The Other

The Other PicI am surveying science fiction as a way of deciphering the modern myth of the “Other”. I am a big fan of science fiction, especially the ones that challenge our intellects, more literature than space opera. Like Dr. Maggie Macary, I view film and television shows as cultural dreams and living myths.

“The best way to see living myths is through popular culture, like movies and television shows. And using a tangible example, like a TV show, gives people a deeper understanding of living myths that surface in our culture.”

Maggie Macary, PhD

In comparing films such as the Matrix, X-Men, Blade, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Underworld, and Lord of the Rings plus TV shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Buffy and Stargate, I am finding an interesting subtext emerging.

The Other, based on these sources, is dangerous, powerful, inhuman, dishonest, shadowy, creepy and in many ways queer. They live in the darkness, suck blood, are invisible, manipulative, and can change their appearance like a chimera. They are both smarter than us, stronger physically, and they can read our minds. They cannot be reasoned with, nor can their words be trusted. They are everywhere and nowhere. They are not human. They are born of a mutation, or genetic selection. They are machines or at the very least alien.

And most of all they are evil.

Well most of them are evil, except for the good ones. The good ones will protect us from the bad ones. The good ones will curb their powers in our presence; they will at the very least pretend to be normal. The good ones will accept the poverty of freelance photography rather make money as a wrestler. They will walk away from love, home and family to protect the ones they love. The bad ones will of course have a lover or two, and their entire family may be in the business eventually. And although they share traits with the bad ones, the good ones will be somewhat weaker until the last third of the film or season.

Dr XavierIf we contrast and compare the leaders of these battling groups of others, we find that the good leader is saint like and uses his mind while the evil leader is magnetic and uses the physical world. Dr Xavier is a gentle man, always willing to hold out hope for conciliation, while Magneto is a firebrand, who after enduring the worst the world has to offer mutants such as himself, has given up on peace and is prepared to use violence.

And if the leaders are interested in the same woman, the evil one will want her sexually while the good one will not be in touch with his feelings, like in the Fantastic Four. The evil one is emotional, conceited and self-centered, while the good one is logical, self-deprecating and focused on others.

If the evil one is a woman, she will try and seduce the good other or even normal human men. She will be deadly and unflinching in her violence. If the good one is a woman, she will also be deadly and unflinching, but she will fall deeply in love with a single normal human male who will turn her from evil. Or she will be celibate and devote herself to the good fight.

And the driving force behind the evil other is control and restriction. Their demands for freedom and self-expression mask plans for subjugation and genocide of the normal humans. For all the Cylons talk of God and faith their actions speak of death and violence. And the good other is just as misleading. For all the talk of harmony and reform, they too gather forces of might and violence. The Vorlons are ultimately just as violent and unyielding as the Shadows. And even as they battle each other, it is humans who suffer the most.

Orc And Child
So that in the end, whether they are fighting the good fight or seeking global domination, they are still not one of us. And in the end, the good ones will eventually join forces with the evil ones in a final battle for control. And it will be the normal humans who will have to face them finally to determine who will be the ones directing the new world order.

And in all of this otherness, I keep finding messages about race, gender, class, nationalism and orientation. There are also messages about minorities, immigrants and foreign policy.

Or maybe I am just too sensitive. Maybe it is because I have an overly developed psychic sense. Oh oh. :cue music: …

Posted in

Fritter (not verified) | Mon, 04/03/2006 - 12:46pm

When I was studying classics this concept of the Other was something that came up frequently, because of the distinctions made between Greeks and the Barbarians (those who did not speak Greek). I hadn't thought about deconstructing comic book culture that way. Though reading the works of Alan Moore recently has given me a fresher perspectve on the comic book world. Not just Promethea, but Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, all of these address very different aspects of comic mythos and break them down into something human, something analytic, something raw. I can totally see where you're coming from in your analysis here.


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