Back in the day I wrote a chapter on postmodernism and science fiction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Space, as always, was tight, and as I recall, my focus was on the three key thinkers who characterise postmodern theory — for better or worse Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson and Jean-François Lyotard. I certainly knew about Meaghan Morris’s The Pirate’s Fiancée: Feminism, Reading, Postmodernism (1988) and Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” (1985) but it looks like neither get a mention. It might have been I assume one or other would be in a chapter on gender or feminism, but that’s no excuse.
More problematic — and I’m not going to go and check — is that all my fictional examples were by male authors.
The editors did not notice, but someone did:
Butler fails to mention even one science fiction text author by a woman or even one female literary theorist. How to suppress women’s writing? Butler’s article supplies an egregious answer. (Barr 153)
Yes, bang to rights.
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Blackhat (Michael Mann, 2015)
- No coloured hats were worn during the making of this film.
- This film had four editors — one more than Fifty Shades of Grey.
The best part of the film is a pan across a cell wall of the lead character, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), who has two books on his shelf: The Postmodern Condition and The Animal that Therefore I Am. Hathaway is a hacker, imprisoned for getting caught, who is briefly released to help good coder Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) track down the Evil Coder who has sent a Chinese nuclear power station into meltdown and stolen money on manipulated soy bean futures . Along for the ride, seemingly, is Dawai’s sister, Lien (Tang Wei), whom Dawai had been all-but-pimping to Nick. (When they get together, Dawai is all older borther possessive of her.) She does have computer expertise, but her job is look pretty and to be the reward for the hero.
For all its next three months futurism, this is old school, it’s Heat (1996) but less cool — and I still say L.A. Takedown (1989) was the better movie. We have phone calls arranging meets, we have corpses showing up when we go in search of suspects (and no one gives a fig about forensics), we have hails of bullets making holes in walls but fairly rarely the whitehats, we have devices placed on the bottom of cars, we have helicopter shots of men standing in half completed tower blocks. We have — dear Cthulhu no — the zoom-in on the pixels that takes us into the screen and along wires and down into the mean streets of the circuit board.
None of it makes any sense — this is a film that begins with a volcano but fails to work up to a crisis. The set piece finale felt more early seventies Bond, but with poorer acting. Our computer genius had to go to the spot in Malaysia to work out what the cunning evil plan was rather than using Googlemaps. We have no motivation for the Big Bad — I’m not even convinced we have more than a username. And he isn’t — spoiler — wearing a hat.
Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)
Here be spoilers, although not really until paragraph eight onwards (nine if this is one). I’ve tried not to give the ending away.
There’s a reading of Harrison Ford’s rather plank-like performance in Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982 etc) as Rick Deckard that suggests it is in fact a rather nuanced representation of a replicant. It doesn’t make sense as a reading, but there you go (he can’t be one of the six escapees because…).
I got the same feeling about Domhnall Gleeson about ten minutes into Ex Machina. It doesn’t make sense as a reading, but then again, what does? I was also reaching for Bluebeard and Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958), neither of which end well.
Bluebeard is the one when a duke invites his bride to stay in his castle whilst he goes off on a jolly, leaving her with the keys to all the rooms but instructions not to unlock the seventh door. Obviously she does, just as Eve ate the fruit and Pandora opened the box. It’s Story.
So Caleb (Caleb Williams, son of Jephunneh or son of Hezron, a villain in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a computer game character who is a gunslinger) is a computer jockey who wins the golden ticket and gets to go to
the chocolate factory the CEO of Bluebeard Bluebook’s secret lair. Before you it, know he’s flying across a landscape straight out of Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) to the secret lair. If Gleeson has a look of both Nathan/Justin from Queer as Folk, Oscar Isaac’s Nathan is more bearish, pummeling a punchbag, swigging a beer from a bottle and being furry under a vest. Apparently he is a genius. (Nathan — son of David, Nathan Fillion played Caleb…)
Caleb, before he goes any further in his bonding over beer, vodka and sushi with Nathan, has to sign all kind of non-disclosure agreements to make sure we feel uneasy.
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