From Le Voyage dans la Lune directed by Georges Méliès released in 1902 to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey released in 1968, outer space exploration in cinema has become increasingly popular throughout the years. Although the novelty of the dark and faraway unknown is enough to spike the curious audience’s interest, space and our vast galaxy has also served as the backdrop in film to highlight existing earth-bound concerns as reflected by the filmmaker’s position on the state of our world. One truly current example would be the movie Interstellar directed by Christopher Nolan that takes place in a future not so distant from our own where Earth has become inhabitable and therefore humans […]
In THX 1138, George Lucas tackles the question of what would happen if science, religion, and the state all merged together with the corporation. In an hour long amalgam of state mandated drug plans, a repressive surveillance state, psychological torture, and sexual repression George Lucas asks the question – is freedom worth it even if it probably means death?
The film hits three themes I want to explore here. First is the fusion of religion, technology and the state. Second is the nature of empathy of machines. Here “machine” means both computers and the “social machine.” Third is agency in the age of bioengineering, psychological […]
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “In the Pale Moonlight” premiered on April 15th, 1998 and is definitely an outlier in the Star Trek universe. Star Trek has always been considered a utopian science fiction universe. When the Star Trek premiered in 1966 it depicted a future that where humans made it past their nuclear adolescence and prejudices. Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) continued this tradition and took it a step further: society was so perfect we were even beyond interpersonal conflict.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) diverges from its parent series in a few ways, but the most important is that it is not the utopian world most Trekkies(ers) have come to […]
Dollhouse is a science fiction television show created by Joss Whedon and produced in 2009. The story follows a series of “dolls,” which are essentially indentured servants who have signed away their consciousness, personality and memory for five years in exchange for a large sum of money. These dolls, also called ‘actives,’ are temporarily implanted with various personalities and skill sets stored on hard drives, and rented by rich clients for specific purposes, (often as escorts, prostitutes, or lovers, but also as thieves, stand-in-wives or mothers, demolitions expert, etc.)
Whedon intended for the show to examine our inner-most fantasies and the forbidden, intimate areas of sexuality. This stands out from the prime-time television of its moment, […]
Released in 1998 under the direction of Shinichirō Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop is a hot genre mess. The title of the show already points towards two of the main stylistic pillars of the show: the American western and (the also American) jazz music; but those are hardly the only two ingredients in this brew! the delightful intro to the show lays out that in addition we are dealing with a science fiction anime which also pays homage to film noir. What was especially interesting about Bebop when it came out was how modern the show felt. And although this might seem far-fetched, since we can also use the term modern to describe the […]
Gene Roddenberry may have been the first to pitch his television show as a “wagon train to the stars” (Worland, 20), but subsequent series such as Firefly have shown us that there’s more than one way to write a space western. While Roddenberry’s final frontier is explored by members of a utopian society intent on traveling the galaxy in a quest to better themselves and expand their understanding of life in all forms, in Firefly the idea of “the frontier” comes to have a very different meaning. Rather than setting forth as the sworn representatives of a highly principled society, Serenity’s criminal crew roam the […]
Futurama occupies a curious place in the history of science fiction media. The animated television show, created by Matt Groening, is both science fiction comedy and science fiction parody. It engages with a rich history of science fiction, representing and reimagining it within its own universe, while at the same time developing its own ideas about science fiction and the future. By doing this it places itself in dialogue with the rich history of science fiction while also securing its place within that history.
Parody and referential comedy are written in to the show’s blood from the beginning. In the opening minutes of the pilot there are […]
***Note for reading: Westworld (italicized) refers to the film production as a whole while Westworld (not italicized) refers to the artificial wild western vacation world.
The mechanical creation of a host in Westworld
Westworld, the 2016 version released by HBO in early October, is loosely based off of a film that debuted in 1973 under the same name. Thus far, the contemporary version focuses on only one of the three vacation worlds presented in the original: the wild west. Guests, affluent human customers, pay inordinate amounts of money to participate as invincible agents […]
Set at 8:49pm, “somewhere in the 20th Century,” Brazil (1985) conveys nightmarish aspects of the past, present, and future. Its unnamed metropolis is dark and dystopic. When the bombs explode, the band quite literally plays on because terror is so commonplace. Denizens dress in the fashion of the 1940s, and the propaganda posters are styled in the manner of the 1930s. (see: Dessem) There is advanced technology, but it is faulty, to the point of being slapstick. A robotic arm pours coffee on toast; a plastic surgery procedure turns an old woman slowly into goo. The city is ruled by the Ministry of Information, a government composed of fumbling bureaucrats, of endlessly connecting and malfunctioning […]
Orphan Black follows protagonist Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) as she discovers that she is a clone, meets her sister clones and Tony (a transgender brother clone), and uncovers several clandestine organizations and plots related to human cloning and eugenics. Set in modern day, the clones’ (all played by Maslany) interactions with powerful institutions, each other, and society reflect and challenge contemporary gender dynamics and norms. Just as George Rutledge argues that Samuel Delany’s work is informed by the Black Power movement of his time, Orphan Black is in conversation with the current feminist context.[i] A significant theme in contemporary feminism involves highlighting and supporting a range of identities and choices instead of prioritizing […]
The 2010 film TiMER presents a world in which, sometime during the 1990’s, scientists discovered that at some point in their lives, all human beings meet their soul mate. With this new knowledge, a device called the TiMER was developed that would count down until the night before the user met their soul mate and go off when they first laid eyes on each other. In the opening credits, a collection of news pieces about the TiMER, the device is touted as the “next step in computer matchmaking.” The creator explains that it is implanted into the wrist right after the onset of puberty and uses body heat to measure levels of oxytocin. Fifteen years […]