A Mini Essay on Tron: Legacy & Its Connections to GIST
As we discussed the relation of Tron to our class, I was struck by the intersections between Tron and GIST. However, I also realized a significant difference. (I’d like to mention here that I do realize/appreciate how the film relates to/complements the themes of the course, I just saw an interesting contrast as well…) In this class, we have done our best to break down boundaries and binaries, searching for the “spectrum” of gray rather than individual shades. I have really appreciated this because I think it’s important to understand how these boundaries work/don’t work and the purposes they attempt to serve.
However, although I saw interesting connections between some of the themes of our course and Tron, I thought that one significant contrast was the binary between “user” and “program” in the film. The “user” was the creator, and the “programs” simply couldn’t measure up. CLU, the elder Flynn’s creation, was unable to adapt his understanding of perfection because he hadn’t been created to do so. Although Flynn had adapted and evolved in his understanding of the grid, CLU didn’t because programs can only do what they’re created or programmed to do.
A factor that I felt was in conflict with this message was the existence of the Isos, which formed spontaneously from the grid without any explanation and were advanced, wise, and in all ways better than either “users” or “programs”. I saw this as an example of evolution on the grid, yet despite the Isos’ appearance, which demonstrated that the grid was not a static environment, none of the other “program” characters were able to evolve in quite the same way.
Arguably the Isos are not the same ‘type’ of program, but if the grid represents the virtual world and any non-user being on the grid is a form of program, then by the logic set up in the story, all programs would be capable of evolving similarly - which they are not. Instead, the other programs can only be reprogrammed or decommissioned – perhaps the reason they are “lesser” beings. The hierarchy between “users” and “programs” was an uncomfortable one, and to me one that made little sense given the Isos. Either the programs can all evolve, in which case “users” are no better or wiser than “programs,” or they can’t evolve, in which case the Isos’ existence/creation is completely nonsensical.
My main issue with the film, however, is the way in which the film privileges “users” as being more intelligent and important than “programs”. Given the themes of our course, I felt this part of the film didn’t fit, since we have devoted so much time & energy to breaking down binaries/hierarchies.