Who needs Hulu’s remake of The Handmaid’s Tale when Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer exists? Last night, before the release of her new album, she premiered a short film of the same name. The Dirty Computer music videos we’ve seen so far make up a bulk of the film’s run time. But as we find out, those images of a freakier and more sexually liberated Janelle are literally being erased.
Janelle revives her ArchAndroid alter-ego, Jane 57821, though she is in danger of becoming a “Mary Apple,” a “dirty computer” that has been stripped of whatever makes them unique. (The cleansing process isn’t nearly as violent as The Handmaid’s Tale‘s brutal rituals; instead, lab technicians simply swipe across their screen.)
Actress Tessa Thompson does appear as Janelle’s love interest, as initially reported. However, by the time we meet Tessa, she is “Mary Apple 53” — and doesn’t remember their love at all. At least, she doesn’t until she sees Janelle’s tattoo of a naked woman crucified as Jesus Christ was.
When Janelle began promoting Dirty Computer, she appeared to be ditching the sci-fi lore of her previous work altogether. Fortunately, this “Emotion Picture,” in Janelle’s words, makes clear that the saga indeed continues with her latest artistic endeavor. As Uproxx contributor Myles E. Johnson points out, Janelle has also treated “Mary” — Madonna, the Virgin Mary — as an object of affection in previous releases. In The Electric Lady‘s “Sally Ride,” she sang, “Wake up, Mary, have you heard the news / Wake up, Mary, you have the right to choose.”
“Janelle’s honey-soaked voice crooning that Mary ‘has the right to choose’ is an obvious commentary on her pro-life stance and a subversive political move, bringing the icon Virgin Mary, who is closely associated with The Catholic Church, a historically anti-abortion force, into a pro-choice conversation,” Myles wrote.
Read his piece on the duality of Janelle Monae here.