Can a riddle solve itself? Does it have the tools or must it have external components (like us) to add a semblance of logic in order to get the answer? This question goes some way to answering whether the mind can understand itself. If the conscious can ever understand the unconscious. For the guys at Adult Swim, they seem to be getting there.
The Adult Swim channel is no stranger to the nightmarish and obscene. It's the one thing that has really made them stand out in an era known for 'woke' comedy and easy to consume sitcoms. If there's a line to be pushed, they'll shove it. In their latest outing, The Shivering Truth, daily life becomes imbued with a dreamy texture. It's light and fuzzy but also quite terrifying. Seemingly unrelated moments fluctuate between explorations of the unconscious, manifestations of fear and a thin thread of visceral comedy that's as black as the abyss.
Stop-motion animation puppets seem vaguely real and surprisingly human in the show where a row of boys flick a girls bra-strap one by one to determine who originally committed the shoolyard offence. Little does she or the boys know, it's actually an evil ploy to swell her back up enough to be served as food by the school dinner lady. You couldn't write it, only someone did.
Known for other cult-classics like Wonder Showzen, Xavier: Renegade Angel and The Heart She Holler, Vernon Chatman is at the helm of this show that bills itself as "The omnibus of painfully riotous emotional parables dripping from the deepest caverns of your unconscious are lovingly animated in stop-motion. In other words, it is the Truth."
Although the moderate spoiler of the bra-strap 'storyline' could seem utterly bizarre, it's not entirely unknown. There's a place you might find something with a similar logic - your dreams. In our dreams, we're one minute on a ship with our old P.E. teacher before bravely traversing a volcano on a tight-rope the next. Somehow though, it does make sense. That's because in part, it's based on real-life.
We get anxious about stuff all the time (think dreams of snakes or our teeth falling out) and fear of everyday inevitabilities like finance, relationships and health can bubble over into a seismic worry-load that our body computes by stringing together abstract sights and feelings, manifesting into a nightmarish world. Dreams, according to some, are our unconscious mind's way of understanding what's happening to us in our conscious lives.
This short video is the pilot for a new series, available here. It's strangely intimate in the way it so rarely and articulately captures the moments that we've only otherwise experienced when under the influence of sleep chemicals. Chatman has taken it from our minds and transposed it to everyday life. It's a small work of art and one that, guaranteed to be a hit, also has depth.
Our unconscious is the ultimate mystery. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and subsequent strings of psychologists, neurologists and psychiatrists have tried to get to the bottom of it, without even scratching the surface. Shivering Truth poses an interesting question: what conscious state do we have to be in to articulate something otherwise reserved for our unconscious (dreams, hallucinations, this show)? It's almost like the show lying on the couch in our office and we are asking the questions, trying to make sense of it all. It must mean something though, because someone thought of it. The vignette sequences are puzzles unto themselves. Like our dreams, they might not be initially clear.
Likely to be overlooked as a typical Adult Swim slice of surrealism, it should be understood as something more - a pop-culture look into the dark and dingy recesses of our psyche, accessible only to creators of Chatman's calibre.
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