Halt and Catch Fire 3×04 ‘Rules for Honorable Play’: Social irrelevance

Source: AMC

If there’s one thing that this season is communicating better than anything else on television, it’s that people are terrified of becoming irrelevant, useless, and impotent.  Society deems people useful based on certain criteria; capitalist countries do so based primarily on money, but we also do so based on appearance, on specific kinds of talent, and on an ability to entertain and charm others.  We always want to improve ourselves, but sometimes those social criteria is different than what is actually good for us.  Our need to be physically attractive can damage our actual health, just as our need for money can damage the other facets of our lives we neglect as a result.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

Halt and Catch Fire focuses intently this episode on the characters’ sense of relevance to the world around them and how terrified they are that their relevance will disappear.  Cameron spends this episode terrified that the code she wrote for Mutiny will be replaced (and of course it will, as technology is constantly evolving).  She finds reasons to hate the owners of Swap Meet, two men that constantly clash with her.  One makes sexist remarks towards her (though him frustrations aren’t coming from nowhere) and she things other is trying to hit on her (though it is very possible he’s just trying to be nice).  She things that the two of them are trying to push her out, and when she wants to fire them, Donna lies and says that Diane won’t let Cameron fire them.  This, along with Donna telling her that she can stay in the house as long as she wants, leads Cameron to fear that Donna is coming after her as well.  Cameron is so afraid of becoming irrelevant that she’s becoming paranoid, and that’s sure to lead her down a dark, dark hole.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

People also sometimes reject what others see in them as relevant for because they don’t want their self-worth attached to it.  Bosworth finds that people really only see him as useful for schmoozing clients and telling stories, and he wants to be more than that.  Joe finds that people only see him as useful as a figurehead, and he lashes out when people when they don’t value all of what he is, berating a board member for making a homophobic remark.  It can be difficult to push back against what others see as relevant when it is what defines your relevance to society, but sometimes it is the only way to retain a sense of self-worth and integrity.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

Gordon, on the other hand, is losing all of his relevance as a result of his health.  He is desperate to be loved by others, playing laser tag and committing to a kamikaze run at the opposite team (that still shot at the end of the laser tag scene was fantastic), but he still feels poorly most of the time, his health deteriorating and affecting his mind.  At the end of the episode, he serves as a reminder to Cameron, who sees his shaking hands.  We all eventually become irrelevant, no matter how hard we try to stay somewhat relevant to society.

But how much does relevance to society feed into our self-worth?  Of course, that answer is “quite a bit”, but should it?  We look at certain parts of ourselves that we personally value in order to claim self-worth, but that self-worth is dictated by the way society views us.  In order to be truly free, to be able to love ourselves without reservations, we need to learn how to push away the influence of a society that wants to drain our energy until we give enough to not be relevant anymore.  Society can be a parasitic organism, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can fight against it.
What did you think of this latest episode?  Is Cameron going to be pushed out of her business?  Let me know in the comments!
Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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