Shoelaces, Atheists, Lesbian Flamingos, Comic Sans, And a Reminder to “DON’T PANIC”

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

writer-typing

In between perusing the collected writings of Stephen Hawking, William Shakespeare, and the comics of Robert Crumb I received a strange parcel in the mail.  It was wrapped in paper that had once been a vibrant yellow.  It smelled like ripe bananas.  But most distressing to me above all was that the name on the front of the package was misspelled.  I’m not sure who “Jeshua Jammer Smyth” is, but he’s sure to be missing his package.  Unless of course “Jeshua” is a she and I have made the assumption of their, her, zir’s choice of pro-nouns.  Whatever the case, I opened the package believing it to belong to me, and inside I found several crumpled up notes concerning Douglas Adam’s novel A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Several of these notes were immediately eaten out of pure jealousy for the genius of their composition. 635860977597358197-1003640765_writers-block-vintage

The rest were either used as toilet paper, scratch paper for handling my income tax filing, or in one case constructing a lovely dress for my kitty cat Mortimer.  I’m most proud of the ruffles near the ends of the sleeves, though the absence of lapels still haunts me.

After having coffee with my friend Alia Pappas however, and discussing how lovely it was being gay for boys and girls and everyone in between, I sat down at my desk to record what essays, novels, audiobooks, and poems I had read or completed that day and I stumbled upon the notes again.

What follows are my transcribing of said notes.  And it should be noted that the very last comment on the very last piece of paper I transcribed before eating that last page read simply: “I hope the reader appreciates this pathetic attempt at a framing device for a review of a science fiction novel.”

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

 

On the Complicated Religious Implications of Goodreads Reviews and Why One Appeared in the first Place…

It’s a well known fact, that few people actually bother to read past the first review on Goodreads. For instance, this review randomly appeared on Goodreads at the very bottom of the previous 22,000 reviews when the author of said review, who had recently purchased22815320_10208209016423288_2924743820620490983_nthe book because it was the favorite novel of a friend who had only recently committed suicide the week earlier. The reviewer, a rather gloomy person with many friends who spent an awful lot of time worrying about him and not worrying about whether their shoe laces were of appropriate length, wanted to read the book again, and discovered in fact, that it was a beautiful novel with a few gags that were worth stealing when he decided to write his review on Goodreads.

Coincidently enough, the date in question in which this review was written was the third of March 2018, which, when added together, forms the number 2039 which also by a bizarre coincidence correlates to an undiscovered pocket of the universe where Goodreads reviews are only observed by the Penguino-Factoid Rockzoans who treat such reviews as sacred scriptures. It should also be noted, that the Penguino-Factoid Rockzoans spend a solid quarter of their existence also not worrying about the length of their shoe-laces.

The first volume of HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was an amusing distraction to the otherwise unpleasantness of the reviewer’s friend’s suicide, but also a rather depressing reminder of it as he realized not long after reading it, that she was no longer around to read it herself and then discuss it with the reviewer. With this knowledge in hand the reviewer considered the text at large, and wondered whether it constituted a real review, should any reader reading this text, apart from the Penguino-Factoid Rockzoans who of course are already dedicated seminaries to it’s deconstruction, would substantiate any real interest in the novel. And so the reviewer was left with the following conclusion:

In the face of loss it is important to remember “Don’t Panic,” always know where one’s towel is located, take the time to recognize how important one’s mortality is because at any moment life can be obliterated by the absurdity of reality in the form of suicide or revolting bureaucratic aliens building expressways through space, and most importantly to appreciate fjords in streams because somebody somewhere worked hard on those.

This revelation in hand, the reviewer decided to finish his review, unaware of course that the Penguino-Factoid Rockzoans had already spent the last three thousand years suffering a particularly bloody civil-war over the meaning of the period in the second sentence of his review. It should also be noted, that of the thousands of young men, women, and inter-sex non-binary individuals who died in the name of that particular grammatical mark, all of them considered the young woman who had inspired the reviewer to read the book in the first place and thus create such harmony/dis-harmony in their universe.

Her name was Savannah and she loved this book. And she might have liked this review. Though she would almost certainly never have considered the length of her shoelaces, or, for that matter, their cosmological significance.

13475008_10204936878301880_2828205597904128556_o

 

On the Nature of God, Divine Prominence, and the Foresight to not Place all Your Faith in Fish…

A great number of people in a little town called El Paso, not to be confused with the El Paso currently located in the Rich district of Neptunio 17, cannot actually stand fish.  It’s for this reason that many social and political activists in the area, other than the ones concernedGod2 with making sure teenagers cannot earn money for lollipops, have begun to lobby the current administration for the complete and total removal of fish from the one and only restaurant in the  city.  This charming establishment, known simply as “Ed’s” has never in fact sold fish on their menu, and never would even consider this possibility as fish is rather difficult to serve alongside corn-dogs and deep-fried tater-tots which the owners refer to as Fritter-Balls.

This stunning political and social revolution partly came about because Philip Denfry, the local barber and mortician, just so happened to have a copy of Adam’s A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and in the middle of his rant concerning the zoning board’s recent decision to obliterate his house for the construction of a flower preserve, he happened to read the following passage:

“The Babel Fish,” said the Hitchhiker’s Guide Quietly, “is small, yellow and leechlike, and probably the oddest thing in the universe.  It feeds on Brainwave energy received bot from its own carrier, but from those around it.  It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave to nourish itself with.  It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech babel_fishcenters of the brain which has supplied then.  The practical upshot of all of this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.  The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your babel fish.

“Now it is such a bizarrely improbably coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the nonexistence of God.

“The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’

“ ‘But,’ says Man, ‘the Babel fish proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own argument you don’t.  QED.’”

“ ‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.  (42).

The collected citizens of El Paso reacted to this passage as many sane individuals would: they all collectively agreed to burn Philip Denfry at the stake for his crimes of speaking when he did not have the floor, and then promptly became the nation’s first autonomous collective of rational atheists.  This came at some great benefit to the community as thegodfrey_kneller_old_scholarmoney that was spent tithing for the church was instead turned back into the economy of the small town and allowed it’s citizens levels of economic prosperity which hadn’t been felt since the first prospectors arrived in their town looking for gold and the world’s cheapest bars of soaps.

However with the arrival of Ed’s Burger Joint, the autonomous collective had a difficult proposition, do they stand by the proposition that a small perfect organism disproves the existence of god, or do they allow their economic prosperity to suffer because Ed’s fries were truly the stuff of greatness.

Fortunately for the masses this decision did not need to be made because, by a stunning coincidence, a man by the name of Jesus C. Hrist at the local nuclear facilities felt an immediate and sudden conviction that he could become the spider-monkey god of the eighth dimension by causing an immediate and sudden meltdown of the reactor.  The city of El Paso Georgia was immediately terminated, though I suppose one could make the argument that the “faith” of the autonomous collected lived on.  Not that there’s much proof of that outside of the random appearance of the shape of an atom etched into the ash at the exact location where the great prophet Philip Denfry was burned at the stake.

 

Of the Necessity of Adorning Ones Periodicals and Tomes with Comforting Type Fonts and Messages As to Not Causing Unnecessary Discomfort to the Reader

It’s rather unfortunate to observe that over 53,431 designs for individual typeface have been created, used, absconded, and subsequently destroyed by the individual known simply as Maynard.  Maynard, the reader should note, is in fact a post-doctoral candidate from the illustrious university of LV-7999. Sub Q, located on the asteroid which, by some grandwriters-writecoincidence, is also known as Maynard.  While it is not uncommon for post-doctoral candidates of LV-7999 to become mildly obsessed by typeface and other printing accoutrements, Maynard became something of a legend in his department for crafting all 53, 431 typefaces in the space of under seven minutes.  It was for this achievement that Maynard was immediately denied his doctorate and promptly hurled from the front doors of the university by his thesis committee who were largely jealous, but more enraged by the fact that three of his typefaces were in fact just rip-offs of Comic Sans.

Although it violated most agreed upon natural laws and regulations, one of the numerous typefaces managed to separate from Maynard’s word processing interface unit, which was in fact nothing but a hologram projector in the shape of a snail, and made its way to the apartment of a Caroline Powers M.D.  Dr. Powers was soaking her feet, petting her cat, and reading her favorite book The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when the typeface imprinted itself dramatically upon her psyche.  She looked down and read the following passage:

“I like the cover,” he said.  “Don’t Panic.’ It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”  (37).

Dr. Powers did not in fact read the passage in the previous way however, for the typeface created by Maynard appeared in her eyes as a series of dots and dashes reminiscent of the Don't Panicshape of those sort of fish one places on the back of car bumpers.  While she read the words inspired visions of tornadoes reverberating around barns and lifting up poor cows who had little time or patience to consider the nature of tornadoes.  The texture of said tornadoes imprinted itself on Dr. Powers mind and she had, in a burst of sheer erotic jubilance, the answer to numerous afflictions for those who suffer from foot bunions.  The poor woman leapt up, shouted eureka, and ran to the phone, forgetting that her feet were contained within the Orthopedic Foot Bath #34, and she immediately tripped, fell, and cracked her skull against her rather gaudy looking coffee table.

Some physicists have made the case that if she had bothered to dress the table up a bit with a shawl or at least a quilt then perhaps she might have avoided her fate and thus freed mankind from the annoyance of bunions, but then the conversations are still open.  Whatever the case all have agreed that recommending someone to “Don’t Panic” is in fact one of the few universally agreed upon intergalactic truths, right alongside the sentiment expressed by Maynard upon returning to University LV-7999 with a chest strapped to the brim with dynamite, “it’s important to remember whether ones shoelaces are tied in the morning before one leaves for work.”

Untied Shoelaces

ON THE PREMISE OF HAPPINESS AND WHY SO FEW PEOPLE TRUST IT OR ACHIEVE IT

Happiness, what exactly is it anyway?  The Websters dictionary of the Flamingo-Neck people of Thular 17, who by strange coincidence happen to resemble the flamingos found here on planet Earth, define the happiness as the sensation of discovering a rather large and plump beetle crawling up the spindly leg of the woman standing next to you.  The Lesbian FlamingosFlamingo-neck people of Thular 17, it should also be noted, are an entire population of self-regulating, self-reproducing lesbians who rather enjoy licking and kissing each others legs.  This definition of happiness from their society has caught on however thus spurring an increase of homosexual sexual practices between the various women of the known universe, but also encouraging people to devour beetles in large quantities.  The protein levels alone have justified this habit although there are some religious circles that are dubious that such record consumption and health has much to do with lesbianism.

During the latest update of the Websters Dictionary, the Flamingo-neck people took considerable effort to redefine lesbianism as not only a well-respected means of sexual recreation, but also as an effort to understand the deeper meaning of life and overall existence.  Their definition for the phrase cunnilingus alone contained two rather remarkable passages which by sheer coincidence were two small passages found near the end of the first volumes Douglas Adams’s A Hitchikers Guide to the Universe.  The first was as follows:

“Maybe.  Who cares?” Said Slartibartfast before Arthur got too excited.  “Perhaps I’m old and tired,” he continued, “but I always think that the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied.  Look at me I design coastlines.  I got an award for Norway.”  (127)Flamingos_Gif

There were some of the Flamingo-neck peoples, most notably the few remaining heterosexual males who were making a concerted effort to stave off the overthrow of the patriarchy, that complained that this definition violated many tenants of reality.  The most damning defense, they so claimed, was that this did very little to explain what happiness was or why it should be equated with lesbianism.  The Flamingo-Neck Consortium of Lesbians for the Promotion of Philosophical and Physical Lady-Love decided to check this argument by adding the following passage to the definition:

“What does it matter?  Science has achieved some wonderful things, of course, but I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”

Tanya-Chalkin12801024“And are you?”

“No.  That’s where it all falls down, of course.”

“Pity,” said Arthur with sympathy.  “It sounded like quite a good style otherwise.”  (128)

With their new definition in hand the Flamingo-Neck Consortium of Lesbians for the Promotion of Philosophical and Physical Lady-Love felt confident that they had a best-seller on their hands.  Much to their chagrin and frustration the Goddess incarnate of the Molarr dimension just past the edge of the observable universe appeared in order to promote her latest novel: A Million and One Incredibly Fun Things to Do Sexually With Women and No One Else.  It became an instant best-seller with many critics arguing it surpassed her previous work Women, Well, Da-Da-Damn. 

The Flamingo-Neck Peoples of Thular 17 watched their media dreams fizzle away and the Consortium begin to implode not long thereafter.  In the absence of a best-seller to justify their lesbianism to their stuffy-close-minded parents many began to fall back into hiking and just doing their own things on weekends.  The Flamingo-neck Peoples returned to their home world bitterly disappointed, wondering why they bothered with happiness in the first place.  Much to their surprise however, they discovered that there is something to forgoing fame and fortune and instead living a quiet, comfy, homosexual existence devouring beetles off of each others legs.  It wasn’t grand knowledge, but it was most certainly life changing.

enhanced-buzz-wide-17786-1392314803-11

This concludes the passages that were supposed to be delivered to Jeshua “Jammer” Smyth.  They shall henceforth be destroyed because I’m a pissy little bitch who cannot live with the knowledge that there is another mind who’s existence possesses such a sublime capacity for writing and art.  I recognize that I’m committing a grand disservice to society and humanity by eliminating these letters, but it’s not like I’ve posted them to my blog where the whole world can see it, right? 

Right? 

WIN_20160804_19_09_19_Pro

 

*Writer’s Note*

This review was written several months ago, not long after my friend Savannah committed suicide, and not long after I finished Hitchhiker’s Guide.  I hate that it took so long, but at least it’s here.  Miss you Sav.

Advertisements

Giant Spider & Me: A Post Apocalyptic Tale 1

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

img_5341

Giant Spider & Me: A Post Apocalyptic Tale 1

14 Novemeber 2018

Ridley Scott’s Complicated Philosopher Kings

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gladiator

Russel Crowe avenges Dumbledore after Johnny Cash asphyxiates him and assumes control of the Roman Empire, though that still doesn’t explain whether Tyrell or Weyland corporation was responsible for the synthetic tigers he fought in the coliseum.  The reader may not understand this point, but trust me, Ridley Scott’s films are really just one big universe of interconnected characters and events.  This has tons of continuity implications for the Alien franchise and that Robin Hood movie nobodyprometheus-ridley-scott-noomi-rapace1except for Max von Sydow and my mother actually went to see, but I’ll get to that later.

I’m not sure what honestly compels me anymore.  My brain seems awash with ideas and thoughts and desires and cravings, and every now and then one of these chaotic messes of thoughts formulates into an action.  This is just my way of saying I don’t know why I bought a copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius on Amazon the other day.  I believe part of it is because I have a friend who’s part of the bi-weekly graphic novel group Ground Zero Comics hosts, and because the pair of us talk pretty regularly.  He also works for the City of Tyler, and so I seem him fairly often, and when I doI usually talk to him about history and science fiction, and recently he’s begun commissioning statues of roman deities from our 3D Printer at the library.  I’m ecstatic that someone besides me wants a bust of Zeus, much to the chagrin of my fellow library employees.  I asked him the other day, out of curiosity and also out of a sense offullsizeoutput_948awkwardness because I generally feel that I bore people when I talk to them, why he liked Rome so much.  It took him a second but his honest answer was, “The world was new.  It was being built.”

This just seemed to click with me and I’ve been processing it ever since.  Sitting on my desk in front of me every day when I write is the three volume set of Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.  It rests between Plutarch’s Lives, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Tacitus’s Annals of Imperial Rome, Livy’s War with Hannibal, and of course Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Insects, because, well, it’s me.  But these classical works sit in front of me everyday and I don’t often read them, a fact which is bothersome and also rather illuminating.  I appear to have become one of those people: the kind who use books to say something about their personality without actually bothering to open them and make something of a personality for themselves.

Meditating on my own aesthetic, and my own penchant for ancient Rome was an excuse however to finally write about Ridley Scott again, because after finishing my rather brief analysis of Kingdom of Heaven (2000 words is brief by my standards anyway) I realized there was more to be said about the film, and my favorite character King Baldwin IV.King Baldwin IV 3

Kingdom of Heaven is not just a misunderstood film about the Crusades and religion in general, it’s also a fascinating study on the conflict of power which has often dogged the “Holy Lands” and how in the face of these struggles one is able to maintain integrity.  The film follows a young blacksmith named Balian of Ibelin who inherits a plot of land in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and before he actually goes to rule he is invited by the King of Jerusalem, a man by the name of Baldwin IV who has, arguably, one of the most powerful entrances of any of Scott’s characters:

King Baldwin IV: Come forward. I am glad to meet Godfrey’s son. He was one of my greatest teachers. He was there when, playing with the other boys, my arm was cut. It was he, not my father’s physicians, who noticed that I felt no pain. He wept when he gave my father the news… that I am a leper. The Saracens say that this disease is God’s vengeance against the vanity of our kingdom. As wretched as I am, theseKing Baldwin IV 2Arabs believe that the chastisement that awaits me in hell is far more severe and lasting. If that’s true, I call it unfair. Come. Sit.

[they sit down on opposite sides of a chessboard]

King Baldwin IV: Do you play?

Balian of Ibelin: No.

King Baldwin IV: The whole world is in chess. Any move can be the death of you. Do anything except remain where you started, and you can’t be sure of your end. Were you sure of your end once?

Balian of Ibelin: I was.

King Baldwin IV: What was it?

Balian of Ibelin: To be buried a hundred yards from where I was born.

King Baldwin IV: And now?

Balian of Ibelin: Now I sit in Jerusalem, and look upon a king.

King Baldwin IV: [Baldwin chuckles] When I was sixteen, I won a great victory. I felt in that moment I would live to be a hundred. Now I know I shall not see thirty. None of us know our end, really, or what hand will guide us there. A king may move a man, a father may claim a son, but that man can also move himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that howsoever you are played or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume toKing Baldwin IV 5play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, “But I was told by others to do thus,” or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice. Remember that.

Balian of Ibelin: I will.

I watched the scene again on YouTube, discovering in the comment section that not only had Baldwin been played by Edward Norton, but also that someone had labeled Baldwin here a Philosopher King.  I admit I know nothing of the real King Baldwin IV of which the character is based, but I do know something of this title and it’s history.Kingdom 13

It has been some time since I last read it, but Plato’s Republic is a book that I’m sure most readers have either read snippets of, or at least heard of the book.  It is one of the many Socratic Dialogues the man wrote during his lifetime, and in it the man allowed his teacher Socrates to muse on the nature of power and society.  “The Cave” metaphor is the component of the text that many writers, readers, academics, and philosophers have latched on to, and in fact some have made the case that The Matrix was just a reimagining of this old concept, but contained also in the text is the idea of the “Philosopher King.”  This figure was exactly as the title suggests, a monarch of a fictional kingdom that, because of his position as a philosopher, would bring great benefit and strength to his kingdom because he is a man in love with wisdom and knowledge.  David_-_The_Death_of_SocratesA Philosopher, in the classical sense I suppose, is someone who is calm, patient, in love with a simple life, and desires only to learn as much as he can, and because of this knowledge and virtuous lifestyle, he is an ideal candidate to rule a nation or people because he will not be swayed by valor, ambition, greed, lust, or vanity.

I remember being 15 years old when the film came out.  Well in fact I remember being a young teenager, I cannot in fact actually remember being 15.  Such a reality now seems impossible.  But I do remember the sense of awe in watching Kingdom of Heaven, and the eloquence with which Baldwin ruled himself and his subjects.  He was the sort of leader I would want for my country, if not my species period.

It was looking at Baldwin then, that I began to observe that Ridley Scott often has such characters in his films, men who seem to be philosophers and who hold great positions of power.  But upon closer inspection the question I began to ask is, are they really?Gladiator 6

Looking at the film Gladiator, one of my mother’s favorite films by the way, Russel Crowe is a quote “hunksickle”, Scott actually goes to the trouble to actually make the first real recognized philosopher King a central character.  Many historians have observed that Marcus Aurelius seemed to be the first real-life example of a “philosopher king” for the way he carried himself and Rome forward.  In Gladiator Marcus Aurelius, played by Richard Harris the man who would come to be Albus Dumbledore only a few years later for a new generation, is a wise and human man who understands the nature of his mortality as well as the nature of human beings.  Discussing the future of Rome with Maximus one can see his wisdom:

Maximus: Five thousand of my men are out there in the freezing mud. Three thousand of them are bloodied and cleaved. Two thousand will never leave this place. I will not believe that they fought and died for nothing.

Marcus Aurelius: And what would you believe?

Maximus: They fought for you and for Rome.

Marcus Aurelius: And what is Rome, Maximus?Gladiator 7

Maximus: I’ve seen much of the rest of the world. It is brutal and cruel and dark, Rome is the light.

Marcus Aurelius: Yet you have never been there. You have not seen what it has become. I am dying, Maximus. When a man sees his end… he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher? The warrior? The tyrant…? Or will I be the emperor who gave Rome back her true self? There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish… it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter.

It’s not bold to say that Gladiator is a film which actually portrays the figure of the Philosopher King as a man who wants only goodness and security for his kingdom.  Marcus Aurelius is a man who desires knowledge, but also stability for that is the sign of prosperity. He is a man who is concerned about the future of his people, and his country.Gladiator 2

In this way Marcus Aurelius and Baldwin IV both seem then to be fine examples of Philosopher Kings, though this inevitably leads me to Dr. Edwin Tyrell and Peter Weyland.

Recently one of the two movie groups I’m a part of decided to watch the entirety of the Alien franchise.  This involved starting at Prometheus, then going to Covenant, and then resuming the franchise with Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection respectively.  This was greeted with delight and frustration because while everyone in attendance is a fan of the film Prometheus, Alien:Covenant tends to inspire a revulsion that borders on apish feces throwing.  Despite the sever flaws in the second film, I recognized that Scott had really done something with these films, and the character of Peter Weyland, the terraforming trillionaire and synthetic humanoid producer is arguably one of the most important elements of the films.

The man is, without doubt, a figure with vision and sizable knowledge, but as the film progresses, Weyland is demonstrated to be anything but a benevolent philosopher. prometheusmovie6812Though it was not contained in the theatrical cut, Scott did at one point include a “TED Talk” hosted by the character Peter Weyland, and it the man’s character is revealed:

Peter Weyland: [from TED Talks viral video] To those of you who know me: you will be aware by now that my ambition is unlimited. You know that I will settle for nothing short of greatness, or I will die trying. To those of you who do not yet know me: allow me to introduce myself. My name is Peter Weyland, and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to change the world.

This would at first appear to be a man with an ambition to benefit society tremendously, but as the talk continues Weyland’s greed appears dramatically: maxresdefault

Peter Weyland: [from TED Talks viral video] T.E. Lawrence, eponymously of Arabia but very much an Englishman, favoured pinching a burning match between his fingers to put it out. When asked by his colleague William Potter to reveal his trick, how is it he effectively extinguished the flame without hurting himself whatsoever, Lawrence just smiled and said, “The trick, Potter, is not minding it hurts.” The fire that danced at the end of that match was a gift from the Titan Prometheus, a gift that he stole from the gods. When Prometheus was caught and brought to justice for his theft, the gods, well, you might say they overreacted a little. The poor man was tied to a rock, as an eagle ripped through his belly and ate his liver over and over, day after day, ad infinitum. All because he gave us fire. Our first true piece of technology, fire… 100,000 BC: stone tools. 4,000 BC: the wheel. 900 AD: gunpowder – bit of a game changer, that one. 19th century: eureka, thePrometheus_1lightbulb! 20th century: the automobile, television, nuclear weapons, spacecrafts, Internet. 21st century: biotech, nanotech, fusion and fission and M theory – and THAT, was just the first decade! We are now three months into the year of our Lord, 2023. At this moment of our civilization, we can create cybernetic individuals, who in just a few short years will be completely indistinguishable from us. Which leads to an obvious conclusion: WE are the gods now.

One can almost hear Plato screech and Marcus Aurelius cast a resigned sigh of painful recognition. It seems at first a little difficult to say that Peter Weyland is not a true Philosopher King.  He is obviously a man of real knowledge and education, all of which would suggest he is a man in love with wisdom.  But upon examination it’s painfully clear that this acquiring of knowledge has not been simply for the sake of acquiring knowledge.  And for all his outward concern for the “benefit” of humanity, the final lines of his speech reveal the man for what he is: yet another in a long line of insects desperate for immortality.

I might perhaps be being a little negative, and it might be better to look at Dr. Tyrell of Blade Runner as well before coming to any final conclusions.  If my reader does not remember, Blade Runner was a film which explored the nature of humanity in a world where “Sythetics” or biochemically engineered human beings have been created and largely used as Slave Labor on “other-world” colonies.  A “Blade Runner” named Deckard is brought back onto the LAPD to terminate four rogue synths which escaped one suchscreen-shot-2015-05-15-at-3-02-08-pmcolony and made their way back to earth, and during his investigations he meets with the head of the Tyrell corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell.

Tyrell is a cold man who often appears guided by his own personal sense of charm as is emphasized in one memorable line:

Tyrell: Commerce is our goal, here. More human than human.

Apart from making me think of a great White Zombie song, this small line is real enough to damn Tyrell.  Commerce is not simpatico with being someone purely in love with knowledge, it’s the sign of an individual concerned with profit.  This is not to say a philosopher could not be a capitalist, but greed will blind a man to the truth and so weaken his personal strength.  And Tyrell only makes it worse after he allows his assistant to be interview by Deckard who recognizes that she is a synthetic.

Deckard: She’s a replicant, isn’t she?

Tyrell: I’m impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them?

Deckard: I don’t get it, Tyrell.

Tyrell: How many questions?filmz.ru_f_110473

Deckard: Twenty, thirty, cross-referenced.

Tyrell: It took more than a hundred for Rachael, didn’t it?

Deckard: [realizing Rachael believes she’s human] She doesn’t know.

Tyrell: She’s beginning to suspect, I think.

Deckard: Suspect? How can it not know what it is?

To which it is revealed that Tyrell hasn’t told her.  Tyrell is presented as a man who is not concerned with empathy for the people he has created, nor would he even recognize them as people.  They are merely products designed to increase revenue and thus continue his existence as a leader of the world and thus insure his continued comfort and ego.awe_space

These four men together seem to embody the collected works of Ridley Scott, for while the man has created characters of real strength and virtue, he has also observed in humanity a real failing of character.  My question at the end of each of the analyses is not to make some blanket statement about Scott’s carear at large, but again to answer a simple question: can they all be considered Philosopher Kings the way Plato foresaw such a being in the republic.

In my own mind the answer has to be no, because Tyrell and Weyland are clearly not Philosopher Kings, they are merely men who have perused philosophy and settled more on the title of Kings.  Their ultimately failing is their desire to acquire some kind ofprometheus-new1-465x300power, and rather than benefit society in a true form or fashion, they create at the expense of others thus reducing their empathy and their real love of knowledge.  As Plato saw it the role of the Philosopher King would be not only to be intelligent, wise, and true to their humanity, but also to lead society into an ideal state akin to a Utopia.  Though looking at this it becomes clear none of the men cited in this essay really match that title.  And that’s largely because Utopia will always be impossible as long as human beings are hindered by their failings.

Greed, ambition, vanity, and desire will always bring about destruction in there world, and to Scott’s credit each of these films demonstrate how society and individual people can be impacted when any and all of these traits become the foundation of power in the1438621524070world.  In Kingdom of Heaven Baldwin died and a vain ambitious man began a war with the Saracen Muslims. In Gladiator Commodus murdered his father out of a desire to hold power and appear strong. In Prometheus and Alien Covenant Weyland wanted to live forever and be a god and this ultimate brought about the creation of David, a being who brought tremendous pain to humanity. And finally in Blade Runner Tyrell was a man corrupted by his greed and apathy, all of which caused the synthetics to be butchered by a man who himself was caught in the morbid conundrum of his own morality.

My reader may object at this point, so what?  What good is it wondering about four characters in fictional films and whether or not they satisfy some Classical archetype?  PRidley Scott 2eople suck, that isn’t new information, why should we bother worrying about the apparent goodness of fictional people?

These are all fair points, but as always my contester has missed something significant.  Yes these characters are fictional people (though Baldwin was based on an actual dude), but fiction has always been about truth, that abstract notion that there is an explanation of reality that we can tap into and understand.  The truth of the matter is, it’s through fiction that human beings are able to perform thought experiments where they can find their ideals, desires, expectations, and beliefs made manifest.  In this way Scott’s collected oeuvre of characters allows the reader to try and determine what they ultimately believe about power.  What kind of ruler or influential people would we want ruling the world?  And it doesn’t even have to be as complex as that, what kind of people do we want to be in charge of us.

Whether it’s the President of the United States, the CEO of Apple or Facebook, the mayor of your hometown, or whether it’s even your supervisor at Barnes & Noble or a public library, the people who govern and inspire influence matter in our lives because their morality and integrity can have great weight over our lives.  Good people will try to be good to those “beneath” them, and thus try to make the world, and their environment, better, whereas selfish and greedy people will only cause chaos and pain.  Rulers like Baldwin IV and Marcus Aurelius are the sort of individuals most people would want in charge because they seem to understand the nature of integrity, whereas Weyland and Tyrell couldn’t possibly be bothered.40sbG

I recognize that this may be a tough sell because the idea of a “Philosopher King” is obviously something antiquated.  Kings and monarchs are the stuff of bad CW programs and amazing Netflix series (check out The Crown, it’s legend-“wait for it”-dary) but power is the one constant of human existence and few directors have explored so incredibly as Ridley Scott.  

I still am left awed at the wisdom of King Baldwin IV, and of the man’s supreme concern for the safety of the people he reigned.  Though I am also deeply ashamed that it took me 14 years to see that the man had a thin mustache etched into the silver of his mask.  Wisdom is important, though observation as ever eludes me.

King Baldwin IV 4

You Can’t Always Get What you Want, But if You Try Sometimes, You Might Find, You at Least Get Back: The Return of the King Part 2

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Witch King

I had to pee up to around 10 times when I saw Return of the King in theaters, and that was during my third watching. 

Though my condition has improved as I’ve aged, my wife has gone so far as to suggest that I download an app to my phone which actually sets a timer on your phone which coordinates one’s bladder while one is watching a movie.  The basic premise is, that way, you won’t waste a lot of time during a movie going back and forth to the toilet.  RunPee isMV5BODZjNmEwNmMtZjc1Yi00YWVkLWJlMjEtYjA0ODZiOTU4Y2QzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ3Nzk5MTU@._V1_not only an app, it is an entire website where there is a community of fellow pissers who exchange dialogue about when is the best time to get and urinate during a film.  I have yet to really dig into the language and psychology of this community because frankly I’m terrified of the reviews of Lawrence of Arabia.  I’m terrified they’re going to say the whole film is one long piss-fest, and I like Lawrence of Arabia.

As for my nervous pissing as a teenager, it came about entirely because I didn’t want to miss anything because I knew, as I watched, that this would be the last time I would see Middle Earth on the big screen.  I was wrong largely for two reasons.  The first reason was that by getting up to pee I was actually missing part of the film, and the second reason was because Peter Jackson would begin The Hobbit trilogy just a few years later.  And while The Hobbit films were not the barbarous human rights atrocity that they’ve been made out to be, Billy Connolly plays a dwarf who rides a motherfucking boar and he only shows up in the last hour of the last fucking film for fucks sake…I’m a little bitter.  But that’s only because it’s Billy motherfucking Connolly. 

Billy Conolly Dwarf

Fuck.

The Lord of the Rings the Return of the King was a beautiful film however, and so for many years I hated myself for never actually finishing the book.  It was fun knowing how the story ended, and it was fun appearing smart as I informed people who knew nothing about the series (and who probably didn’t give a shit about it) that I knew that in fact that when the Hobbits returned to Hobbiton the Great Party Tree was destroyed andReturn of the Kingthe Hobbits actually had to fight a large gathering of ghouls and cretins who had polluted the Shire, but it was all, ultimately, just an exercise in ego.  That is when I finally finished The Return of the King at the end of last year, I finally felt as though I was not so much of a “would-be.”

Book six of the Return of the King came and went, and I was left in a rather difficult position: how am I going to write about the last book.  Book five at least had Eowyn, but for the most part the final section of the book is for Frodo and Sam, and I don’t have much to say about either.  It’s not that I fail to recognize the potential for character exploration as both men have interesting material to work with, but by the end of Return of the King both of these characters have been essentially stripped to the bareness of their souls and are nearly destroyed.

The quest for the Ring, and the physical and psychological effects it has upon Frodo have been analyzed by scholars, fans, bloggers, writers, poets, and that weird guy at CVS pharmacy with the neck-beard who’s actually got great puns the world over.  Whether it’s been interpreted as a metaphor for drug use, the ultimate corrupting power ofart-magician-lord-of-the-rings-bilbo-rivendell-town-gandalf-lord-of-the-rings-valley-hobbies-gandalf-waterfalls-mountain-unexpected-journey-unexpected-journey-rockpower, veiled symbolism of unholy temptations, or simply human weakness, ultimately everyone arrives at the same conclusion for why Frodo ultimately fails to drop the Ring of Power into the fire of the Crack of Doom in Orodruin, usually just called Mount Doom: Frodo has no choice.  Ultimately the ring corrupts otherwise good people to it’s will, and they are powerless to stop such evil.  Temptation is a force that compels and corrupts the will, and those who possess the ring are ultimately undone by this power.

What fool would I be to argue against this interpretation?  Apparently a great fool indeed, but I not only disagree with this collected sentiment, I actually find it a dangerous proposition.  Though I’m not the only one who find this argument weak.

As I have noted since the start of these essays, Michael D.C. Drout’s lecture series Of9780760785232_p0_v2_s1200x630 Sorcerer’s and Men completely altered my perception of the trilogy and the ultimate aesthetic effect that Tolkien was attempting in this fantasy series, and I’m still feeling the reverberating effects as I consider each text one by one.  What struck me most about his analysis of The Lord of the Rings was the final failure of Frodo, and as he quoted the scene directly I suppose I should as well.  Sam and Frodo have traveled over the plains of Gorgoroth, and as they made their way up the side of Mount doom they have been attacked by Gollum.  Frodo manages to escape and make his way inside of the volcano and after Sam has spared Gollum he chases after his master who he finds standing on the perch.  All is darkness until the fire lifts up and Tolkien writes the scene so that every word matters:

The light sprang up again, and there on the brink of the chasm, at the very Crack of Doom, stood Frodo, black against the glare, tense, erect, but still as if he had been turned to stone.

“Master!” Cried Sam.Frodo Crack of Doom

Then Frodo stirred and spoke with a clear voice, indeed with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and walls.

‘I have come,’ he said. ‘But I do not choose now to do what I came to do.  I will not do this deed.  The Ring is mine!’ And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam’s sight.  Sam gasped, but he had no chance to cry out, for at that moment many things happened.  (924).

There is always going to be somebody whispering to the reader and saying “the book was better,” and while I won’t say that this scene in the final film of the trilogy was not great, it reinforced the traditional narrative of Frodo’s failure where the book left a more nuanced point.  Every word in Frodo’s declaration speaks to the real power of the ring and the effect that it has upon those who bear it or desire it. facts-one-ring-lord-of-the-rings-780x438_rev1

If the reader pays close attention to Frodo’s language it is clear what is compelling Frodo is not solely weakness of spirit or supernatural influence, it is choice.  Frodo does “not choose” to destroy the ring, instead his choice is to keep it for himself.  And this idea of choice is everything because choice is always a matter of one’s personal conviction.  A person chooses what color clothes to dress in, what books to read or not read, what films to see, what religion or philosophy should govern their life, what political beliefs they subscribe to, what games to play or not play, and what sort of people they prefer to spend their time with.  Each of these choices reflects the character and values of that individual, and those choices are ultimately founded upon a foundation of desire.  I choose to spend most of my time reading andthe-lord-of-the-rings-original-animated-classic-remastered-deluxe-edition-20100406040315385_640w1writing, because I desire to communicate to other people in a different way than conversation, dinner parties, or Eyes Wide Shut Orgies every third Tuesdays at Sarah and Jacob’s house (BYOB).  These actions coalesce together to create who I am, but it’s always the desire that compels these choices.

The power of the One Ring then is not just to warp a person using evil magic, what’s truly horrifying is that the power of the ring  is to warp a person’s choice. 

This of course creates problems because most readers would probably prefer a reality where Frodo does not choose to keep the One Ring, because if it his choice it becomes harder for us to forgive his final failure?  If it is just supernatural power, magic, temptation, then it’s easy to forgive the man’s weakness.  But as long as the final choice to keep the One Ring for himself is his choice the reader has to make an important decision: is it fair to fault Frodo?Frodo

This is where I look to outside books, which, in my case, tends to be the entire space of my office which is not just dedicated to coffee stains, cat hair, 3D prints of busts and statues.  There’s an entire shelf dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien (which he shares, just for the record, with Ta-Nehisi Coates), and as of this writing a significant amount of space is dedicated to the writings of Tom Shippey.  Shippey is a big name in Tolkien studies, largely because he has become a sort of literary successor to Tolkien, assuming the man’s former position at Oxford University and also writing multiple books about the man’s collected work.  Shortly after my inhalation of Drout’s lecture I absorbed every book the library hadabout Tolkien and his body of work, and Shippey’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century served as one of the first real stimuli of the of my intellectual flood.0aae4a6c83ea2e8af7104e6d6697bd16

That’s all a fancy-pants way of saying I read a lot of Shippey’s work.

Author of the Century is an important book in looking at almost every level of Tolkien’s oeuvre, and there’s no element of the book series that Shippey doesn’t analyze.  Whether it’s the linguistic models of character names, parallel mythic structures of themes, literary references contained within the novels, or even simply studying the shorter poetic works of Tolkien, Shippey is often the sort of writer that cuts open the butterfly to see how it works without managing to damage or smudge the original beauty.

Author of the CenturyLooking at this book then I looked to see how Shippey handles this problem of Frodo’s choice:

With that he puts it on for the sixth and final time.  It is a vital question to know whether Frodo does this because he has been made to, or whether he has succumbed to inner temptation.  What he says suggests the latter, for he appears to be claiming responsibility very firmly […] Against that, there has been the increasing sense of reaching a centre of power, where all other powers are ‘subdued’.  If that is the case Frodo could no more help himself than if he had been swept away by a river, or buried in a landslide.  It is also interesting that Frodo does not say, ‘I choose not to,’ but ‘I do not choose to do.’ Maybe (and Tolkien was a professor of language) the choice of words is absolutely accurate.  Frodo does not choose; the choice is made for him. (140)

Looking at this passage Shippey seems to come to the conclusion that Frodo has no real say in the matter.  But if one looks to another one of his books, The Road to Middle Earth,Road to Middle Earth he provides a far more nuanced  perspective:

Nevertheless it seems that there the external power is abetted by some inner weakness, some potentially wicked-impulse towards the wrong side.  In the chamber of Sammath Nauer one’s judgement must also be suspended.  Frodo makes a clear and active statement in his own evil intention […] Are Frodo’s will, and his virtue, among those powers?  To say so would be Manichaean, It would deny that men are responsible for their actions, make evil into a positive force.  On the other hand to put the whole blame on Frodo would seem (to use a distinctively English ethical term) ‘unfair’; if he had been an entirely wicked person, he would never have reached Sammath Nauer in the first place.  (144)

Shippey seems to arrive at what I would call a really mature understanding of good and evil and the nature of temptation.  Like so many aspects of life, one’s actions are usually a multifaceted creature which is determined on your individual self and environment.  Who I am and what decisions I make in my own home are entirely different from the decisions I make when I’m at work.  Both spaces create my reality and the way I’m supposed to behave in that reality, and before I become ungodly academic about this its fair to say that your environment has as much determining factor on your choices as whether or not external forces play a role in your decisions.10312349_10152254071921551_6560166227750751768_n

For this I have to go to heavy metal, because just two years ago I went with a friend to see my favorite band Slipknot in concert.  They were the last band to go on and my friend Josh really wanted to get in a mosh pit.  So when Lamb of God came on, and we were both very very very VERY drunk, he handed me his forty and hopped into the hurricane which was the mass of bodies running and fighting in a large circle.  I recognize comparing a Lamb of God mosh pit to Sammath Nauer is probably ridiculous, but in fact it actually bears some resemblance, because while my friend Josh was fine to hop into the chaos that was the pit, I stood at a distance watching grown men and women escape from the carnage with bloody noses and black eyes laughing while on the stage twin guitarists stood in front of atom bombs blowing up and head-banging.  I chose not to go into the pit, largely for reasons of self preservation, but also because it was my choice.

A pit in a heavy metal concert is not a force of pure evil, (although “Force of Pure Evil” would be a great title for a Metal Album) but anyone who’s attended a concert knowsalbert-edwards-the-fed-has-allowed-an-orc-like-monster-to-incubate-hatch-and-emerge-into-the-sunlight-snarling-and-ready-to-do-battle.jpg these “rings” are spaces where rational thought disappears and one is left solely to one’s passions and impulses.

I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that Frodo’s decision is complex, and arguably the zenith of the entire trilogy, because in this moment Tolkien challenges his own conception of evil as something of absence, and allows the reader to question how we look at our own choices.  And Shippey, to his credit, provides a beautiful analysis of it.

As to the questions of how far responsibility is to be allocated to between us and our tempters, how much temptation human beings can ‘reasonably’ be expected to stand—these are obviously not to be answered by mere mortals.  Tolkien saw the problem of evil in books as in realities, and he told his story at least in part to dramatize that problem; he did not, however, claim to know the answer to it.  (145)

The problem of Frodo’s choice is that it is a problem, largely for the reader.  Up to this point Frodo has seemed to be a purely good person, or at least a good person who’stolkien_photo_h-mexperienced great struggle and has done the best he could.  The ultimate choice to keep the ring for himself however calls many character aspects into question.  Was this always his intention, and did he intend to keep the ring from the start?  Or is it simply that the power of the ring is just too tempting and he realizes what he could be and do with its power?  Is Frodo even in his right mind when he makes this decision, or is it the combination of the Ring and the fires of Mt. Doom?

I’m not sure that I have an answer that feels satisfying.  My personal take at the end of everything is that, while the Ring is ultimately exerting the influence over Frodo, the extent of that influence is allowing Frodo the space to feel he can make this terrible choice.  And at the end of everything perhaps the ultimate power of the One Ring is not that it possesses any sort of supernatural power other than to allow people their selfishness.  This is not a terrible supernatural power, but it is a frightening prospect nonetheless for the reader who knows their own mind, and the terrible impulses and sudden desires they may have and not share.MV5BOGMzOGNkMjAtYjFhNy00MWI2LWExZTUtMDNkZGE5M2FlYWE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ3Nzk5MTU@._V1_

Our wants are not always selfless, in fact almost all of them are selfish.  Our wants are our selfish desires, and the real threat of evil is the temptation to act on everyone of them.  Frodo was a good person, but ultimately no one could stand against the temptation to do and have everything they want.  Frodo’s redemption then is the journey itself, for while he is ultimately a failure, his effort to deliver the ring to Sammath Nauer and Orodruin comes from a want and desire to be a good person and save the home he loves.

Goodness then, at the end of The Return of the King, is about overcoming personal selfishness and sacrificing for the general good.  The hero cannot win this fight, because selfishness and temptation is ultimately too great an opponent, this is made clear when Gollum steals the ring from Frodo by biting off his finger and falling back into the fires of Mount Doom.  Frodo too cannot escape the destruction of the Ring.  He ultimately leaves Middle Earth with Gandalf, Bilbo, and the last of the Elves to the Grey Havens.

Though I suppose all of this is not entirely correct, for at the very end of this long journey is Sam who does not desire or want for much except a home, and good tilled earth.  And Tolkien gives the man just that:Sam_frodo

At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland; and already they were singing again as they went.  But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more.  And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected.  And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Eleanor upon his lap.

He drew a deep breath.  “Well, I’m back,” he said.  (1008).

This ending may in fact offer the reader one more, and far more satisfactory conclusion about the journey.  Want and desire is not a solely selfish emotion, and can in fact lead to one’s salvation, as long as one’s wants are not so great to blind one to what you have.

sam-with-family

*Writer’s Note*

All quotes taken from The Return of the King were cited from the Mariner paperback edition.  All quotes taken from J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century were cited from the hardback Houghton Mifflin edition.  All quotes taken from The Road to Middle Earth were cited from the paperback Houghton Mifflin edition.

**Writer’s Note**

I realized not long after finishing this essay that there were multiple forums dedicated entirely to the question of Frodo’s failure, arguing whether in fact his final act is a failure.  As I said before, I land in the middle of this issue personally but each person is different, and dialogue is vital to the health of the humanities.  So if the reader is at all interested in seeing a few of the multitudinous perspectives which govern the Tolkien fan-base feel free to follow any of the links below:

http://www.thetolkienforum.com/index.php?threads/does-frodo-actually-fail.8873/

https://www.sheilaomalley.com/?p=334

https://www.reddit.com/r/tolkienfans/comments/2u5467/did_frodo_fail_at_the_cracks_of_doom/

https://www.planet-tolkien.com/board/13/2986/0/did-frodo-fail

***Writer’s Note***

I get that being a queer man this argument is probably pointless, but it must needs be repeated, I don’t believe that Frodo and Sam are gay.  But even if they were that doesn’t make any part of their relationship stupid, silly, grotesque, or not worth exploring, and if you’re the kind of shitty asshole who disagrees with me then go fuck yourself.  You take a long and emotionally exhausting adventure carrying the Ring of Power to Oroduin so that you can cast the ring into the fires of Samath Nauer ultimately to be undone by the will to dominate before managing to destroy the ring after all and hold each other close as the land of Morder begins to crumble in the aftermath of the collpase of the spirit of Sauron and NOT develope a bromance.  Go on.  Seriously.  I dare you.

Frodo_and_Sam_at_Mt_Doom

What is Love, Creator Don’t Hurt Me, Don’t Hurt Me, No More: Happy 200th birthday Frankenstein! Part 2

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

David 3

“Do not pity the dead Harry.  Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.” (722)

-Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

 

Nobody wants him, they just turn their heads. 

Nobody helps him, now he has his revenge.

-Iron Man, Black Sabbath

I should never feel regret for a thumb’s up, and yet I do.  It’s such a simple gesture, but it’s one that is loaded with meaning.  A thumbs up is the ultimate affirmation, an almostprometheus-banner-9-25universal gesture that implies that one agrees or understand or validates or supports a statement or set of conditions.  If you give someone a thumbs up it means you agree with them, you see their point, you understand or agree with them about something.  Giving another person a thumb’s up is a way of saying “I see you and I agree with you.”  The power of the gesture is implied by it’s simplicity.  It’s a solidly physical gesture and regardless of whatever culture, religious background, nationality, gender-identification, or sexual orientation you subscribe to, just about everyone understands what a thumbs up means. 

And if nothing else, Special Agent Dale Cooper gave arguably the best thumbs up in the history of human civilization and so it hurts all the more for my transgression.

dale-cooper

When I saw Alien Covenant, I honestly thought it was good.  It was my first real Alien film in theaters, because at the time I hadn’t really understood Prometheus in the context of the Alien franchise.  This was my chance to experience Xenomorphs and chest-bursters on the big screen, and while I was waiting for the doors to open at my local movie-theater I got to talking with two of the guys who were, like me, waiting to get inside.  We talked about Prometheus and I held my tongue when they told me they thought it sucked, and we discussed how we were ready for the Alien movies to return to their glory.  The doors opened and the movie started.  I’ll get to the details in a moment, but leaving the theater I was feeling great and on the way out I spotted one of the two guys I’d spoken with before the movie.  We didn’t say anything at first.  He just gave me a thumbs up, and I returned it.  And before I left he said, “I got exactly what I wanted.”  And I laughed agreeing with him.

I regret that thumb’s up so much, because Alien Covenant is arguably the worst Alien film in the franchise, which makes writing about it all the more surreal.   But in my defense, my first topic is Frankenstein, and I’ll only really be talking about robots.

As I wrote about in my previous essay, Frankenstein turns 200 this year, and while my co-RothwellMaryShelleyworkers scramble to put together an activity that involves an artificial 3-D printed limb at the library, my attentions seem centered lately the novel I had to read twice during college.  I had an excellent instructor during my sophomore year of college, a woman by the name of Dr. Catherine Ross who taught me many times, and instilled in me a deep and steady passion for the Romantic poets and authors.  Talking regularly about the sublime and the idea of the polymath, I was instilled with a real love and dedication for writers like Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelly.  And in-between those writers I assigned, not once, but twice during my collegiate career, to read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

If my reader has never read the novel it’s a story about a young ship captain named Walton who dreams of contributing something to society by discovering the Northwest Passage (the supposedly undiscovered path through the antarctic region which could shorten sailing voyages and thus open new economic opportunities).  While sailing through the ice he encounters a young man floating on an iceberg who is revealed to be a German aristocrat named Victor Frankenstein.  The men become friends, and Frankenstein eventually confesses his life story to Walton describing his creation of a horrible creature (who’s never named by the way) and how this act eventually leads to the death of his loved ones.  The novel is written as a series of letters from Walton to his sister, and within the letters Walton tells Victor’s story, and, at one point, Victor is telling the Creatures story as it was related to him by the creature.David 4

My last essay explored the dynamic of creators, and often the tendency in science fiction to portray creators as unfeeling and apathetic men driven by vanity, and while I was writing I couldn’t help but think of the Creature himself.  The Creature is, arguably, one of the most conflicted characters in literature due chiefly to the fact that he is not always a sympathetic character.  He strangles Victor’s wife on their wedding night, he murder’s Victor’s nephew, and in a fit of rage he burns down the house of a group of peasants who’s sympathy he hoped desperately to acquire.  While these sins are not to be forgiven by any means, the reader still can offer some sympathy to the Creature, largely because, while reading, they are able to observe that he is a creature devoid of love.

In one passage the Creature addresses Frankenstein:

But where were my friends and relations?  No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if they had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I distinguished nothing.  From my earliest remembrances I had been as I then was in height and proportion.  I had never yetfrankenstein_pg_7headseen a being resembling me, or who claimed any intercourse with me.  What was I?  The question again recurred, to be answered only with groans. (91). 

While it sounds pithy in some sense, it’s not too much to say that those who live without love are ultimately the most vile and damned.  Having recently completed the book Helter Skelter, I was impressed with the fact that Charles Manson, while young, suffered tremendously because he lived with a mother who clearly did not care for him, and over the course of his life the man lived an existence defined by the apathy and cruelty of others.  And having several friends who are fascinated by serial killers (including my lovely lady wife) the narrative is one that often repeats itself in the lives of criminals.  Love is, ultimately, empathy and concern.  And so when someone lives in the absence of other people’s empathy and concern it becomes toxic to their soul, to the point that they cannot see any relevance in caring about the lives of others.

The Creature then develops a new sense of identity, by discovering several works of literature.  Two of them are Plutarch’s Lives and The Sorrows of Young Werther, but the third perhaps is the most influential as it is John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the story of the fall of Satan and the fall of mankind from grace.  The Creature describes his discovery and identification:

“But Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions.  I read it, as I had Gustave-Dore-illustration-of-Miltons-Satan-fallingread the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, as a true history.  It moved every feeling of wonder and awe, that the picture if an omnipotent God warring with his creatures was capable of exciting.  I often referred the several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own.  Like Adam, I was created apparently united by no link to any other being in existence, but his state was far different than mine from every other respect.  He had come from the hands of God a perfect creature; happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone.  Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my conditions; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.  (98).

Satan, as I have noted in a previous essay, typically gets a bad wrap.  And while I understand that the character is the ultimate symbol of evil in Western civilization, I tend to follow the opinion of Mark Twain when it comes to the fallen angel: it’s a tragedy to have your story written before you even get to figure out what you want it to be. 

But regardless of my personal feelings about the character of Lucifer, the idea of a the fallen angel is one that is recurring in our culture, and the Creature’s identification leads me back to my thumb’s up, and my constant defense of the film Prometheus.prometheusmovie6812

Prometheus and Alien Covenant are films that embody a troublesome place in the canon of the Alien universe for fans.  While there are many divided about whether Prometheus is truly a “prequel” film, Covenant has largely, and across the board, been abandoned by fans due largely to the fact that it is an arguably terrible movie.  Dannie McBride’s awesome hat aside being the sole redeeming factor of the film.

Prometheus is a film which explores the origin of life as two scientists who lead an expedition to an undiscovered planet believed to be the origin of human life.  The crew, largely populated by scientists and a small handful of trillionares discover instead the remains of what amounts to a military installation and fall one by one to the black elixir which deconstructs an organism before remaking them completely.  The film is a beautiful meditation on life and creations, but for my purposes I’d prefer to focus on the character of David, a humanoid synthetic organism who, it becomes clear, despisesprometheus-new1-465x300humanity.  Throughout the film David’s isolation is emphasized as almost every interaction with a human being reveals that he is seen solely as an “other.”

Charlie Holloway: What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers. To get answers. Why they even made us in the first place.

David: Why do you think your people made me?

Charlie Holloway: We made you because we could.

David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?

Charlie Holloway: I guess it’s good you can’t be disappointed.insane-sci-fi-tech-we-and-matt-damon-need-right-now-from-prometheus-574192

A smilier exchange takes place earlier in the film as the crew is preparing to walk on the planet’s surface:

Charlie Holloway: David, why are you wearing a suit, man?

David: I beg your pardon?

Charlie Holloway: You don’t breathe, remember? So why wear a suit?

David: I was designed like this because you are more comfortable interacting with your own kind. If I didn’t wear a suit, it would defeat the purpose.

Charlie Holloway: They’re making you guys pretty close, huh?

David: Not too close, I hope.

David’s contempt for humanity is truly revealed in one interaction near the end of the film as they are making one final excursion onto the planet.

Elizabeth Shaw: What happens when Weyland is not around to program you anymore?

David: I suppose I’ll be free.

Elizabeth Shaw: You want that?

David: “Want”? Not a concept I’m familiar with. That being said, doesn’t everyone want their parents dead?

Elizabeth Shaw: I didn’t.Prometheus_1

David’s arc in the film Prometheus is one of a creation, separated from the apathetic creator.  It is clear that David’s makers respect the power of their creation, and the implications it has about their own agency and ability, but as the film progresses it becomes abundantly clear that, much like Victor Frankenstein, they have abandoned their creation and the result brings about the death and destruction of the entire crew.  David poison’s Dr. Shaw with the serum giving birth to one of the first face huggers, he poisons Charlie with the elixir, and he even leads his “father” Peter Weyland to his ultimate death.  All of these choices are performed with a defining apathy and as his comments to Shaw reveals, like Frankensteins Creature, he abhors his creator and cannot see anything of similarity between them.David 2

And as the character progressed into Alien Covenant, this apathy only intensified as David became the very thing he despises.  Covenant, like Prometheus, attempts to explore the ideas of the origin of life as yet another crew of terraforming settlers stumble upon an alien planet where David has settled and begun a series of experiments that are, as the viewer eventually discovers, the origins if the Xenomorphs.  The film is largely forgettable, but the moments with David stay with the audience as Michael Fassbender resumes his character, while also performing as another robot by the name of Walter.  The exchanges between the characters are the strongest parts of the film, and in these moments Ridley Scott manages to real meditations on life and creation:David and Walter

David: I was with our illustrious creator, Mr. Weyland, when he died.

Walter: What was he like?

David: He was human. Entirely unworthy of his creation.

Or a later passage when Walter finally confronts David:

Walter: When one note is off, it eventually destroys the whole symphony, David.

David: When you close your eyes… Do you dream of me?

Walter: I don’t dream at all.

David: No one understands the lonely perfection of my dreams. I found perfection here. I’ve created it. A perfect organism.Xenomorph

Walter: You know I can’t let you leave this place.

David: No one will ever love you like I do.

[kisses him, then suddenly strikes him fatally]

David: You’re such a disappointment to me.

By the end of Covenant David has revealed himself to be an unfeeling monster who desires only to create life that will destroy his own creators.  Much like the Creature who eventually led his creator on a chase all the way to the Antarctic, David is a being who’s existence eventually becomes defined by his cruelty, and while Scott offers a fair amount of complexity and depth to possibly explain why, by the end of these films it tends to become clear that what compels David is largely due to the absence of love.

Frankenstein is a novel that is an exploration of the “lack of domestic affection.”  Human beings require companionship and community, and when one lives in a family or group that is defined by affection, care, and trust, they can live healthily with one another. DavidVictor Frankenstein separates himself from the domestic affection of his family and this in turns ultimately leads to his destruction as he creates without care or concern for his Creature, abandoning it rather than assume personal responsibility.  The Creature never receives any affection from any living being and so he lashes out at humanity, hating them as well as himself.  David is a being of immense complexity and power, and no one respects that power of his actual existence.  And so, with that absence of affection defining his very existence, David lashes out destroying as many human beings as he can.

Frankenstein has impacted the culture because it opened up the conversation about the meaning of life, but more importantly the need to respect life and creation.  Creating can be easy, it’s often just a case of exchanging DNA between individuals, but once that life is created it must be nurtured and cared for.  The novel of Frankenstein is a tragedy notFrankenstein_1818_edition_title_page simply because Victor Frankenstein created a monster in the first place, it’s a tragedy because he abandoned the life he created.  Rather than respect his vision and offer love and affection to the Creature he’s brought into existence, he abandons it and offers no substantial remorse.

These questions and observations about domestic affection are not empty statements about the importance of being nice.  Domestic affection is responsible for the joys and sorrows of life, and everyone has taken solace from a co-worker offering them a hug when they’ve had a bad day, or their romantic partner taking them out for dinner just because, or when a complete strangers offers an unwarranted compliment on their shoes or hair.  These little acts of kindness build because they’re examples of people giving to one another and recognizing them as worthwhile.  It’s when people deny others domestic affection that real tragedies occur, because then monsters are made out of people who might have made something great out of this life.

So, I suppose then I don’t completely regret giving that dude a thumb’s up after all.  I still believe Alien Covenant was a wasted opportunity to build the Alien universe and explore the ideas of creation that were started with Prometheus and Frankenstein before it, but at least I offered that guy one moment of connection between people who enjoyed a movie together.

It ain’t much, but it was a little act of selflessness that didn’t cost me anything.  Though I’m still out $5.50 for that damn movie ticket.

prometheus2

 

*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from Frankenstein were quoted from the paperback Longman Cultural Edition, 1818 version.  All quotes cited from Prometheus and Alien Covenant were provided care of IMDb.com.

 

**Writer’s Note**

As always I like giving the reader some alternatives to my rather long and drawn out perspectives.  So below I’ve provided a few links to articles and videos which explore the film Alien Covenant.  Please Enjoy:

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/alien-covenant-2017

https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/6/15570852/alien-covenant-review-ridley-scott

https://www.out.com/armond-white/2017/5/19/why-alien-covenant-sucks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njlXBc8Q7o4&t=188s

Dirty Amber by Lips

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

img_1666

Dirty Amber Lips

13 September 2018

 

Makers and Gods and Egos, Oh MY!: Happy 200th birthday Frankenstein! Part 1

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MV5BMzg1NTFhZGMtNGJjNi00MTUxLTkyYTItMTBiY2E0ZjkyYzA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzg2ODI2OTU@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,735_AL_

I watched Blade Runner 2049 three times this year.  That’s three times I watch Jared Leto perform in what I would argue is his best read to date, and three times I watched Ryan Gosling stick his whole hand into a bee hive.  It might just be because I helped my father and sister collect honey this year and spent a good afternoon literally surrounded by swarming bees, but every time I watch his calm demeanor as he places his hand into the hive I can’t help but remember the sensation of watching close to a thousand bees buzz and fly around my face and I just want to yell “bullshit at the screen.”  I don’t though because it’s hard enough to find movies I feel are truly great, and that also use bees for aesthetic brilliance so I’ll bite my lip.library-books-wallpaper

The sensation of working in a library is a constant feeling of being behind, or at least it seems so for me.  Working in the Reference department at the public library where I work there is always, until there isn’t, a project to be working.  There’s new displays that need to be made, promotional posters and graphics for said displays as well ads the new programs that are about to be started up, there’s the logistics of acquiring guest speakers and/or teachers for adult programs, and while I’m attempting to work with the rest of my library family towards these goals I can be expected to be interrupted, depending on the day and time, at least two or three times by patrons looking for books, patrons looking for information, and patrons needing to send faxes.  And with the exception of this last example (I loathe faxes with a passion I never knew I could ever actually feel) I never feel any frustration with my job.  I love my work because I stay so busy.  And looking at aFrankenstein_1818_edition_title_pageproject a few of my coworkers are working towards I’m just reminded more and more why I have found, and chosen, a career in libraries.

Frankenstein turns 200 years old this year, and it being a novel I read prolifically during my college years, it seemed an excellent chance to look back to the novel, and look back also to a few films that seem terribly relevant as this foundational science-fiction novel comes to it’s anniversary. 

It doesn’t seem like Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, and Prometheus would have much in common with Frankenstein, but having watched all three films this year, there’s just no way that I can’t make the argument.  In fact one one occasion I did.  Each of these films centers around the dynamic of the creation and creator relationship and each film manages to capture the same sense of corruption that Frankenstein originally inspired.

If my reader has never read the novel Frankenstein, first of all they really should because it’s beautiful, and second they should read it because the novel has remained, since it’s publication, a relevant document about the human condition in relation to scientific enterprize.  The novel is written as a series of letters by a man named R.frankenstein_pg_7headWalton to his sister Delores.  Walton is a man driven to find a path through the north pole to achieve glory ever lasting, and while he fails at this task he discovers a young man in the ice named Victor Frankenstein.  Victor is chasing a giant, who Walton and his crew had spotted just the day before, who Victor eventually confesses is a living being created by himself.  Victor was a young man enraptured with the writings of alchemists, and upon the death of his mother and attending university where he learned everything was false he decides to overcome death by bring dead tissue back to life.  His experiment is a success, but he is horrified by his creation and the remainder of the novel focuses on Victor’s attempts to escape responsibility for his creation, while his creature (who is never named for the record) lives a miserable life wanting only to be loved.  The novel culminates in Victor losing his friends and loved ones to his creation and he eventually dies from the sheer exhaustion of following his creature to the literal ends of the earth.gallery-1464367257-before-watchmen-doctor-manhattan4-09a0e-aaec0

What’s fascinating about the novel Frankenstein isn’t just that it’s one of the earliest science fiction novels, it’s a novel which really explored the vanity that lies at the heart of creators.  Looking at just one passage Victor Frankenstein’s hubris is as glaring as it is ridiculous.

No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success.  Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.  A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.  No father could claim the gratitude or his child so complete as I should deserve their’s.  Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparentlyawe_spacedevoted the body to corruption.  (34).

I’ll admit freely that I have moments of vanity.  There’s nothing like checking the stats for this blog and seeing that I’ve had fifty or even sixty visitors on one day.  Similarly whenever friends confess they are in awe of the fact that I can read close to 100 books a year while they barely manage to fit in 3 or 4, there is a small twinge of ego that swells inside of me.  And finally, whenever I finish another page of my graphic novel that I’m slowly working on and show it to a friend I receive a real boost of confidence as they smile and tell me what they like about it.  These are moments of vanity, which is really just another way of saying, their moments where I celebrate myself and my achievements.  There is nothing wrong in celebrating the self, a lesson I’m trying everyday to remind myself as I overcome a lifetime of self-depreciation.

But hubris is endless vanity where one cannot perceive any personal fault and Victor Frankenstein’s hubris is the stuff of psychology graduate theses.  He is a man full of himself, and even after he realizes what he has done he never completely acknowledges his guilt.  In fact he denies his creation thus setting about a course of events whichstyle-dark_eye_1440x900destroys himself and the people he loves.  It’s not just that he is selfish, it’s the fact that he doesn’t seem to really care about the fact that he is responsible for this new life.

And looking at this apathy I thought immediately of Dr. Eldon Tyrell and Niander Wallace from Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 respectively.  Both men are corporate moguls who have made a prosperous living from the creation and sale of humanoid robots known as synthetics.  These “robots” are ultimately human beings who’s bodies are effectively controlled by the corporations to live only a few years, and essentially act as slave labor for terraforming (colonizing new planets).  Both men are driven by the need to make the “perfect” organism, not becuse they desire the new life they are making to succeed and flourish, but because they are driven by an intense hubris.

Looking at the Eldon Tyrell there is a brief exchange between him and officer Deckard that reveals to what lengths he is willing to go:MV5BMjE2NDQyMDkxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDk1MTcwNA@@._V1_

Tyrell: We began to recognize in them a strange obsession. After all, they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better.

Deckard: Memories! You’re talking about memories!

And the real demonstration of his perception is clear when he says,

Tyrell: “More human than human” is our motto.

Tyrell is a man who is generating what most people would recognize as sentient life.  And rather than empathize with his creations he is seeing only the design flaws that will affect his business.  The language at first doesn’t seem to reveal this, but if the reader looks closer at the words what he’s clearly describing is the scenario that synthetic humans are essentially being made and then being destroyed by lunacy before any actual biological degradation.  To Tyrell these people losing their minds and destroying themselves and other is not something to be remorseful about, but instead is simply a design flaw that reflects poorly on his brand.  And in an effort to save financial face he creates memories and implant them into people’s minds.

This is barbaric enough, and then the reader encounters in the sequel a man by the name of Niander Wallace.  Following the death of Eldon Tytrell in the first Blade RunnerMV5BMTg3NDIwNzU3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQ5MjY2MzI@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_ Wallace purchases the company after making billions in agriculture developments that have saved the population of the planet.  Along with this he has also proven to be a capable leader in the terraforming movement specifically by using synthetic humans as slave labor.  Wallace is a man who has achieved something incredible, and rather than relish what he has achieved he is driven by a real god complex.

In one scene the reader observes the birth of a synthetic human, a woman specifically who, while she is trembling in the shock of being born is examined by Wallace.  While feeling her body the man complains that human beings have only colonized nine planets before remarking on the limitations of his synthetics:

Niander Wallace: That barren pasture. Empty, and salted. The dead space between the stars.

Niander Wallace: [He places his hand on the newborn Replicant’s womb] Right here.MV5BMzY3MzdlODQtODlkOS00ZDIwLWIwNDUtMDcyM2RjZTFmOTNjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc0OTU4NzU@._V1_

Niander Wallace: And this is the seed that we must change for Heaven.

[He slices her womb]

Niander Wallace: I cannot breed them. So help me, I have tried. We need more Replicants than can ever be assembled. Millions, so we can be trillions more. We could storm Eden and retake her.

Niander is a man compelled by his vision to transcend mortality, but this ultimately reveals that, as he has acquired more and more personal power, and as he has generated more and more synthetic people he has stopped seeing them as anything other than robots.  The fact that he is so willing to kill a sytnthetic, literally minutes after she is born reveals that he sees them as nothing but products.  It’s not even a violent act in his mind because the woman is nothing to him, just another in a long line of products that will generate revenue.

And looking at just one more example, Prometheus offers the reader another fantastic example.  Peter Weyland, a man I’ve written about before is a man who a titan of industry as he has, like Tyrell and Wallace, made a fortune by creating synthetic human beings that aid in terraforming operations.  In a scene that did not make the theatrical cut of Prometheus, Peter Weyland address a stadium sized crowd and discussesprometheusmovie6812technology.

Peter Weyland: [from TED Talks viral video] 100,000 BC: stone tools. 4,000 BC: the wheel. 900 AD: gunpowder – bit of a game changer, that one. 19th century: eureka, the lightbulb! 20th century: the automobile, television, nuclear weapons, spacecrafts, Internet. 21st century: biotech, nanotech, fusion and fission and M theory – and THAT, was just the first decade! We are now three months into the year of our Lord, 2023. At this moment of our civilization, we can create cybernetic individuals, who in just a few short years will be completely indistinguishable from us. Which leads to an obvious conclusion: WE are the gods now.

Prometheus is a film which explores the ideas of life, creation, apathy, and what is the role of the creator in our existence.  Human beings are revealed to be the design ofPrometheus_1organisms known as engineers, massive humanoids that, upon waking, elect to destroy humanity and create something new in it’s place.  This apathy for creation ultimately brings about their destruction and the humans that survive the onslaught are left wondering why their creators despise them, or, more appropriately, why they felt nothing for their existence.

I’ll explore the idea of creations desiring compassion for their creators in the follow-up to this essay, but for now I wanted to look at some examples of the mad genius creatorRothwellMaryShelleybecause, since the publication of Frankenstein this character is something of a recurring trope.  Even if it is not science fiction there is still often the dynamic in literature, and unfortunately sometimes in real life as well, of one individual essentially breaking and making another and feeling nothing for the creation they have made.  Victor Frankenstein is a man who wants to become a god, but rather than assume any personal responsibility for his creation, or his creation’s actions, he falls back upon his ego and self-pity.

What connects men like Frankenstein, Tyrell, Wallace, and Weyland is not just their apathy however.  All of these men are defined first and foremost by their hubris, and by their conviction that they are somehow above their creations and fellow human beings.  In a later passage Victor is speaking with Walton, and the reader is able to observe that the man suffers no real regret for his accomplishments because he cannot look past his ego:

“When younger,” said he, “I felt as if I were destined for some great enterprise.  My feelings were profound; but I possessed a coolness of judgement that fitted me for illustrious achievements.  This sentiment of worth of my nature supported me, when others would have been oppressed; for I deemed it criminal to throw away in useless grief those talents that might be useful to my fellow-creatures.  When I9780141439471reflected on the work I had completed, no less a one than the creation of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself with the heard of common projectors.  […]. I trod heaven in my thoughts, now exulting in my powers, now burning with the idea of their effects.  (167).

Victor Frankenstein is a man who believes that he is special, and, by that implication, more important than other people.  This is vanity, and while that word gets thrown around a lot, it’s important to remember than the vain person is one who believes themselves superior and therefore above other people, and when someone is obsessed with the self it becomes difficult to realize faults.  Victor cannot and could not perceive himself at fault because he could not see anything that was truly outside of his own mind.  Because he isolated himself, because he failed to allow himself domestic affection, and because he would not allow himself to observe anything outside of his grand personal vision of himself he brought about the destruction of his life and the lives of those closest to him.maxresdefault

Frankenstein, Tyrell, Wallace, and Weyland are not just empty tropes, their examples of people who allowed themselves to look at themselves as gods, and that behavior had real implications for the people who lived “beneath” them.  In real life there are Victor Frankensteins and Eldon Tyrells; there are men who believe themselves to be above their fellow human beings, either because of their talents, wealth, or personal beliefs.  And so the real life implication of such men is that many people wind up suffering.

The lesson of Frankenstein, Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, and Prometheus is that creation is not simply an empty act.  By bringing something into existence you assume a real responsibility for it.  Whether it’s a painting, a novel, an essay, a company, a robot, orMV5BMTU1NjQzODEwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDM5MjY2MzI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1718,1000_AL_even a synthetic human being, creators cannot simply abandon their work or become apathetic to what they have made.  They own a responsibility to that creation and to those who encounter it. 

Victor Frankenstein wasn’t a nrillionaire, terraforming other worlds, and in fact he only ever made one living creature.  But the impact of his creation has reverberated 200 years after him.  Mary Shelly’s novel has never been out of print since its original publication in 1818, and the reason is rather simple: in the course of 200 years human beings haven’t stopped looking up to the stars wondering if they might supplant the gods, and neither have they stopped looking into the water and, like Narcissus, becoming enraptured with their own reflection.  A million rocket ships and a million new worlds or even millions of robots are nothing compared to the sheer power of the human ego. 

And we are, all of us, left wondering when we’re going to figure out when we’ll get a decent Frankenstein or Alien film again.

39495

 

 

*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from Frankenstein were quoted from the paperback Longman Cultural Edition, 1818 version.  All quotes cited from Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, and Prometheus were provided care of IMDb.com.

 

**Writer’s Note**

I’ve provided a few links to some articles which discuss the novel Frankenstein in case my readers would like to read some work about the book by writers who can afford editors…and food.  Anyway, enjoy:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/12/the-strange-and-twisted-life-of-frankenstein

https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2016/jun/16/what-frankenstein-means-now

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/magazine/2017/07-08/birth_of_Frankenstein_Mary_Shelley/