During a lecture by Zizek which can be found HERE, he mentions the John Carpenter film ‘They Live’ as a brilliant yet vulgar example of what he, Zizek, is trying to do: see through layers of ideology.
In this film, the main character steals a box of sunglasses, thinking it was something much better. He ditches the box, but keeps one pair for himself. When he finally tries them on, he discovers that he can literally ‘see’ ideological interpellation at work. For instance, he looks at magazines and adverts and instead of seeing pictures and articles he sees a dull grey background with big black words such as ‘consume’, ‘stay asleep’, ‘marry and procreate’, ‘don’t think’, etc emblazoned across them. The main mystery is that an alien species has infused itself into the world and is keeping everyone docile so they can live out their own capitalist/consumer desires upon us.
This got me thinking about other alien films and the idea of aliens from outer-space as being a symptom of some kind of lack or projection from the human psyche. I want to demonstrate how alien movies contain philosophical and ideological themes. Here are some (very) rough ideas concerning a few well known alien movies and I’m sorry for the lack of polish:
Independence day = aliens are a projection of neoliberal use and abuse system of exploitation. They are capitalism on a galactic scale (they are how we would be if we were able to go into space). First, destroy forms of resistance (asymmetric warfare: the aliens have full spectrum dominance), then move in to extract valuable resources. More interesting themes are: the Jewish protagonist; USA the saviours of the world that tells everyone else how to save themselves; the alien’s exoskeleton which reminds me of a quote from Junger which goes something like ‘technology provides the armour that allows one to step outside the realm of sensation and become impervious to pain’. It also reminds me of the homunculus theory of mind, where a little man sits in the driving seat of our mind, controlling us. Ultimately its a pro-government and pro-military film. The military machine proves, at the end, to have been able to save us, and their behind closed doors research wasn’t in the end a waste of money. The Masonic/illuminate symbolism also act as a cheeky prods to get conspiracy theory types all excited.
The Aliens movies = a look at unrestrained phallus (power). I think Zizek once said that ‘aliens’, in these movies at least, are the bit cut off in castration. Interstellar rape is the basic premise: i.e. this alien species has no concept of out of bounds and is therefore a projection of the desire and danger of transgressing the Oedipal prohibitive phantasy. This mirrors the political phantasy of universal values through the perfect communication between the aliens: aliens work together seamlessly and are not themselves concerned with sex, only jouissance through exercising their power through killing (the only time they show self-reflexivity is when they postpone the moment of death by a few seconds, like they are savouring the paralysis and fear of their victim) and by presenting the mother (queen) with gifts of bodies to act as incubators. They take their collective logic through the Absolute authority of the queen alien. This could reflect our own fears over authoritarian centralized control. This could also be seen as the logic of a universalized politics inscribed into the living organism of the collective alien body itself: the aliens act as one mind against their enemies, and do not fight amongst themselves. The film also acts as an obvious critique against capitalism prioritizing money over life, greed over honour, etc (as the spaceship ‘Nostromo’ hints at, together was the ominous ubiquitous presence of the Corporation). One possible script flaw which undermines the credibility of Ripley is how she allows for the robot in Alien 2 to stay on the mission. Even though he saves the day and is by the end a hero, there was no way of telling this from the start. It would have made more sense for her to kill him anyway, as this can be done with impunity: robots are not life no matter how life like they are. Instead she lets him continue which could possibly have endangered the lives of the crew and herself. This lends itself to a pro-robot sub-plot, which clearly gives the message that robots, if programmed towards the correct human values, could be our saviours. ‘Newt’ is a little more difficult to account for. The more than obvious interpretation being, she is the replacement for her own, now dead, daughter (the lost love object returns). Here is a horrible interpretation of why ‘Newt’ is an important name. A newt’s cells can de-differentiate, which means, they can regenerate limbs and organs. Now ‘Newt’ could be seen as a regeneration of the lost daughter and also as a metaphor for Ripley herself, who seems to be able to come back to life (as in the fourth film).
Predator – predator as the logic of honourable warfare. Kind of Nietzschian superman, who like to face resistance and overcome it through honourable exchanges in combat. To overcome resistance one must become seamlessly integrated into the environment one is in (in P1 Arnie becomes imperceptible to the predator through camouflage etc). I’ll think more about this later.
Men in Black = Film relies upon Leibniz universe in an atom speculation, which becomes clear during the move after solving the galaxy on Orion’s belt mystery and the game of marbles at the end of the film between the two alien creatures. Link between black and shadows. MIB run in the imperceptible background which actually maintains its control over alien refugees, so everyone can get on with their important lives and not be blighten with the alien presence – obviously a few aliens slip through the net! Normal society could be seen as white, therefore, will smith as a black man is the negative of the MIB image which becomes appropriated into the MIB by an aesthetic turn. The illegitimacy of the MIB is untouched in favour of an aesthetic reappraisal of the MIB’s own reflexive image. This could be some kind of commentary on hip-hop culture becoming mainstream, but I won’t held at gun point to this thesis. The cockroach could be a metaphor for minorities (namely Mexicans). The story goes like this: the cockroach or ‘bug’ is hiding in the skin of a farmer (i.e. they pretend to be people) and is hunting for the supreme energy source. If the ‘bug’ finds it we will all be killed by the higher power who readies their guns at us waiting for us to make a mistake. This could be seen viewed like this: the cockroach is a metaphor for the escaped Mexican refugees, they are unwanted pests, they are here to degrade the American way of life and culture, to sap their energy source, etc. If this happens then the international competition are ready to pounce on what was once a cytoplasticly strong country and destroy their market superiority! This xenophobic interpretation is a bit wild, but it does seem to carry some weight, given the political context, as in 1994, Proposition 187 was passed in California, barring illegal immigrants from receiving basic social services. The film came out in 1997. Immigration issues must have been big news around the time the script would have been penned.
I could do this all day, but I want to finish the second chapter of Graham Harman’s ‘Tool-being’ asap. There are loads of other strands to draw out, maybe someone else can analyse those?