No Man by Proxy

Yes Man is both sinister and refreshing. High concept cinema is oxymoronic by definition. High concept cinema needs to be explained in the briefest possible number of words yet be able to grab your attention quicker; there is nothing conceptual about it.

Yet, all well-crafted popular art highlights a truth or two. Germane problems of everyday life are magnified through the fantastic situations that characters find themselves in. In Yes Man Carrey plays Carl Allen a depressive and the film follows his reawakening from the social lethargy that people suffering from depression are often burdened with. In the diegetic logic of the film Allen breaks free of his depression by saying yes to everything. Zooey Deschanel’s character is the romantic interest in the film. She plays a quirky character that is the lead singer in a band called Münchausen by Proxy. Münchausen syndrome by proxy is a disorder in which a person deliberately causes injury or illness to another person, usually to gain attention or some other benefit.

If Yes Man is read symptomatically to trace the relations that in part produce Carl Allen’s funk, then the proxy for his depression is not a single person, but produced as a constellation of impersonal relations. He doesn’t say no becuase he is depressed, he is depressed because he always says no. He is a ‘no man’ by proxy for the social mechanisms of which he is part (e.g. ignoring homeless people, rejecting loans, deriving enjoyment from the spectacle at the expense of friends, etc.) In a simple sense the film sets up the power of affirmation — Yes — behind the creation of enriching and satisfying relations. Allen becomes a proxy for affirmation.

In some ways this is inspirational and I think I need to be more of a Yes man by proxy.

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