The Crisis of Authorization in Dark — Işık Barış Fidaner

The true topic of the Netflix series Dark is a crisis of authorization. The story deals with this theme in different ways. Since the gender regime expects the males to assume the role of authorization [1], the disappearance of male children in the town of Winden indicates the disappearance of the bodies that would assume authorization and marks a general crisis of authorization.

The leading character Jonas’s father Michael’s suicide deals with the crisis of authorization at a personal level. The reason that Michael commits suicide is the fact that he borrowed his child body Mikkel from the future; thus Michael surrenders his authority to live and leaves Jonas fatherless because he cannot give an account of his body. There are two exceptional events that mark the special symptomatic position of Michael-Mikkel in the story: (1) When Katharina learns that her son Mikkel is Michael, she cannot believe what she hears and begins to laugh; but laughing is very rare in the series because there is always a tragic ambience from the beginning to the end. Mikkel’s mother Katharina who gave birth to him becomes the exception that breaks the tragic atmosphere for a moment to excite a comical air. (2) As a general rule in the series, when someone meets his/her younger self, (s)he tells him/her what to do from an experienced-knowing position. But Michael is the exception to this rule: When he meets his childhood Mikkel, he is seized by a deep anxiety and flees from him. He cannot play the role of the knowing person like the other characters do.

The historical origin of the crisis of authorization is dealt with via the Winden nuclear power plant that represents the energy that feeds the civilization. The fact that the new director Claudia appointed in 1986 is a woman does not indicate the empowerment of women due to the progress of civilization; instead, it indicates the castration of the role of the nuclear power plant directorship; because when Claudia wants to fully assume her authority, she is confronted with the obstacle of entropy represented by the barrels of chemical waste (accompanied by the words “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean”). In fact, this event represents the historical erosion of the public authorities by neoliberalism, leaving people without a future [2]. And this marks the 33-year-old origin of the present crisis of authorization. The nonchalance of the young Ulrich who surrenders himself to the entropy of enjoyment (jouissance) with metal music and video games, and the slogan “No Future” on his back supports this historical origin of the crisis of authorization. 33 years later, this same entropy turns into the uncontrolled trade of drugs in the school and the antidepressant that Jonas takes.

The crisis of authorization in Winden means that embodiment becomes determinant. This is why the story begins to revolve around the identity-difference among the child-young-old bodies of the same person, for all people. These identical-different bodies encounter each other numerous times in the story: The same person meets his/her young or old self and speaks to him/her. The system that grounds these encounters is the time machine.

Jonas, being at the focus of the crisis of authorization, is the story’s main hero. The entropy that causes the crisis erodes Jonas’s body and turns him into Adam. The theme about identical-different bodies (which takes the center stage in order to fill the gap opened by the authorization in crisis) focuses on the character Martha. The inaccessibility of Martha as the girl that Jonas loves obfuscates the historical reality of entropy and provides a fantasmatic explanation to the crisis of authorization that Jonas experiences. This is why Martha is revealed to have a mysterious world of her own that does not even include Jonas. When Martha becomes an Eva with her own world, she is expected to complete Adam. But it is not in the least in Martha’s interest to take on this mysterious appearance; on the contrary, in Adam-Jonas’s eyes, Martha turns into the scapegoat of the reality of entropy and he tries to sacrifice her.

Finally, the story arrives at a nice ending: Jonas and Martha, together as a young couple, sacrifice themselves. But this appearance of togetherness that emerges later might be a mere fantasy that obfuscates the contradiction that is articulated in the earlier scene where Adam, eroded by entropy, sacrifices Martha, who he blames for the crisis of authorization that he experiences.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “The Traversal of the Phallus”

[2] See “Fütursuz Çağa Karşı Sütur”

[3] See “Always Afterwards: Entropy and Sacrifice”


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