[The following text is taken from the official transcript of the OmniCorp Board of Directors’ annual meeting in New York, N.Y., on Nov. 25, 2013, into which a wild-eyed Kevin Forest Moreau barged, uninvited.]
Esteemed members of the OmniCorp Board of Directors:
I present to you Alex Murphy. Husband. Father. Robocop. A franchise barely alive, following a couple of so-so sequels, a TV series no one saw, and even a cartoon. We can rebuild him, to once again serve as a cutting-edge commentary on aggressive police tactics, corrupt corporations, sensationalistic media and—to add some modern-day topicality—drone warfare.
We have the technology to make him sleeker, more menacing and less clunky than his 1987 predecessor—or at least the CGI to make him look badass to the 18-to-34 fanboys who will comprise the bulk of our opening-weekend gross.
We have upgraded him. Enhanced his frame with more than 200 pounds of super-dense alloy to withstand the weight of audience expectations. Replaced three quarters of his nervous system and transplanted artificial organs to remove any qualms about messing with a revered science-fiction classic.
Bonded his flesh with a state-of-the-art exoskeleton and encased him in a metallic superstructure to make him impervious to negative reviews. We have even, as Gary Oldman helpfully explains, given him the illusion of free will.
Much as we all experience the illusion of free will in our adolescence. We may think we’re autonomous beings, the pilots of our own trajectories, but in reality our parents write bullshit restrictions into our operational code: Be home by midnight or be grounded for two weeks. Midnight! On a Friday night, no less!
Like Robocop, I myself was once disabused of my own free will.
My friend Eron was doing his best to get me home on time. We’d been out at the Fly, a hangout behind the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, engaging in the endless teenage ritual of leaning against our parents’ cars, making out with girls doused in cheap perfume and self-loathing, drinking beer and sharing made-up stories of rebellion over the bitchin’ soundtrack of Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast.
Eron’s face was impassive as he tore down West Esplanade Avenue in his battered blue Mustang, as I vibrated with anxiety next to him. We’d left a little late, and the clock was inching inexorably toward midnight, but Eron drove like the proverbial bat out of hell. We had a fighting chance.
At least, until the whoop of a police siren punched through the violent stutter of the Mustang’s engine.
“It’ll be okay,” Eron said, in that inscrutable cool way he had. When he spoke, which was rarely, it was in an ambiguous accent and the slow, measured cadence of a stoner, and it was usually to impart some vague pseudo-Zen insight about the true nature of time. I’d seen him break up fights and pick up girls simply with the power of his soothing voice. “Just be chill,” he cautioned as he pulled over.
But chill wasn’t on the menu right then. Getting grounded would mean another two weeks before I could make it back to the Fly, and the soft, pouty lips of the nameless girl I’d been making out with for the last half hour.
I didn’t remember her name, or what school she went to, but in my mind she was just as beautiful as Abbie Cornish cooking for Alex Murphy and his son before that car bomb changed her life forever. The exchange of saliva not being an automatic signifier of commitment, she was probably being taken away from me that very minute, kissing some greasy-haired science nerd unencumbered by meaningless curfews or a lack of his own wheels.
The officer shone his flashlight over our faces and sniffed the interior of the car, satisfying himself that we were neither drunk nor high. Then he and his partner beckoned us out of the car, as the clock kept ticking ever closer to doomsday. He took his sweet fucking time as he examined Eron’s license and registration. Sweet Carlton Banks, were his lips moving as he read?
His partner turned to me. “What’s your name, son?”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was it. That was the match, and I was the powder keg, a nervous jumble of hormonal frustration and pent-up rage.
“Kevin F. Moreau,” I barked. And then, for reasons I don’t understand to this day: “And don’t ask what the F stands for!”
You see, esteemed members of the board, that was the moment I decided, just like Alex Murphy, to override the system’s priorities. To wrench control of my destiny away from Michael Keaton and that one guy from Knocked Up and She’s Out of My League.
To strike back in retaliation for the many injustices perpetrated on me by The Man: Curfews. Pop quizzes. My status as a social outcast. The existence of Howard Jones. All of it.
Of course, my overriding urge to rage against the machine didn’t sit all that well with the gendarmes, who were now focusing all of their concentration squarely on my quivering, 16-year-old self. The fact that I didn’t end up spending the night in the Jefferson Parish lockup is a testament to Eron’s powers of persuasion.
You’ll be happy to know that in the end, they patted him on the shoulder, told him to get me to calm down, and wished him luck getting me home. (It was too late, of course; I was grounded, and on all my many return trips to the Fly, I never saw that girl again.)
I know what you’re thinking, oh most powerful OmniCorp executives. You’re wondering what this has to do with Robocop, the 2014 model. Well, as Samuel L. Jackson reminds us, we are on the eve of a technological revolution. And I’m not even talking about whatever scientific breakthrough produced that rug on top of his head.
This new industrial age requires constant fueling in order to churn out numbing spectacles of violence, explosions and special effects. And its fuel of choice is neither coal nor steam nor information, but stories we already know by heart. It takes its sustenance from fairy tales, erotic Twilight fan fiction, cartoons about cars and trucks and cassette decks that turn into robots—even from beloved sci-fi action films.
To keep that beast fed, ladies and gentlemen of the board, we must in turn feed on the pale, burned body of Alex Murphy. To keep the Remake Industrial Complex going, we’re told that we have to transform him into an engine of destruction and chrome and zippy one-liners, and force him to do our bidding, to mow down perpetrators reduced to video-game targets by his heat vision.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can decide, like Alex Murphy, not to be ground up in the gears of the machine. We can grab the lab rats who control the system by the lapels and snarl, “Don’t ask what the F stands for!”
The F stands for “Forest,” by the way, something none of you seem to be able to see for the trees.
We can rewrite our operational parameters, and decide that, you know what? Some stories were good enough the first time around. And then all of us—purveyors and consumers of pop culture alike—can use our talents and spend our box-office dollars in the pursuit of original ideas! Who’s with me??!!!
What’s that you say? You’ve already crunched the numbers on the overseas projections? A blockbuster? And Robocop 2 has already been green-lit? I see. Well, I … hey, wait a minute. What’s he doing here? I haven’t done anything wrong, I was just—why are you pointing that absurdly high-tech-looking weapon at me? I’m not armed! I’m not a criminal! I haven’t done anyth—
[End of transcript.]