Cultural Breakdown and Integration: A Response to Undone
In Undone, one sees how individuals like Alma must contend with a medicalized world built upon hierarchy and standardization, while being a part of a different world, both through her time manipulation ability as well as a heritage brought into being through childhood experiences and the ruins of ancient Mexican society. This series showcased facets of American culture, delving into issues of immigration in the matter of Sam’s accent, wealth inequality and racial profiling in Becca’s marriage, and metal health inequality and stigma when considering Alma’s relegation to someone ‘sick’, as she is diagnosed with PTSD, and has a history of self-harm. One of the most interesting developments in the series is the manner in which Alma attempts to justify and research her unique abilities in a scientific and medicalized manner, drawing upon reason to hold power over the presumed chaos she must feel in this new experience of time, that others born into such conditions may not find issue with. She works with her father to manipulate time in an attempt to move in an objective and linear fashion, and draws upon a symbol of the Western world in the form of an old electronic gambling machine to maintain a classical ‘Western’ view of time as linear. Due to the Western upbringing of both Alma and her father, both struggle to put their true experiences with this ability into words, stressing an issue of linguistic relativism as they portray their time manipulation through presumed paradoxes or ‘trying to not try’. This communication struggle is emblematic of their attempts to understand and utilize an ability unique to a culture that they were never raised in, and thus showcases issues communication and true understanding across cultural boundaries.
Yet, certain moments in Alma’s life cross cultural boundaries, explicitly in the form of dance. In this series, dance is considered as a unifying experience, such that in most cases of dancing, Alma’s experience is imagined as that of her non-Western ancestors. During the dance at Becca’s wedding, despite its ensuing annulment, dance is accompanied by images of nature, and color is used to indicate a more wild, colorful scene. Likewise, while dancing with young children in her job as a caretaker, her visceral joy in dance transitions into a dance at the ‘dancing pit’ found in the ruins she had explored as a child. Dance is considered as a grand unifier, a manner of sharing emotions in a raw manner uninhibited by social convention or cultural boundaries, and as such it is utilized as a way for Alma to connect with her family’s past.
Bob-Waksberg, Raphael, and Kate Purdy, creators. Undone. Amazon Prime Video, 2019.