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What We Reveal

One of the precepts I use in my Science Fiction class is that science fiction reveals the time that produced it.  It's a fun concept, and it gives us an approach when we start a discussion of a story.  Yesterday we watched the first half of The Day the Earth Stood Still.  I stopped it with about ten minutes left in class so we could talk about what we'd seen.  The first comment was about the scene in the movie where the doctors have treated the wounded Klaatu.  The doctors are outside of the room where Klaatu is being held.  One of them is amazed/discouraged that the bullet wound he treated the day before is already healed.  Klaatu used a salve on it, the doctor said.  The alien's level of technical knowledge makes him feel pretty low about his own expertise.

It's kind of a funny scene, but what the kids noticed is that the doctors are smoking all through the scene.  One kid pointed out that they were smoking indoors (which is illegal in any public building in Colorado), and another talked about the irony that they were doctors who were smoking.

This kicked us into a discussion about societal change.  What was interesting about this talk for me is that some of the kids who hadn't really understood my focus on the evolution of how women are portrayed in science fiction suddenly understood it.  They didn't get the idea of "change" until they talked about the smokers.

Very cool.

Today we'll watch the second half of the film.  My favorite scene in the second half is a little throw-away moment where Klaatu is sitting in the boarding house by himself.  He opens a small wooden box on the table beside him, and it plays music, which pleasantly surprises him.  It's one of the few places in the movie where he seems "alien" in any sense. 

The picture I included is another scene where Klaatu reveals that he is not "of Earth."  He and Bobby are at Arlington Cemetery and Klaatu says that they don't have the equivalent of Arlington where he comes from because they don't have wars.  Bobby says, "Gee, that's a good idea."

It is a good idea, don't you think?


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
One of the all-time great SF flicks!

Jan. 20th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Smoking may be the #1 most obvious change in our society as shown in movies. Cell phones may yet prove to be #2, but I don't so often notice that "gee, a cell phone would solve everything--they couldn't do this plot complication in a modern movie."

Watching Midnight Run nowadays really highlights the cigarette thing. The airline agent asks Dorfler if he wants to sit in smoking or non-smoking, while Dorfler is standing there with a lit cigarette in his hand in the airport terminal. This movie is only 24 years old, but what a radical difference.
Jan. 20th, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
I've noticed in old movies or television shows how much time they will spend watching someone dial a phone. This was really obvious in a classic film, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. The kids notice it too. It changes the rhythm of some scenes.
Jan. 20th, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
philosophy paper
Interesting post, this was really useful. thanks!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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