Sunday, March 22, 2009

Old Sci-Fi rocks

I try to avoid the generational error whereby a generation considers itself superior to all generations before and all generations that have come since. You know the phrases, "Kids these days!" or "Things were different back in my day" and "my parents live in the stone age."

It's obviously a self-centered predilection, where the world is as you see it, everyone you know sees it similarly, thus that is the correct way. So, I try to avoid that way of thinking and instead search for similarities between generations, because they usually outweigh the differences.

That in mind, as far as pop-culture goes, we were so ridiculously naive not that long ago. I love watching Sci-Fi movies from the 1940's and 1950's. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is also a verdant garden of ripe crap from similar eras to pick apart and laugh at.

The comically overt sexism, racism, and blunt political statements. The ridiculous ways of dress. I love how the men in those Sci-Fi's were so hilariously stereotypical of the ideal, 1940's man. For God's sake, he almost always wore a two piece suit, tie, and smoked a pipe. All that was needed was The Beave (Off topic, but the Beave is going to turn 61 this year. That's just weird.).

And while Science Fiction has always been a mirror on society, in the 1950's it was just silly. They talked, walked, dressed, and acted like us. Hell, they even helpful, yet quiet and demure women on these other, super-advanced worlds! How alien!

My aforementioned generation-centric error applies full well to these works, as well. They assumed that Human life, as it was then, was so already close to perfect that aliens wouldn't be too different. Yes, I can understand that for entertainment purposes, the authors couldn't go too alien for fear of, um, alienating the audience. But still. The audience ate it up. Didn't they bother looking at it with an even remotely incredulous eye?

A good example is one of my favorite movies of all time Forbidden Planet. I can forgive the archaic ideas about how future technology would look; they didn't really have technology, per se, at the time. They were designing blind, so we'll give them a pass. But don't you think they would think that by the year 2200, we might have at least a few women in the space exploration corp? Just a few!? Nope. The only woman in the movie is that aforementioned helpful, but quiet and demure female who is also, thankfully, the damsel in the distress.

Yes, it was based on The Tempest, and yes, there was only one female in that. But last I checked, there wasn't an energy monster, alien civilization, or Frank Drebin. And if source material wants to get involved, in the pilot for Star Trek, future Gene Roddenberry wife Majel Barret played the second-in-command of the Enterprise, and spent most of the episode in control. The network, and apparently the audience, felt that this was unrealistic and that only a man should be in control.

Oh, how far we've come... seriously. I'm not being sarcastic. Well, maybe a little. But hey, Angelina Jolie killed a whole lot of people in Wanted. That's got to be worth something.

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