Home » The Connection Between ‘The Curse’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey

The Connection Between ‘The Curse’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey

Arriving four months behind schedule, the Emmys quietly passed amid the bustling awards season, recognizing the expected winners such as The Bear and Succession. The ceremony aired just one day after a jaw-dropping finale left audiences astounded. Crafted by the unconventional duo of Nathan Fielder, the awkward jester, and filmmaker Benny Safdie, The Curse transitioned from a precise parody of contemporary reality television to a self-reflective exploration of existentialism.

Set against the desolate landscape of Española, New Mexico, The Curse follows the narrative of Asher and Whitney, a married couple who are ambitious TV presenters and self-proclaimed retail ‘experts.’ They endeavor to imprint their environmentally-conscious ‘passive home’ onto the largely unwilling residents of the area. Firm in their belief that their efforts are virtuous, the duo sets out to reshape the community, urging residents to invest in their homes and frequent their sustainable coffee shops and clothing stores.

The dream of contemporary capitalism crumbles before the viewers’ eyes, with the insecure Asher succumbing to his wife’s will and societal demands. Whitney embodies the archetype of a cheerful TV presenter, concealing self-interest behind her smile—a product of studio board meetings. Their mission becomes entangled with their own turbulent egos, as Asher falls victim to a ‘curse’ initiated by a young girl imitating a TikTok trend.

This sparks a whirlwind of distrust in every interaction Asher has, including with his wife. Whitney perceives him as a hindrance, restricting her from thriving in her life and career. The dynamic shifts only when Asher, in a symbolic gesture, sacrifices himself to her. He expresses, “If you didn’t want to be with me, and I actually truly felt that I’d be gone, you wouldn’t have to say it. I would feel it, and I would disappear.” This prediction comes true in the finale when Whitney’s newborn baby fulfills the void Asher once occupied, propelling him into the sky, no longer of use to his wife and the world.

Many interpret this puzzling conclusion as a triumph for Whitney, capturing her final moments cradling her child with a smile, seemingly indifferent to her husband, whom she previously left clinging to a tree branch with his life hanging in the balance. However, the ending is also liberating for Asher. Freed from the anxieties and social pressures that turned his life into a tense tinderbox of emotions, especially when viewed as entirely metaphorical.

In the show’s final scene, Asher gracefully ascends from the world into the stratosphere, finding peace and the opportunity for rebirth and self-redefinition. The remarkable finale of The Curse draws parallels to the iconic image of the star child in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Kubrick’s ending, also metaphorical, symbolizes humanity’s rebirth into a new era of life. As Kubrick explained to Joseph Gelmis about the fate of his protagonist in the enigmatic 1968 film: “He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny.”

The Curse, while poking fun at the TV and movie industry, deconstructs shows like Rachael Ray, as depicted in the finale, and mocks the absurdity of the new Sydney Sweeney movie Anyone But You, both in its marketing material and within the show itself. This inclination is deeply embedded in the show’s DNA.

Fielder’s fondness for this approach is evident in the opening episode of 2022’s The Rehearsal, where he likens his artificial creation efforts to Willy Wonka’s world of ‘True Imagination.’ Therefore, the 2001 reference serves a dual purpose: a genuine expression of metaphorical rebirth for Asher and a final punchline for a show that consistently pays homage to the artifice and self-importance of contemporary culture.

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