Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[BRIEF NOTE] Why I Won't Watch War of the Worlds

I'm familiar with much of the War of the Worlds-verse. Alas, I'm unlucky enough to never have heard the 1938 Orson Welles broadcast though I have watched most of the risible yet camp two-season television series. I have, of course, read the original novel by H.G. Wells. I will certainly not be going to see the new War of the Worlds film, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise.

Why? H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds back in the first years of the 20th century with the intent of writing an anti-imperialist text, or more precisely, a text that challenged in good Rawlsian fashion the social Darwinism that was the implicit basis for the imperialisms of the belle époque.

Before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

Wells wrote War of the Worlds with the intent of describing the fragility of civilization, and the insanity of those people--like his artilleryman--who enjoyed unrelenting brutality.

We can't have any weak or silly. Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die. They ought to die. They ought to be willing to die. It's a sort of disloyalty, after all, to live and taint the race. And they can't be happy. Moreover, dying's none so dreadful; it's the funking makes it bad.

What will we get from this new movie version? I doubt that we'll get anything as challenging as Wells' original novel. Spielberg's soft-focus nostalgic camera certainly won't encompass anything like analogies between the situations of Americans and Iraqis, or challenge the brutal survivalism that is increasingly prevalent in our society and infects everything from popular religion to military science fiction. We'll just get eye candy.

So, I won't go. It's a one-man boycott that will do little if anything to halt the lobotomization of literature and the cinema, but it means something to me.

UPDATE (5:41 PM, 23 June 2005) : Crossposted at rec.arts.sf.written.
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