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February 9, 2013

Just a quick point about the first three films in the course: The Matrix, Total Recall, and Metropolis. All three involve the following plots developments:

  1. The protagonist begins separated from a people who are being oppressed,
  2. The protagonist joins these people and, in the process, undergoes considerable personal transformation,
  3. The protagonist struggles to free his people from their oppression.

These plot developments might remind you of another story, one in which this guy plays the hero:


To be clear, I have no intention of turning Philosophy 495 into a bible studies class! The point here, as in the post on Rachael in Blade Runner, is simply to raise awareness of the fact that a lot of science fiction uses our understanding (explicit or implicit) of story lines and characters from sources that are likely to be familiar to its audience in order to advance and enrich our experience of the work and to deepen our contemplation of the ideas raised therein. Consider some of the philosophically significant questions raised by the interplay between these sci-fi films and the texts to which they allude.

  • Are humans in The Matrix permanently caught in a cycle of fall and redemption (or slavery and freedom), even after the arrival of a messianic figure like Moses or Neo? Why or Why not? What about humans and our ability to make things (including both computers and idols) is in play here?
  • Is virtual reality the promised land, as a mashup of Total Recall and the Book of Genesis might suggest? Is that the only kind of paradise human beings can hope for, given the failings of political and social institutions clearly on display in Total Recall‘s dystopian future?
  • Is freedom and respect for all of us something that can be achieved through force (as seems to be in the case of the Israelites in Egypt), or must it come through reconciliation and mutual recognition (as appears to occur at the end of Metropolis). And what’s up with the flood that nearly kills the children of the workers?

Of course, creators of science fiction also draw from other sources. It’s probably no accident that 2001: A Space Odyssey references a work of near-biblical importance for our intellectual ancestors in Athens.  So too Back to the Future plays a lot on the Oedipus mythology, though more for laughs than tears. We’ll have a look at both of these films later in the semester.


From → On Being the One

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