As Americans struggle through the coronavirus crisis, Amazon has released the new streaming show Upload. Created by Greg Daniels — known for both The Office and Parks and Recreation — Upload takes a lighthearted approach to a heavy topic: a digital afterlife. Sadly, the show demonizes capitalism and mocks the late David Koch.
Upload focuses on Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell), an ambitious coder who is dating the gorgeous and extremely wealthy Ingrid Kannerman (Allegra Edwards). Brown dies in the first episode — after his self-driving car gets in a crash. Ingrid fronts the cash for his digital afterlife, and it seems the coder was murdered. His consciousness is “uploaded” into a 3-D simulated world, where he can live forever, thanks to his girlfriend’s cash. Yet even the afterlife is flush with upcharges Ingrid won’t pay for, and he struggles with lingering questions about his untimely demise.
The show is part crime drama, part science fiction, part love story, and part social commentary, with an emphasis on the social commentary. Much of it is hilarious, but it also slams capitalism.
Upcharges are everywhere — in “heaven” and on earth, as it were. Passengers get even less space on airlines. The afterlife company Horizon pays staff poorly and requires them to maintain high ratings to get any sort o employee discount. People who run out of money in Brown’s digital “heaven” are given only two gigs of data to spend, and are frozen for the rest of the month.
Powerful companies call all the shots, and the main characters struggle against them.
Yet there seemingly is no way for these “uploaded” people to make money — they can only spend it. If the future truly were driven by free markets, it seems likely these “uploaded” people could make some money in the afterlife. The main character is a coder, after all.
Philanthropy is also largely absent from the show. If the technology for a digital afterlife existed and so many people wanted it, donors would step forward to help the less fortunate afford it.
Then there’s David Choak (William B. Davis), a not-so-subtle parody of the “evil” billionaire and philanthropist David Koch, who died last August. Choak brags that the afterlife company Horizon killed the last white rhino so he could eat white rhino steak forever in “heaven.” He makes a staff member flap her arms and “fly” in the simulation so he can shoot at her with his shotgun. He generally treats everyone horribly while ostentatiously spending money, the consummate evil capitalist.
This after many liberals had to hold their tongues when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was treated at a cancer hospital funded by none other than the “evil” David Koch. Koch was far from perfect, but he did not deserve this demonization.
Upload is a fun television show with an interesting premise, many twists and turns, and great humorous moments. It can drift into the macabre here and there, but it’s generally fun and an enjoyable diversion from the coronavirus. But it also presents a supposedly capitalist dystopia where everyone is nickel-and-dimed and David Koch is villainized. Perhaps Tiger King is a better option.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.