Dinner Party is a short VR story that premiered at Sundance, and it uses the story of the alien abduction of Barney and Betty Hill to metaphorically explore the racial tension of interracial marriage in the early 1960s. I spoke to writers Laura Wexler & Charlotte Stoudt in episode #618, who talked about how they heard a lot of racial subtext in Barney’s hypnosis recordings of the abduction incident. I had a chance to talk to the Puerto Rican director of Dinner Party, Angel Manuel Soto, at Sundance who talked about how he personally connected to the themes of alienation and exile that were explored in this piece.
Soto shares a story of a white woman at Sundance who experienced quite a bit of anxiety in watching Dinner Party, and she brought up a lot of ethical questions about using immersive tension or need for different types of disclosure of intensity for people who may be dealing with PTSD from previous traumatic experiences. Soto also shared a story of a black woman who was actually happy to hear that the VR experience caused the reaction of anxiety within the safety of a VR experience since people are color are dealing with anxiety every day in America due to all of the racial tensions from the culture. Soto shares his perspectives on this topic, as well as the power of virtual reality to be able to symbolically explore these issues through the trope of paranormal experiences that connect to deeper human experiences in the context of an immersive series titled The Incident.
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