The Horror Honeys: HSM ~ The Sci-Fi of Sociology, the Sociology of Sci-Fi: Part 2!

HSM ~ The Sci-Fi of Sociology, the Sociology of Sci-Fi: Part 2!

A Honey Switch Month Essay from Sci-Fi Honey Linnie

One of the (many) reasons I have always loved science fiction is that it is more than just an entertaining genre of film and literature; it's a wonderful snapshot in the real fears and societal issues that have plagued human history. Sci-fi has the ability to act as both a satisfying spine-tingler and a reminder of the ways in which we have grown and changed as a species.

As well as the ways we haven't.

This month, I thought it would be fun to look back at all the sci-fi films that represent different societal issues and fears that have been on the minds of writers and directors at the times the films were made. Some are issues we still deal with today, while others may feel a little foreign. But they all lead to some brilliant piece of science fiction cinema!

Check out last week's list here! Now the only question is...

Pollution/Water Wars

Fear over the man-made destruction Earth has been a very real concern since the earliest days of science-fiction cinema. Initially, much of that concern lie in the dangers of nuclear war, and the imminent destruction of life as we knew it via nuclear radiation (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Them, Fail Safe, A Boy and His Dog, The Damned). This was a valid worry that is still relevant today, when a nuclear war is a very real threat at any given time. But eventually, there was a switch in concerns, when the reality of the Earth's destruction via pollution or world-wide loss of water began to dominate the science-fiction consciousness. Awareness of climate change, and spreading global knowledge of drilling accidents, oil spills, nuclear reactor disasters, and leaking toxic waste resulted in general terror about the way we treat the very soil we stand on every day.

As a result, our sci-fi began to reflect these concerns. Beginning in 1981 with George Miller's The Road Warrior, the concept of a future in which resource wars were a very real possibility were put to celluloid, and also managed to be eerily prophetic. The possibility of future in which countries fight over water wasn't just predicted, but so was a future in which the world went to war over gas and oil (*cough cough* Gulf War, Iraq War, Afghanistan War *cough cough*). Water wars were also the catalyst for both the comic and film versions of Tank Girl, as well as the recent sci-fi/action film Turbo Kid. In a world where we never really know when our resources might run out, the fact that science-fiction could become science-fact seems ever more possible.

Don't even PRETEND your heart didn't explode.
And of course, never was pollution so lovable adorable and yet... terrifying... as it was in Pixar's WALL-e, a glance at the future of Earth after we've literally covered it in garbage and become too fat to walk on our own. The Republican right viewed WALL-e as leftist propaganda, but really... that's only the case if you refuse to acknowledge the fact that Pixar doesn't just throw their films together. This sweet romance film about two lovable robots is a stark glimpse of the future if we don't start respecting the Earth and, you know... walking occasionally. And don't forget, while some of us may be happy watching nothing but Hello, Dolly! for the rest of our lives (me), that could be YOUR future if you don't start being smart about reusing instead of recycling, recycling when you have to, and only throwing away in an absolute emergency.

Video Game Culture

When our parents (or us, depending on your age) were fiddling with Atari, no one really anticipated how immersive, how all-consuming, and how utterly life-altering video games would eventually become. No one, that is, except John Badham, who directed WarGames in 1983 and predicted one stupid kid might end the world by playing Global Thermonuclear Warfare without realizing it was actually real. Damn you, Broderick! Having been born in 1983, I wasn't able to experience the release first hand, but I can only imagine how ridiculous the idea seemed; the idea that not only would kids be playing war games one day, but that the world would one day be so connected, it would be possible for a child to hack into NORAD and almost destroy the world.

No, Joshua. No.
By 1999, the world had moved beyond the DOS dangers of WarGames, to a future that also seemed ridiculous via David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. As usual, Cronenberg wasn't too far off being prescient, in that he created a video game system that looked like a kidney and plugged into a port in your spine to create the ultimate virtual reality experience. In Cronenberg's world, people are willing to kill, and die, for a video game system. Multiple movies in the 90s seemed to predict a world in which virtual reality gaming dominated the market (Brainscan, Evolver), but none went as far as eXistenZ in terms of connection system to gamer, and that reality is becoming more and more likely every day. 

However, one way in which Cronenberg WAY overestimated the intelligence of the future gaming world? His gaming programmer, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), was a woman. And no one gave her shit for it.

Creepy or not, I'd rather live in this future.

War... Lots and Lots of War

Sci-fi has always focused on the future of modern warfare, because war has been a reality of human nature since the first caveman picked up the first rock and got pissed at his caveman neighbor for not curbing his mammoth... or something. Some movies about war have been retrospective, but science-fiction has always had a very grim view of the future of war. Unless that movie is Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, which had a very jovial view of the grim future of war. This brilliant dark comedy classic should be mandatory viewing for all politicians who seem excited about the prospect of going to war. Because whether with Dr. Strangelove or Paths of Glory, Kubrick understood... war is hell.

Or fun, if you're riding a bomb.
Another film awkwardly praised for what seemed to be its awkwardly accurate prediction of the "War of Terror," even if it was entirely by accident, was Starship Troopers. But, even if you discount all of the possible connections to future war, Starship Troopers was a strangely brilliant, if entirely terrible, meditation on the commercialization of war, focusing on military propaganda, the fetishization of the Armed Forces, and the reality of sending the young and untrained into battle when they aren't prepared. Starship Troopers may not be a good movie, but in its own way... it's kind of a great movie.

Vagina bugs... Warning you to be nice to Muslims. Seriously.
Thank you for joining me for this look at the history of society and science-fiction! I've thoroughly enjoyed my time as Sci-Fi Honey, and while I will miss the designation, I know Katie is happy to return to her own genre :)

What is YOUR favorite political sci-fi movie?
Tell Linnie on Twitter: @linnieloowho