M. T. Anderson’s Feed is the story of a failing futuristic society that is controlled by large corporations. People are taught to value objects, money, and entertainment over everything else. Almost all of the characters have computer-like devices called “feeds” installed in their heads. This allows them to communicate with each other instantly and look up any information they want, but it also sends them a constant stream of advertisements.
As Feed begins, Titus goes to the moon for a spring break trip with his friends. They have dinner and try to get into some college parties, which they usually manage to do because his friend Calista “can do this sorority-girl ice-princess thing” and his friend Link is “that kind of old rich that’s like radiation,” which makes people do what he wants even though he is ugly. However, nobody lets them into the parties today. They look greasy and sleepy from their flights, and they all have the strange lesions that everyone seems to get lately. Titus feels annoyed and decides the moon sucks.
The kids drift to other forms of entertainment. They are playing a ball game in low gravity when Titus notices “the most beautiful girl, like, ever.” Titus watches her, and when his friend Quendy begins complaining about the unsightly lesion on her face, the girl, Violet, joins the conversation. In a confident voice that is free of the filler words and slang that pepper everyone else’s speech, Violet says that Quendy’s lesion frames her face. Violet and the other girls rearrange Quendy’s hair to show off the lesion.
Violet is alone, so she joins Titus and his friends. She hangs back when they try to get drunk and looks uncomfortable when Link suggests trying a drug-like experience called “malfunctioning” through their feeds. However, she accompanies them to a club, where mostly college kids are dancing and having a good time. An old man appears among them, shouting, “We enter a time of calamity!” When he does something to the kids’ feeds that forces them to broadcast this message over and over, Titus realizes the old man is a hacker. The police arrive and beat up the hacker, then they switch the kids off.
Titus awakens in a hospital, where his first thought is that he has no credit for buying anything. Then he realizes that his head is quiet and he is disconnected from feednet. Titus finds life boring without the constant input. He reflects that when feeds were first invented, people were excited at their educational value because they allow people to look up any information instantly. Now everyone who has a feed is “supersmart,” but the educational value is not the feed’s main attraction:
Everything that goes on, goes on on the feed.... But the braggest thing...is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. It can tell you how to get them, and help you make buying decisions that are hard.
Everyone knows the corporations that run the feed do bad things, but there is no way to stop them. They run everything and employ everyone, so as far as Titus is concerned there is no point getting upset about how bad they are. He is far more upset that he is disconnected.
Titus and his friends are stuck in the hospital and annoyed at their predicament. Titus’s dad arrives and says, “Dude, this is some way bad s**t.” The other kids’ parents come too, except for Violet’s. She acts withdrawn, and although she does not complain as much as the others, she seems extremely upset. Still, she joins in when the others go stir-crazy and invent a game of blowing hypodermic needle tips at an anatomy diagram. The doctor gets angry about this, but the kids’ parents defend them, saying they are stressed out and need to unwind.
Violet and Titus bond in the hospital, and she shows him an old, cracked terrarium she finds leaking air. Later, he learns that she knows how to write with a pen. Nobody writes on paper anymore, so he calls her “a funny enchilada.” When the technicians are sure there is no permanent problem with their feeds, they reconnect everyone. Messages and advertisements pour in, and everyone goes insane with relief. It is as if they can feel like themselves again. Titus and Violet hold hands and dance in happiness.
The kids return to earth and spend the rest of spring break taking it easy. At the end of the week, they have a party. Violet is homeschooled, so she does not go to School™ as Titus does. Her social life is not normal, so she has never been to a party and is excited to go. The kids watch movies and chat, and Titus tries to prevent Violet from finding out when some of his friends malfunction. Violet confesses that her feed is still damaged from the hacking incident.
A few days later, Violet invites Titus to the mall to help her with a project. She says that cameras are watching them, and the feed is marketing to them based on what catches their attention. Marketers always try to make everything appeal to everyone, so their offerings get simpler and simpler. Titus just shrugs off her explanation, saying, “That’s the feed.” She catches his attention only when she explains that she is trying to create a customer profile for herself that is so weird nobody can properly market to her. They go from store to store, asking for odd objects like searchlights and home endoscopy kits. Titus enjoys himself and drops her off at the feed doctor’s on the way home.
Violet is really smart, and...
(The entire section is 2284 words.)
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