FROM LASER BEAMS TO SOCIOLOGY


Originally published on September 15, 2011.

Close up of satellite model used in 2001 a Spa...
Close up of satellite model used in 2001 a Space Odyssey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a sci-f fan and writer, I am obligated to read certain books and watch certain movies. It is a burden but one that I gladly take on (she says smiling ecstatically). So one night, well technically morning, I decided to watch “2010”. This is the follow-up movie to “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Now, I did try to watch the first movie a few weeks prior. That didn’t turn out so well. I can remember the first twenty or so minutes, then the next thing I know I’m hearing myself snore. However, I did decide to watch the second film simply because one of my favorite actors was in it—Roy Scheider.

If you are expecting a shoot-em-up, aliens coming down here to do mischief, and space cars zooming through the atmosphere kinda movie, then you’d be wrong. “2010” is not an action adventure flick. It is, however, a brilliant cerebral movie that challenges our perceptions of society. Even in 1984, Peter Hyams, the writer/director/producer, had a vision of what it would take to bring our world into an era of peace. It would take an alien race more powerful and enigmatic than we could imagine. Of course, that’s only one of the ideas present in the movie. There’s also the thought that international wars and tensions are generated not from the people, but through the governments who are more concerned with power than they are with doing the right thing for the people. You have Russians and Americans on a space ship that, after a tense start, work together and form relationships. Without the bias of political tension, they show that it is very possible to get past all of the junk and befriend one another. This goes on while on Earth, both countries are poised to slaughter each other.

The movie also gives rise to a prevalent idea regarding the creation of this planet and its inhabitants. Now, I’m not here to start any arguments of Creationism v/s any other beliefs. I’m only pointing out what the movie depicts. It is a movie after all.

There are aliens, though, and the aliens are pretty cool, in my opinion. You never see what they really look like, but you know that they have the ability to kick our collective butts back to the dawn of creation.

Cover of "Brave New World"
Cover of Brave New World

So what’s my point? Simple, science fiction isn’t just about robots, space ships, space travel, and laser guns. It’s also about other sciences that we don’t really think about—specifically social sciences, the field of sociology with focuses on social class, religion, secularism and law. Books such as “1984” by George Orwell, or “A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, give us an unflinching glimpse into the realities of our present and potential future society.  Just like “2010” these books, and others, delve into who we, as a society, truly are at our core. They point out the potential for peace, or the complete opposite dystopian societies which are illusions of peace.

A really great sci-fi story isn’t confined to the physical sciences; it will also incorporate the social as well. Stories which challenge us to look at the realities instead of the Politically Correct accepted varnish that we have swallowed all of our lives make up some of the best novels ever written. Movies adapted from the above listed novels, Equilibrium, Demolition ManMinority ReportGattica, among others, show us the various directions our morals, pride, greed, creativity and true capacity for acceptance can take us.

What are some of the really great novels that you have read, or movies that you have seen which have opened your mind to possibilities, realities and wonders? I’d really like to know, feel free to leave a comment.

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