Thursday, December 31, 2009

Social Commentary in Unexpected Places

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I went to see Avatar last night. I did this because my husband has been dying to see it, and I love him. That is the only reason. I typically cannot stand sci-fi movies, much less 3-hour-long sci-fi movies with blue characters. I had 2 glasses of champagne pre-game hoping it would help me through; I was pleasantly surprised.

This sci-fi movie is really a treehugger, socially liberal movie in disguise. The social commentary included everything from honoring the earth and acknowledging where our food comes from to the horrors of war and greed. Love it! The 3-hour movie length didn't even seem too long.

My surprise over this movie got me this common...for sci-fi movies to really be social commentary and not just aliens and robots shooting each other? As it turns out, it is. Wikipedia says: "Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition."

Here are some that I came up with that I watched in my earlier years that now seem to have been trying to tell me something deeper...maybe even helped cultivate my inner treehugger/liberal:

The Dark Crystal: definitely some good vs. evil to restore the balance of the universe undertones...

E.T.: Steven Speilberg himself called this movie "a minority story." It definitely taught me about tolerance...and the possible exploitative evils of the government.

Wargames: taught us that there is no winner in war. Better to just play a game of chess.

What sci-fi movies can you think of that have an underlying social commentary?

Avatar also made me think of a book that I saw featured on an episode of the Ellen Degeneres show this week; (having a week off of work leaves plenty of time for one to re-discover the trash that is daytime television, though I do like Ellen). It is called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. The author was discussing the book and he wasn't preaching about being vegan or even vegetarian, but encouraging us to at least find out where the meat and animal products we eat come from. He pointed out that some of the major meat producers in the country would not let him visit their farms or plants. He spoke of the evils of caging egg-laying birds and keeping dairy cows indoors and hooked to machines for their whole lives.
Image via here

One of my 31 things to do in my 31st year includes becoming more aware of what I am eating, where it comes from, and how it will affect my health, so this book is next on my list to read.

And my 31 things to do in my 31st year list is coming soon...(my birthday is Sunday, January 3rd).

Has anyone read the book?

1 comment:

  1. Stop reminding me that I'm about to turn 31, too, dammit!!!

    Avatar was a good one, and you're right, there are a lot of social undertones to it. There are lots more, too...

    the Mad Max series (via the apocalypse and the ensuing drastic change in society to a much more violent, take what you need to survive situation)

    Alien Nation, TV series and movie (touches on discrimination, there are even slang terms for the aliens, and they're treated as 2nd class citizens)

    District 9 (aliens come to Earth and are segregated, and again 2nd class citizens forced to live in camps)

    Firefly, TV Series and Serenity, Movie (the story revolves around a gigantic gov't cover-up and highlights the potential evils of big gov't taking away privacy and eliminating certain rights in the name of security)

    That's just a few off the top of my head, but sci-fi is a genre that is very, very active as far as social commentary because it gives us a medium to express our opinions and beliefs, often by substituting an alien race for a minority.

    Now you need to go rent Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (you know, the one with Tina Turner) and watch that... Yimmy will be thrilled!