Posthumans, Rise Up And Destroy Hollywood!

Illustration for article titled Posthumans, Rise Up And Destroy Hollywood!

Why is Hollywood trying to poison everybody against posthumans? Whenever you see someone going beyond standard-issue humanity in movies or TV, it's portrayed as monstrous and evil. Whether it's cyborgs, mutants or humans hacking their bodies, Hollywood exercises its anti-posthuman agenda. Meanwhile, novels have been celebrating the customizers and reinventers for years now. What can we do to derail Hollywood's insidious campaign against our posthuman brothers and sisters? The first step is understanding where it comes from.


But even though we all have twenty nine brains and a stomach that speaks Swahili, we shouldn't condemn Hollywood without considering the evidence. Here's the evidence for the prosecution:

1. Hollywood's unseemly hatred towards mutants.

Just consider the wealth of movies and TV shows about people who start spontaneously converting into something beyond their original human design, thanks to a genetic change or exposure to strange substances. Like the vicious ex-humans in Night Shadows aka Mutant, who terrorize a small Southern town. "Mankind's deadliest threat will not come from the skies," it proclaims.

There are also terrifying mutants in Hell Comes To Frogtown and a number of other movies. And on shows like Star Trek, whenever a character (usually a dweeb like Lt. Barclay on Next Gen) starts developing a super-mind — or evolving into a super-lizard — it's always portrayed as a bad thing.) Not to mention the murderous disease-altered mutants of movies such as 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, Omega Man and many others. (These aren't as well known as Night Shadows, of course, but they still have an impact on our mutant-hating culture.)
Counter-examples: Comic books come to our rescue. Mutants come off quite well in shows like Heroes and movies like the X-Men trilogy, which are either based on comic books or obviously derivative of them. Obviously, we should be using our superior posthuman intellects to boost the comic-book industry.

2. Why does Hollywood persecute cyborgs?

Again with the Star Trek hate: Trek gives us the Borg, who are the most hurtful representations of cyborgs imaginable. My friend Zzarglboz had to hide his swizzle-shaped head implants on the street for a year after First Contact came out.

Illustration for article titled Posthumans, Rise Up And Destroy Hollywood!

They're like Frankenstein, only cyber! (And actually, some of our posthuman friends are partially dead, and the Frankenstein story is very unfair to them.) In the original Robocop, being turned into a cyborg makes Officer Murphy into a heartless killing machine. And for some reason, regaining his "humanity" is seen as a good thing. Says Cyberpunk Review:

As Murphy begins to realize who he was, and worse, what he's become, the question asked is what degree of Murphy's humanity remains? Murphy's partner, Anne Lewis (played by Nancy Allen) serves to surface these concerns, as she still thinks that Murphy is inside somewhere. Yet, every aspect of humanity has been taken away from Robocop - he doesn't have a home, but instead returns to a borg-like podchair at night to regenerate. Even if Robocop eventually considers himself human in some sense, it's no longer clear what that even means. At best, Robocop is part of that strange category we call "post-human."


Also, the Matrix movies portray "jacking in" to a cyber world as a horrendous form of slavery, in which you're at the mercy of the machine that creates the virtual world. And then there are movies like Cyborg, Cyborg 2, American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, etc.
Counter-examples: Once again, comic books are our friend. Iron Man is just one example of a trend of comic-book-inspired films that portray cyborgs positively, with the zoomy jet boots and the cool helmet.

Illustration for article titled Posthumans, Rise Up And Destroy Hollywood!

3. Hollywood hates it when we merge with aliens.

In movies and TV, alien creatures that want to merge with poor ordinary humans and uplift them to a higher level of consciousness and ability are never "benefactors." They're always "parasites," or at best "symbiotes." For once, comic-book movie aren't even our friend, either — Spider-Man gets an awesome boost from the inky black creature in Spider-Man 3, but it's still portrayed as a terrible thing. Even though it makes his hair so much better! Plus in The Invasion, the alien "parasites" are horrible and awful, even though they clearly make Daniel Craig the most James Bond-esque he's ever been. The same goes for The Puppet Masters. And it's hard to find happy representations of people inter-breeding with aliens, either — it's always nasty and fatal, like in the Alien films or the Species films. When everybody knows that in real life, merging or interbreeding with aliens often works out great. (It's just like marriage, though — don't get hitched until you try living together for a while first.)
Counter-examples: Star Trek has one of the few I can think of, with its happy Trills, the symbiotes that make Dax and the other spotted-neck people all cheerful and ageless with the wisdom and the cute "old man" nicknames.


4. Movies and TV spread the hate against genetic engineering.

Just look at this hall of shame of genetic engineering movies and TV shows. You have your GATTACA, where genetic engineering upgrades the human race, but poor Ethan Hawke gets discriminated against because he's genetically inferior. (Which anybody who saw Reality Bites already knew.) And then there's the dark future world of Dark Angel, where people practice genetic engineering on humans, including the super-killer main character. And of course the aliens in the X-Files are practicing genetic engineering on humans. Not to mention, TV shows are always full of genetically advanced superhumans — including Khan's superior people in Star Trek and the subtly named Nietzscheans in Andromeda — who are all evil and intent on conquering everybody else. And in the forthcoming movie Splicers (or Splice), Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley create a scary-sexy human-animal chimera that turns out to be too much to handle. Why, oh why, can't movies and television ever celebrate the specialness of our genetically hacked brothers and sisters?
Counter-examples: Star Trek is the frenemy of the genetically upwardly mobile. On the one hand, there's Khan's gang and their whole Ceti-Alpha-Two keeping it real craziness. On the other, Trek does offer us Deep Space Nine's doctor Julian Bashir, who's a bit smug and obnoxious but otherwise a pretty decent upgraded human. So we'll call it even.


What can you do to stop the posthuman hate?

1. If you have mental powers as a result of mutation or some kind of alien implant, then use them on the producers and "suits" in Hollywood. Maybe if the blood vessels on their foreheads start swelling to the size of cantaloupes and everything tastes like bad salmon to them, they'll rethink their anti-posthuman prejudice. Otherwise, we may have to wait until the posthuman revolution happens, and then all of the regular humans will be tasped encouraged to treat us more fairly.


2. Support books. Books have been way more favorable to those of us who have moved beyond our human limitations. We'll have a post tomorrow detailing the pro-posthuman books that you as an aspiring posthuman, should read and support.

Top image adapted from photo by Lampeduza.



Corpore Metal

@alphawaveseven: Yeah, I agree with your points.

For a lot of people out there the first Matrix movie was stunning because they never really thought about what technology might ultimately do to us. But as a college kid who read Moravec's Mind Children back in the 80s, the Matrix was already old hat to me. Friends had to drag me out to see this movie. I liked it anyway despite several glaring scientific errors.*

But anyway, the thing I think that keeps being overlooked when transhuman themes get addressed in movies these days is their ultimate ordinariness. We already have a zillion gadgets that make us superhuman now. Earth moving bucket loaders make us super-strong. Computers improve our memories. Radio telescopes are superhuman eyes. Modern medicine gives us enormous healing powers our ancestors would have been deeply envious off.

When everyone has a mobile phone, it's no longer superhuman or special to have one. The technology becomes ordinary.

Sometimes movies address this—kind of. I'm thinking of the first Star Wars movie. Wonderous technology was portrayed as commonplace and rather beat-up. Luke's landspeeder was just a beat-up Ford pickup.

But the real problem happens when people try to imagine how technology makes us smarter. There is a conceptual wall that we can't really cross very well. Even the most visionary thinkers of the Middle Ages could never have imagined our life here in the 21st. Could they have ever imagined something so trivial and irritating as e-mail spam?

Whatever. I'm getting way off topic and it's very early. Good morning.

*No, I'm not even referring to the thermodynamic error of treating human bodies as energy sources. I'm referring to Trinity learning how to operate a helicopter or Neo learning kung fu in seconds. Sorry but their brains were still organic. Even if the Matrix injected nanobots into their brains to reshape their neurons and synapses to speed learning, they just couldn't learn something that fast. It would cook their little monkey brains.