Book Review: Aliens R US: The Other in Science Fiction Cinema

Aliens R Us

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This book stars from the position that Science Fiction is a reflection and reinforcement of cultural and political assumptions:

“Cultural production is not a neutral sphere, just innocent entertainment. Moreover, the artefacts of cultural production are thoroughly ideological, bound up with political discourse, struggles, agendas and policies.” (p.46)

I’m sure that many SF fans would be initially bewildered at the analysis of Deep Space Nine, Space: Above and Beyond and Independence Day amongst others contained in this work. Yet each is closely argued. The examination of the Borg as an enemy is eye-opening:

“the Borg represent the opposite of the Thatcher principle. Where the prime minister thought there was no society, only individuals, to our eyes the Borg appear to have only society and no individuals. They/it are the embodiment of the Western fantasy of communism/socialism, as well as virtually all Asian cultures, especially Muslims in their current incarnation.” (p.77)

The writers are not afraid to draw attention to the similarities of the bad guys as aliens and the designated bad guys here on Planet Earth. Independence Day in particular is taken apart for the blatant propaganda it was. The purpose behind it is made clear:

“America is a consciously created artefact, as is its self-image. The manufacture of this self-image must be sustained through its cultural products to imprint itself on a heterogeneous population, to forge them into a choherent body by passing them through not just a social melting-pot but an ideological forge.” (p.36, quoting Ziauddin Sardar).

By looking at how the US dominated popular culture presents “aliens”, “others” and “enemies” we can learn a lot about unspoken, assumed and underlying values. What this book shows is that “Western” society is neither as tolerant or sophisticated as some would like to imagine.

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