Eros in the Mind's Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film

By Donald Palumbo | Go to book overview

15
Pilgrims in Space: Puritan Ideology and the American Science Fiction Film

JIM HOLTE

In the vastness of space and the amplitude of time available to science fiction, anything conceivable is possible, and countless variations of our world have been created. Yet always there is something recognizable. We create our imaginary worlds from the raw stuff of the world we know. Japanese science fiction reflects a culture shattered by two atomic bombs; Soviet science fiction draws upon over a half century of collectivism; and American science fiction, especially in film, draws upon still older American myths and attitudes.

Forbidden Planet is a puritanical rewrite of The Tempest. 2001: A Space Odyssey is Stanley Kubrick version of Pilgrim's Progress. Star Wars is a space opera replay of the American Revolution, complete with divine mandate. And Outland is an archetypal frontier showdown, High Noon in space. Each of these films draws on the popular concept of America's Puritan heritage-- one of the first and most powerful of America's indigenous cultural myths--in numerous ways. An essential element of this myth, evident in each film, is the repression of sexuality and concomitant understatement or denial of the importance of women. The tendency for mass culture in general, and the science fiction film in particular, to exploit popular mythology and replicate its elements explains why American science fiction has

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