Josué Cardona 54:11
That’s what that’s why I think the movie Yeah, that’s why I enjoy the movie. Like as a conversation starter, I think I think it presents a lot of really interesting ideas in a in a in a thrilling thriller.
Link Keller 54:24
Josué Cardona 54:26
You know, lightly thrilling romp. Yeah. Yeah.
Lara Taylor 54:30
Sounds like I’m not gonna be excited about it, it’s no double jeopardy.
Josué Cardona 54:34
it is not double Jeopardy. No, no, no. Again, I think it’s I think it’s interesting and it does. One more thing that it does is it does put part of the manipulation stuff it again, philosophical discussions are there where it has like If you could control imposing this on someone else, would you? You know, and it does it does have that question come up? If that was in your control, and I kind of I liked that, you know, it showed a character unwilling to do that for a while, because? Because they didn’t, it didn’t feel right. And it did, it did present that scenario in a few different ways, which was also, I think, I think interesting. Yeah. All right. Well, those are those are my thoughts on the on the movie, I think. What else you got Marc?
Marc Cuiriz 55:44
Well, I think like over the course of this conversation, getting more into like, the mental philosophical part of it is like, so we know that like these drugs, they only like inducing current, like emotional, like, whatever it is that the drug is supposed to elicit in terms of its emotions, or like whatever state that like that it’s targeting. However, in some cases, like with the, like, the Verbaluce, like, since it’s not necessarily inducing more of like, an emotion, like, I’m more so trying to think about, like, what sort of like, what are some of like this, the psychological effects that those sorts of things are going to have? Because, let’s say like, they give you like, they have, like, they inject you with a laffodil, right? And then they’re trying to like, and then they’re having you talk about all these, like these potentially traumatic events to you. But now, even though your body itself is reacting in a way of like, oh, I can’t stop laughing. I can’t be upset about this thing. I’m wondering of like, in their mind, though, like, how, how is how, like, how is that affecting them? Like, is this like, over flooding them? And now like, even then their mind, they can’t have an upsetting thought? Or is their mind still like, you’ll I do not want to talk about this, but like, it’s up
Josué Cardona 57:03
to that’s, that’s an interesting one, because, like, laughing is more of a, like a biological, physical reaction. And there is a scene, right, where they’re talking about terrible things. And one of the characters while laughing, it’s like, he, he acknowledges that’s terrible. And he, he does not and he’s, like, he’s really sorry. And he says, like, I’m sorry, that that happened to you. While he’s laughing? I think that fits the incongruence piece.
Link Keller 57:34
I have had that experience in real life, ‘hahaha wow that’s fucked up hahaha’
Josué Cardona 57:43
Link Keller 57:45
yeah. laughing is not an emotion.
Marc Cuiriz 57:52
Lara Taylor 57:53
Josué Cardona 57:54
because that’s interesting. Because, I mean, if you if we, if we go deeper in this conversation regarding emotions we could discuss on like, how much control you have over your emotions or not. That’s depends on the school of thought and, and a number of factors. But then also, how we react to our emotions, is a is a whole other thing, right? Like, that makes you sad. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do all the stuff that makes you angry. That doesn’t mean you have to go punch somebody in the face.
Lara Taylor 58:24
And laughing can be inappropriate, but at times, but also it is the body’s reaction to the strong emotion, just like crying, you can cry with any emotion. Yeah, yeah.
Josué Cardona 58:40
And, and so are, you know, would you want to just have a particular physical sensation? Would you want to have a particular emotional reaction? And then the combination of those two, like, I think, I didn’t think about this before. But if we want to train ourselves, right, to like, not react to, like, this is a fucked up type of exposure therapy, right? Where I’m taking just a little bit of depressodol. All right? And then I’m like, Okay, well, that helped me what will increase my tolerance to feeling sad, and then be able to push through it because I have more practice now in a safely controlled environment where I can, you know, we’re a trained medical professional is increasing and lowering the dose of depressodol, or, you know, our particular fear stimulus the same, which is, you know, what we do with exposure therapy. Could we do the same thing with like, I don’t know how we would use laughing and that sounds but like, you know, things like this feeling angry.
Lara Taylor 59:48
train yourself not to cry when you’re like, angry
Link Keller 59:51
I’m, I’m like that one.
Lara Taylor 59:52
Josué Cardona 59:53
things like that. I don’t know,
Lara Taylor 59:54
I like that one. thank you
Link Keller 59:56
mean, that’s sort of just feeds back into what I said earlier on about how like, real life events experience experiments are more fucked up my brain immediately goes to conversion therapy. Gay people were given drugs that made you incredibly nauseous and then were showed a homophobic content, homoerotic content as a way to associate something that they found attractive with the need to throw up. And that is a real thing that has happened in some places is still happening. Incredibly fucked up. But that is just an extrapolation of what the ideas that spiderhead brings to the table.
Josué Cardona 1:00:53
Marc Cuiriz 1:00:53
yeah. So yeah, so the, that’s kind of like my thing about it, like, what are like the psychological effects and there are like, let’s say, like, you induce, like the happy drug, and the Verbaluce, and it’s like, okay, well, here now that you’re like, in a more like, happy, calm state, please tell me all your things. But as we see, like, once they like, end the doses that they stop it, and they turn it off, then they like, are more so quickly able to, like regulate and reorient themselves. And then their emotional state sort of returns to the, you know, their state of equilibrium, their, their baseline for everything. So it’s like, if they were to induce these things to like, in a way try to help people work through things like let’s say, you’re using it in a controlled environment for through the therapeutic process of like, trying to work through things. I wonder, like, the potential like side effects, or the potential effects that will just have on a person’s psyche, in general of knowing full well that like, hey, there’s someone that’s one manipulating my emotional state, or manipulating a physical behavior or reaction from me, while also like, while I’m also trying to work through something that for me is like mentally, like, really difficult. It’s like a really hard struggle. So like, how does one work through that, and then like, with link said like, that can also be in a place of like, where it can totally be misused and be used to, for all sorts of, you know, really messed up purposes.
Josué Cardona 1:02:22
Like, my, my, my family, when I was a kid, fed me to, to, basically make me feel better about terrible things that were happening. And I developed an eating disorder. So like, that’s an example of, of like, yeah, you start combining shit like that. It’s hard. And I mean, on a daily basis, I feel like I’m out of control. So still, a piece of part of me likes the idea of being able to control those things a little better. But I also enjoy a lot of those things. Like, feeling incredibly excited about something. Unfortunately, I’m also impulsive and compulsive about somethings. But like, that adds a little spice to life. But when when I take a step back, and I’m like, that’s, that’s like, I feel like it’s out of my control almost. Because I’m just like, because the reactions are so or the feelings are so intense. And all that stuff is scary. So that’s why this whole topic is it’s kind of terrifying.
Link Keller 1:03:32
Marc what you were saying about increasing happiness and verbosity, while trying to work through something traumatic within a therapeutic setting. My mind immediately went to, like people who go to shamans to do Ayahuasca as a therapeutic treatment as a way to really delve into that back brain shit while fucked up on drugs. And for some people, a totally works, it totally helps them process shit that they’ve not been able to work through in a way that lasts and then there are people who just get really really sick and it’s not a good time. And you have you know, the the aspect of like, who the shaman is, if they’re actually trained if if their training is something that’s going to be useful to you is like there’s so much complexity within it is the idea of having it be as simplified as spiderhead says it is like it makes it sound really good and then the second year like, but what about this like complications? Like it just falls apart? Like, oh, yeah, that’s that’s scary. Now it’s scary. Now that’s, that’s thrilling.
Lara Taylor 1:04:57
And it’s interesting because in the movie you’re describing, like, the emotions are like they’re gone, when the change is gone when the drug is is out of the system. My clinic uses ketamine treatment to treat treatment resistant counting times can I say treat depression. But it’s something that you start off taking a significantly a few times a week, and then it reduces down to once a week and then once every other week, and we effects are supposed to last. With this with this treatment, and from what I’ve what I’ve heard through the company, and the research that we’ve put together, it works. For most people, there are some people who have really bad reactions to it just like any other drug. But there are ways of working with drugs like this that make you feel good. But it’s not an necessarily an artificial inflated good all the time.
Josué Cardona 1:06:09
Yeah, yeah. Like, like, there’s a there’s a I don’t disapprove of anxiety medication, or depression medication, especially if you’re working on the cause. Right? It’ll help it’ll help you deal with it, you know, on a daily basis while you’re working on it. And ideally, you know, if you get to the cause, but none of these things are affecting causes right, at least in the in the movie, it’s all it’s not even symptomatic, right. Like, they’re not really addressing how to cure anything. They’re just trying to change states. And alter experiences. Yeah, I mean, there is there is a lot of money being thrown into psychedelic research for mental health, which I’m glad to see. Because it’s, it’s, it’s not people going to shamans to you know, to get Ayahuasca in Peru, it’s people, you know, alongside, you know, the clinical trials that are that are happening. I think we’ll also see. And we’ve seen this already in animals, right? We can put electrodes in the parts of the brain that affect certain emotions. And so it might be this one wasn’t future focused enough. Right? Like, there’s got to be a version where you, you know, have the electrodes in your head and then just click the button and, and ooh! you know, hit the happy spot. Or you you know, you hit the memory center. So you’re like, I don’t want to remember that. Yeah. We’ll see. We’re gonna we’re gonna have more and more of this happening in the future for sure. Well, anything else? Any closing thoughts?
Lara Taylor 1:08:01
I think we covered it.
Marc Cuiriz 1:08:05
Yeah, I think so.
Josué Cardona 1:08:09
It did. Alright, well. Thank you for joining us for this episode of GT radio. On the Geek Therapy network, for more Geek Therapy can visit geek therapy.org. Join us in our community spaces. Let us know what you thought of this movie spiderhead on Netflix. Was it thrilling? So thrilling. Yeah, this was this was a fun one. We went we went deep. We went deep Mark, this is a good choice.
Marc Cuiriz 1:08:47
I do love me some philosophy.
Josué Cardona 1:08:50
Yeah. Right. So thank you. Thank you, everybody, for for listening. Again. just in community spaces. links in the show notes. Remember to geek out and do good. Tune the next one
Link Keller 1:09:04
Marc Cuiriz 1:09:04
Josué Cardona 1:09:04
Geek Therapy is a 501 C three nonprofit organization dedicated to making the world a better place the geek culture. To learn more about our mission and become a supporter, visit geek therapy.org
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Characters / Media
- Spiderhead (2022)
- BioShock (2007)
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Suicide Squad (2016)
- Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
- Double Jeopardy (1999)
Themes / Topics
* Emotional Manipulation
* Carceral System
* Difficult emotions
* Ethical violations in research
* LGBT Issues: Conversion Therapy
* Mental Health Services
* Moral dilemma
* Power Dynamics
* Drug Use
Links / Social Media
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What did you think about Spiderhead? Would you take any of the drugs from the movie?