janelle monáe’s emotion picture is the bonus black mirror episode you always wanted
Got a spare 48 minutes?
“They started calling us computers, people began vanishing, and the cleaning began,” opens Janelle Monáe’s emotion picture for her new album Dirty Computer. “You were dirty if you looked different. You were dirty if you refused to live the way they dictated. You were dirty if you showed any kind of opposition at all. And if you were dirty, it was only a matter of time.” It quickly becomes apparent that this ‘emotion picture’ (“a narrative film and accompanying musical album”) is set in a dark, dystopian future. Janelle is a dirty computer. She is held prisoner and ritualistically reprogrammed as Jane 57821. She breaks free, breaks rules, and speeds through the desert in a hover car with her tribe of outsiders.”
“I think it came to me in a dream that we are computers,” she told Ebro Darden on his Beats 1 show on Apple Music last night. “We are CPUs. We’re uploading/downloading, we’re transmitting, passing back and forth information, and with all computers you got your bugs, you got your viruses, right? Now, there are some computers that may already come with bugs and viruses. Are those negatives? Are those positives? Are those features or not?”
“It's a conversation that I want to have with us as a society, as human beings, about what it means to tell somebody that the way they’re programmed -- their existence -- whether they're queer, LGBTQIA or minorities. What is it like to live in a society that is constantly trying to cleanse you, and tell you that you need to conform, you need to be reprogrammed, deprogrammed? I just wanted to talk about my own bugs and viruses, and how I'm choosing to deal with it, how I'm choosing to resist that whole notion because Dirty Computers don't see those bugs and viruses as negatives. Those are things that make them unique and it's about embracing those things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable.”