Disaster, dystopia, and exploration : science-fiction cinema 1959-1971

Chayt, Eliot Briklod
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Exploring the products of diverse cinematic modes of production—including Hollywood as well as art and experimental contexts—and their surrounding production and reception discourses, this dissertation reveals the ways in which science-fiction (sf) provided a pervasive influence in the film culture of the United States, Western Europe, and Japan throughout the sixties. In this era, three sf plot-types—disaster, dystopia, and exploration—were mobilized as cultural frames for analyzing contemporary social and technological change, frequently evoking socially critical and/or progressive horizons of interpretation. As such, sixties sf cinema provides an antithesis to the flights of fancy and conservative parables that often epitomized the genre in the fifties.

In this era, therefore, Disaster stories called into question nuclear proliferation rather than warning against some intruding alien force. Likewise, Dystopia could be found in Western bourgeois praxis as well as in communist totalitarianism. Exploration, rather than merely promising a hegemonic vision of outer space to be achieved through flag-planting galactic imperialism, could represent the hope for new conceptual and social norms.