I’d actually seen Advantageous before. It was a 20 minute short that played at Fantastic Fest in 2012, and aired as an episode of PBS’s Futurestates. When I read about it in the Sundance Film Festival guide, I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Yes, Advantageousis the feature length version of the short, and it works both as an expansion of the ideas introduced in the short and a brand new film for new viewers.
In the future, jobs for women are at an all time low and ageism is at an all time high. Gwen (Jacqueline Kim, who cowrite the script) is the face of a marketing campaign for a procedure that can transfer your brain into a new body. This could be a healthy body for people with cancer or lost limbs from war, but it quickly becomes apparent that the company really wants to use it to make middle aged women younger. They fire Gwen in favor of a new, young face for the company, but in desperation to provide for her daughter, Gwen considers having the procedure herself.
Advantageousis a science-fiction of ideas, but there are glimpses of a technologically advanced future. There are epic future cities in the background, and subtle future technology like earpieces and drones. Even those visuals aren’t in your face. This is a steady exploration of this world, where ideas reveal themselves and the discovery of a homeless woman can be even more telling than a special effect.
The world of Advantageous is our society of ageism and double standards carried out. We find out how schools teach young girls what they should want to change, which is not far off from our current social pressures and media manipulations. It certainly got me thinking of tangential questions, like if we can just keep downloading ourselves to younger bodies, where does it ends? Who wants to live forever? Have we learned nothing from Highlander? Although in this world our partners could download to younger bodies too so we’d never have to leave them behind. Also, look at the way our technology breaks. Cell phones drop calls, streaming movies stop midway… We’re going to trust technology with our brains?
As advanced as the procedure is, it sounds pretty horrific. You have to get shots every day. It almost sounds like being a Universal Soldier, where you can come back from the dead but you have to keep cold all the time. The performance of this unfathomable prospect is all on Kim and she nails it.
Like the best science fiction, Advantageousasks questions that apply to us today. It is a cautionary tale about the dangerous of technology, but it seems the dangers are mostly human. The technology is a hopeful benefit to society. It’s up to us not to abuse it.