anywhere but here

walking back to my apartment after seeing dune last night (magnificent), thinking about how the science fiction genre of yesteryear has been swallowed up by very american disaster movies. alien villains—be they from the ’90s independence day to the current marvel universe—have been at the forefront; here to steal resources, enslave humans, or just eradicate life as we know it.

with avatar as a primary exception, sci-fi has taken a very pro-imperialist turn of late. there’s simply no nuance to the idea that extraterrestrial intelligent life could be anything but here to do violence. outside of it being a terrible re-hashing of ‘anything different is dangerous’ tropes, unless the entire arc of the avengers was satire, it’s quite ironic that all the evil aliens set out to do exactly what the colonialists did to indigenous people of the americas & africa. (and, in different practices, maintain today.)

the universes of star trek and star wars were very much anti-imperialist in their central principles. while neither may be perfect, they at least set examples that species of unknown origin could be friendly, or at least decent in nature & balanced in social structure. on star wars, the entire rebel fleet was composed of any number of alien species while the empire was millions of enslaved clones. even the ‘bad’ species on trek were primarily tribes fighting over territory (with deep space nine going heavily into the ideas of alliances with the enemy in the face of mortal danger toward its later seasons & voyager discovering species of all sorts with practically every episode).

given the partnership between hollywood & the department of defense, it’s no wonder plots such as this (iron man, 2008) get ‘revised’:

The original “Iron Man” script was decidedly pacifist, with protagonist Tony Stark attempting to use his enormous manufacturing empire to battle against war profiteers and the military industrial complex. However, after the Pentagon got involved, with Philip Strub again acting as the military liaison, the tone of the movie was radically altered. Much of the fighting in the movie takes place in modern-day Afghanistan, with the U.S. military serving the role of the good guys. In this sense, the film’s stance on war was reversed.

what a tragic farce to eliminate spectacles of imagination and wonder with replicated megaphones of propaganda. to reproduce only a spectacle of the wealthy or empowered few as the sole potential of heroics. to automatically militarize what could be, and to never question what has come before.

with all of these modern cinematic stories revolving around the idea of ‘intelligent life’ out there, the real hard part to believe is that this many forms of intelligence would not look at the united states—or human empires in general—as a pathetically regressive form of such an idea, and simply move on to another planet whose inhabitants actually demonstrate an honest set of values toward one another.