Friday, April 11, 2014

Scifi as political theory, redux

Peeps, the new CW show The 100 is my dissertation. It features the state of nature, the origins of politics (mostly Hobbesian, unsurprisingly), the problem of rule by children (they are not so good at it), and also neon forests and two-headed deer and other imagined effects of nuclear holocaust. It's also Lord of the Flies set in a post-apocalyptic survival world, which also kind of means Lord of the Flies was my dissertation, but now my dissertation is on the teeveee. Becky told me about this (I've been boycotting TV due to overproliferation of shows that "make u think"), I've watched the first few episodes,'s not as bad as you'd perhaps expect.


Alpheus said...

Let me guess: the sorts of people who fare best in this "Lord of the Flies" post-Apocalyptic world are the same sorts of people who fare best in upper-middle-class American society circa 2014?

Miss Self-Important said...

A little hard to say as yet. It presently seems that sadistic criminal tendencies are a survival boost, but that may wane with time, as Hobbes predicts. But mostly yes - attractive and empathetic people are winning, and never seem to die from their injuries, whereas everyone else does.

Besides, doesn't the characters' normalcy just support the view from the previous scifi-is-political-theory post that scifi and fantasy take people as they are here and now, and plop them into alien conditions to demonstrate the contrast, rather than alter them along with their surroundings?

Alpheus said...

I think you're right about sci-fi to a large extent, though I also think the best works in that genre do try to give us unconventional societies and/or characters, loosening us from the parochial grip of the present order.

TV seems to me much worse at doing this than books, and recent TV seems worse to me than TV twenty years ago. I know they have to attract viewers in a competitive media environment, and rigorous stereotyping is an easy way to do that, but what's the point of showing a post-apocalypse world if it's going to operate just like the pre-apocalypse world? Do we need reassurance that the rules we play by today will have universal validity?

Withywindle said...

I will say that there is very good SF of both the normal person in strange conditions and strange person in strange/normal conditions varieties.

Miss Self-Important said...

Let's consider this as two approaches to hypothetical literature: a Hobbesian approach, and a Rousseauian approach. Hobbes puts normal man into an abnormal state of dire scarcity and danger in order to determine what normal people really, in the most minimal sense, are about. He answers: a volatile mix of pride and fear. Rousseau, like Alpheus, objects that under such abnormal conditions as Hobbes proposes, there is no reason to assume that man himself would be recognizably normal. Rather, we have to reason from the conditions themselves what such a man would be like. So, if the world is so sparsely populated that men rarely come across one another, why should we assume they have any desire to interact at all, or are even able to recognize their own species? Why should we assume they have language? Without means of comparing themselves to others, from what could they develop pride? How can we even know that they understand death well enough to fear it?

If scifi could be divided up like that, it might really elevate it in my estimation.