Lit review: The Politics of Science Fiction

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saab.jpgRowley, Christina. "The Politics of Science Fiction." International Feminist Journal of Politics 7:2, June 2005, 319-327.

Another article in support of more scholarship on the interaction between popular culture and politics. In reviewing recent scholarly collections analyzing science fiction/fantasy television and film, Rowley notes the slow but steady legitimization of pop culture objects in many areas of academia as scholars acknowledge that "the popular is political" (320). Fiction can help develop critical thinking skills and create new discursive spaces. Rowley quotes Henry Giroux as saying, "art can contribute to constructing public spaces that expand the possibilities for...political agency, democratic relations and social justice" (320).

Rowley writes that the collections she reviewed "reject the notion that popular culture merely reflects society. As [Jutta] Weldes argues, 'SF is not just a "window" onto an already pre-existing world. Rather, SF texts are part of the processes themselves'" (325).

It's not a new idea for me, but I thought Rowley explained the power of sci-fi well in this passage:

The other/future worlds that are created and developed in SF are discursive spaces where politics and political representations can appear radically different, potentially destabilizing dominant conceptions of 'human nature', gender/sexuality, class, race and disability. The different ways in which SF utopias and dystopias extrapolate from current social and technological trends force us to acknowledge the plurality of possible futures. (321)

The article brought up an argument I haven't seen much before, and that I am anxious to explore further. It arose in the context of female soldiers presented as the norm and/but not remarked upon on the show Space: Above and Beyond. Basically, the question is: Is not remarking on the female soldiers good because it presents them as not worth remarking on (because women are equal), or is it bad because it erases the struggle that would be necessary to get to that point in our real-life society? The author Rowley is quoting, Nickianne Moody, is critical of the portrayal. Rowley quotes her as saying, "'the series uncomfortably elides the gender issues that it raises' because it naturalizes this new gender order and 'denies the exploration of struggle and contention' through which society has been changed'" (324). I've thought and written a lot on how science fiction's alternate worlds can inspire change by showing other possibilities and other realities than our own. After reading this article, I will be more cognizant of whether the works I'm studying, if they are meant to represent a possible future of our current society, show how changes occurred and what sacrifices led to them.



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