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AND 1960 TOO - SCI-FI IS GREAT FOR HANDLING CONTROVERSIAL CONCEPTS IN A NON-THREATENING WAY

In recent weeks I watched three of my favorite sci-fi/horror movies: The Thing from another world (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and The Time Machine (1960).

I love older movies because, despite having limited special-effects, their characters are much better developed and their “messages” generally much more subtle and universal.

Although the remake of The Thing was closer to the novel, and the original movie was certainly influenced by the times, the themes developed in the 1951 classic are still relevant today - as are the themes of all three movies.

In the original, the “mad scientist” concept is paramount to the plot but, at the time, in a unique way. It’s clear that this tired, dry, effete “little man" of a scientist“, so cold and calculating, is the real villain in the movie.

He is representative of every small human elitist on the planet, every politician, pundit, and pontificator, every agenda-driven "researcher" today who thinks he or she has appropriated some self-endowed entitlement to decide what is good for mankind and conspires to stuff their agenda down our throats.

The poor thing is simply a creature following it’s instincts to survive; the scientist is a creature with an intellect but neither heart nor soul nor understanding.

He pretends to pursue “knowledge” and thinks he can quantify everything around him. He attempts to find some rationale for his own existence by holding up his measuring stick to the stars and thereby demonstrate some proof of his own importance.

He foolishly thinks the power of his intellect will be recognized by the thing, but his condescension is met with the ultimate slap-back. You see, everyone around him is but a tool, including the obviously-bent-on-destruction “monster” from outer space he pretends to want to understand. He does not seek to understand, really, but to control.

He fails to see reality directly in front of him, blinded by his theories, groggy from too many hours peering into microscopes and crunching too many numbers.

It is not science that saves the day, not the philosopher, not the reporter, not the sophist,
but the flesh-and-blood soldier who ignores his own fears, stands up to aggression, and responds in kind. We win the day but we are left to wonder whether succeeding confrontations will be successful. It depends, you see, on us being vigilent. Funny and dangerous things are always falling from the sky.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers has always been one of my favorite movies. I saw the recent “remake”, Invasion and got exactly what I expected, a politically-correct, special-effects crammed mass of confusion, illogic, and contradictions, with a “message” that seems to have been thought through as an afterthought.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers has similarities to the original concept in The Thing as expressed in the original storyWho Goes There? and also the remake of The Thing. The person you’re talking to, have known all your life, may not be who you think, may have indeed been taken over by some unknown force, perhaps some strange alien presence.

I think about such things today when talking to people I haven’t seen for awhile, wondering if they are the people I think they are, or if I ever actually knew them. I imagine that I'm seeing a lot of "Pod people". People are so guarded in how much they reveal of themselves, often so programmed in how to respond. We are at the same time quite discriminating at what we chose to observe, what we notice. I’ve always tried to be the kind of person where what you see is what you get. I really do.

I tend to believe that people are the sum of their experiences and how they look at things, if they really look at things at all, that their views are shaded by what has affected them in the past. And yet, as in the pod people, you can have the sum total of all those experiences in your back pocket and still lack that spark that makes you uniquely human.

Uniqueness is not defined by the movies you watch, the color of your hair, the car you drive, or the neighborhood you live in either. Even pods can seemingly stand apart with that kind of window-dressing too. Uniqueness is most easily seen in the spark of someone's eye and how they dip their French fries, or not.

It’s so funny how certain progressive or regressive movements require a kind of group think, blind acceptance of the current program, a dependence on the pronouncements of “others” for validation of one’s worth. Any attack on any of the group’s tenets is met with first denial and later, ultimately, rage. It is religion turned on its head.

For those less brave or indifferent, it’s easier just to nod in agreement than it is to go against the flow. Insecurity is a terrible condition and lethargy its sister. Unfortunately, we seem to be entering a phase where we can no longer sit idly by, because the institutions around us are slowly being compromised and non-participation will soon not be optional.

Which brings me to my third movie, The Time Machine.

The Time Machine has an interesting scene I never fully understood as a child but do now. Remember when Rod Taylor travels into the far distant future and is gazing on this idyllic peaceful setting when Yvette Mimieux suddenly falls into the river and no one goes in to help?

As a kid, I thought maybe that the evil Moorlocks had hypnotized or drugged these passive Eloi to the point they wouldn’t do anything to help themselves, or perhaps that some strange non-violence philosophy demanded that they go the ultimate distance in “turning the other cheek”.

As I grew older, of course, I realized I was wrong and what the message was. The collectivist utopian philosophy was a crutch and a rationalization. When people, or governments, give you everything you need, where you are told where to live, when to come and go, what to eat, etc., human nature is suppressed and people become soft, docile, totally lacking in self-preservation and self-determination, and totally obsessed with pleasure and “higher pursuits”. When someone else is need, the tendency is to say, "Let the others take care of it."

Life is a struggle, as all of these movies and others like them demonstrate … subtly though those lessons might have been presented. Indeed, the Rod Taylor character declares to the emasculated and mindless Eloi before descending into the lower depths to battle the Morlocks and recover the time machine, that rather than live like sheep, he preferred to return to his own time to "die among men."

There are so many similarities with the themes of creaky old movies and what is going on today, so clear how the twisted philosophies and fears of mankind never seem to change, and how easily some people take the bait, and simply give in and say, "That's not my problem".

Watch the skies!

***

if you're lost you can look - and you will find me
time after time
if you fall I will catch you - I'll be waiting
time after time


***

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
tniassaint
Dec. 12th, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC)
Of course the problem works both ways. Science more often then not, due to the critical and competitive evaluations of peers and the very nature of the proper application of scientific method, holds up to scrutiny rather well; and in so many cases we hear in interviews and read in journals and articles, “It followed the models perfectly!”. This is due to the detail that goes into developing the models.

There is a move, spearheaded by the religious right, to discredit the scientific community and our understanding of science in the United States. Of course they do not see it that way, and would argue that they are simply making “corrections” to the process. I think it's a bunch of bunk. Should the religious right have its way, OR should we follow dubya down the path of scientific dis-enlightenment we will QUICKLY find we have stuck our head in the sand and pulled it out to a world were we have become the toddlers in a word full of all growed up (sic) technologists.

Most of the areas that I run into disputes with people on issues relating to technology they tend to get hung up on the moral aspects of the technology (be it real or imagined), or a lack of understanding of the technology (not surprising), political misrepresentation, . . . or the dreaded theological dispute. The first and last of these issues are pretty much intractable. So many folk have simply decided that faith and science cannot mix. The political problem is a tough nut too as politics tend to be held as strongly (esp in the religious right) as religious beliefs.

In the case of dubya and his minions all four of these problems exist.

I do not know if I agree with your interpretation of the old scifi movies. I have to admit that while I LOVE these old films, you have seen FAR more of them then I have, and my interpretation has a generational difference - for sure.

As for the issue of science and validity, it is a matter of balance. I have always said that. The truth is usually in the middle somewhere. Those that follow science religiously have the same issues of extremes and the associated inability to apply fair criticism to the subjects as their religious counterparts. As for the part about ramming it down our collective throats . . . well . . . politicians, environmentalists, preachers, and scientists (etc.) sometimes all get to feeling that their cause is paramount to all other things and we MUST listen or face doom. Most of these folk have good intentions methinks. I think it is much more a problem of the character of the individual rather then of the process or the culture. I also believe this to be true of most arguments relating to forms of governments (a different but related conversation - for instance: Socialism is not the evil, it is the lawless, opportunistic, criminal THUGS that tend to end up in power that is the problem). One think I liked in the film Metropolis was the ending that really showed the need for balance.

Group think . . . a reason I never seem to fit into groups. I think that to some degree or another even the NON-PROGRESSIVE mindsets have this problem. Within ANY organization there is a trend to want everyone to tote the group mindset along with them everywhere. I don't think it is fair to attribute this to any one subculture (for lack of a better term – I am not working on all levels today).

Remember --- the Gods help those that help themselves.

We would all like to have a benefactor to allow us to pursue our greater interests.

Sometimes - I would say USUALLY - the scientists are right. It is easy for a film maker to write in any details they want. I still like to watch them.
metaphorsbwithu
Dec. 12th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!
When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to know things because I was curious about finding the truth. I learned along the way that, in most cases, real truth is hard to find and there are those that out-and-out try to prevent you from seeing it.

It always cuts both ways when people have an agenda. When I attended Catholic school, we discussed how it was certainly possible for God to create a world in the way He saw fit, through evolution or whatever. We had a very open and liberal education, even in the olden days. The "religious right" has their own agenda, so their "science" will be slanted. They are entitled to their beliefs. Religion and science make strange bedfellows. Radical Islam, I am told, believes Jews are descended from apes, so go figure.

These are but isolated interpretations of movies that have, I believe, the general themes I have so crudely described. It shows how far Hollywood has sunk, I suppose. There were different messages promoted in different movies, like the scientist(s) as savior in Day the World Stood Still, which I love too and, when I was young, with which I identified most strongly.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of critics are not "anti-science". That is one of the tired cliches many liberals, progressives and other sloppy thinkers (I don't mean you) resort to when intellectually challenged. It does cut both ways. Creationists try to insert their editorial opinions on evolution theory as science, while doctors, researchers, and scientists fudge their statistics for monetary gain and prestige. Or do you think that doctors do not take money from drug companies for prescribing, even promoting, their products, or that young climatologists don't follow the program in order to keep or get jobs and funding.

Thank goodness there are still objective critics who see things differently and are brave enough to go against the "religiosity" of some science, in this case, with the current shameful promotion of the politically-motivated global warming scam. When scientists, politicians, and the media continue to tell us the debate is over regarding an issue so complex and so unsubstantiated as man-made global warming, a warning light should go off. However, amid a rising chorus of objections from hundreds and hundreds of published scientists, and humble bloggers like myself, the one-sided drumbeat continues.

We used to have movies and books to help us see the truth, but unfortunately, the Hollywood crowd and most of the union of writers, along with the news media, have made their pact with the devil. There is information, but it is getting harder and harder to get the real story out, to show what the facts really are, and to create a real dialog.

Most people won't care until their pocketbooks are being hit a bit too hard. Have you noticed the price of eggs lately? I know. It's Bush's fault. Unfortunately, without someone with actual influence taking a stand, the misinformation and out-and-out fabrications will probably continue to be spread, especially in the elementary schools, until, perhaps, people are too mind-numbed and powerless to resist.

Or, perhaps, maybe some bright young kid will lead us out of all this. It could happen.

You really should watch these movies with the context of the post WWII and Cold War era in mind. I wonder how you'll explain to your grand-kids how we made such funny and mindless movies in the olden days.

Edited at 2007-12-12 05:33 pm (UTC)
tniassaint
Dec. 12th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
Re: You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!
Oh for sure Doctors take the dreaded Rx money... I have little sympathy for them. I have a pretty dim opinion of most business practices in the US Health system.

The thing with Scientific Review is that what you do and what you publish WILL be beaten up and tested against to determine validity - not just hearsay.

cough cough... one sided drumbeat. You must have one good ear and one bad one. There have been plenty of drumbeats from both my ears.

It will be interesting trying to explain The Mouse that Roared to the small boy...
metaphorsbwithu
Dec. 12th, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
Re: You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!
I read The Mouse That Roared in Eighth Grade and it was clear by page two. I never saw the complete movie.

I'm talking about the drumbeat in the media, commercials, and UN-sponsored forums, not articles the average erson never reads. State after state is looking into how to tax us for things that will do nothing but make money for people in the loop, green companies, and foreign governments looking to extract money from rich countries. Al Gore should be registered as a paid lobbyist. Maybe he is.

Scientist after scientist have been coming out and revealing the dirty little not-so-secret that young climatologists are being pressured into following the GW template for the sake of their careers. No one will debate in public aside from an occasional university here and there.

Oh, I'm sure you know the source of the little header I put up. Explain that movie to Ian. *lol* Do you know how the character wasn't that far off from what scientists actually feared in the 1940's? If not, I'll clue you in.

Edited at 2007-12-12 08:01 pm (UTC)
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