‘Resident Evil’ is the latest show to tackle the death of work/life balance

When one of my former employers released plans to redesign our workplace, among the incentives highlighted were improved employee lounges. Most offices have such designated casual spaces, but these were designed to be as comfortable as a living room, our home away from home.

Many of my colleagues marveled at the sketches, but I remember they made me nauseous. For someone who was already expecting to bring work home and go online on the weekends, this was no comfort. This represented a further tightening of the noose. He said to me, “Don’t go home. Think of the workplace as an extension of the home.

Zombies may still be America’s favorite monsters, as proven once again by the popularity of Netflix’s “Resident Evil” series. But our nightmares tend to be fueled by ordinary horrors like the one described above. Americans may be worried about a recession, but not enough to keep record numbers of us from quitting jobs we don’t like or are considering.

RELATED: In “Severance”, a false work/life balance similarly cuts when the body keeps score

Often, these resignations are related to a company’s refusal to accommodate its employees’ desire to work from home or respect the boundaries they impose between their work and personal lives. More of us focus on work that helps us live instead of living to work.

And that’s the one aspect of Capcom’s serial take on the survival shooter franchise that gives it a bigger, smarter purpose than the movies that came before it.

“Resident Evil” is a franchise born in the shared golden age of Generation X and Generation Y, the former being of an age to buy the game for themselves and the latter asking their parents for it. His mythology also reflects the general sentiment of these cohorts, who shared a general sense of distrust of government and corporations against ruling notions of baby boomers and silent people.

Flesh-eating lunatics aside, the alternate version of the 2022 series seems only a hair’s breadth away from our reality.

You don’t need to have played “Resident Evil” before to understand the global threat posed by its supervillain, Umbrella Corporation. A quick rundown for those unfamiliar with the franchise: Umbrella is a pharmaceutical company specializing in top-secret weapons research, primarily involving biological mutagens. The one that ends it all is the T-Virus, a highly contagious pathogen that turns most humans into aggressive zombies.

It flips the same buttons that made “The X-Files” a phenomenon, acknowledging that some of the most fearsome forces in existence are man-made, created for profit and power.

While the games and movies are mostly about characters led by Alice surviving these hordes, the show is split between the world of 2022, when everything has collapsed, and the future described above. Flesh-eating lunatics aside, the alternate 2022 version of the series holds the seeds of a more disturbing story as it seems a few hairs away from our reality.

Siena Agudong as young Billie and Tamara Smart as young Jade in “Resident Evil” (Netflix)

This part of the story follows a pair of teenagers, Billie (Siena Agudong) and Jade (Tamara Smart) as they move in with their father Albert Wesker (a legacy character from the games and movies, played by Lance Reddick) in the South African company of Umbrella. town, New Racoon City. (The original Racoon City, where the film franchise and video games began, has been wiped off the map.)

The town of New Raccoon is barren in every way. All the houses in their housing estate are chalk white. The school is a white and gray palette, and its students dress accordingly.

Between this idea and its take on life and corporate life, “Resident Evil” shares a disturbing type of premise similar to those at play in “Severance,” in which Lumon Industries designs a way to split consciousness between its existence professional and personal life. time, overseeing its employees by setting them up to be neighbors in the same community.

Lumon’s mystery is that no one knows exactly what she does, including her employees, who only know each other at work and through work, as they have no memory of life outside of work. Inside the office, productivity is rewarded with treats like an egg bar or dance breaks, where employees can choose a type of music and a small instrument to play with, as seen in the episode ” Defiant Jazz”.

It’s very different from what “Resident Evil” presents in that Lumon seems to offer incentives to its employees beyond just staying alive. That’s not far off from what we see in play in the current season of “Westworld,” where Evan Rachel Wood’s character is tracked during her off-hours by her employer when she calls in sick – you know, just to see if she is telling them the truth.

Between those shows and the world portrayed in “The Boys,” where Vought International has inserted itself into every corner of American life, it’s a chance of the popular representations of labor that have ruled for decades, primarily looking at life cabin through the lens of workplace comedy.

But office life here tends not to be fun or familiar, but psychologically exhausting. Digging into the fierce corporate culture of Umbrella, “Resident Evil” showrunner Andrew Dabb draws parallels to the inhuman corruption of Sackler’s and Purdue Pharma.

As one news report explains, the company’s move from bioweapons to direct-to-consumer drugs via its antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug Joy is meant to change its fortunes. A side effect of Joy that isn’t talked about beyond the company’s boardroom is the drug’s ability to condition the mind to be exploited, influencing behavior and attention. Our social media apps do just that without drugs. It would beat that natural addiction and as you might expect it’s created from a derivative of the T virus. It’s a company that refuses to say die to its worst discoveries but is perfectly fine if consumers drop dead.

resident EvilLance Reddick as Albert and Paola Nunez in ‘Resident Evil’ (Netflix)

It’s as ridiculous as the show’s zombie arm, which sends the plot into chaos in the second half of the season. Again, this allows Reddick, who is always one of the best parts of the shows he’s been a part of, to appreciate the type of dramatic athletic acting they like to engage in, especially these days.

Working until exhaustion, committing to being loyal to a company or an industry, sacrificing family time for work, little or none of these are an acceptable price for success.

He also acknowledges the franchise’s need to re-establish itself with Generation Z by appealing to this age group’s general distrust of systems, primarily those imposed by corporations, government, and other institutions.

To them, the undead are probably less of a threat than the corporate education system that heavily censors internet access and controls what they learn about everything, including viruses. In poll after poll, Billie and Jade’s contemporaries aren’t interested in the status quo when it comes to their professional lives: working to exhaustion, swearing loyalty to a company or industry, sacrificing time in family for their work, little or none of this is an acceptable price for success.

To be clear, “Resident Evil” is by no means a good show. None of the many films based on these video games are. And yet, somehow, I saw every single one of them and really enjoyed a couple.

The franchise has been alive and kicking around in one form or another since 1996 because of people like me who played video games or, from 2002, enjoyed watching Paul W.S. Anderson’s wacky action showcases for his wife Milla Jovovich, the upgraded hero of the Alice franchise.

We live in a world where most of us have given up on “The Walking Dead,” leaving little to no good reason to build eight episodes of “Resident Evil” expressly around its survival horror, though that’s precisely what the show is in its futuristic 2036. However, a terror at the heart of the game’s mythology that’s more relatable than its remaking of an apocalypse by pustule-covered cannibals is its take on the all-consuming Corporate Matrix.

And it’s through the brief bout of intimidation of Billie by another student that we see how the social structure works.

Since Albert is higher in the Umbrella Corporation than the father of the girl torturing him, he simply shows up at the manager’s office and threatens to destroy the man’s life down to the studs.

The bully’s father must comply with Albert’s wishes, not because his bullying child was wrong – clearly, she was – but because he knows where he fits in the social order imposed by Umbrella. . Office politics is the politics of life in this social food chain – which, unfortunately, tends to be the case in many industries.

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There’s a reason “The Office” remains hugely popular among Millennials and Gen Z: It makes even the most mind-boggling work situations fun and adorable because of the family bond shared by the Scranton crew, Pennsylvania. subsidiary of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. It shows a group of people brought together by hiring executives who enjoy being together and generally care about each other’s well-being.

New Raccoon City and its corporate housing communities take working life to another extreme, reflecting an existence like the one many workers endure in exchange for a steady paycheck, 401K and health insurance – it’s ie the understanding that you are being watched and could be shot for any reason.

This surveillance doesn’t just take place in the same offices that house secret labs with a contagious, biting dog – cameras are installed throughout the Weskers’ home, for security reasons and to make sure no one leaves the premises. beaten track. For this society, the house is an extension of work. Depending on your state of mind, there is more to fear in this image than the thought of being overrun by the undead.

“Resident Evil” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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