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A Capitalist Critique in Comics: Aminder Dhaliwal's Dead End Jobs For Ghosts Review

As a current senior in high school, my whole life has revolved around my education. I distinctly remember a time when I looked forward to school when I was younger, a time when learning in school was fun and exciting. However, as I entered my high school years, it felt as if my passion for learning and my enjoyment in school were decreasing semester by semester. I did not change as a person, but school had changed. My everyday life became engulfed by countless hours of work and a desire for an excellent GPA. At times, my GPA felt like a reflection of my self-worth, and academic validation provided the dopamine I needed to push forward. I had lost a lot of pride in my work, as it was no longer about fulfilling my desire for knowledge but my teacher’s strict requirements.

I know this feeling is a common one. There are times when work feels amazingly fun while at other times, work completely engulfs every waking second of our day. Canadian Animator Aminder Dhaliwal’s hilarious yet dark Dead End Jobs For Ghosts provides thought-provoking commentary on both personal work-life balance and a satirical critique of the capitalist system and the modern work culture of literally working oneself to death.

Dead End Jobs For Ghosts follows the lives (or deaths I should say) of a young girl Priya Joshi and an old nail factory worker Phillip. While still alive, Phillip took pride in his work as he perfected his craft and sold a product he made. However, as industrialization advanced, Phillip’s skills were no longer needed as he was replaced by a machine, pulling levers all day. Eventually, Phillip lost all pride in his work, lost his job, and eventually passed away. Priya, on the other hand, is a 16-year-old girl who is brutally killed in a hit and run during a driving lesson. After death, both Phillip and Priya turn into ghosts.

During a brief interlude, Dhaliwal introduces Spectreworks, the company that harnesses the labor of ghosts to complete real-world jobs. However, the people in the corporeal realm are unaware that Spectreworks employs ghosts and they operate under the guise of "automation". Dhaliwal dives into the issues of automation in our society including the trustworthiness of artificial intelligence and its detrimental effect on the labor market. An intriguing point Dhaliwal raises, whether intentional or not, is that artificial intelligence and robots cannot hear the sounds of protest by workers who have lost their jobs. Also, during the Spectreworks ad, Dhaliwal critiques the modern work culture and labor market through a satirical segment where Spectreworks workers speak on why they enjoy work.

Dhaliwal tells the story of two main characters Priya Joshi and Phillip as well as builds a dystopian future where ghosts work as automation all within 42 pages. Because of this ambition, there are instances where the characters, especially Phillip, feel a little underdeveloped. Perhaps there is some intentionality to this as Dhaliwal may intend for the reader to view Phillip as just an insignificant worker, just like his employer does. Also, despite the lack of color in the comic, many of the prevalent jokes still make for a fun and refreshing read.

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