Science Fiction/Fantasy Influence on our Culture: Part 1

28 Mar

1st article in our 7week series on Sci-Fi/Fantasy

 By Open Book

Welcome to LIH’s seven-week series on Science Fiction and Fantasy. In this series each week we will review its literary and film representations and it’s influence on our culture.  As many know,  Science Fiction writers have visualized technological advances for scientist since the 1960’s.  Fascinating as that may be, rarely do we acknowledge Science Fiction or Fantasy writers criticism to represent our current social customs and state of mind. Page to Silver Screen (our sister site where we review books and film adaptations) is currently reading The Hunger Games and The Never-Ending Story. These two books are bestselling Young Adult futuristic and fantasy narratives. The film The Hunger Games, which opened in theaters this past weekend, has sparked a controversial debate on twitter regarding racism today.  How can a futuristic Young Adult novel inspire such a heated debate?  In Part 1 of this article we will examine the controversial racial debate and discuss this genre’s history and in Part 2 we will discuss Fantasy and its spiritual influence on our culture. So lets get started.

Brief History:

The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins and The Never-Ending Story written by Michael Ende belong to the Young Adult (YA) Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.  Yeah, I know these two genres are quite different but they are often confused. For that reason I thought we take a slight detour and compare and contrast the two genres and stories.

Science Fiction Definition:

Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible (or at least non-supernatural) content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”.[1]

Fantasy Definition:

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.”[2]

The Hunger Games:

This trilogy (with The Hunger Games being the first book) has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 60 weeks in a row. This futuristic story has captivated young adult and adult audience’s attention in books and now in film.  Collins was able to adapt the screenplay given her years of writing for children’s television. Some suggest Collins story is a critical view on the horrors of big government.  Why? The story takes place in a Post-Modern North America known as Panem after the country has gone through an apocalyptic event brought on by war, famine and drought. Each year the politicians desperate for entertainment select one male and one female (ages 12-18) from the 12 districts where only one survives (the fight to the death) televised event. According to an article called Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Illustrates the Horrors of Big Government by John Tamny states;

The book reveals the oppressive cruelty that is big government. Indeed, while the global political class and their enablers in the media to this day try to explain away droughts and the resulting famines from an “Act of God” point of view, the simple truth is that economically free countries don’t suffer them.

So should famine and war be blamed on a free trade truth that is flawed? If we look closely and examine some countries who thrive and others that don’t due to their ability to trade labor and services more abundantly than others. Than we need to examine why government and politicians, go to war. Jonh Tamny goes on to state;

……as Bastiat long ago observed, when goods don’t cross borders, armies eventually do. A lack of free trade not only means we get to enjoy much less of the world’s plenty, but it also means we have no rooting interest in the ability of others to produce for us so that we can produce for them. Instead, suffering from a lack of what we want with no avenue to get what we want, we go to war in order to forcibly take……[3]

The story really challenges readers to take a hard look at real freedom and our need for government to regulate how we manage ourselves economically and personally. Because divided societies give politicians an important role to manage the allocations of resources. If Collins belief that we need to work together to truly be free. Then the recent controversy by fans on twitter over the disappointment of an African American cast to play Rue is working against this concept. It’s shocking this blatant ignorance is still so prevalent today and after going through one of the worst recession in history? You would think people would be more willing to come together instead of wanting to marginalize another human being. However, it’s a rude awakening that racism is still one of the major problems that keep societies divided. Perhaps Collins futuristic world of government entertaining themselves at our expense is not so fictional.

Please join us for a discussion Thursday: 3/29/2012@7pmE/12UTC

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75 Responses to “Science Fiction/Fantasy Influence on our Culture: Part 1”

  1. Comic Relief March 29, 2012 at 12:30 PM #

    I certainly agree with you that science fiction and fantasy are great when they help readers better understand the world around us. I look forward to the discussion.

  2. littlebells March 29, 2012 at 1:58 PM #

    LOVE this topic! I I cannot wait to discuss all your points.

  3. parisienne March 29, 2012 at 6:05 PM #

    Open Book,

    Excellent Article!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/teens-time-travel-attempt-fatal-deadly-die-suicide-china_n_1335487.html

    According to the article, two Chinese girls committed suicide in order to travel back in time because one of them had seen that happen on a t.v. Show. The article also states that the Chinese government is attempting to regulate shows shown between 7 and 9 p.m.

    Do you think issues such as suicides in younger viewers should be dealt with by the government in terms of attempting to limit the times these shows air? Do you think regulations of shows has a negative effect on the cast/crew of the show? Should parents be held solely responsible for the harm their child inflicts upon themselves or should they lay blame at the feet of others because the child did not understand the difference between reality and fantasy?

    • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:18 PM #

      So tragic, Paris! And completely avoidable!

      I think both parents and networks/studios are responsible for what children/youth see. They know their minds are impressionable! Just look at the ads geared towards them with adult themes.

      I think parents need to have an open line of communication and have a reality check that their “I don’t care what my kids do” attitude needs an adjustment. Parents need to talk with their children about what they are seeing on TV/movies because it seems some are still not able to differentiate between reality and fantasy.

      • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:19 PM #

        OB,

        This also goes back to a comment you made in a previous article about shows not showing the reality of the consequences of one’s actions.

        • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

          Hi LB-

          Yes! ITA LB. However, I think in this particular case I think the parents were extremely neglectful. Obviously, these kids had a desire to escape their problems that they wanted to time travel in the first place? So I think some investigation needs to happen regarding the parents to figure out what they were trying to escape from. Does that make sense?

          • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:38 PM #

            Oh no, I totally agree with you. I should have been more specific that I was talking in a general sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if their was sever pressure for excellence from these young girls.

            • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

              ITA! In the general sense I think the government should regulate programming geared toward kids because they are easily influenced. I think showing the consequences of peoples actions empowers viewers IMO!!

            • ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

              Do they not have a warning before the show? Over here we have warnings before any programme that may contain something that may offend anyone. The warnings go on well into the night. I’ve even heard them before disney movies!

              • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

                Well parents can block certain programs I think. Is that true LB?

                • ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 8:09 PM #

                  Yes, we have that too but we still get a warning before and coming back from an advert break. I have South Park on right now and it’s after 1am and the warnings are still on!

                  • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:11 PM #

                    Wow! That’s great!

                    • ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 8:30 PM #

                      Agreed! Sometimes it gets annoying to hear it over and over but the channel I’m on right now has a man with a very sexy voice saying it, so I’m not complaining! But it is very usefull on the whole.

                • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

                  T. R. U. E!!!!

    • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:21 PM #

      Wow! How devastating. I think the parents should be held accountable. This sounds like neglect. I mean they should know the mental state of their kids so they could get help. Plus if they knew their kids were so impressionable they should have limited access to these programs etc.. My point is, no other kids their age has reacted in the same manner. I mean the show is not telling kids they should try this at home.

  4. Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    Welcome new and returning visitors to the discussion tonight. Let me read and get caught up.

  5. parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:18 PM #

    Hi Open Book!

    How are you?

    • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:18 PM #

      Hi OB!

      Hi Paris!

      🙂

      • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:20 PM #

        Hi LB!

      • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:22 PM #

        Hello LB!

    • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:21 PM #

      I’m good! How are U?

      • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:24 PM #

        I’m great!

  6. littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

    OB,

    Thank you for the great clarification of “science fiction” and “fantasy”.

    Ok,, first things first, I read comments about Rue and how they couldn’t believe she was black and that ruined it for them. Ok, read the book folks, and seriously? Ok. We really have a far way to go still don’t we?

    • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:28 PM #

      I haven’t gotten that far in the book. Is Rue black?

      • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

        LB-Correct me if I’m wrong. Rue was not defined as being any particular race in the book.

        http://jezebel.com/5896408/racist-hunger-games-fans-dont-care-how-much-money-the-movie-made

        • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:35 PM #

          Sorry, the article above has all the tweets that were made in response to Rue being black.

          One stated that if they knew Rue was black they would not have cried when she died.

          • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:38 PM #

            That’s cruel.

            • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:42 PM #

              Yeah! We have a long ways to go.

              • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

                yep we do, unfortunately.

        • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

          Rue is described as having dark skin. So my take was African American and since Suzanne collins worked on the screenplay….

  7. parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

    Plus i don’t think the ethnicity of actors really matter anyway. I think if they can capture the essence of the character well enough then thats what matters.

    • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

      Very true Paris, but I think they did try to stay very true to the characters in the book. Thresh, Rue’s counterpart, was also described as having dark skin. There are many ethnicities with dark skin so I trust what Suzanne ok’d for actors.

      • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

        Oh and I love that Collins created such diverse groups of people! First people discriminate we don’t provide enough roles for minorities and then when we do, they get bashed. What gives???

        • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:57 PM #

          Me too! What’s sad is that u have a writer trying to incorporate diversity yet some people need to……

          Ahh! I give up!! Let’s move on. I hate wasting time talking about people like this.

          So of course in the book SC addresses exploiting kids for sport. Do u think this resembles our society today? If so can u give me some examples?

          • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 8:05 PM #

            * hugs *

            Toddlers and Tiaras…*whistles*

          • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 8:14 PM #

            Not so much for Sport but for War in today’s society. THG was the war of the governent against the people for the uprising. Look at the young kids in Mexico and other places who are taught to fight.

            • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

              look at those child soldiers in Africa. Killing their families and friends.

            • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:18 PM #

              Ahh!! That was the answer I was looking for Paris & LB!! Why do u think they go to WAR?

              • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 8:24 PM #

                because they want their free will

                • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:30 PM #

                  Applause!!

  8. ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

    Hi OB!

    Great article! I cannot believe the racist comments over the Hunger Game actors. In the book it specifically states that Cinna, Rue and Thresh have dark skin, so of course it is correct and true to the book to use black actors. What did these people read? Did they read the same thing as I did? The actors playing those characters are perfect in my opinion. They were exactly as I imagined them when reading the book. They had a good casting director!

    • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      Nice to have u back!!I missed u!!

      Ahh! O.k. I did a speed reading of the book before I went to see the film. LOL!! None the less, I think the people who reacted with such idiocy about the race of these characters completely missed the point of the story anyway.

      • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

        ” I think the people who reacted with such idiocy about the race of these characters completely missed the point of the story anyway. ”

        I can’t tell you how much I agree with this. Seriously. Let’s focus on color than the ideachildren are being killed to keep rebellions from happening so there is peace in the land. *sarcasm*

        • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:06 PM #

          True! It’s sad!!

      • ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 8:04 PM #

        Yes they did! Stupid, closed minded people….*grumbles on*

        • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

          Yep! A house divided will fail.

          • Comic Relief March 30, 2012 at 1:31 PM #

            Sorry, I missed the discussion but I probably would have been stymied by the whole discussion anyway. Really, I can’t decide how I feel about this movie.

            It’s great that this series may help wean people off of “Twilight” culture, but I wouldn’t send children to see it unless I was trying to raise a psychopath.

  9. Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

    So I have a question for everyone!

    What did u think about the violence in THG both in the film and the book? Do u think it was too explicit for a YA novel?

    • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

      i didn’t think it was to explicit. It was nothing that the nightly news doesn’t show.

      • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 7:58 PM #

        Again, I think people should not focus on the needle but look at the big picture.

    • ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

      Hmmm, I’m having to remember back a good few months but I think it was stated matter of factly. It didn’t go into detail. I think that’s how it was descibed but I’m probably wrong!

    • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

      In my review over at PTSS, I said I thought the way the violence was shot was well done. I was horrified because here you have children committing murder without thinking twice. I thought the way it was rapidly filmed with images flashing every few seconds you got the effect of the brutality but it wasn’t anything compared to other murderous violence in other films.

      And no I didn’t think it was to explicit for a YA novel. It didn’t describe dangling limbs and great detail, and it fit with the story line of survival. JMO. 🙂

      • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:04 PM #

        What did u think of the idea of creating false personas to get sponsors?

        • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

          EVERYTHING is PR there is always a spin on something. There is no truth anymore.

          • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

            Yes! But the idea of creating these fake persona’s to survive.Do u think the more sponsors u have the more lies u have to tell? How does one get control? To keep themselves from being used up?

            • parisienne March 29, 2012 at 8:25 PM #

              you have a list. I told A this and B that and so on. LOL!

              • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

                Ahh! How smart u are!! U will go far!!LOL..

                • ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 9:29 PM #

                  The whole thing is a very sick, manipulated game! SPOILER ALERT

                  However it was the star cross lovers persona that Peeta and Katniss took on that saved them. Well, it was more expanded on rather than a role as Peeta was truely in love with Katniss and Katniss hardly acknowledges her feelings for him because she’s so focused on surviving for her family. Anyway, that persona is also what started the riots off too.

        • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 8:08 PM #

          That HW does it ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME! PR, PR, PR! I’m going to let Ozzie and Paris take this question because I won’t be nice. AT all.

          BTW, I love how Collins incorporated reality TV into her story. From the false personas to the cameras following them and the “gamemakers” (producers) doing what they need to to make the “show” interesting.

          • ozzie20 March 29, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

            Yes! The film added some scenes where you see the control room and them sending the fire balls at Katniss so she’ll move towards the other tributes so the viewers wouldn’t get bored.

    • Comic Relief March 30, 2012 at 1:40 PM #

      Was this movie too violent: absolutely!!!!

      HONESTLY, I LOVE ME SOME VIOLENCE!!!!! But I’m an adult who doesn’t think it’s universally appropriate. I mean I don’t worship it and I wouldn’t give awards for it yet in a country where Treyvon Martin can’t walk home in his own neighborhood (armed with a bag of Skittles), we have to worry about how impressionable many ADULTS are.

      Excuse my grandpa Walton movement these are many of the books we were encouraged to read when I was a teen. Many are fantastic and violent, yet few celebrate sadism. Sorry I know a lot of people are in love with this film, but I can’t get the image of Jennifer Lewis with a bloody gash cut into her forehead out of my memory.

      Classic novels (that were frequently made in to movies) for teens and children;

      1984
      by George Orwell

      The adventures of Huckleberry Finn
      by Mark Twain

      The adventures of Tom Sawyer
      by Mark Twain

      Alice’s adventures in wonderland
      by Lewis Carroll

      All quiet on the Western front
      by Erich Maria Remarque

      Animal farm : a fairy story
      by George Orwell

      Around the world in eighty days
      by Jules Verne

      As I lay dying : the corrected text
      by William Faulkner

      Brave new world
      by Aldous Huxley

      The bridge of San Luis Rey
      by Thornton Wilder

      The brothers Karamazov
      by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

      The call of the wild
      by Jack London

      Candide, or, Optimism
      by Voltaire

      Catch-22
      by Joseph Heller

      The catcher in the rye
      by J.D. Salinger

      The chronicles of Narnia
      by C.S. Lewis

      The Count of Monte Cristo
      by Alexandre Dumas

      Daisy Miller
      by Henry James

      • Comic Relief March 30, 2012 at 1:42 PM #

        I don’t understand this either

        Women I feel for you. I know you’re starved for plots that entirely revolve around women and their thought life. One’s where they can be heroic, ambitious, play warriors, guardians, be the center of ethical behavior, etc. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

        In 1992, O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his former wife and her friend a sympathetic waiter from a local restaurant. After the trial, when the verdict came in, (that Simpson was acquitted), many African an-Americans publically cheered. At the time it was explained away that this misplaced joy, was one of the first times a Black citizens could afford to buy an innocent verdict in such a public manner. Two wrongs didn’t make a right.

        I wish that any woman who is comfortable with this book would just wait. In the grand scheme of things, good things are probably on their way.

  10. Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:06 PM #

    Did u think the story reflected reality TV?

    • littlebells March 29, 2012 at 8:09 PM #

      hahaha!!!! See above. 🙂 I’m a step ahead of you!!!

      • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:16 PM #

        Ahh! Noted!! However, don’t hold back!!

  11. littlebells March 29, 2012 at 8:19 PM #

    OB and everyone,

    I need to step away but will be back later this evening. I have lots of questions!

    OB: fantasy has been around for a long time. Why do you think it has lasted as long as it has? Why do we enjoy the “pretend and make believe”?

    • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:25 PM #

      No problem LB!!

      Ahh! Fantasy……Love it!! Good Q: However, I will discuss this in Part 2. Don’t u love sequels…. LOL!!

  12. parisienne March 29, 2012 at 8:23 PM #

    Everyone,

    I’m going to go for the night! OB, awesome article!

    • Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:26 PM #

      Paris..

      Have a good night!! Thanks for your contribution.TC!

  13. Open Book March 29, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

    Everyone!

    I have to go for the night. But I will check back tomorrow if u have any further comments or questions.

    TC!!

  14. Comic Relief March 30, 2012 at 1:44 PM #

    Not directly related to the movie, there was one article that did a good job of discussing politics and culture reminiscent of the film. Please tell me this film and these political events don’t resemble each other. Writer Richard Jensen does an excellent job of detailing the ingredients of futurism and fascism.

    The major themes of the Futurist programme can be summarized as follows:

    1. exaltation of speed and action
    2. championing of violence and conflict
    3. emphasis on youth
    4. rebellion against the past and disgust with Italian cultural stagnation
    5. championing of the industrial age, the machine and technology
    6. espousal of fervent Italian nationalism and imperialism.

    In numbers 4 and 6 exchange “Italian” with “American” and you have a complete match. Here’s the whole article:
    http://www.historytoday.com/richard-jensen/futurism-and-fascism

  15. Open Book March 30, 2012 at 7:24 PM #

    Hi CR!

    I’m so glad u were able to weigh in on this topic. I know u were conflicted about the THG’s violent narrative and that’s completely plausible. However, I believe the author SC was trying to warn us about the violence being administered by our own society today. By way of reality TV, Wars and hate crimes, bullying etc….We seem to have less compassion for our neighbor. If we really think about it most people want to live in a world where we have purpose and freedom. Yet, it seems some believe they have the right to exclude or devalue others and worshipped like God.

    Anyway, my point is your negative or uncomfortable reaction to the violence in this film is a good thing. It shows u have not become numb to the violence on TV and in our society. The more people react like u perhaps theirs hope our future will not become THG.

    • Comic Relief March 31, 2012 at 5:11 AM #

      Honestly you think the film is acceptable with it’s flaws (or you think the flaws should be worked out). I think the movie is scary. It’s a difference of opinion. And Hollywood has already put massive stock in this series so like “Harry Potter” and “Twilight,” I bet the franchise will do fine.

      • Open Book March 31, 2012 at 1:44 PM #

        No it’s a point of seperating fact from fiction so we can take action. Meaning would I rather watch a film trying to wake up our society about how violent we’ve become? Or TV that celebrates backstabbing, wars, sexual exploitation and hate crimes against children. Why do we tolerate this on television but complain when we see a fictional version of it in a movie? Is it because people want to use films to escape? I go back to Paris post up above about the chinese girls looking to escape their problems by commiting suicide. I think the real issue is what should be the purpose of a film? Should we use extreme visual/fictional narratives to only make us happy or as simulations of cruelty against others to wake us up and want to take action? Does that make sense?

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