Nancy L. Steffen
HSS403-104 Science Fiction Film
Essay Assignment #1
15 April, 2010
Becoming the Other
Human transformation into alien and alien into human seems to be a common theme in science fiction films. These transformations have fascinated us so much that it keeps us coming back for more. Sometimes this idea of transformation can also make us think about our lives and how weare living them. Also, films are sometimes used to mirror how society should behave. Two excellent examples are the films Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel 1956) and Avatar (James Cameron 2009) which were created in different decades but keep the same concept of human transformation as well as social criticism.
Transformations don’t always have to be scary and painful; they can also becalm, almost unnoticeable, and sometimes even willing. In Invasion of the Body Snatchers aliens from another world come to earth in a great quantity of huge seed pods to take over the world one citizen at a time. These pods contain creatures that can assume the exact image of anybody they want. Their method of taking over a victim is a process that happens when the person is asleep, and after theprocess is completed the victim’s body is destroyed. In contrast to other transformations in films such as The Fly or District 9, where the changes hurt and are yucky, this method of conversion is relatively pain-free and easy; nonetheless it’s still scary. The victim doesn’t feel anything during the transformation, not even when the body gets destroyed. They are just sleeping, but no one wants tobecome a “pod” or be deprived of our emotions. In Invasion of the Body Snatchers the clearest opportunity to see this is when Jack Belicec almost becomes a pod. Jack’s wife, Teddy, finds an unconscious body that resembles Jack that is covered with some kind of gooey substance. After examining the body, Jack and his wife fall asleep. Suddenly Teddy wakes up and checks the body. She sees a cutbleeding in the exact place where Jack had cut himself just minutes ago, and then the pod opens his eyes. All of this happens while Jack is still sleeping peacefully, but we can see that the transformation is already taking place because of the cut bleeding and the eyes opening. Obviously Teddy doesn’t want this to happen to her husband, so she wakes him up and they both leave running.
Similarly inAvatar, the process of transformation is painless and it also occurs when the person is sleeping, but in this film the change is willing and really wished for. Jake Sully, a paraplegic former Marine, goes to Pandora, one of the moons of a distant planet, to take the place of his dead twin brother in an important mission. In Pandora, Jake takes over his “avatar” body through very advanced technology,to interact with Pandora’s natives, the Návi, as one of them. The purpose of this was to convince the Návi to move from “Home Tree” so that the humans can get a very valuable mineral called Unobtanium, which is mostly found under Home Tree. After spending months with the Návi and specially Neitiry, a female Návi that teaches him the Návi’s ways, Jake falls in love with their culture and Neitiryand wants to become a Návi forever. This transformation is very peaceful and beautiful compared to what happens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and more importantly it is gladly accepted. Jake lies on the ground next to his “avatar” body under the “Tree of Souls.” He is surrounded by others Návi who are kneeling and singing as the earth’s roots reach out to join him and his “avatar” as one.Everybody is happy to see that Jake can finally stay a Návi without the technology, and be with the people he loves.
After the transformations take place, the humans lose a lot in Invasion of the Body Snatcher and gain a lot in Avatar, that is why they have completely opposite views of their transformation. In Invasion of the Body Snatchers Dr. Miles Bennell knows something odd is going on because...