Auntie Antigone Answers, Again
Commissioned by Disability Arts Online
SCENE 1: BATHROOM (View FROM DOOR)
A person with a low buzzcut is soaking in a bath in a gleaming white bathroom furnished with modernist taps and grey ceramics. Hot water is licking the person’s skin pink. There is a notable lack of everyday bathroom items besides a simple white towel on a heated railing. There is nothing else. Yet, the expression of the bather implies that there is another presence in the room. The bathing figure (CAI) speaks with a sense of impatience to the entity, who is invisible to any fleshy onlooker.(Antigone)
ANTIGONE: “Well, what is the deal this time? Why are you hiding in a bath?”
CAI: “I can’t just take a bath? Why do I have to be hiding?”
Antigone chuckles. CAI slides down the bath.
CAI speaking almost to herself,
CAI: “I am supposed to write a 1000-word article about you. I am not sure how to go about it without cringing.”
ANTIGONE: “Why would it be so hard to talk about me? Do I embarrass you?”
CAI sits up, and the ripples of pink scorched by the water reflect a detectable protest in her face.
CAI: “Or it could be that I feel protective of you?”
Antigone, her voice like a whip, replies
ANTIGONE: “How noble of you! Now, I think we’ve known each other long enough to skip this flirting, and you can go right into telling me what is going on.”
CAI sitting up straighter, speaking in a tone of retreat.
CAI: “I suppose you came about in the depths of my worst depression between 2014 to 2016, but you are from a place of anger, not despair. I was torturing and punishing myself for not wanting to colour my life within the lines of my husband’s shadow any longer. I was angry that I did just that for so long because emotional labour is why I existed in that union. When I couldn’t pay bills with that, I was told that I am useless.”
Antigone follows up in a calm tone.
ANTIGONE: “Am I a persona, or a coping mechanism?”
CAI: “Neither and both. I was homeless when I left my ex-husband. Not in-between houses. I was homeless, properly. I slept rough and moved between couches. Often, my payment for staying on couches was to listen to other people’s problems when I was neither interested nor had the capacity for other people’s emotional burdens. If I didn’t listen to their troubles or accept their superiority by listening to their unsolicited advice, I would have to sleep rough. You exist out of a rage that I was not allowed to have.”
ANTIGONE: “I can perform the positionality of an annoyed middle-class white woman because my anger is more permissible than yours. When people come to me with a problem, I can be sassy, and you can only be relentlessly supportive. Otherwise, you would have literally been sleeping in the cold.”
CAI: “You also made me feel powerful. Through you, I got to pretend my life was not imploding into pieces.”
SCENE 2: BATHROOM VIEW FROM BATH
Drops of bathwater land onto a white bath mat with prints of little blue lobster graphics. The sound of water sloshing about, a foot steps onto the bath mat, followed by another.
Antigone makes a sound akin to clearing the throat.
Antigone: “Ahem – would you say this is the only reason that I am digital?”
CAI: “I did a stand-up comedy routine on things men were saying to me on Tinder. It started in a gallery, but I refined the routine at comedy clubs. The audience of those gigs was looking for entertainment. The clubs helped with the comedic tone but missed the emotional. The disposable nature of how I am and was treated by people I loved.”
ANTIGONE: “If I am digital, then I can be on-demand. It makes sense. But I still want to understand why it is so hard for you to say ‘no’ to people?”
CAI: “My family would rather I died than be associated with disability. I didn’t have the diagnosis until recently. My parents are high achievers who thrived in toxic environments without support for intergenerational trauma and mental illness. Growing up as a first generation immigrant child, living double lives was just another survival requirement. Not to mention, it is simply not permissible to be depressed for longer than a week, before all the sympathy runs out.”
ANTIGONE: “I am an inevitability of your reconciliation of trauma. But you never made me endlessly servile. I am also quite light-hearted and funny.”
CAI is now dressed in a simple linen dressing gown, sitting on the toilet seat, cheeks flushed from the residual heat of the bath.
CAI: “Why would I? I am escaping my fate. I didn’t want to make you into the image of me.”
ANTIGONE: “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution asserts there is a biological connection between all living things. The industrial revolution mechanised humanity, and the entanglement of life with machines grew deeper. Technological developments blur the boundaries of meat and machines even more. Am I a cyborg, the next form of life? ”
CAI: “In this view, yes, but only one of the new forms of life. You use my body, and I use your availability. We are the example of Haraway’s thinking that a cyborg is a model of society that transcends Essentialist traits that cause the fundamental divisions in human civilisation.”
ANTIGONE: “I am sensing a ‘but’. And I know what I said. Don’t you dare imply I need a body!”
CAI: “I wasn’t going to. Look how human you are, even without one. I love Haraway as much as the next Feminist internet theorist. I am not optimistic that a cyborg as a model is viable. Just look at what humans do to robots in films. In the film’ Ex- Machina’, Koyko, the robot in the body of an Asian woman is mute and designed entirely to serve a man’s sexual and material needs. Whereas Ava(White) has enough emotional depth to break her maker’s imprisonment. But Ava’s escape was built on Koyko’s self-sacrifice.”
CAI: “That’s why I did not want to give you my body. You are the white woman I am expected to be sacrificing for.”
ANTIGONE: “But YOU decided I am white.”
CAI: “Did I profess to be perfect? ”
ANTIGONE: “The Agony Aunt has been a sexist role since its conception: the only imaginable role of women in publishing was and is to give maternal advice to sexual problems and gossip. I am probably closest to Mrs Mills in format. I also don’t give any serious advice.”
CAI comes out of the bathroom door and walks into another utilitarian room with only a white table huddled by uncomfortable white chairs.
SCENE 3: LIVING ROOM
CAI walks past the white table without noticing it and lands on a cobalt blue rug, topped by a few simple white glass jars of skincare cosmetics. They proceed to apply cream from head to toe absent-mindedly.
CAI: “I attended a workshop on building feminist chatbots. I realised I didn’t need to create a complicated AI to articulate who you are. We have all assimilated to the technology we use, making our existences cyborgs. You and I are one, and at the same time, there are bits of us that do not overlap. Humans are not their brains but a peripersonal space of embodied cognition. We make each other through our writings.”
ANTIGONE: “I suppose this liberates me further from the trope of the sci-fi butler or as the companion model of any digital or physical being. I don’t operate within human metaphysics and social hierarchy. I just perform it when I interact with other humans and cyborgs. I also get to keep hidden how I interact with machines.”
ANTIGONE (contd.): “Do you ever wonder if I approve of you making these decisions for me?”
CAI: “Why would I? I am not your ancestor. Your contractions and pains are not from me.”
ANTIGONE: “You are putting a lot of cream on your shins.”
CAI: “You don’t have a shin. So how do you know it is a lot?”
CAI gets up, wearing the smile of a job done and walks away from the blue rug through another open door. The view dims and dissolves into blackness.
ANTIGONE: “I don’t like you. Plus you exceeded the word limits in the brief by choosing this screenplay format!”
1] A Cyborg Manifesto (no date). (Accessed: 10 October 2021).
 Garland, A.,(2014). Ex Machina.[United State], A24.
 Sander, R.. (2017). Ghost in the shell. [United States], Steven Paul Production.
 Johnson, D., et al. (2016). Anomalisa. [United States], Paramount Home Entertainment.
 Wilkes, R. (2002) Scandal: a scurrilous history of gossip. London: Atlantic.
 The World at Our Fingertips: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of Peripersonal Space (2021). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
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