A SXSW carnival in downtown Austin from television series Mr. Robot
The Ferris Wheel looms in the heart of downtown Austin. The festive glow of a parking-lot carnival adds a unique ambiance to the crowded streets. A grinning mask looms over it all with a sign that says “Mr. Robot.”
Mr. Robot is a television show. It’s about a mentally unstable man who looks behind the curtain of society to see that corporations control us all. He fights the power with technology, hacking skills, and the help of other people that may or may not exist. The important thing is the continued revelation that corporations are corrupted and all powerful must be defied. The show made its world premiere at SXSW 2015
SXSW is a crazy mess of corporate showmanship. A beautiful collision of capitalism and performance art (brought to you by our modern Medici’s according to several of last year’s SXSW panels.) Things that sound like silly exaggerated jokes take place in the streets of this moderate metro area.
In this particular case, there is a carnival. The network has constructed a grand carnival to promote this television show. It’s a grand spectacle. Today, it is open to the public. Later the gates will be closed to all those not in possession of badges.
It’s a “Coney Island Carnival Experience.” This is a reference to the “Fun Society” arcade that was central to the plot of season one. The arcade was a hub where the hackers gather to make and implement their strategies of setting the world to right.
Before the advent of the Atari and home gaming systems, places like arcades could allow tech enthusiasts the opportunity to play with the sort games they didn’t own. Anybody with a quarter could walk to the cutting edge of gaming in these techno-social gathering places. Setting the “F Society” revolution at such a gathering place seems like a very logical choice. Setting this carnival/arcade experience at SXSW and making it open to the public is an equally appropriate decision.
Later in the season, the hackers throw an “End of the World Party” so the general public can come in and cover their fingerprints. On Saturday, March 12, the SXSW “Mr. Robot” carnival is having its own party. From 7-9, the gates close to the general public, and this event will transform into an “End of the World” party, complete with pseudo-homemade posters taped to buildings.
The event is very well-attended. There are games to play, masks to wear, and silk screened shirts. The masks mimic a mask shown in the TV show, a figure that represents their hacker revolution. It bears a strong resemblance to the Monopoly man, presumably intentional.
People carry the masks for a while and take some selfies. Then they get bored and toss them away.
The line for T Shirts is very long. Rumors say it’s been taking hours. People politely stand in this very long line so that they can get one of these limited edition “F Society” shirts. There are other designs as well, but the “F Society” message seems to resonate.
Any event that is open to the public in this area usually draws a decent handful of homeless residents willing to stand in line for whatever is free and always in the know about what happens in their backyard. As a result, homeless people of Austin now have “F Society” shirts made possible through corporations and viewers like you.
The “Mr. Robot” Ferris Wheel, with its grinning emblem, looms over us all. It’s 100 feet tall and can be seen from blocks away. After the sun sets, this sparkling wheel will lend a particularly eerie light to some of the foggier nights this SXSW. It’s beautiful and strange.