While reading Oryx and Crake I was constantly being reminded of similar themes that I have seen in various tv shows. The shows I found parallels with were always either set in the future (Westworld) or had a catastrophic event happen (The Walking Dead). In this blog I will write about the similarities between the worlds of The Leftovers and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.
The Leftovers is an HBO show adapted from the book by Tom Perrotta and made for tv by Perrotta and Damon Lindelof. The Leftovers portrays what happens to those left on Earth after the “Sudden Departure” took away 2% of the world’s population. While 2% doesn’t seem like that big of a number, every character on the show knows at least one person who suddenly vanished into thin air. It stars Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey, a seemingly normal man trying to adjust to the strange reality he’s now living in.
What I want to focus on is a certain event that happened in season 2. Kevin and his family relocate from New York to Jarden, Texas, a town where not one person disappeared, making it very special. The townspeople are often quite strange, doing things that might seem weird to outsiders but completely normal to them. What they do is basically recreate many things that happened on the day that they were “spared”, thinking it will save them from anything similar in the future. The catalyst arrives when the daughter of Erika (played by Regina King) goes missing long after the Sudden Departure.
Here is an EXCELLENT clip of Regina King’s character who gets fed up with this seemingly ritual practice (I believe King deserved AT LEAST an Emmy nomination for her work in this season). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E7t_vmMFyE
The connection from this clip to Oryx and Crake is when Snowman returns from his journey and encounters the Crakers doing art. Atwood writes, “Watch out for art, Crake used to say. As soon as they start doing art, we’re in trouble. Symbolic thinking of any kind would signal downfall, in Crake’s view. Next they’d be inventing idols, and funerals, and grave goods, and the afterlife, and sin, and Linear B, and kings, and then slavery and war” (361).
The scene from The Leftovers has quite a few things in common with the passage above. The main message being that one particular thing can prompt a whole avalanche of other events to follow that aren’t welcome. Crake was worried about the introduction of art having a snowball effect on the Crakers, perhaps leading them to the same impurity that humans had. The key word in Atwood’s description is “symbolic”. Art would become a symbol for anything the Crakers needed to represent. This is similar to the man in The Leftovers who cut the goat becoming a symbol of safety and comfort because the townspeople believed this had protected them. Crake was aware of the consequences art could have on his new civilization unlike the people of Jarden (also called Miracle, one of the uses of irony throughout the show). In Jarden, the symbolic thinking became too out of hand resulting in the breaking point of Erika and the disruption and turmoil of the whole town.
If you were Snowman, do you think you’d be able to keep art away from the Crakers forever? Also, do you agree with Crake’s belief about if the Crakers had art it would be destructive? I STRONGLY recommend everyone watch The Leftovers, it’s amazing and the 3rd and final season premieres April 16th.
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Vintage Canada, 2003.
Kimball, Trevor. The Leftovers: HBO Announces Premiere Month for Third and Final Season. 6 Dec. 2016. http://tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/leftovers-hbo-announces-premiere-month-third-final-season/
“The Leftovers Season 2: Episode #6 Clip “Miracle Explained” (HBO). Youtube, uploaded by HBO, 8 Nov. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E7t_vmMFyE