Apple TV’s Severance reveals the depths of capitalism’s rot

1. Take a moment to count the things you gave up for a paycheck. Ever had to miss a birthday? A wedding? Have you ever had to leave a loved one who is grieving or ill just because you couldn’t afford to choose them over the job? Has it ever felt like a choice?

2. Severance pay, Created by Dan Erickson, the Apple TV Plus show follows the workers at the Micro-Data Refinement division of the fictional Lumon Industries. Nobody knows what that means, including the workers who simply go through a matrix of numbers and erase the numbers that “look scary”. Their work is top secret, and all of them have undergone a procedure known as “severance pay,” their minds split in two. Their working selves have no knowledge of their lives once they’ve punched out. This means that their working personalities — commonly called “Innies” — are effectively new people, only knowing life within Lumon. One working day flows into the next, only a ride in the elevator separates them.

3. Now think of all the times you’ve ordered a coffee from Starbucks using words you wouldn’t otherwise use. The times you labeled an artwork as “content” or “intellectual property.” The life hacks to get through as many podcasts or books as possible. Every time you promised to “return” in a conversation. Who taught you this?

Mark is seated at his desk in a still of Severance

Photo: Apple TV

4. Mark Scout (Adam Scott) mourns. His “outie” – the mark that exists outside of Lumon – lost his wife Gemma in an accident. Compensation, he explains to those who ask, is one way to deal with that loss. It’s eight hours when he doesn’t have to think about Gemma or anything else. Some argue with him, saying the practice is exploitative; Experts on TV discuss the merits of the procedure back and forth. All of this exhausts him. He’s getting what he needs out of his severance pay, and his life outside of Lumon is practically empty.

5. Workplaces and their quirks, their petty psychological distortions, have always been part of our pop culture landscape. Art shapes culture, but so does work, and with a stronger hand. It is therefore natural that they should intersect: in comedy and workplace procedures, where the tension between living 24/7 and outside provides the conflict that fuels the stories. There’s usually a shockingly small amount of space between the two. And increasingly, the characters in these stories are unhappy.

6. In the world of severance pay, Kier Eagan reigns supreme. Lumon’s founder, Kier, is the inspiration for the staff handbook (the only locally approved literature), which doubles as a propagandistic hagiography. His life inspires the few pieces of artwork on the walls, which are made in-house by a team called Optics and Design. Recreational activities for the Micro-Data Refinement (MDR) team include a trip to the Hall of Perpetuity, a wax museum that honors Kier and his ancestors who guided Lumon through American history. The lobby is adorned with his words: “The remembered man does not decay.” It is a cruel joke when he rules over the people who work for his company, people who can’t remember who they are. Maybe this is intentional. Not to remind employees how they should think of their company directors, but how those who represent the company think of them.

Cobell is seated at her desk with Milchek behind her

Photo: Apple TV Plus

7. You talk about the Great Resignation. In the aftermath of a pandemic that is changing the status quo, a debate is unfolding in the national media where seemingly no one can agree on whether the lesson of the last two years is that work or workers are broken, and in what way . If the labor debate lacks clarity in the abstract, look a little closer and you’ll find it in the details, where unions are forming among workers at one of the world’s largest corporations and corporations, even beginning to shed any pretense of interest in workplace safety in the pandemic goes on. The bosses of the world call this “going back to normal”. However, the normal seems to be just one where no one asks questions.

8. The trick too severance payThe metaphor of is that there really aren’t any. It just offers a logical explanation for the things we do to ourselves—and are done to us—every day when we go to work. We haven’t talked like that all our lives, we haven’t always looked forward to low-brow office parties, we haven’t banked on tycoons and robber barons. These are learned behaviors, but if you adopt them? You will go far, child.

9. The book of Genesis presents labor as a consequence of mankind’s fallen nature. In the story of Eden, the earth, originally created as a self-sustaining paradise, is cursed as a judgment for original sin. The first people are condemned: God tells them that by the sweat of your brow you will earn your bread. It’s a passage better known for its ending: “To dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” So: We are born to work, and then we die. This is a tragedy. Some seem to disagree.

10. In the penultimate episode of severance payIn its first season, Mark and his three cops in Micro-Data Refinement – reformed corporate Shill Irving (John Turturro), mundane workaholic Dylan (Zach Cherry) and rebellious new hire Helly (Britt Lower) – have grown dissatisfied, Fueled by, among other things, Dylan learns that Lumon can turn on their separate personalities outside of the workplace when supervisor Seth Milchick (Tramell Tillman) interrogates him at his outsider’s home. As a result, Dylan learns he has a child outside of Lumon, and for the first time everything Lumon takes from him comes true.

Severance's bowels twisted and held Dylan back

Photo: Apple TV Plus

11. It takes a lot to quit a job. Most do it when the job becomes impossible rather than unsustainable, because life in a capitalist system offers fewer opportunities for the less privileged and the number of people who can call themselves privileged dwindles. When poverty and shelter are at stake, one does not pause to consider their possibilities. This is the hardest part of organizing a workplace – because even when a common adversary in a company has tremendous power over the lives of its employees, the injustice is not evenly distributed. Some are expected to suffer more humiliation than others, and those fortunate enough to be protected must be persuaded to risk their employment for those who are not. No one will join the fight unless it’s personal.

12. You can watch severance pay on Apple TV Plus, the streaming service from one of the world’s most powerful technology companies, which regularly announces new products on a live stream stage to thousands of devoted fans who know the company’s founder’s autobiography by heart. The modern company does not only exist to offer a service or a product, but to grow. Indefinitely and for no apparent purpose, like cancer. This streaming service is the latest addition to a company that has run out of room to grow, one that is moving from just making devices to manufacturing reasons to keep users on them. Entertainment services are now like insurance companies, charging a monthly fee to guarantee you can watch something whenever you want. Maybe you’re doing this with a box you bought from the same company after also being punched out from a job at a company they own. And that’s a good thing, because who has the time, the energy, the nagging feeling to express how not correct This is.

13. In the season finale, Dylan becomes the vehicle the MDR team uses to stage a suspenseful heist on their misfits’ lives. He hijacks the Severance control room and uses the control panel Milchick used on him to wake up his colleagues in the midst of their outie’s life. It’s an attempt to publicize how miserable they all are, with the added pressure of not knowing how long Dylan – who has to stretch through the barricaded space to keep switches on – can keep the Innies out. He is eventually spotted, and when Milchick tries to bribe him with perks as he breaks in, Dylan yells at him about what he really wants: “I want to remember my damn child was born!” Here, severance pay feels the least like satire.

14. Again, severance pay is not really a metaphor. There is no need for the corporate hype it represents because we already submit to it every day. It’s not like we had a choice.

https://www.polygon.com/23025964/severance-finale-metaphor-capitalism Apple TV’s Severance reveals the depths of capitalism’s rot

Charles Jones

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