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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In the Future Everything Will Be About Race

The Atlantic has published a piece by Noah Berlatsky called "Star Wars and the Four Ways Science Fiction Handles Race" that amazingly discovers that every major science fiction film is about race and bigotry. For instance, did you know that "Star Wars encapsulates a pop-culture tradition of space operas that can easily invent spaceships and robots and aliens, but that helplessly acquiesce to old, stereotypical treatments of gender and race"? (Actually, the word is "archetype" and "myth" rather than stereotype--as in the movie was heavily influenced by the Hero With a Thousand Faces). Or that the bugs in Starships Troopers represented oppressed natives?  Because, of course, a book or movie can't be about a comparison of political systems, or imagining a culture where the right to vote is reserved to those who earn the right, and a bug just can't be a bug. Interestingly, the one aspect where the movie is blatantly discriminatory is its treatment of Mormons, yet Berlatsky doesn't even mention that.

In a statement sure to bring a chuckle, Berlatsky writes:
Much more thoughtful is Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, in which differences between human/android (or, by metaphor, whites/non-whites) are presented less as absolutes than as profiling tools for law enforcement.
Although the book actually is about exploring what it really means to be human. Or this statement:
For example, in Aliens the human exploratory force includes a number of non-white characters, while the nightmare monsters are stand-ins for the Viet Cong.
I guess I never noticed the Aliens' black pajamas and communist rhetoric (although, I have to admit they did act like liberals--destroying everyone they encountered).

And Star Trek, praised by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., for its progressive stance on racial integration, (including the first mixed-racial kiss on television) has now just become yet another example of racism:
It can be heartening to think about a future in which racial difference is no longer the weight it is now, as in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. But tokenism's refusal to directly confront racism can also end up backfiring. The white guy in the original Star Trek leads the diverse crew with the black woman as the space secretary, or the black best friend stands off to the side somewhere,...
Never mind the Uhura was one of the top officers on the ship, and responsible for communications--not a secretary. (The secretary was actually played by a blonde).

What is probably going on here is a projection--Berlatsky life view is apparently centered around his racism, which he necessarily believes everyone else must be the same. I'm sure a good psychiatrist could help.

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