The usual excuses

No posts lately, I know; my teaching workload has been really busy lately, and in the remaining time I haven’t had the mental energy to do anything other than sit like a lump playing video games.

I have been thinking — and this is not a post so much as the idea for a post — about the way in which historical imagery is used in science fiction, mainly visually in films and video games. I’m thinking of the Roman stuff in The Hunger Games, for instance, or the 50s imagery in Fallout (which I think started as a neat thematic idea to distinguish the game from other post-apocalyptic games and turned into something very subtle and intelligent). I think it’s part of the larger recasting of historical eras (which of course are their own problematic concept) as “genres” or “stories.” This is a simple way of communicating an idea — so when you hear the names of the characters in The Hunger Games you know that Capital is powerful, oppressive and decadent, even if you weren’t aware of that already.

On the one hand, this can be pretty cool — I really like that the Fallout universe is very much about how the past is at once this place of nostalgic memory, but also defined by a shoddy, soulless consumer culture, and a place of mistrust and oppression, which is more or less the generic American view of the 1950s.

Um. I might do this in more detail in a bit, but the interesting point, to me, is not so much the specific historical analogues in these specific historical products, but the way in which historical references are genre-ified. At its worst, this ends up with my frequent complaint about Hollywood history, where things that don’t fit a stereotype get changed to fit that stereotype more. At its best, though, it can create really thought-provoking and emotionally intense stuff.

Anyway, just a passing thought. I am going to try to do something a little more robust next week, but no promises.

The usual excuses

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