From trashing “Hackers” and “script kiddies” to name dropping “Seinfeld” as a transgressive show that was ahead of its time, Mr. Robot is the pop and geek culture darling that keeps on giving – and by giving, I mean dishing out more references and callbacks than any other.
In this piece, we list some of the more memorable shout-outs in no particular order.
- Fight Club
Without a doubt the show’s most glaringly obvious influence. I don’t really blame showrunner Sam Esmail – the modern TV audience is too savvy that the “He’s Dead All Along” twist just wouldn’t work anymore and they’ll see it coming light years away. In fact, there’s already a trope that exists prior to Mr. Robot appropriately named “Ghost Dad” to lampshade the not-so twisty plot twist. There’s also the part about a secret group plotting to destroy society and rebuild it, albeit not with soaps.
But then again, Sam more than likely had no intentions of pulling a fast one on us. After all, he did score the closing moments of episode nine with The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” (well, a piano cover to be exact), and Elliot kind of broke the fourth wall by addressing the camera that we knew all along once the reveal was finally unraveled.
- American Psycho
With his slicked hair and impeccable style, Tyrell Wellick sure could pass off as a Patrick Bateman clone. While we’re not so sure if he has the same compulsive disorder as the latter regarding business cards, skin care regimen, coasters, or even have vividly visceral daydreams, the show pretty much confirmed the parallels between the two by opening the third episode with a clear-cut homage to an infamous scene from the Brett Easton Ellis film adaptation. On a series of heavily-fluorescent hued shots, Tyrell can be seen working out (complete with topless pushups) while rehearsing his promotion speech.
- Taxi Driver
The reference that Esmail would admit to at least, and it makes sense. In Martin Scorsese’s classic, Travis Bickle is an unhinged protagonist committed to purifying the world, and often does so by subjecting audiences to social critiques and tirades, much like our beloved Elliot. Elliot’s idea of a date doesn’t involve watching theater porn though, and his methods are a lot less violent and ham-fisted. But still, the similarities are there.
- R. Budd Dwyer
And now for something completely different and grim, but a shout-out nonetheless. So far, there have only been two known cases of on-air television suicide. One was by a depressed Florida news reporter of which no copy has been made public, and the second, and most infamous – Pennsylvania politician Robert Budd Dwyer. This was referenced in a scene during the season 1 finale as a high-ranking E Corp executive suddenly pulled out a handgun during a live interview about fsociety’s world-shattering hack, and splattered the windows (and Angela’s shoes) with blood and grey matter. Unfortunately, the episode was set to air around the time a live TV shooting took place, forcing USA to delay its airing.
- The Social Network
If it wasn’t obvious with the overt “Fight Club” references, Esmail is a huge David Fincher fan. But the earliest sign (pun intended) happened before the series premier itself, as a poster showing Elliot’s face shrouded partially in a pitch black background with white text superimposed, served as the arc poster of the series – and one that mirrors the exact same poster (featuring Jesse Eisenberg) used for the Facebook biopic.