Like much science fiction, Feed is a thinly veiled critique of the present. Americans in the 21st century may not have chips implanted in their brains, but they’re arguably the victims of corporate brainwashing, and they are certainly rampant consumers. Their government ignores evidence of environmental degradation and corporate malfeasance while sanctimoniously claiming to support “free trade.” Anderson even dedicated his novel to “all those who fight the feed.” This might suggest that Anderson wants to encourage his readers to fight society’s problems before they get out of hand. To this end, his book studies different ways of resisting consumerism and corporate power, suggesting that, in the long run, love and respect may be the most effective means of resisting the culture of consumerism.
Feed is full of characters who passively accept society’s rules. But there are many other characters in the book who actively resist corporate expansion and environmental devastation. First, and most obviously, Titus notes that there are various activist groups—all computer hackers—whose mission is to destroy the feed. Toward the end of the novel, readers learn that the governments of the world (collectively, the Global Alliance) are uniting to declare war against the United States, reasoning that “the biological integrity of the earth relies at this point upon the dismantling of American-based corporate entities.” These coalitions are willing to resort to breaking the law, sometimes with acts of violence, in order to fight corporate expansion. They believe that they’re justified in breaking the law because the situation is so dire, and that to sit back and do nothing would guarantee total environmental collapse. However, Anderson hints that this form of resistance, whether or not it’s morally justified, is unlikely to save the world. As the novel ends, the Global Alliance’s chances of winning their battle against the United States are slim. Instead, it seems more likely that, in trying to save the world from environmental destruction, the Alliance will only succeed in sowing further destruction.
While Anderson alludes to various groups who resist the feed through violence and crime, he spends more time writing about the people who resist corporate expansion “from the inside”—in other words, people who participate in consumerist activities but use their influence to weaken corporate power. For example, Violet Durn, one of the few characters in the novel who expresses strong dissatisfaction with the feed, believes that, by shopping for a mismatched array of products, she can create an unintelligible “consumer taste profile” that will confound her feed—so that it won’t know how to advertise to her. However, Violet’s act of resistance achieves only the most minimal success. It backfires when her feed breaks down, and the corporation that installed it refuses to pay for upkeep, since Violet is an “unpredictable” customer. In this way, Anderson suggests that a culture of consumerism can’t be sabotaged through more consumption.
Anderson writes about many different forms of resistance to the feed, and to corporate control in general, but none of the forms of resistance he discusses are shown to achieve their goal—with the result that, at the end of the novel, mankind still seems headed straight for destruction. However, the novel ends with a scene that could be interpreted to point to a more effective form of resistance. In the final chapter, Titus seems to opt out of consumer culture by destroying his clothing and going to visit Violet Durn, who is nearly dead. For one of the first times in the book, Titus seems sincerely devoted to Violet. He’s not thinking about shopping or planning a trip to the moon—he’s fully present with Violet. He refuses to participate in a culture of apathy and casual cruelty, treating people like products. The passage presents Titus’s behavior as a heroic and exemplary form of resistance to consumerism because (unlike crime, violence, and sabotage) it creates a true alternative to consumerism: love and respect. If everyone were to follow Titus’s lead, corporations would lose their business, and with it their power. Anderson’s point isn’t that Violet and Titus are going to save the world singlehandedly—it’s too late for that. Rather, he suggests that the best way to resist the culture of consumerism may be to take after Violet and Titus by focusing on human relationships—rather than products—as the greatest source of fulfillment.
Resistance Quotes in Feed
She rubbed my head, and she went, "You're the only one of them that uses metaphor."
She was staring at me, and I was staring at her, and I moved toward her, and we kissed.
What I've been doing over the feed for the last two days, is trying to create a customer profile that's so screwed, no one can market to it. I'm not going to let them catalog me. I'm going to become invisible.
She said she had a theory that everything was better if you delayed it. She had this whole thing about self-control, okay, and the importance of self-control. For example, she said, when she bought something, she wouldn't let herself order it for a long time. Then she would just go to the purchase site and show it to herself. Then she'd let herself get fed the sense-sim, you know, she'd let herself know how it would feel, or what it would smell like. Then she would go away and wouldn't look for a week.
"This top is the Watts Riot top."
Violet said, "I can never keep any of the riots straight. Which one was the Watts riot?"
Calista and Loga stopped and looked at her. I could feel them flashing chat.
"Like, a riot," said Calista. "I don't know, Violet. Like, when people start breaking windows and beating each other up, and they have to call in the cops. A riot. You know. Riot?"
So he's the genetic clone of Abraham Lincoln.
That’s what I said.
Tell me what he’s doing now.
Eh . . . the limbo. With the coaxial cable.
Violet was screaming, "Look at us! You don't hate the feed! You are feed! You're feed! You're being eaten! You're raised for food! Look at what you've made yourselves!" She pointed at Quendy, and went, "She’s a monster! A monster!"
It was like I kept buying these things to be cool, but cool was always flying just ahead of me, and I could never exactly catch up to it.
I felt like I'd been running toward it for a long time.
"It's almost time for foosball. It will be a gala. Go along, little child. Go back and hang with the eloi."
"What are the eloi?"
"It's a reference," he said, snotty. "It's from The Time Machine. H. G. Wells."
I stepped closer to him. "What does it mean?" I asked. "Because I'm sick of—"
"I'm sick of being told I'm stupid."
"So read it, and you'll know."
"It's about this meg normal guy, who doesn't think about anything until one wacky day, when he meets a dissident with a heart of gold." I said, "Set against the backdrop of America in its final days, it's the high-spirited story of their love together, it's laugh-out-loud funny, really heartwarming, and a visual feast." I picked up her hand and held it to my lips. I whispered to her fingers. "Together, the two crazy kids grow, have madcap escapades, and learn an important lesson about love. They learn to resist the feed. Rated PG-13. For language," I whispered, "and mild sexual situations."
I sat in her room, by her side, and she stared at the ceiling. I held her hand. On a screen, her heart was barely beating.
I could see my face, crying, in her blank eye.