Code 46: Futures, High and Low

September 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

So, this fall I’ve been lucky enough to have Henry Jenkins let me into one of his graduate seminars. I’ve been an avid follower of his blog since visiting MIT in late 2007, so imagine my joy, on getting in to USC last year, at finding he’d moved there.

This particular class, Science Fiction as Media Theory, has a dream reading list. The stated aims are “looking primarily at science fiction texts (mostly literary) as ways of thinking through the implications of media change” and “looking at media theories for the implicit utopian or dystopian claims they make and for the ways they have drawn on metaphors from science fiction.”

Responses to weekly reading are posted on a class discussion board accessible only to those enrolled. I’d considered cross-posting my thoughts here, and still might, but in the meantime, I’ll be going ahead and posting parts of my first paper, which examines an overlooked 2003 movie I’ve always liked, Code 46.

Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Code 46 (2003) is a SF-inflected retelling of Oedipus with a double-helical twist (so to speak). However, the film’s more lasting impact may lie in the near future it posits than in its plot. In look and language, Winterbottom and Boyce create a future collaged from disparate parts of the present, which serves to update the hoary SF concept of “the standardized future” and, more subtly, to critique contemporary social and technological trends.

Utopian or dystopian, science fiction—twinned at birth with a technological dream of universal automation—has often posited a future of uniformity. In whatever future is pictured, everything will be of a piece. This is because we will have superseded inefficiency (perhaps at the cost of humanity), because we will have harmonized the paraphernalia and developmental paces of various technologies, and because images of the future brought to us by science fiction are the ultimate form of advertising. As John Berger notes, “The publicity image, which is ephemeral, uses only the future tense.” (Ways of Seeing, 144). That table will go with these chairs in the glass room overlooking the city, and we, whether executive or drone, will be in matching attire. This was for a long time the case in SF.

These days, the future is less monolithic. No more does it beckon, our millennial fate, like Kubrick’s enigmatic menhir, but comes into being by dribs and drabs. » Read the rest of this entry «

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