Tron Studies

The original Tron (1982) was a deliberate Gnostic allegory, envisioning of the paranoia inherent in information technology, and foreshadowing of contemporary cybernetic society.

It is a mythopoetic artifact, filled with inadvertent subtexts rooted in a unique historical context. An overdetermined anachronism, it described the commercial Internet when it was still a governement research network called ARPANet. While using ARPANet to transmit the first feature film digital animations from East Coast defense contractors to UCLA, the bulk of the visual effects used layers of hand-painted black and white film — techniques in use for half a century.

In a twisted reflection of the film’s allegorical plot, Tron itself demarcates the rupture of cybernetic control out of centralized cores and into the social psychology of digitized entrepreneurial capitalism. It marked the point when games began their inexorable rise (the Tron arcade out-earned the film), when physical and electronic identities became inextricably intertwined, and when the digital culture went from niche fad to world domination.

The original Tron was a deceptively simple film, the extrusion point of an ideological superstructure which has grown to enfold us all.