In the eighth episode of Serial Experiments Lain, Lain takes a hard look at her own behavior after a nasty rumor spreads at school. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Serial Experiments Lain.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of voyeurism, consent.
WHAT THE HELL DID THIS SHOW JUST DO TO ME.
You know, I didn’t mention Mika’s actions in the last episode, and CLEARLY I SHOULD HAVE. I just assumed that she was unable to deal with the weirdness of Lain’s transformation. But there’s clearly something else going on here. Lain’s entire family comes off as lifeless throughout their brief appearance in “Rumors.” Mika can only stutter senselessly when Lain tries to talk to her. Lain’s mother and father don’t move or respond to anything when Lain talks to them, at least until she makes a joke about her origins. Then, her parents SCARE THE HELL OUT OF ME by turning to glare at her for insinuating that they might not be her real parents, and WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHOW. I had this terrible idea run through my head that these people were being remotely controlled by someone. That led to another theory that maybe without some connection to their real lives in the Wired, maybe they truly were lifeless shells.
I’ve got little to go on otherwise, so I don’t know what this is supposed to represent. Has Lain detached so fully from her family life that they aren’t real anymore? Strangely, all these theories could work.
Separate from the greater implications of this story, you could read this episode as an examination of the horrors of school gossip. And indeed, much of “Rumors” unfolds like a horror movie. You can see it in the way the animators tackle close-ups, in how the gaze of strangers feels weaponized, and how this spirals so quickly out of control. The first rumor targets Alice, whose fantasies about a teacher are spread about school. It’s a terrifying thing to have to deal with all by itself, but for Alice, it’s even more upsetting. How does anyone actually know her secret? Why are her friends convinced that Lain was responsible? It was clear to me that Alice felt ashamed to have the fantasy in the first place, but to then have it spread about school?
Yet we watch as the rumor that Lain is a peeping tom spreads rapidly throughout the student body and the staff. It’s unreal to witness, especially once the staring starts. I AM STILL FUCKED UP BECAUSE OF THAT. It’s so awful and pervasive and unnerving and I ran out of words to describe this.
However, Serial Experiments Lain takes this a step further: What if Lain really WAS responsible for all of this? What if the Knights aren’t using an image of her to mess with her? I still feel like this is hopelessly complex, so much so that you can’t make definitive statements about the show. It makes sense to me that Lain’s journey into the Wired is responsible for her existential crisis, and she comes to learn that she is in part responsible for what happened. Sort of? I don’t quite understand the details, but this new version of Lain in the Wired – which would make this a third version – is her. Or at least subconsciously part of her. Right? Right. If we accept that, then the line between the Wired and “real” life has been blurred even more than before. Who is Lain? Is she a composite of these three personalities, or is each an individual? How complicit was she in the voyeurism that Alice faced? Does she subconsciously want to do these things, and the Wired pulled this out of her?
I have lots of questions and little answers.
Even if I still don’t get a lot of this, I know that “Rumors” confirms one huge thing for us: Lain has the power to affect reality because of the Wired. That sounds nice and empowering except that LAIN LITERALLY DELETES THE ENTIRE EXISTENCE OF THE RUMORS FROM EVERYONE’S MINDS. SHE DELETES THEM. ALL OF THEM. NO ONE REMEMBERS THE RUMORS OR WHO STARTED THEM AND IT IS AS IF THEY NEVER HAPPENED IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I can barely fathom how fucked up that is, y’all. How much you wanna bet that this is just the start??? If she knows that she can bend the reality of the “real” world to her will, who’s to stop her from doing more awful and invasive things?
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SHOW.
The video for “Rumors” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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