Psychoanalysis of “World of Tomorrow”

Psychoanalysis is used by many to understand and analyze a text or film. There are many choices for one to choose from to deepen the comprehension of a novel or film such as defense mechanisms, id, and ego. Sigmund Freud who was the originator of psychoanalysis helped one develop a better understanding of signs and actions taken during a story. The film being used has many symbols and signs that allowed the viewer to deepen their analysis and conclude their own ideas on the characters.

Through the lens of Psychoanalysis, by using id, ego, and defense mechanisms in the film World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt, helps the reader uncover the hidden motives of the human mind.

Psychoanalysis was mainly originated by Sigmund Freud and was founded in the 1890’s when he was working with an australian psychologist on studies of neurotic patients under hypnosis. He founded psychoanalysis in a small area in Austria named the Czech Republic(Moser 30). Freud initially studied the unconsciousness of the brain which is small part out of many parts in psychoanalysis.

The unconsciousness is the distortment of memories or thoughts, putting different images into one story. Freud thought the different images together were symbols even though the thought was far fetched(World Book, Inc., Chicago 3). Another principle he came up with was the Oedipus Complex, which states that a daughter will be jealous towards her mother because of her desires for her father, and a son would be jealous of his dad because of his desires towards his mother.

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This is the most popular term in psychology and is not quit popular amongst many individuals. But to many theorists it is still very relevant. Many think this could be true but in the unconscious part of the brain. According to Freud, “The id and ego are originally one” when both the ego and superego emerge from the id(Mijolla 778). The ego is technically the id just the more developed version of it due to one’s awareness to the the environment.

Psychoanalysis, specifically defense mechanisms, helps identify the reasons on why a character would say or do something, in this case why Emily 2.0 says what she thinks she should be feeling. There are several coping mechanisms to a loss one of which is called disbelief or denial which is explained by saying it, “…reduces anxiety by allowing individuals to limit their awareness about the reality of what has happened until the pain can be let in more slowly”(Lingren 1).The individual acts as if this loss does not affect them. This mechanism allows for the body to be unaware of the fact that the individual should feel bad, but instead does nothing about it until the individual can come to terms about it. Emily claims, “I do not have the mental or emotional capacity to deal with his loss, but sometimes, I sit in a chair late at night and quietly feel very bad. When the night is at its most quiet, I can hear death. I am very proud of my sadness, because it means I am more alive.

I no longer fall in love with rocks”(World of Tomorrow). Emily 2.0 is among one of the very few that has developed emotions and feeling. In the last quote, it is apparent she is using denial to deny the fact that in reality she does care and miss her ex-love. She expresses she does not have the capacity to give affection towards things that have ‘hurt’ her once before. This in psychoanalysis is denial, when arguing against emotion in this case, making it seem as if the whole incident does not exist. Defense mechanisms are used throughout the film to mainly cover up the fact that Emily does in fact have emotion. The diction used helps the viewer analyze the mechanisms used as well. Emily uses the word “capacity” which seems more robotic than human, allowing the viewer to realize that Emily 2.0 is a clone and is supposed to not have emotions. One who uses defense mechanisms like these not only try to convince someone else of their beliefs, but many times tries to convince themselves because they cannot bear to admit that they believe a certain idea. Defense mechanisms play a big role when analyzing dialogue of a character in a text or film.

Not only is defense mechanisms used to show the motives behind one’s actions, but the viewer can also detect this in a character like Emily Prime by using id to unravel the unique behavior that takes place. Freud claims that the id is something every individual has since birth. The Id ensures that the young individuals needs are met, and by achieving that, one would do anything as to cry or scream. It is stated that,”The purpose of the id is to satisfy one’s innate urges. Freud theorized that the id operates according to the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification of wishes and a reduction of pain and tension”(Hedgespeth 348). The phase when one still has their id is when they have not gained any habits seen from parents or the outside world. Only a baby would do such things because they do not have the capacity to do anything else.

The problem is, because they cannot do anything, when they do not get was is desired they throw what is called a tantrum until they receive exactly what satisfies them. It is also said, ”The id is the original reservoir of libido and of the destructive instincts that cathect and nourish the ego and the superego and their cathexes”(Mijolla 778). What this means is that the origination of taking action on impulse for the ego and superego all appear to derive from the id. Libido is, “Making a distinction between two forms of libidinal cathexis: ego-directed and object-directed”(Mijolla 484). One is essentially having to differentiate between the two which is driven by the id. Emily Prime says many short liners that show that she has not fully developed her id yet, like when she says, “I had lunch today…” and, “Wiggle wiggle wiggle”(Hertzfeldt). Like what is said about the id by Freud, it makes the individual need some kind of attention. In the films, there are many instances when Emily Prime would say or do something that shows her id talking, and wanting attention. This shows that she has not fully grown into strengthening her ego or superego in that matter. The id is shown to still be in control of Emily Prime, and is apparent because she does things that a grown individual would not do. The film shows a connection between Emily Prime and humans in general because both tend to act upon their id to fulfill any kinds of desires.

When looking at a film or text psychoanalytically, there are many options, one of which is looking through the lens of ego and identifying the innocence of the character and through their actions and dialogue. Freud explained where the ego originates from and how it impacts a person’s actions by saying, “…the ego operates according to the reality principle, replacing the id’s uninhibited search for gratification with thoughts and behaviors that take into account the conditions of real life and the needs of others”(Hedgespeth 349). The id is what everyone is born with, but later, senses start to develop where a young individual will be able to do things themselves, which is essentially picked up from the environment and utilized as a barrier for one’s actions. It is also stated that, “The ego makes us susceptible to manipulation; it narrows our field of vision; and it corrupts our behavior, often causing us to act against our values”(Hougaard 2). This shows that a person has not fully developed their own unique personality yet and is constantly “Craving positive attention”(Hougaard 2).

Emily prime is portrayed as the ego and is shown in many clips of the film, but one that especially pops out is when she makes the statement, “But some… some day, you have to not make a snake boy because even I, yesterday, I didn’t see any snake boys. But you made one”(World of Tomorrow).This line really shows her innocence and how she does not have the influential id and superego. The only thing that seems to somewhat influence her is Clone Emily, when she takes Emily Prime to her world. Emily Prime easily depicts the ego side of an individual because she has not fully developed and been around the outside world yet. In the film the viewer can conclude that Emily Prime is young and vulnerable making it easy to be taken advantage of. Emily 2.0 says, “Emily Prime, there is another reason I have contacted you today. You retain an early memory that I have forgotten, that was very important to me. I wish to retrieve it from you before I die. I shall extract this memory from you now”(World of Tomorrow). In this particular scene it seems like Emily Prime is most vulnerable, and one may conclude she is being taken advantage of. She is being used for her early memories with her mother to use for Emily 2.0’s advantage. This part of the film shows how Emily Prime is portrayed as the ego.

Looking through the lens of psychoanalysis helps the viewer discover what the human mind goes through and for what purpose. The film has many signs of defense mechanisms and usage of id and ego. Freud and many others who have studied psychoanalysis helps many understand the meaning and the purpose as to why it is used in so many novels and films being made today. Many would think because it was discovered so long ago that it would soon fade away, but it is very much relevant in the modern world of writing and art. Especially mostly when deepening the analyzation process to discover the hidden meanings behind symbols.

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Psychoanalysis of “World of Tomorrow”. (2022, Apr 28). Retrieved from

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