There is certainly no shortage of art about the fears of modernity. Especially since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, there have been countless novels, paintings, films, photographs, and other works that have addressed mankind's increasing reliance on technology and the compartmentalization of society as that technology further eliminates the need for social interaction. These works often take on one of two different approaches. The first is starry-eyed nostalgia for "the way things were," reminding audiences of how "simple" life used to be before the world became modern and unrecognizable. The other is a cautionary tale, delivering a dire warning to audiences about what could happen to them if they can't keep their humanity in a world that's increasingly mechanical. Both approaches rely heavily on making audiences uncomfortable with the modern world, though whether one is more effective than the other (if at all) varies considerably.
Haynes doesn't deliver any solid answers to this quandary. Instead, his camera studies Carol and her situation and allows the audience to assess where her malady lies. Some have interpreted the film as an allegory for the AIDS epidemic which, in 1995, had only just become a topic that was acceptable to acknowledge in popular culture. However, it is just as easy to read it as a quiet subversion of 20th-century fears of modernity, turned on their head in Haynes' treatment of his protagonist.
More after the jump.