« on: December 17, 2008, 02:40:50 pm »
Quote from: IOZ
There are some fine moments in the remade The Day the Earth Stood Still--Keanu telling Jennifer that his true form would "only frighten you"--and a wagon-load of howlers from John Cleese's Nobel for "biological altruism" on down to the giant Play-doh robot (my buddy D. sez, "Gumby, it coulda been you!"). I know that hashing out the spectacular science-and-technology fuck-ups in blockbusters is what the internet was originally designed for, but instead I'm going to talk about our hilariously backward pop-cultural ideas about science as demonstrated in this movie.
All right. One mathematical malapropism, just to wet your whistle. Dear Hollywood, exponential does not mean what you think it means. If fetus-Keanu was really growing exponentially, then he would not have fit into that 42 Long, kay? That said.
The central conceit of the film is that the leaders of Earth are not it's machinating politicians and generals, but the scientists, in their noble, apolitical, altruistic quest for the core truths that give meaning to life and . . . Now this, emphatically, is not what science is. There is very little narrative romance in a system of inquiry, experimentation, and verification through which we can discover and describe natural phenomena. And even if scientists were, each and ever' one of 'em, a little metaphysician, it's still a stretch to say that they represent the leadership of the human race: moral, political, spiritual, or otherwise. Robert Oppenheimer was a cosmopolitan and Renaissance man, as concerned as any scientists with questions of philosophy and morality, but he still built the damn bomb when the generals told him to, and when he later expressed reservations about its use, Harry Truman did not give a flying fuck. We could also engage in a digression here about how the military drives technological innovation.
So there's that. The saintly scientist in his cardigan writing equations on the chalkboard of his lovely home is no more a representative of the human race than the flagellant beating himself bloody with repentance while cloistered in some monastery.
These sorts of misconceptions and miscues aside, the more glaring error, one that is relentlessly perpetuated, is that science is an equivalent religion, that it represents not a regularized system of inquiry but a moral philosophy. Scientists in film are always believing in things. John Cleese tells Jennifer Connelly that she must convince Klaatu to spare the earth "not with your science, but with yourself." I mean, why? Cause that pussy is tight, yo? You can't convince aliens to save the earth because of its brilliant minds struggling to understand the nature of their universe. What convinces them is the love of a white chick for her black stepson and her repeated, teary avowals that we can change--because, apparently, of science, which is a sort of new-agey, pacifistic, high-tech, mutualistic Quakerism. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. That sort of junk. The important thing about Jennifer Connelly is not that she knows what sort of bacteria grow on Europa, or whatever, but that she drives a Prius and loves her little black son. The important thing about John Cleese is that he's hospitable, and plays Bach. But if we've been under observation since we started blowing up the Earth circa the Industrial Revolution, wouldn't the aliens have known about Bach already? Couldn't they have just assassinated Thomas Newcomen and and James Watt? Or just popped down back when the whole destroying the Earth thing was getting underway and said, whoa, like, hold up guys. Or do they have a policy of non-interference except when they opt for total destruction?
I said I wouldn't do this. Look, I am a big fan of science, but the perception of a lack of spirito-cultural unity in the West today cannot be remedied by proposing that sexy-chick scientists and ol' perfessers with Brit accents represent the moral core of humanity as priests once did, or whomever. If narrative exigency required that mankind be saved by a weeping woman, they could've kept her a housewife.
I agree with all the above. The whole quote is chock full of one liners.