Hollywood: Culprit in the Anti Science War


I don’t usually buy the excuse, “the movies made them bad”,” the music made them kill”.   I do make one exception for Hollywood.   Hollywood has put America on a steady diet of fantasy, monsters, super heroes and crypto religion so that they can sell the super duper special effects.  In the end, we get subtle and not so subtle messages that are a steady anti-science stream.

Look, I am no spoil sport, I love to play and imagine, but take for example the movie I watched yesterday while ironing.  Yes, I iron.  Knowing, with big star Nicholas Cage.  A movie where even Roger Ebert, called the best “science fiction he has seen”.

This is the set-up: 1950’s school puts a time capsule to be opened fifty years later.  All the children are to write notes to the future, one strange little girl, the nerdy child, does some strange numerical gibberish writing.  Jump to the future, Nicholas Cage, recently widowed, MIT astrophysicist, raising his so clever nerdy son.  At the opening of the capsule, the son gets the note.  Cage, after the son is asleep, figures out what the numbers mean.  They are a prediction of all the major global disasters.

Yes, you guessed it, 9/11 was the key clue.  Cage as a physicist, doubts the whole notion of intent, heaven etc, but pretends for his son’s sake.  To make a short story long, in time he realizes that this note predicts the end of the world.  But you see, there are these “creatures” aka “angels” who are talking to the children who were open to the prophecy.  Cages’s father is a minister.  In the end, the angels save the children, the two white children and two white bunnies, to recreate the world after it is burned to a crisp.

Movie after movie, the scientist proves to be a fool.  The religious fantasy is really the truth. The prophecy  attributed to the child in the fifties is straight Book of Revelations stuff, from Ezekiel in the Old Testament.   Mr. Ebert, with all due respect,  this is no science fiction, this is religious messaging.

The title “Knowing”, of course, the only ones who know are the ones who believe.  Then we wonder why Americans doubt science and scientist.  Their politicians and their loved art forms always portray them as fools.  Fools who don’t have faith in the super natural.  Fools who are wrong.  The ones who are always right in the movies who sell us loud sounds and phantasmic imagery, are the “believers”.

Subliminal messaging of the rapture for profit is reprehensible.  Yes, there is a Rapture industry of movies and books, but when it seeps into our culture and even critics like Roger Ebert do not call it what it is, no wonder they dominate the culture wars.  Who said Hollywood is their enemy?  Hollywood, if there is money to be made, will sell you and me anything.

In the end, Cage the scientist, like Ezekiel, goes back to the bosom of his father, the preacher.  Together they wait for the rapture, knowing his seed has gone off into a spaceship, with a little girl, running through a field towards a tree.  A tree reminiscent once again of the root of original sin.  They showed various spaceships leaving Earth, but they only focused on the two white children.

So, when the American voter doubts climate change, evolution and other scientific findings, it’s because he has a steady diet of scientists, for Pete’s sake, even MIT astrophysicists, who are proven wrong in these story lines.  Time after time, Hollywood tells us, the winners are those who believe in pixie dust, angels, monsters, vampires, gnomes, devils, gods and demigods, salvation, damnation, you name it.

Science fiction is a genre that I used to enjoy.  Religious narrative invades our popular culture and science is sidetracked.  Scientists are fools because they don’t believe.

A Year Late: Avatar


I watch movies about a year after they come out.  Finally, I watched Avatar.  Yes, it was not 3-D just on my HD tv.  They said this was different from other action movies.  That it had meaning, there was a message for the downtrodden.  Frankly, it was the same tired message.  Only an American can save the others.  You see, Americans are bad and they try to kill the others, but an American, and only an American, will save them.

The others are always helpless and dim.  The Americans, who ruined their world, will send a guy, who takes on their form, but with American gusto, and this American hybrid of the other will save them.  Women, of the others, will of course fall for the sexual prowess and charm of the American, and look down on their men.  The alpha male of the others, usually pales to the machismo of the super American male sex machine.  Gee, do you think American males have a super sized ego?

It’s this conflicted notion Americans have, we want to be the boss of the world, but don’t hate us, cause we are really nice, sexy and at heart, we are like you.  American exceptionalism has a caveat, that we don’t dare talk about: “We will kick your butt, own you, but you must like us”.

Avatar, is just another fantasy of a limp Hollywood era.  An era that can only produce massive war scenes, with that American super hero smirk and high-five.  The obligatory revenge scene, killing the bad guy, over and over and over again.  The imagery is that of the mechanistic dinosaur with a smattering of a feminine jelly fish to make us see a softer universe.

Fantasy is fine, when limited to say the age of fourteen, but when the culture dives into the phantasmic imagery that is numbing and limits human interaction to a primitive good vs. bad narrative, we end up with a society where most people cannot discern complexity, cannot abide by complexity and it’s ambivalence.  Human society and interaction is complex, yet our popular culture, our stories, our common threads, reduce it to a clear cut good vs. bad scenario.  In the end, we are only practiced at such childish understanding of the world.

Of course, we throw in some women in the mix.  We don’t want the little girls to be left out of this simplistic world view.  They can shoot guns, kill, and fight, why not.

It is basically unbearable to watch a Hollywood movies these days.  It’s predictable, simplistic and audience focused to oblivion.  Somewhere along the way, even James Bond became a mechanical fighting machine capable of super stunt powers.  We used to malign television, yet television now is the only place where we can find some complexity in our popular culture.

Imagine a movie about real occupations, say in Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine.  No, wait, the good bad guy duality is not that simplistic.  Hollywood would have to challenge the audience and the audience would have to get out of the infantilism of the phantasmic.  So, don’t you all worry your pretty heads, complexity is overrated.

Why Good Friends Matter


Audience has always been a complete conundrum for me.  I often wonder whether I need any audience at all.  Do I want an audience to expand the discussion, yes.  Do I want an audience to ratify that what I have accomplished is “good”, no.  Do I want an audience to establish myself as a player in the arena, not really.  Do I want an audience to share my frankly warm and fuzzy or anyway deeply felt feelings underneath what is visible – eg to closest of friends and family, indeed.  But I have no idea where that leads me.

Chica, my friend from graduate school, we called each other chica, don’t know how it started.  It’s thirty years later now and we are still friends.  We are very different, she is tall, I am short.  She is a Mayflower WASP American, I am an immigrant.  She is moderate politically, I am to the left side.  But, through graduate school and through the years after we kept our friendship.

This connection was not just the standard stuff of greeting cards and visits.  Actually, we went through long periods with no contact.  But, we stuck to challenging each other.  When we were thirsty for ideas, for a long conversation that meandered in and out of the movies, literature, politics, parenting, life, actually any and all ideas, no limits.  These were our touchstone moments.

In this one paragraph, she grasped what I was thinking about, my writing sometimes is not crystal clear, but she found it.  I have to say giving up the easy readership is not without trepidation but giving oneself time to noodle ideas and to re-think how to use the medium of blogging is sure what one should do from time to time.  I am of the immediate gratification school, it’s time to ponder.