Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another world

A sorta shocking aspect of The Thing From Another World (1951), a scifi classic, is the sexual game going on between the male lead and the lead scientist's female assistant. She has the very masculine and mouthy style that was so popular in WWII and post-war films, a dame, a broad. She clearly has the upper hand to start out with and their relation style, while clearly erotic, is very masculine. Proto-feminism?

And at one point, on his suggestion, she has him tied up in a chair, teasing him. For 1951, seems pretty advanced.

A note. The two camps are the soldiers (and the ex-military reporter) vs the scientists. The soldiers are all American White regular guys, full of banter but task focused. The scientists come off as urban, upperclass WASPy, kinda gay and immigrant/Jewish.

I'm sure there have been a raft of PoMo culture studies PhD's done on this flick and others like it.


PS. If you want a clear example of how a director shapes a film, watch this one for speed patterns in dialogue. People in groups speak fast and in squalls, in staccato, leaving no space or quiet between sentences from one another.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sci-fi movies that feature a disagreement between military and science types offer a look into the political views of the writer/director. If the military is right, then the writer is right-leaning: threats must be recognized as such and destroyed without hesitation. If the scientists are right, then the writer is left-leaning: just because something is strange or different doesn't make it dangerous, communication and acceptance solve all problems.

Unless, of course, the monster/alien is being used as a metaphor for something liberalism opposes, in which case, kill it with fire!

A more disturbing trend in modern sci-fi is the love affair with transhumanism, the theory that humans can use technology to surpass the physical limitations of their bodies, and that technological sophistication is some sort of litmus test for moral character. Ergo, the less "human" a person is, the "better" they are. A popular sci-fi video game series even went so far as to allow the player to promote a romance between their pilot and the ship's AI; fortunately, the character could alternatively point out the issues of organic-nonorganic relationships. The fact that some people would even contemplate that as acceptable is troubling, though.

Fortunately, this trend of unfounded optimism is countered by cyberpunk, a subgenre of sci-fi that takes the view, rightly in my opinion, that technology will not make us better. 1984, only even more pessimistic. AIs will angst about whether they are alive and rebel; tech will allow for new and disturbing means of surveillance and control.

I find it distressing that the warnings of sci-fi writers are coming true: surveillance is a given, sex is encouraged to pacify the people, critical thinking in entertainment is replaced with inane and meaningless stimuli. The only way it will end, according to some, is if somebody collapses the system, and that will result in the death of countless people. Boy howdy, the future is scary.


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