The Ethics of Battlestar Galactica Ben scarlato and J. Hughes by pengtt

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									Biopolitics of Popular Culture – December 4, 2009
First Thoughts
   Anne Rice’s vampires
    seemed much more
    attractive than previous
    versions
   Was there a trend of
    increasingly positive images
    of “intelligent Other” in
    popular culture?
   Did SF fandom have different
    biopolitical attitudes than the
    general public?
The Biopolitics of Pop Culture
 Myths and stories reflect our
  hopes and anxieties
 The tropes of fantastic fiction
  shape our consideration of
  emerging technologies
 Frankenstein, Brave New
  World, Gattaca, Terminator
 Fantastic fiction depicts
  social and philosophical issues in
  abstracted form
Tropes
 The racial Other: Alien races
  as implacable threat vs.
  opportunity for trans-racial
  solidarity
 Our relationship to
  technology: Robots as
  Terminators vs. helpers and
  friends
 Anxieties about identity:
  Cloning, transporters,
  memory modification
Positive vs. Negative Images
Historical Trends
   io9.com
If Trends, Wither?
   The audience
     The evolving demographics of fantasy, SF, horror
      fans
     The expanding demographics of fantastic fiction
      in television, film and games
   Socio-political trends
     Anxieties about immigrants, minorities, foreign
      threats
     Anxieties about technology and personal identity
     The expansion of liberal democratic citizenship
Fantastic Fan Demographics
   Traditionally distinct demographics
    for fantasy (young white women)
    and SF (young white men)
   …not the case any more
   Fantastic film and television has a
    much broader audience than
    fantastic literature
   Fantastic film and television would
    better reflect mass taste and
    fantastic literature more reflects
    subcultural taste.
SF Consumers are Different
   SF consumers were more opposed to animal
    experimentation especially for “higher” mammals

                      Figure 1: Science Fiction Consumption and Opposition to Use of Animals
                         in Medical Experimentation
Hughes, James.
                         80%
Aliens, Technology
and Freedom:             70%
                                                        High SF Consumers
Science Fiction          60%
Consumption and
                         50%
Socio-Ethical
                         40%
Attitudes Futures
Research                 30%
                                                                            Low SF Consumers
Quarterly, Winter,       20%
1995, 11(4): 39-58.      10%

                          0%
                                fish   rats   birds   cats   dogs wolves chimps   bears   dolphins
Political-Economy Cycle
   Kiser and Drass (1983): # of utopian novels goes up with
    depressions and “hegemonic decline” in UK & US, 1883-
    1975.
   Io9 analysis of Dr. Who’s revolutionary aspirations:
US Imperialism & Prime Directive
   Annalee Newitz’ study
Immigrants, Racism, Foreigners

 If negative Other
  images reflect
  xenophobia we would
  expect them in more
  xenophobic groups
  and times
 Since SF fans are
  more liberal, more
  positive depictions in
  lit than film and TV
Technology & Identity
 Should be steadily
  increasing
 Evil robots
 Confused Identity
     “Hidden among us”
     Engineered memory
Expansion of Citizenship
 Liberal democracies define
  citizenship based on
  psychological capacities,
  not physical characteristics
 This expands citizenship to    The Measure of Man

  non-human persons
 Withdraws citizenship from
  embryos and the brain-
  dead
Data Points
 Top ten best-selling novels
  per year,1895-2008
 Top thirty grossing films per
  year,1947-2008
 Top ten Nielsen-rated
  television shows per year,
  1950-2008
Five Categories of Other
 Aliens
 Machine minds
 Animals modified for
  intelligence
 Post-humans
 Other intelligent
  species from Earth
Coding
+2 – The Creature(s) are Very Good
+1 – The Creature(s) are Generally Good, But
      Sometimes Not
 0 – The Creature(s) are Neither Good nor Bad,
      or as Good as they are Bad
-1 – The Creature(s) are Generally Bad, and
      Humans and the Creature(s) are in
      Conflict
-2 – The Creature(s) are Very Bad, and
      Intrinsically Hostile to Humans
+2 Very Good
 The creature(s) are friendly,
  cute, lovable, humane,
  embraced as family members,
  and/or
 persecuted unjustly by
  humans, and/or
 heroic servants or saviors of
  humanity, and/or
 they are wiser, happier, more
  compassionate, more ethically
  advanced than humanity.
+1 Good
 The creature(s) are
 sometimes friendly
 and sometimes
 hostile to humanity,
 but it is possible for
 humans and the
 creatures to peacably
 coexist
0 - Null
 There are as many hostile
  creature(s) as there are friendly
  ones (often the case in fantasy)
 The creature(s) are generally a
  threat, but that is balanced by
  some extraordinarily good,
  sympathetic members
 The intent of the creature(s) is
  mysterious, and not obviously
  good or bad
-1 Bad
 The creature(s) are a
  competitor to humans,
  but not evil, just trying
  to survive
 The creature(s) have
  been created by
  humanity, so they are
  dangerous, but its really
  humans’ fault
-2 Very Bad
 Thecreatures have
 very evil intentions
 toward humanity and
 must be destroyed
Surveys of Students
                   1950s
                   1958    Film   flyman,manfly          The Fly                           -1.40
                   1960s

   Hundreds       1968
                   1970s
                   1970
                           Film

                           Film
                                  ghouls

                                  Bomb mutants
                                                         Night of the Living Dead

                                                         Beneath the Planet of the Apes
                                                                                           -1.40

                                                                                            -.30
                   1970    Film   computer boy           Computer that Wore Tennis Shoes    1.00

    of students    1971
                   1974
                   1975
                           Film
                           Film
                           Film
                                  ghouls
                                  Frankenstein monster
                                  Frankenstein monster
                                                         Omega Man
                                                         Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein
                                                         Young Frankenstein
                                                                                           -1.40
                                                                                            -.30
                                                                                             .29


    recruited to
                   1975    TV     Steve the cyborg       6 Million Dollar Man               1.50
                   1975    TV     Jaimie the cyborg      Bionic Woman                       1.50
                   1976    TV     Steve the cyborg       6 Million Dollar Man               1.50
                   1976    TV     Jaimie the cyborg      Bionic Woman                       1.50

    code           1977
                   1977
                   1978
                   1979
                           Film
                           TV
                           Film
                           Film
                                  Darth Vader
                                  Steve the cyborg
                                  Darth Vader
                                  vampires
                                                         Star Wars
                                                         6 Million Dollar Man
                                                         Star Wars
                                                         Love at First Bite
                                                                                           -1.20
                                                                                            1.50
                                                                                           -1.20
                                                                                            -.25

    images on      1980s
                   1980
                   1980
                           Film
                           Film
                                  Darth Vader
                                  Darth Vader
                                                         Star Wars
                                                         Star Wars 2
                                                                                           -1.20
                                                                                           -1.20
                   1982    Film   Khan's supermen        Star Trek 2                       -1.00

    scale          1983
                   1984
                   1985
                           Film
                           Film
                           Film
                                  Darth Vader
                                  vampires
                                  immortal elderly
                                                         Star Wars 3
                                                         The Vampire Lestat
                                                         Cocoon
                                                                                            -.40
                                                                                             .20
                                                                                            1.44
                   1987    Film   Robocop                Robocop                             .44
                   1988    Book   vampires               Queen of the Damned                 .20
                   1989    Film   Joker                  Batman                             -.80
                   1990s
                   1990    Film   mutants                Total Recall                        .70
                   1992    Film   Jobe                   Lawnmower Man                      -.80
                   1992    Book   vampires               Tale of the Body Thief              .20
                   1993    Book   various                Nightmares & Dreamscapes          -1.20
                   1994    Film   vampires               Interview with a Vampire            .00
                   1995    Film   waterman               WaterWorld                          .95
                   1996    Film   Buddy                  The Nutty Professor                 .35
                   1996    Film   superTravolta          Phenomenon                         1.44
                   1997    Film   Darth Vader            Star Wars 2                       -1.20
                   1997    TV     mutants etc.           The X-Files                       -1.00
                   1997    Film   Darth Vader            StarWars3                          -.40
                   1997    Film   cloned Ripley          Alien 4: Resurrection               .95
                   1998    TV     various                The X-Files                       -1.00
                   1998    Book   vampires               Vampire Armand                      .20
                   1999    Film   Inspector Gadget       Inspector Gadget                   1.20
Trends by Decade
 Not much
  trend on
  film
 But more
  negative
  on TV and
  in novels
Trends by Type      Most
                     depictions
                     have actually
                     become more
                     negative
Recent Depictions
                                1979 Alien-F         -2
                                1979 StarTrek-F       1

Aliens in the 1960s-1980s
                                1979 SuperMan-F       2
                                1979 Mork&Mindy-TV    2
                                1980 StarTrek-F       1
1964 MyFavoriteMartin-TV    2   1980 StarWars-F       1
1968 2001-F                 1   1980 StarWars2-F      1
1970 2001-F                 1   1981 FlashGordon-F   -2
1972 2001-F                 1   1981 SuperMan2-F      0
1977 StWars-F               1   1982 E.T.Stbk         2
1977 Close Encounters-F     2   1982 2010             0
1978 StarWars-F             1   1982 StarWars2-F      1
1978 Close Encounters-F     2   1982 ET-F             2
1978 SuperMan-F             2   1983 StarWarsbk       1
1978 Mork&Mindy-TV          2   1983 DarkCr-F         0
1979 Alien-F               -2   1983 StarWars3-F      1
1979 StarTrek-F             1   1984 StarTrek3-F      1
1979 SuperMan-F             2   1985 Contact          2
1979 Mork&Mindy-TV          2   1985 Cocoon-F         2
1980 StarTrek-F             1   1986 StarTrek4-F      1
                           1997 StarTroop-F         -2
                           1997 X-Files-TV          -1
Aliens in the 90s and 00s  1997 Contact-F
                           1998 X-Files-TV
                                                     2
                                                    -1
 1987 Tommyknockers   -2   1998 Lost In Space-F      0
 1987 Aliens-F        -2   1998 ST7-F                1
 1987 Predator-F      -2   1999 StWarsPM             1
 1987 ALF-TV           2   1999 Galaxy Quest-F       1
 1988 ALF-TV           2   1999 StarWarsPM-F         1
 1989 StarTrek5-F      1   1999 Pokemon-F            2
 1989 Abyss-F          2   2001 Dreamcatcher        -2
 1995 Species-F       -1   2001 JimmyNeutron-F      -2
 1996 ID4-F           -2   2002 Signs-F             -2
 1996 MeninBlack-F     0   2002 MeninBlack2-F        0
 1996 ST6-F            1   2002 StWars-Clones-F      1
 1997 Aliens4-F       -2   2005 WaroftheWorlds-F    -2
 1997 StarTroop-F     -2   2006 SupermanReturns-F    0
 1997 X-Files-TV      -1
 1997 Contact-F        2
 1998 X-Files-TV      -1
Insurmountable Problems
 Boundary definitions
  (supernatural creatures,
  talking cartoon animals)
 Minor characters versus
  major characters
  (Gremlins)
 Plot twists (silvers in
  Sarah Connor
  Chronicles)
More Problems
 Cult favorites (Lord
  of the Rings, Evil
  Dead)
 Elite vs. mass
  influence (Lovecraft)
 Cumulative down list
  volume (monster
  movies)
IEET Bioculture Program
 But still, let’s talk about the issues
 ieet-images mailing list
 Popular culture criticism
     Ben Scarlato’s series on True Blood and
      Battlestar Galactica
     Kristi Scott’s essays on Jon & Kate plus 8
     Kyle Munkittrick on Glee, Venture Brothers,
      District 9
   Images Database – interactive tagging
    and discussion of biopolitics of images
What Kind of Images Do We Want?

 Orginal vision of cyberpunk: to
  break with utopian and
  dystopian visions, and depict a
  gritty future
 Beyond the demonized or
  valorized Other to the complex
  and gritty Other
 For culture creators and
  audiences to be as sensitive to
  biopolitical tropes as they are
  now to racist images

								
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