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Title: Biopolitics in Science Fiction Films - An Exploration of the Representation of the Contemporary Politicization of Human Biological Life in Cinema
Keywords: biopolitics, biopower, science fiction films, Foucault
Issue Date: 8-Jan-2011
Citation: VICHITRA K. S. GODAMUNNE (2011-01-08). Biopolitics in Science Fiction Films - An Exploration of the Representation of the Contemporary Politicization of Human Biological Life in Cinema. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This thesis explores how the portrayal of biopolitics in popular science fiction films leads audiences to passively absorb the pervasiveness of this form of power in the contemporary world and prevents us from realizing how difficult it would be to resist biopolitics. Biopolitics refers to the politicization, economic exploitation and regulation of human biological bodies in order to manage populations and certain philosophical arguments on biopolitics are used to analyze four blockbuster science fiction films in this thesis. Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito are three influential philosophers whose works have contributed substantially to the philosophical understanding of biopolitics and it is their arguments which form the theoretical framework of this thesis. Science fiction films show dystopian outcomes of contemporary political and social issues to mass audiences. These films inspired me to explore the connection between film and the philosophy of biopolitics, as well as to question if there are any differences between the cinematic representation of biopolitics and the philosophical arguments. I feel that the possibility of resistance which is shown in these films is very different to the philosophical arguments. While these philosophers contemplate whether resistance (or even true liberation) will only be possible by questioning the reduction of human life into a biological entity, the films embrace a simpler (or perhaps even a weaker) idea of resistance. In these films, resistance never seeks to end the biologization of politics and instead focuses on merely overthrowing repressive governments, organizations or even finding scientific solutions to end the scenarios depicted in the narratives. As a result, these films convey the idea that people will be rescued from any grim scenario either by an individual, a new technology or a new regime. Why do these films not target the most fundamental feature of biopolitics ? that of reducing individuals and populations to biological entities that are politically managed? My thesis is that these films function as a form of biopolitics themselves because their ideas of resistance are also steeped in a biopolitical context and they appear to be limited in reflecting on the possibility of active resistance unlike the philosophers. In this thesis, I analyze four important blockbuster films: The Island (Michael Bay; US; 2005), V for Vendetta (James McTeigue; UK/US/Germany; 2005), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron; UK; 2006) and 28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo; UK; 2007). Their narratives are based on significant biopolitical issues in contemporary society : human cloning, totalitarianism, immigration, asylum seeking and global epidemics. In each of the film analysis, I will demonstrate the paradoxical nature of blockbuster science fiction films. Despite showing the dangers which could result from biopolitical practices, these films seek to reinforce biopolitics itself by not portraying that resisting the most fundamental feature of this form of power ? the reduction of individuals to biological entities - is perhaps the only way of truly overcoming biopolitics as questioned by the philosophers.
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