Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Lost‘s Sayid Jarrah: A History of Violence

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 by

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Caution: Spoilers through Season 5 below.

Last year, I wrote a (relatively) brief summary of the few animal-friendly plot lines found in seasons one through four of Lost. Animal advocacy issues are rarely addressed in the show, but look closely, and you’re bound to discover occasional gem: lovable Kate is a vegetarian, while show villain Anthony Cooper enjoys blood sports such as hunting. The Losties (understandably) took to hunting wild boar for sustenance early on, but the slaughter quickly ceased when they discovered the Dharma food drops. And who could forget Sayid’s memories of Amira?

While nonhuman animals didn’t much figure into the season five story arc, one episode in particular stuck with me. In fact, I meant to write about “He’s Our You” (Season 5, Episode 11) months ago, but somehow it kept getting placed on the back burner. With the final season of Lost set to begin tonight, what better time to revisit an old episode?

As I noted previously, Sayid’s story lines oftentimes revolve around the themes of forgiveness and vengeance, with Sayid struggling to come to grips with his strikingly violent past. As a soldier in the Iraq Republican Guard, he was captured, co-opted, and trained as an “interrogator” (read: torturer) by American forces during Operation Desert Storm. At the close of the war, his “skills” were put to use and turned against his fellow Iraqi citizens in the Republican Guard, where he was promoted to the Intelligence division and tasked with torturing dissidents and political prisoners – including his long lost childhood love, Nadia (as well as the aforementioned Amira). Torn between his allegiance to his country and his moral qualms, he helped Nadia to escape, but could not bring himself to go with her.

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Once on the island, Sayid (somewhat reluctantly) put his interrogation skills to use several times (as if fate would not allow him a break from his past – even when stranded on a lost island!), first torturing an innocent but obstinate Sawyer, and later, a guilty but cunning Ben Linus. During the “A-list missions” and battles with the Others, Sayid proved to be a valuable military asset. After escaping from the island, Sayid reunited with Nadia, only to see her murdered not a year after their wedding. The rest of Sayid’s time off the island is devoted to hunting her killers down, one by one, and exacting revenge. This came with an uneasy alliance with Ben, on the premise that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” However, it’s still unclear whether the men Ben directed Sayid to kill had anything to do with Nadia’s murder – or if Sayid was being conned.

Flash forward to Sayid’s return to the island – circa 1977. Here, a lost and confused Sayid struggles with the reason why he’s been brought back to the island; what is his purpose here? After meeting 12-year-old Ben Linus, Sayid has an epiphany: if he was to kill Ben, then the young, innocent Ben would not live to grow into the evil, adult Ben that the Losties know and hate – and thus most of the (present-day) events in Lost would never occur. But can Sayid really murder a child in cold blood?

He’s Our You” deals with Sayid’s inner struggle over this complex moral dilemma. As with earlier episodes, Sayid wonders whether he’ll ever be able to escape his past as a torturer and killer; are these merely things that he has done – bad things, of course, but things that can be left in the past – or are they what he is? To what extent do Sayid’s sins define him as a person? And, given the American occupying forces’ role in shaping his destiny, is Sayid a natural born or man-made killer?

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They’re made out of…meat.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Mylène @ My Face Is On Fire recently wrote about scifi author Terry Bisson’s 1991 short story “They’re Made Out of Meat,” which she noted, “provides an interesting twist on how most humans view animals.”

Wiki’s entry is on the story is rather short (but then, so’s the story!) – and contains spoilers – so if you’d rather be surprised, skip right on down to the video and press play before reading further. The running time is 7 1/2 minutes, but it’s worth every second.

They’re Made Out of Meat is a Nebula Award-nominated short story by Terry Bisson. It was originally published in OMNI. It consists entirely of dialogue between two characters, and Bisson’s website hosts a theatrical adaptation. A film adaptation won the Grand Prize at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum’s 2006 film festival.

(The aforementioned award-winning short is what I’ve embedded below.)

The two characters are sentient beings capable of traveling faster than light, on a mission to “contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe.” Bisson’s stage directions represent them as “two lights moving like fireflies among the stars” on a projection screen. They converse briefly on their bizarre discovery of carbon-based life, which they refer to incredulously as “thinking meat.” They agree to “erase the records and forget the whole thing,” marking the Solar System “unoccupied.”

Interestingly, the only link listed under “See also” is “Carbon chauvinism“:

Carbon chauvinism is a relatively new term meant to disparage the assumption that extraterrestrial life will resemble life on Earth. In particular, it would be applied to those who assume that the molecules responsible for the chemical processes of life must be constructed primarily from carbon. It suggests that, as carbon-based life forms who have never encountered any life that has evolved outside the earth’s environment, human beings may find it difficult to envision radically different biochemistries. The term was used as early as 1973, when Carl Sagan described it and other human chauvinisms that limit imagination of possible extraterrestrial life in his Cosmic Connection.

From there, you can go to “Anthropocentrism,” “Chauvinism,” “Chemical evolution,” “Carbon-based life,” and “They’re Made Out of Meat.”

I always found our humanoid conceptions of aliens life forms to be unreal and egotistical, but never considered it a form of prejudice. But yeah, “carbon chauvinism” (carbonism?) sounds about right. How fitting, then, that “anthropocentrism” (which links to “speciesism”) is referenced in the entry.

Anyhow, this short adaptation of “They’re Made Out of Meat” is really well done, and – if you’re so predisposed (read: intellectually honest) – the themes can equally be applied to our treatment of non-human animals.

See also: Damon Knight’s “To Serve Man.”
 


 
If you can’t view the video above – or, if you can but would like to read the story as well – it’s available in multiple places online; Google “They’re Made Out of Meat” or try this link, for starters.

Many thanks to Mylène for the video!

From animal liberator to animal hunter: Life and death in the Dollhouse.

Friday, April 10th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

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Caution: Spoilers ahead! (More specifically, after the blockquote.)

Firstly, I’m extremely happy to report that, as promised by Ms. Dushku, Dollhouse has improved by leaps and bounds since last I blogged about it. Not only have we gotten to know Echo – our hero – a bit better, but more importantly, the show has addressed “the consent issue” head-on.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who haven’t seen the show, here’s a brief summary via Wiki:

Eliza Dushku plays a young woman called Echo, a member of a group of people known as “Actives” or “Dolls”. The Dolls have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas, including memory, muscle memory, skills, and language, for different assignments (referred to as engagements). The new persona is not an original creation, however, but an amalgam of different, existing personalities. The end result incorporates some of the flaws, not just the strengths, of the people used as templates. The Actives are then hired out for particular jobs – crimes, fantasies, and the occasional good deed. On engagements, Actives are monitored internally (and remotely) by Handlers. In between tasks, they are mind-wiped into a child-like state and live in a futuristic dormitory/laboratory, a hidden facility nicknamed “The Dollhouse”. The story follows Echo, who begins, in her mind-wiped state, to become self-aware.

As I noted before, the Dolls’ lack of agency in both their “wiped” and “programmed” states makes it impossible for them to give meaningful consent – for any of their actions, including sexual relations. When a doll “has sex,” she (or he) is actually being raped. Usually the rapist knows full well that he (or she) is “having sex” with a programmable “doll” – so it’s rape with intent. Occasionally, however, the “doll” is sent on a covert/undercover mission – for example, to seduce a certain FBI agent – and sex becomes a tool she (or he) uses to that end. Such cases still constitute rape, but…well, it’s hard to say who the rapist is when the “doll’s” partner believes that the encounter is consensual. The Rossum Corporation, perhaps?

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Hunting “Tail” on Dollhouse

Monday, March 2nd, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

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Caution: Major spoiler warning below the jump!

I’ve been a Joss Whedon fan since his Firefly days, so when I heard that he was working on a new project, Dollhouse, I immediately got all giddy like a schoolgirl. That is, until I hear that Eliza Dushku would be starring. Ugh.

Even before the hunting flap, I disliked Dushku. Perhaps it’s because she came off like an entitled snot in a very early episode of Punk’d; even before she was faux “arrested” for “shoplifting” in a local retail boutique, she copped a huge ‘tude over all the free swag she was obviously owed for being a celebrity. That, and Tru Calling looked absolutely dreadful. Well, and I’m also weird like that; Dushku isn’t the only celebrity I have an irrational, knee-jerk dislike for. Take Ben Affleck, for example: clearly, he’s a funny, charming, altruistic guy, but there’s just something about him that I want to hate. He’s smarmy, but not. Did I also mention that I have a crazy aversion to feet? So maybe it’s just me, after all.

Anyway, the aforementioned hunting flap gave me a reason to dislike her – a good one, actually. In an August appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Show, Dushku discussed her love of hunting – you know, that sadistic leisure activity which involves murdering innocent animals for “fun”:

Here’s the gist of the interview (via ecorazzi), in case you don’t want to sit through the whole video:

A couple night ago on Jimmy Kimmel Live Dushku revealed that she loves to hunt elk and deer. Not only did she brag about it, but she also showed off her bow and arrow skills and boasted about killing a deer in Oklahoma last Christmas. WTF, Eliza? Why are you such a jerk?

Even the studio audience turned on Dushku forcing her to joke, “My mother called me herself and said, ‘You’re a liberal from New England, what the ‘f’ are you doing in Oklahoma shooting things.” Backpeddling later she said, “When you’re in a relationship with somebody you have to, like, experience things that they do. A lot of people eat meat… and I eat what I kill.”

Dushku’s hunting isn’t so much the point, though, as it is a set-up for the rest of this post. Despite my ambivalence, I started watching Dollhouse on my DVR last week. It’s alright, certainly no Firefly, but also not the complete stinker I was afraid it’d be. The second episode, “The Target,” is of particular interest from an animal rights standpoint.

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Violence, compassion and vegetarianism on Lost.

Monday, February 23rd, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

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Proceed with caution: Moderate spoilers ahead. Specifically, I’ll be discussing Sayid’s flashbacks in the Season 3 episode “Enter 77” (3×11). There may also be a few small spoilers through Season 4, but none for Season 5 – promise! (Although the external links may lead to more current spoilers.)

The husband and I became Losties rather late in the game. We picked up Season 1 on DVD on a whim during the writer’s strike last winter; within the first five minutes of the pilot episode, we were hooked.

Lately, I’ve taken to consuming pop culture with a more critical eye. I’ve always been somewhat sensitive to how women are portrayed in the media; increasingly, I’ve consciously tried to expand my “circle of compassion” vis-à-vis pop culture to other marginalized groups, including non-human animals. While animal welfare issues rarely surface on Lost, one episode in particular has stuck with me – “Enter 77” (3×11), a Sayid-centric episode.

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Truth in Advertising: HUMANS ARE AMONG US!

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

This series of retro ’50s monster movie poster adverts for the SciFi Channel has little to do with animal advocacy – but why let a lil’ thing like that stop me from putting an animal-friendly spin on ’em?

Each “poster” depicts an iconic movie monster recoiling in horror as a human invades his space:

Sci Fi Channel - The Thing

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