I don’t even remember what class it was for, but when I was a freshman in college I read a book by Stephen J. Gould called Dinosaur in a Haystack. One of the things that stuck with me the most from that book was his connection of Hollywood, the scientific and drama, primarily in the form of Jurassic Park. He was really rather put off by Hollywood’s tendency to demonize science. That’s not to say it always demonizes science, but that tendency is definitely there. If a zombie movie isn’t supernaturally inspired, odds are pretty good that Science! was the culprit for the undead outbreak. Not to mention all these robot uprising movies, where our damned curiosity and Science! led to the machines becoming self aware and, naturally, enslaving us. Oddly, the robot-enslavement narrative that makes the most sense to me is I, Robot, in which the main antagonist robot is just doing what she’s been programmed to do, just… to an extreme. Maybe not a logical extreme, but at least it wasn’t that she woke up one day like “Hey, fuck you guys, I’m in charge now!”
I think Jurassic Park spells this out most overtly, what with Malcolm’s little diatribe on “whether or not they thought they could, never stopped to think if they should,” that nature “selected” dinosaurs for extinction, and that ressurecting dinosaurs was the “rape of the natural world”. Harsh words, Malcolm. But here’s the thing; maybe a theme park wasn’t the best reason to bring dinosaurs back from the grave, but was it really science’s fault that things went to the shit? I’d say it’s the fat guy’s. Science and technology totally held up their end of the bargain.
I saw Splice the other day. I recognize that it was a weak attempt to turn this trope into something slightly more engaging. Of course their incentive in this movie was to dig up some proteins to help cure cancer or Parkinson’s or whatever, but the result instead was their uh… genetically modified-snail-Down’s-syndrome-man-woman-rape-baby… I won’t go into the weird abortion metaphor, so I’ll stick with the “science is bad” stuff. And maybe that might work if you have something to say about it. But I find that in most “science is bad” narratives, the problem in question is resolved simply with “x is God’s domain; respect God.” Ya know, the same rationale we were seeing at the Salem witch trials. I guess it’s a time honored b-movie SciFi tradition, and Splice is just carrying on the torch past 2010, but… really, guys. Are we still harboring Victor Frankenstein’s horror and guilt?
Half-inspired by Splice, my next NChick’s gonna be an exploration into this trend. What’s your thought to this trend in science fiction? What are examples? What are exceptions, where technology is our friend, goddamnit? And are there any lessons to take from it other than “don’t play God?” Leave me a comment!