A Side Trip into Neuroticism: Some Thoughts on The Belko Experiment and Surviving

*No spoilers*

Sometimes I struggle with what is called existential depression, when I ruminate on whether anything truly has a point. I recently did not get a job that I interviewed for and really really wanted. One of my coworkers was angry for me, but she went back to her daily routine, as did the rest of them. I thought about how it doesn’t really affect them. One person’s crushing disappointment is a mild annoyance for another person. The job I hold there now is a “sub,” a part-time person who covers the front desk and can be replaced at a moment’s notice. By nature the job makes the sub disposable; if I call in, another sub can be procured to do the job instead. The important thing is that the desk gets covered. So naturally, I feel like a disposable person rather than, as my counselor has stressed to me, a person with a flexible job. I think about how if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, maybe I’d be missed briefly, but life would go on as usual for the full-timers and other subs. The desk would be covered, and that’s what matters.

At times I think about how transient life is, how people come and go and when they leave us, we adjust. I guess that’s life. My father died three years ago, and I couldn’t live if I didn’t accept it. I miss him, I miss the chance to speak to him and for his grandchildren to remember having met him. I miss his dry, sarcastic humor. I share a lot of his features, like loving to read, having blue eyes, and bottling up my emotions until I crack. But there are so many people, and in the grand scheme of things, so few of us will be remembered except by the people we interact with personally. Sometimes it feels like nothing matters. But obviously I believe something matters, or I wouldn’t get out of bed and I wouldn’t be writing this. Hey, I’m working this stuff out as I go.

The Belko Experiment is about a large group of office workers of varied races and social positions who are ordered by an anonymous voice to begin killing each other. The command is that if 30 of the 87 employees present aren’t dead in 2 hours, then 60 will die. Most of them keep their cool at first. The main character stands up and refuses to kill, saying all human life has value. But once heads start blowing up (the company has implanted a device in the employees’ heads, which can be exploded at will), people start taking orders. In one scene, the COO starts singling out potential people to kill first. He begins with people who have kids under 18 to save then moves to people over 60 to start with. The scene, and the movie in general, makes us ponder who would “deserve” to die first. One man who’s chosen to die takes out his wallet and tries to show pictures of his young children, which are dropped on the floor. The camera lingers on them, letting us consider the implications of the man not going home to his kids. I had an “ah ha” moment in the theater then, thinking of how you can’t put a price on someone. Everyone does have value; every person there had people who would miss them if his or her head exploded. The way the characters cling to survival reminds us that life is worth living. It’s hard, but as I know, it’s hard stuff that’s the most rewarding.

The Belko workers are at a faceless corporation. (John C. McGinley’s presence in the cast really evokes Office Space, another movie about the devaluation of the average office worker.) At one point a character muses about how they worked there for a year and didn’t really seem to be doing anything. We work and we work for leisure time and then we’re so tired from work we don’t enjoy leisure. We retire and we’re too tired to enjoy it. I have a problem with not being present, so everything feels like a race to get it over with. Even stuff I enjoy like reading or watching a movie I have a keen eye on how many pages or minutes are left until it’s over. I have trouble enjoying the present. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a theme in the movie, but something to remember is that life isn’t guaranteed–at any moment you can be crushed in an elevator or have your head bashed in with a tape dispenser. So enjoy it.

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These collared shirts are so itchy!

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