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

By Donald Palumbo | Go to book overview

18
Sexual Freaks and Stereotypes in Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Films: Loathing Begets Androgyny

SAM UMLAND

As the mass art of a culture reveals something about the culture that produces and consumes it, a look at the treatment of sex and sexuality in some recent Anglo-American science fiction and fantasy films should reveal something about the sexual ambience in Anglo-American culture. A plethora of contemporary films either ridicule heterosexual relationships or present such relationships as having their bases in mutual exploitation, oppression, or sheer delusion. Moreover, these films treat the freakish sexuality of alien beings and the thoroughly mundane sexuality of instantly recognizable cultural stereotypes identically, with an unprecedented disgust; there is no middle ground, no contrapuntal hint in these films of what the healthy expression of human sexuality might be. In treating both the most bizarre and the most trivial of sexual encounters so similarly and so negatively, while presenting no "romantic" sexual alternative, do these films mirror some new disenchantment in Anglo-American culture with heterosexuality?

Science fiction and fantasy films often articulate a generation's particular sexual tensions, but they have just as often in the past defined that generation's image of healthy sexuality, perhaps in contrast to what was considered perverse. Howard Hawks The Thing ( 1951) provides a good example from an earlier era. The

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