Science Fiction as Social Commentary


4399421610_45d072076dThe Pink Flamingo has a not so dirty little secret.  I love science fiction.  I’m a Trekkie, unfortunately, I admit to being one of the original Trekkies.  I keep watching the truly abysmal movies in the Sci Fi Channel, hoping that for once, one of them might be half-way decent.  They rarely are, but what the heck, it beats Dancing with the Stars.  (Which I have never watched, ever).

One thing that science fiction fans know, well, is the fact that science fiction movies, especially the “B-Movie” genre, have a tendency to mask social commentary. Every original Trekkie knows that Star Trek was The Great Bird of the Galaxy’s homage to the greatness and the resiliency of humanity.  Created during the height of the Cold War, Star Trek was about mankind’s survival through a series of small scale nuclear catastrophic wars and more importantly humanity’s survival over eugenics.  Roddenberry thought that eugenics were a greater threat to our ultimate survival, not only as a nation, but as a species and a planet.  Looking back, he may have been right.  He figured we would over-come the threat of nuclear annihilation, and racism, to journey toward a future where disease, poverty, and man’s inhumanity to man were over-come, through hard work and space exploration.

I had the great honor of interviewing him in the mid-1980s when it became obvious that we were not going to destroy our world via a massive war with the USSR.  He had reached the point in his life where he was beginning to see his idealism had effected not only a small pocket of geeks and fans, but had become mainstream.  We talked in the bar of the old Holiday Inn, in Clemson, for nearly two hours.  I’d met the man before, and had a fairly good reputation in the field.  He opened up, discussing many cultural aspects of science fiction and Star Trek, in general.

The world was just starting to truly change, technologically.  He was beginning to see that the geekiest fans, who had lived in their parents’ basements, were suddenly on the cusp of some of the greatest developments in the history of humanity.  He told me of one fan, in particular,  and told me that the kid had the potential to change the world.  The only reason I remember the discussion was because a broker I knew was trying to get me to buy some initial stock in the company.

We all know where this is leading.

Roddenberry enjoyed discussing science fiction as social commentary.  We all know that the classic B-Movies from the late 1950s and early 1960s were about the Cold War.  Aliens who were invading were rank with A-bombs, and the ability to infiltrate our society.  The more optimistic among the writers and the most helpless looked to an alien landing on the lawn of the White House and saving us all.

Independence Day saw humanity uniting to defeat an invading enemy who basically wanted to exterminate humanity in order to ecologically destroy the planet, draining it of all our resources to support their polluting society.  In many ways, it was a different take on the ground breaking mini-series V.  In Independence Day, the heroes were fighter pilots, the drunk Vietnam vet, the heroic POTUS, who had prevailed in the first Gulf War, and the hot shot fighter jock of the present.  It was an update of H. G. Wells’ classic War of the Worlds, where science and technology prevail.

If the Sci Fi Channel is today’s version of the Hollywood B-Movie, then the modern enemy is no longer the invading alien or the Cold War.  Today’s evil enemy is the corporate killer, the ultra wealthy CEO who can kill at will.  The bad guys are now basically the Koch Brothers on literary steroids.

Our culture is as paranoid as it was in the mid-1960s when people like my parents’ neighbors build a bomb shelter into their new house.  As bomb shelters go, it was all rather user friendly, and eventually became a great storage area.  It would have done nothing to protect the family from those evil Soviets.

Today, it is the petro-chemical CEO who is the ultimate evil in the world, with their delusional efforts to keep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico at all costs.  They lie, cheat, steal, and murder their way to world domination and a more cost effective bottom line, with the idealistic scientist as the victim to their dreams of economic domination.

In a few years it will be another segment of society that is seen as the ultimate in evil.  Until then, people like the Brothers’ Koch are giving script writers a heck of a lot of good material.  I’m quite sure, this latest effort, for the Kochs to pick up several major national newspapers will only add another storyline.

After all, it is standard disaster movie fare for the mayor and town council of Small Town USA to ignore the demands of the local cops, to shut down what ever the festival is for the weekend.  Just thank Steven Spielberg for that one.



One thought on “Science Fiction as Social Commentary

  1. I am glad to know I am not the only one who never watches Dancing With the Stars. Interesting post!

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