Science Fiction: Form VS. Content

3 Apr

I have watched the assigned Star Trek episode first before I read Susan Sontag’ article, “The Imagination of Disaster.”  The way she puts the science fiction films makes them looks like a cliché, a destroying one. Although I am not sure of her language, GENERALIZATIONS, but what she says makes sense to me. She says that “science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster.” I am not sure about the generalization she is making, but I am sure about the sense I had from watching science fiction films and reading science fiction texts. That’s why I am discussing in this response the form versus the content of Science Fiction films/texts.

What I mean by the form here is the setting, the context and the equipment. And what I mean by the content here is the message conveyed through the work as a whole. For me, the form is what has a sense of science. Always, there are spaceships, super computers, advanced laser weapons and so on. The content! Still the same content we see in other genre. For example, in the Star Trek episode assigned for this week, “The Cage,” we find that the form is scientific but the content is social issues.

To discuss the form vs the content in Star Trek, “The Cage,” I would argue that the only science fiction part of it is its form. The setting is a spaceship at the end of the galaxy, the laser gun, the materializing and dematerializing of the staff while beaming them up and down, and the Aliens—although I wouldn’t consider their existence part of a result of advanced science. On the other hand, we have the form, the message conveyed through this episode. The message is just like many other films/texts; it is about social issues. For example, there are feminism inequality and sexual gaze, the desire as a form of the conscious/subconscious conflict, slaver, and colonialism.

The social issue discussed through this episode is obvious—thanks to the direct narrative in form of questions and answers. The feminism inequality example would be when the Captain says, “I am not used to have females on the bridge… no offense lieutenant…you are different.” The sexual gaze example is when the Captain first met Vina and trapped by her beauty. The desire and the sexuality of the male’s subconscious is when Vin tells the Captain “I am here to please you…I can be any woman that you imagine.” However, the alien is discussing the desire and conflict between the subconscious/the conscious, or what people want but cannot have. The Alien tells the captain that what he thinks could kill him. And if we take the Alien’s word and apply it in the real life, we find it true, what people think they want, not usually appropriate, they have to behave according the public rules.

To sum up, I would use Sontag phrase, “thinking about the unthinkable.” The way I read this is to compare it with “thinking outside the Box.” Plato in his utopia, The Republic¸ he was thinking outside the box, and created something extraordinary. However, it is not the case with Science Fictions, although it should be. For me, Science-Fictions are using the science setting to deliver the ordinary messages, and are not as creative as their genre suggests. Using different setting to deliver the same message doesn’t make it creative, it makes it only different. Science is a word that is linked to “innovation.” Thus, when I think of science fiction, I expect something NEW, something I am not used to, for example, (Inception-2010). I very much liked it not because of its setting, but because of its new idea that challenges me.


Thank you.

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