Carrousel [sic]

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The hedonistic and carefree lifestyle in Dome City comes with a price. When a citizen’s lifeclock begins to blink, it means he or she is now too old, and due to attend a public ritual called Carrousel and die in a public spectacle. As this is a major event in the lives of citizens, most of the public attends these events.

Description

Lastdays are outfitted in special clothes and masks. After filing wearing these costumes and encircling a huge lifeclock, lastdays expose their palms to show the blinking lifeclock to confirm their status.

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Then they look up to a crystal at the ceiling that begins to spin. The lastdays become weightless, and they struggle to reach the top, for the opportunity to reach renewal.

When they fail—and they always fail—they explode in a fiery shower of sparks. The audience greets each explosion with a roar of excitement and applause.

Analaysis

A public ritual is at the edge of the definition of interface that I provided in Make It So:

All parts of a thing that enable its use.

But in this case, the culture of Dome City pays for its lavish lifestyle admidst fixed resources with these public executions, and something must turn what by rights should be met with horror and revulsion into something palatable, even enjoyable. It is in this sense that citizens use Carrousel.

Nearly everything we see in the ritual helps to hide its raw, morbid truth. The false promise of renewal hides the finality of the act. The masks won by participants hide the individual identity from the audience, easing the sense of personal loss. The identical costumes dehumanize participants, underscoring their role in the culture. The ritual actions give participants something to do during a time that is psychologically stressful. The public-ness of it reinforces its cultural importance and imprints onto the audience that one day, they do will participate.

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The ritual interfaces

We know in the film that Control has been working behind the scenes long before the event takes place. The Chem department, for example, has somehow gotten Jules to bleach her hair, and the hair dye “works its way into the blood” as a way to slow her cognition, and make her conform more the Whore archetype. Additionally, they have been lacing Marty’s marijuana to keep him dazed & confused. (Though, key to the plot, they missed his secret stash.) There’s even an actor placed en route to the eponymous cabin who unsettles the victims with his aggression and direct violent insults to Jules, setting the stage for their suffering. Though these things occur “off stage” of the actual cabin (and the Chem team works off screen), they help tell the story about how deeply embedded Control is in the world, and set the stage for the surveillance interfaces on stage.

Marking the deaths: on screen & ritually

The goal of the scenario is the suffering and death of the victims, in the right order. To provide a visual marker on the monitoring screens, a transparent red overlay is placed over victims who are believed to have been killed.

The choice of red has a natural association with the violence, but red has a number of problems. Visually, it vibrates against blue (according to opponent process of color theory, the red and blue receptors in our retinas are in the same place and can’t perceive both at the same time). It’s also typically used to grab attention, which in this case is the exact wrong signal. Jules is no longer in the picture, and so specifically no attention is needed for her. Better would be to dim her section on the monitor, or remove her altogether, if marking progress is unimportant.

Hadley orders Thorazine

In addition to marking the deaths in the digital interfaces, the deaths must be marked ritually for the system to work. To this end, Sitterson and Hadley act as the human interface that transfers the information from the electronic systems to the Bronze-Age mechanical systems behind him. Though this could be accomplished mechanically, there are ritual words that must be spoken and an amulet that must be kissed by a supplicant.

Sitterson, the senior of the two, recites, “This we offer in humility and fear / For the blessed peace of your eternal slumber / As it ever was.”

After these ritual actions, Hadley raises a roll top wooden panel to reveal a simple switch. Pulling it down initiates a chain of mechanics that ultimately break a vial of blood into a funnel, which channels the blood into grooves carved into a sacrificial slab.

Sitterson and Hadley mark the first sacrifice

The roll top door acts as a physical barrier against accidental activation, and the mechanical switch requires a manageable, but deliberate, amount of force. Both of these features in the interface ensure that it is only done when intended, and the careful mechanical construction ensures that it is done right.