The Role of Science Fiction in Societal Critiques.

Sarantake argues that the creators of Star Trek utilized the platform to comment on a variety of social and political issues. For example, the episode “Mirror Mirror”, which premiered on 6 October 1967, is viewed as promoting the anti-Communist foreign policy present during the Johnson era. The episode depicts both the Federation peacefully leaving an undeveloped and pacifist planet and, in an alternate universe, exploiting its resources and unjustly killing the people. Overall, Sarantake asserts that the episode portrays “the anti-Enterprise as a dark, poorly lit place, whereas scenes aboard the original starship are much brighter” (Sarantake 83). The difference between evil and good is clearly illustrated, a goal of many US policymakers during the Cold War. The overall objective of the episode was to reveal that a capitalist and democratic country (the United States) is more respectable and more globally beneficial than its counterpart (the USSR). In turn, US foreign policy should reflect the idea that if an evil and destructive ideology is allowed to spread, the US has failed to protect and serve the global community.

Throughout history, science fiction has been utilized to critic certain aspects of society. Science fiction follows non-realistic subjects and creates a divide between the writing and the viewer/reader. In other words, the author is able to criticize sensitive topics without fear of unjustified and biased backlash. Many viewers are consciously unaware of the analysis because the story feels foreign and unfeasible. However, if the creator is successful, he/she will be able to expose certain downsides of society in a non-obvious manner and to convince the viewer of his/her argument. One example of writing that challenges political/cultural ideologies is the book 1984, a social science fiction novel. The book indirectly critics increased governmental control and surveillance on a society, a policy present throughout the world during the Cold War. Furthermore, the book proclaimed that 1984 would happen if man did not become aware of the assaults on his personal freedom and did not defend his most precious right, the right to have his own thoughts. Orwell was able to both reassert the strongly held ideology of freedom, while also critiquing the rise of authoritarian policies within the United States and calling upon the people to revolt against injustices.

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2 thoughts on “The Role of Science Fiction in Societal Critiques.”

  1. The idea of the alternate universes connects the United States and the Soviet Union as being the same. Both countries have equal goals of preserving/spreading their respective ideologies, yet their principles are seen as opposites. The USSR is viewed as evil because their efforts are thought to result in violence and oppression, while the US is portrayed to successfully achieve peace and freedom. Light and darkness, the symbols used to help illuminate these ideas in “Mirror Mirror,” are common symbols not only throughout much of Cold War rhetoric, but also throughout history in regards to any type of Good and Evil.

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  2. I agree with your reference to the dichotomous appearances of the Enterprise and the anti-Enterprise. I believe the that in presenting a physical difference, rather than just an ideological one, the alternate universes point realize the stark differences between the Soviet Union and the United States. Moreover, given the Cold War fear of infiltration by the Soviet Union and the assertion that we could let the U.S. fall to communism, I think these alternate universes further this narrative, presenting a literal image of how different and gloomy the United States would be if it fell to the evil influence of Communism.

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