Severance’s technology has a marketing problem

The Apple TV+ drama Breakup centers on Mark Scout, a grieving widower who undergoes a drastic procedure that separates his work memories from his personal memories. The result creates an alternate version of Mark called “Innie Mark”. Innie Mark never knows the life his other self, now known as “Outie Mark”, takes for granted. Or moon knight hints at five personalities, this show only focuses on two – and misses a ton of potential.

If the technology in Breakup was actually viable, people could use it for medical advances and treatments that Lumon doesn’t seem to have considered. The mega-corporation responsible for creating the “separation” procedure obviously has a hidden agenda, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a show. But even so, their mainstream marketing strategy requires a PR overhaul before Season 2 begins.

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Ben Stiller directs this look at office culture, more mind-blowing than the Doctor Strange 2 displayed and presented as a unique solution to achieving work-life balance. Memory splitting surgery could be a way to improve your personal and social relationships without the distraction of work. Volunteers who experience separation are portrayed as trying to escape the trauma in their outer life. After the death of his wife, Outie Mark decides to erase the pain of losing his wife for eight hours a day. Unable to return to his regular job in his troubled emotional state, the severance package allows him to continue earning a living while struggling with his loss. Outie Mark explains that Innie’s counterpart won’t have to suffer his pain without his memories, and that the only person he hurts by undergoing the procedure is himself.

Instead of presenting the volunteers with a moral dilemma, it would have been better to look into the religious overtones of Lumon Industries itself. Some employees like Ms. Cobel already treat it like a religion, so presenting neurological advancement as a “miracle” wouldn’t have been an overstatement. The Innie could be “new life” people can bring into the world since the “other you” is their own conscious self, marketed as “giving life without giving birth”.

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Another strategy could be to make the process more appealing if “Innie” needs to master a new language or skill. In the same way that skills download into your consciousness by The matrix (who almost played Nicolas Cage), Outies can reap the benefits of their Innie’s hard work without remembering the hours of study it took. Even though the Innies have no memory of their Outies’ lives, they retain all the skills and knowledge that the others have. When Innie Irving emerges into the outside world, he’s surprised at his ability to drive a car (a stick shift, no less) without ever having been inside it before. Therefore, it stands to reason that sharing or knowing goes both ways.

The Innie would replace his Outie for unwanted tasks such as strenuous exercise, learning a foreign language, or even recovering from surgery. This setup may also be less traumatic for the Innie, who might make mastering their skills their sole focus. The virgin doppelgänger might then be told that they will “go up” and join their Outie without such an actual reunion. This operating method is already mentioned in Breakup when Mark’s sister finds out how some women forego the pain of childbirth by swapping their Innie at the time of labor.

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Taking a more interior view of the process, the hidden personality is perhaps the purest version of their Outie when they first wake up. The Innie has the skills, functional knowledge, and personality of his Outie without any of the emotional baggage that comes from past trauma and pain. Despite what the evil corporation is secretly planning, they must convince more people to implant the separation chip for it to succeed.

If they framed the interaction for the Outie as being able to meet “the purest version of their soul”, being able to answer intimate questions or get to know each other without any prejudice would motivate more people in a kind of self-help. But these are just a few options that Lumon could choose to improve its brand in Breakupis the second season. The current setup of a literal “Hell on Earth” is not going to do them any favors.

To see how Lumon Industries completely messed up their media rollout, the entire first season of Severance is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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