Sunday, September 20, 2009

Raquel Welch, Planet 9 and More: The Ethnic American Body in Science Fiction Cinema

I wonder if Mandingo was a work of science fiction--perhaps the whole experiment of human slavery is an episode of the same; predatory exploitation of subjected populations (i.e., ironically, populations that have been objectified) always bring with them some legitimizing argument of justification: deeming groups of folks inferior is one of the tropic (trope + ic) moves of science--from Lindbergh with his eugenics fantasies to Dobbs with his fear of "Mexican" leprosy, the sciences have always been there (and not in a small way) to buttress the pangs of hate that throb within the dark soul of homo sapiens.

There are no shortages of ethnic bodies when it comes to the history of science fiction film. From Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. to William Allen Young in District 9, this fruitful cinematic terrain in bestrewn with talented and not-so-talented actors. On the left and right, some classic images from the internet of Raquel Tejada, aka Raquel Welch.

Of course, the most important film in this genre is John Sayles Brother from Another Planet. Joe Morton is brilliant in the titular lead role:

...More on this to come after I re-screen District 9 later this week.


  1. id be interested to hear your thoughts on d-9. I work with refugee populations and I thought the movie portrayed the cultural dislocation well.

  2. I have this class I'd love to teach on race & sci-fi. First movie: King Kong. Cause if that's not a Wells-ian fear of (African) atavism run amok and swollen by forces we don't understand, well, you know the rest.

    Still mulling District 9. I don't think it's, as some interlocutors have dubbed it, THE most racist movie ever (there's a long line for that), but it's just so much less tight a script than I'd hoped. Lots of narrative/logic holes. Enemy Mine so much more subtle in showing one way past language/culture barriers in a hostile scenario.

    And Brother is one of my favorite movies EVER.

  3. For me it is the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers with it's mundane replacement of people with an "other" which acts and looks almost exactly like the original.
    Caro, I have googled and googled and have yet to find an interlocuter calling D9 "the most racist movie ever" Could you plz provide a link?
    and re: the script's looseness or tightness, I thought the story relied less on Clarke's "magic" rule of thumb(which is what most sf movies end up doing) than most.
    i can attest to the fact that refugees are treated just as they are on D9. However exotic, once people become neighbors, especially in places without plumbing, the newness wears off and the cultural misunderstandings begin.