Sunday, May 15, 2016

ANTI-SCIENCE



There is a movement afoot in media to undermine scientific advancement. It may be sinister. It may simply be human nature to exploit a counterpoint to get attention. Trump has become the expert in that field of exploitation. 

I am on about this after watching two films yesterday evening. Patrick (2013) is a cheesy adolescent horror story from our Australian cousins. The Giver is a Hollywood-insider offering heavily influenced by Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski (1998) himself. Both films illustrate a societal turning away from intelligent suspension of belief to bad anti-scientific (perhaps intellectually lazy) writing.

The Aussie film is another slam at psychiatrists and medical researchers. Charles Dance of Game of Thrones fame embraces his evolving role as the new aging Christopher Lee, a master at being both villainous and droll. The film itself borders on entertaining camp at times, but generally its intent seems to trash hospitals, nurses, doctors and medical care in general. The rehashed Frankenstein theme is enhanced with a monster in the form of semi-naked and recumbent Jackson Gallagher, a renowned TV hottie in Oz. Even if I were to acknowledge that the target audience for this film was intended to be pre-pubescent boys and girls, I would still have to say that its science was more appropriate to Mary Shelley's era.

The Giver (2014) was more insulting to my intelligence, since it has an air of self-justification. Jeff Bridges made his early career with two sci-fi films: Tron (1982) and Starman (1984). He was in his thirties. I don't think Bridges ever fully developed his potential as an actor or as a Hollywood aristocrat, by any means. However, he is a money magnet if he can draw the likes of Meryl Streep into a project like this one. 

The Giver is a post-apocalyptic thriller, part of a genre I find interesting from a social-psychology perspective. Unlike the zombie herds of this genre, this film seemed initially to approach the future of Western societies with some thought. I could accept that a post-apocalyptic society would still bathe and avoid cannibalism as a protein alternative. I could accept that an obsessively controlling Utopianism might surface as a reaction to decimating climate change and/or warfare. 

I could not accept The Giver's anti-scientific and illogical lapses. It quickly descends from a beautifully conceived Utopian future to a futuristic Land of Stupid, thereby bringing us right back to our present. Superstitious mysticism and destructive human behaviors, placed in boxes in this imagined future though technology and conditioning, become forbidden fruit, yearned for by The Giver and dangled by him with a tinge of seduction in front of a naive apprentice. Rather than developing a future Utopia governed by overly strict reason in conjunction with current science, the writers developed a mindless future from 1950's anti-Soviet propaganda. 

The concept behind The Giver was not at all impeded by scientific knowledge. It is a rather indirect propaganda piece about political correctness, feminism, pacifism and right-to-life issues of the current era. So it fails miserably both as science fiction and teen movie. Both films imply so much about our current time. We live in a civilization that squanders tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of technical expertise in studios to produce anti-scientific crap. Perhaps this is a function of those with wealth in media trying to justify their existence as elites. Perhaps it is simply a cynical attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator for profit. In either case, it is a pathetic comment on our time.

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