What is “The Story of Dick’s Brain” and how did it come to be?
Originally designed as a comic book series to promote the band “Bob’s Brain,” Dick’s Brain is a comic book/video series/movie-to-be that took on a life of its own.
“Dick” is a credible-looking man with thick black glasses, cloaked in the safe, predictable guise of a well-adjusted business man. Hopelessly drenched in the naive values of the 50s, Dick embodies the nonconformist individual lost in social disthymia: well-reasoned on the outside, but a twisting mass of shifting reality on the inside — all rolled into the tightly confused ball of one who has unwittingly suffered as a result of society’s good intentions gone horribly wrong, and living in a world that never existed.
That world was the 50s – an era that did not exist in the way that people thought it did. In the 50s, the undeterred fantasy that technology was going to save us manifested as a promise that the standardization and conformism of “modern life” — seamless and productive, like the shiney new machines that happily hummed away in our kitchens, on our roadways, and in our manufacturing plants — was going to make life easy and that thus, everyone was going to be happy. And if you weren’t happy, there was something terribly, terribly wrong with you because after all — everyone was happy. Weren’t they?
Propagated everywhere were images of this mythical bliss. One couldn’t escape the idealized images of “happy” workers engaged in drudgery. Women were shown to be as ecstatic holding a mop in one hand as they were to sport a ring on the other. The oppression women lived under is all spelled out in “The Good Wife’s Guide.”
But don’t be fooled. Men were oppressed, too, and both forms provided economic benefits to society. The devaluing of women and the work they did in the home meant that women in general could be expected to work for free or much less pay than a man, while the value of a man’s work was heightened to the point that men who fulfilled their “breadwinner” role in earnest often worked themselves sick, completely missing the opportunity for true family involvement and becoming a fully aware and emotionally connected human being vs. a human do-ing.
Dick’s story begins with a subtle realization that something is wrong with life as he knows it, but his attempts to process the societal injuries and disparities he is only vaguely aware of results in a protected but misguided reality in which it is difficult to distinguish real threats from imaginary ones. As in the 60s cultural parody, “The Stepford Wives,” the ultimate ‘solution’ — separating all cerebral activity from corporeal existence in order to stop questioning/analyzing life — proves to be a great success for both Dick and his Brain.
Lots of good things also happened in the 50s, of course. And a beneficial relic of this era is that it reminds us that we have actually made some social progress since then.
The band “Bob’s Brain” is long gone, but the comics live on to tell the story… The story that never happened, in a time that never existed.