“Resident Evil” is the latest show to address the death of work-life balance.

“Resident Evil” is the latest show to address the death of work-life balance.

When one of my previous employers posted redesign plans for our workplace, upgraded employee lounges were among the featured incentives. Most offices have designated casual spots, but these were designed to be as comfortable as a living room, our home away from home.

Many of my co-workers marveled at the sketches, but I remember feeling nauseous. For someone who was already looking forward to bringing work home and logging in over the weekends, this was no comfort. It represented another tightening of the rope. She told me, “Don’t go home. Think of the workplace as an extension of home.”

Zombies may still be America’s favorite monster, as the popularity of Netflix’s “Resident Evil” series once again proves. But our nightmares tend to be fueled by ordinary horrors like the one described above. Americans may be worried about a recession, but not enough to keep a record number of us from quitting jobs we don’t like or planning to quit.

RELATED: In “Severance”, a false work-life balance is reduced in the same way when the body keeps score

These resignations are often related to a company’s refusal to accommodate its employees’ desire to work from home or respect the boundaries they impose between their work and personal lives. More of us emphasize work that helps us live rather than living to work.

And this is the one aspect of the serial take on Capcom’s survival shooter franchise that gives it a grander, smarter purpose than the movies that came before it.

“Resident Evil” is a franchise born during the shared heyday of Generation X and Millennials, with the former of age buying the game for themselves and the latter requesting it from their parents. Their mythology also reflects the general sentiment of those cohorts, who shared a general sense of mistrust of government and corporations against Boomer and Silent notions of government.

Carnivorous lunatics aside, the alternate version of the show from 2022 seems to be only a few hairs away from our reality.

You don’t need to have played “Resident Evil” before to understand the global threat posed by its supervillain, the Umbrella Corporation. A quick review for those unfamiliar with the franchise: Umbrella is a pharmaceutical company that specializes in top-secret weapons research, primarily biological mutagens. The one that ends everything is the T-Virus, a highly contagious pathogen that turns most humans into aggressive zombies.

It activates the same buttons that made “The X-Files” a phenomenon, recognizing that some of the scariest forces in existence are man-made, created for the sake of profit and power.

While the games and movies are mostly dedicated to the Alice-led characters surviving these hordes, the show is split between the world of 2022, when everything came crashing down, and the future described above. Carnivorous lunatics aside, the 2022 alternate version of the show contains seeds of a more disturbing story because it seems to be only a few hairs away from our reality.

demonic residentSiena Agudong as young Billie and Tamara Smart as young Jade in “Resident Evil” (Netflix)

That part of the story follows a pair of teenagers, Billie (Siena Agudong) and Jade (Tamara Smart) as they move in with their father Albert Wesker (a legacy character from the games and movies, played by Lance Reddick) at the South African company by Umbrella. city, New Raccoon City. (The original Raccoon City, where the film franchise and video games began, was wiped off the map.)

New Raccoon City is sterile in every way. All the houses in his subdivision are chalk white. The school is a palette of white and grey, and her students dress to match.

Between this idea and its take on corporate life and living, “Resident Evil” shares a similar kind of unnerving premise to the ones at play in “Severance,” in which Lumon Industries devises a way to divide consciousness between the work and personal life. time, monitoring their employees preparing them as neighbors in the same community.

The mystery of Lumon is that no one knows exactly what he does, including his employees, who only know each other at work and through work, because they have no memory of life outside of work. Inside the office, productivity is rewarded with odd freebies like an egg bar or dance breaks, where employees can choose a type of music and a small instrument to play, as seen in the episode “Challenging Jazz”.

That’s very different from what “Resident Evil” presents in that Lumon seems to offer his employees incentives beyond simply staying alive. It’s not too far from what we see in play in the current season of “Westworld,” where Evan Rachel Wood’s character is tracked down in her off hours by her employer when she calls in sick, you know, just to see if she’s telling them the truth.

Between these shows and the world portrayed in “The Boys,” where Vought International has inserted itself into every corner of American life, here’s a shot at the popular portrayals of work that have reigned for decades, primarily seeing life in the cubicle through the lens of workplace comedy.

But here office life tends not to be fun or family-oriented, but rather psychologically exhausting. Delving into the ruthless corporate culture of Umbrella, “Resident Evil” executive producer Andrew Dabb draws parallels to the inhumane corruption of Sackler’s and Purdue Pharma.

As one news report explains, the bioweapons company’s pivot to direct-to-consumer drugs through its antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug Joy is set to change its fortunes. One unspoken side effect of Joy beyond the company boardroom is the drug’s ability to condition the mind to be taken advantage of, influencing behavior and attention. Our social media apps do just that without drugs. This would overcome that natural addiction and, predictably, is created from a derivative of the T-Virus. This is a company that refuses to die in the face of its worst discoveries, but is perfectly fine if consumers drop dead.

demonic residentLance Reddick as Albert and Paola Núñez in “Resident Evil” (Netflix)

This is just as ridiculous as the show’s zombie arm, which throws the plot into chaos in the second half of the season. Then again, it allows Reddick, who is always one of the best parts of the shows he’s a part of, to enjoy the kind of dramatic athletics that actors love to partake in, especially these days.

Working to the point of exhaustion, pledging allegiance to a company or industry, sacrificing family time for your job—little or none of it is an acceptable price for success.

It also acknowledges the franchise’s need to reset with Generation Z by appealing to that age group’s general distrust of systems, primarily those imposed by corporations, government, and other institutions.

To them, the walking dead probably pose less of a threat than the corporate education system that heavily censors Internet access and controls what they learn about everything, including viruses. Poll after poll shows that Billie and Jade’s contemporaries have no interest in business as usual when it comes to their working lives: working to the point of exhaustion, pledging allegiance to a company or industry, sacrificing family time for their work, little or none of that is an acceptable price for success.

To be clear, “Resident Evil” is not a good show by any means. None of the many movies based on those video games are. And yet, somehow, I’ve seen them all and really enjoyed a couple.

The franchise has been alive and kicking in some form since 1996 thanks to people like me who play video games or, starting in 2002, enjoy watching Paul WS Anderson’s wacky displays of action for his wife Milla Jovovich, the enhanced heroine of the franchise, Alice.

We live in a world where most of us have given up on “The Walking Dead,” leaving little to no good reason to build eight episodes of “Resident Evil” expressly around its survival horror, though that’s precisely what the program is on. it’s a futuristic 2036. However, a central terror in the game’s mythology that is more relatable than its rehashing of an apocalypse by pustule-covered cannibals is its portrayal of the all-consuming corporate matrix.

And it’s through Billie’s brief run of being bullied by another student that we witness how the social structure works.

Since Albert ranks higher in the Umbrella Corporation than the father of the girl torturing him, he simply shows up at the director’s office and threatens to destroy the man’s life down to the studs.

The stalker’s father has to comply with Albert’s wishes, not because his stalker son was wrong (he clearly was), but because he knows where he stands in the social order imposed by Umbrella. Office politics is the politics of life in this social food chain, which unfortunately tends to be the case in many industries.

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There’s a reason “The Office” remains hugely popular with millennials and Gen Z: It makes even the dullest of work situations seem fun and lovable because of the family bond the Scranton, Pennsylvania team shares. branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. It shows a group of people brought together by managerial hire who enjoy being around others and generally care about each other’s well-being.

New Raccoon City and its corporate housing communities take working life to another extreme, reflecting an existence such as many workers endure in exchange for a regular paycheck, 401K and health insurance — that is, the realization that you’re being monitored. and could be euthanized for any reason.

That surveillance doesn’t just take place in the same offices that have secret labs with infectious biting dogs: cameras are installed throughout the Weskers’ home, for security and to ensure no one steps out of line. For this corporation, home is an extension of work. Depending on your mood, there’s more to fear in that image than the idea of ​​being overrun by the undead.

“Resident Evil” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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