Verhoeven: Robocop’s Theological Significance

robocop-predicted--the-notion-of-singularityThe Real History of Science Fiction aired with its first installment last weekend on BBC America as it tackled the subject of robots. This series is narrated by Mark Gatiss who has done some great documentary work on horror featured here at TheoFantastique previously. It is difficult to tell from the series website whether Gatiss is involved in the project beyond narration.

Like many such documentaries there was little new or in-depth for those immersed in genre. In addition, the choice of characters to focus on in discussing the theme skipped over some major possibilities that could have helped illustrate the points they wanted to make.

But there was one highlight in keeping with the focus of TheoFantastique. At one point in the program Paul Verhoeven, director of Robocop (1987), shares his thoughts on the subject, specifically about cyborgs and how much humanity is left in the machine-human hybrid. He includes some interesting and unexpected commentary on the “deeper meaning” behind the film. He speaks of the police officer slain and transformed into “robocop” as an expression of the symbolism of crucifixion and resurrection. For Verhoeven the symbolism had definite theological meaning.

Next week’s episode of The Real History of Science Fiction focuses on the general theme of space.

Related posts:

“Robert Geraci: Robots and the Sacred in Science Fiction”

“Cautious Consideration of Christ Figures”

“Documentary: Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss”

“BBC Four Documentary: A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss”


Titles of Interest – ‘The Birth of the Dracula Myth: Bram Stoker’s Transylvania’

Copyright by UJMAG.roI just learned of the following volume, one difficult to find information about online. The following comes from an abstract and other online information by Marius-Mircea Crisjan.

The volume Impactul uni mit: Dracula și reprezentarea ficțională a spațiului românesc (The Impact of a Myth: Dracula and the Fictional representation of the Romanian space) is an interdisciplinary study that combines an imagological perspective with an approach based on Dracula Studies. This book continues the research presented in my previous volume, published in English: The Birth of the Dracula Myth: Bram Stoker’s Transylvania (București: Pro Universitaria, 2013). The Birth of the Dracula Myth analysed the image of Transylvania in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, drawing a parallel between the novel and the sources consulted by Stoker on Transylvania, and focusing on what Stoker read and what he wrote about this region of contemporary Romania.

Impactul uni mit: Dracula și reprezentarea ficțională a spațiului  românesc (The Impact of a Myth: Dracula and the Fictional representation of the Romanian space) discusses the complexity of the Dracula myth and its impact on the reflection of Romania in British and American literary representations. This volume also analyses some literary responses of several Romanian writers to the vampiric myth invented by Bram Stoker.

‘JINN’ horror film and Muslim folklore

The Huffington Post recently featured an essay discussing the forthcoming horror film Jinn. The interesting thing about the piece is that it comes from the Religious News Service, authored by Omar Sacirbey, and HuffPo describes the film with the title “‘Jinn’ Horror Movie Features Elements of Muslim Folklore, Interfaith Themes.” When these elements come together they are prime fodder for a mention at TheoFantastique.

Sacirbey writes that “the release of ‘Jinn’ is a sign that there are a growing number of Muslims in the American film industry who are ready to introduce audiences to stories from their cultural traditions, even in the form of a horror movie featuring supernatural creatures from Islamic and Arabic folklore.” He continues:

Drawing on Islamic lore, the movie’s narrator opens by saying: “In the beginning, three were created. Man, made of clay. Angels, made of light. And a third … made of fire.” The story goes on to explain that man has come to rule the Earth, having all but forgotten about the jinn, who live invisibly in another dimension.

The plot centers on Shawn Walker (Dominic Rains), a handsome Michigan auto designer, and his beautiful wife, Jasmine (Serinda Swan), who learn that because of a family curse, they are stalked by a powerful and evil jinn. To break the curse, Walker must kill the jinn. He receives help from a priest and a Jewish jinn. The thriller is fast-paced and action-packed.

The interfaith themes aren’t coincidental. “I thought, this is a good opportunity to show that we have more similarities amongst us than differences,” Ahmad said. “The jinn idea is very old, and we can find this through all the different faiths.”

Read the entire essay on this interesting film here.

Related posts:

“Jewish Monstrosity”

“Of Folklore and Fatherhood: THE UNBORN and Cinematic Reflection”

Margot Adler’s “Vampires Are Us”

BC_VampiresAreUs_1Margot Adler has written a volume titled Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side (Weiser Books, 2014). The synopsis and promotional statements include:

In a culture that does not do death particularly well, we are obsessed with mortality. Margot Adler writes, “Vampires let us play with death and the issue of mortality. They let us ponder what it would mean to be truly long lived. Would the long view allow us to see the world differently, imagine social structures differently? Would it increase or decrease our reverence for the planet? Vampires allow us to ask questions we usually bury.”

As Adler, a longtime NPR correspondent and question asker, sat vigil at her dying husband’s bedside, she found herself newly drawn to vampire novels and their explorations of mortality. Over the next four years–by now she has read more than 270 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic–she began to see just how each era creates the vampires it needs. Dracula, an Eastern European monster, was the perfect vehicle for 19th-century England’s fear of outsiders and of disease seeping in through its large ports. In 1960s America, Dark Shadows gave us the morally conflicted vampire struggling against his own predatory nature, who still enthralls us today. Think Spike and Angel, Stefan and Damon, Bill and Eric, the Cullens.

Vampires Are Us explores the issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet that show up in vampire novels today. Perhaps, Adler suggests, our blood is oil, perhaps our prey is the planet. Perhaps vampires are us.

What People Are Saying

“An illuminating and fascinating work!”
—Starhawk, author of The Spiral Dance and The Fifth Sacred Thing

“Insightful and compelling… as a tool for understanding the drift of human culture over the last two centuries. The ever-morphing vampire, powerful and at the same time significantly flawed, invites us to reflect on our own life as we seek control, community, and some sense of self-worth.”
—J. Gordon Melton, Distinguished Professor of American Religious History, Baylor University

TV spot for ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

The first TV spot for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes broadcast recently, and although brief, it is amazing. The forthcoming film takes place ten years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes after a virus has destroyed vast segments of humanity. Meanwhile, the ape population has grown. Now the apes are on horseback, and they can use weapons. I am really looking forward to this film that will appear in theaters this July.


NOAH discussion at Cinefantastique’s Spotlight Podcast

noah-movie-stills6_thumb3_350I was fortunate to be a guest at Cinefantastique Online with their Spotlight Podcast 5-13.1 with the discussion of NOAH. I commented on the film as a piece of cinema, and was also able to provide some thoughts on interpreting biblical texts and how this relates to religious communities and film artistry.

Listen here.

Lilith in Folklore and the Bible

Lilith_Periodo_de_Isin_Larsa_y_BabiloniaA brief but interesting item in this post.

In keeping up with ongoing elements and developments in biblical studies I came across a blog I hadn’t read before. It included a post titled “Lilith in the Bible and Jewish Folklore.” Readers may have heard of Lilith from Jewish folklore with the idea that she was Adam’s second wife. But this post takes another approach after considering a mention of her in the book of Isaiah, chapter 34 (Jerusalem Bible translation):

Wild cats will meet hyenas there,
the satyrs will call to each other,
there too will Lilith take cover
seeking rest.

After some discussion of the various instances where Lilith is mentioned in different cultures and time periods, the author notes that she appears in ancient Babylonian and Assyrian contexts. The piece concludes with some interesting words that remind us that all religions, including the Judeo-Christian tradition, incorporate monsters and mythical creatures:

“The usage of Lilith in Isaiah 34 — as a nature spirit that haunts ruins and roams the uninhabited wilderness — might lie somewhere between its earlier stage as a Babylonian wind deity and its later stage as a mischievous demon that would haunt people’s homes and oppress them.”

Related posts:

“Jewish Monstrosity”

“J. Gordon Melton Interview on Vampire Mythology”

“Timothy Beal: Religion and Its Monsters”


‘The Walking Dead’ and the haunted world

tyrese-walking-dead-hpIn this writer’s estimation the second half of Season 4 of The Walking Dead television series has been rather slow. This is, of course, deliberate as the destruction of the prison and the fragmentation of the group allows for the development of back stories and an exploration of how the characters respond to their new situations. Last Sunday’s episode, “The Grove,” continued in this vein, but it included a darkness and emotional punch not seen since the mid-season finale with the death of Hershel.

Apart from the murder of Mika by her sister Lizzie, and the resulting death of Lizzie by Carol’s hand that served as the main elements of shock and tragedy for this episode, for me a line by Tyreese was especially significant. In a moving scene involving Tyreese and Carol, Tyreese shares how his murdered girlfriend Karen still appears in his thoughts, dreams, and nightmares. He realizes that everyone struggles with such memories, and then extends this to all of the dead in general, both those that live in the memories of the living, as well as the walkers in the woods. Tyreese describes this situation with sobering words:

“But that’s the deal, right? The people living are haunted by the dead? We are who we are. And we do what we do ’cause they are still here. The whole world is haunted now and there’s no getting out of that until we’re dead.”

I found that phrase, “the whole world is haunted now,” very interesting in light of the apocalyptic world that The Walking Dead has created, particularly considering its seeming nihilism and the related struggles of the characters to maintain hope. In my view Tyreese’s phrase could also be applied to horror in general in connection with our present zeitgeist. In the past various monsters and other horrors were limited to particular places, whether a haunted house or a European castle. As we developed our haunts changed with us. They moved from the external monster limited to specific spaces to the monster within us as Psycho hit American cinema. Then as the unrest of the counterculture surfaced in the late 1960s, George Romero unleashed the flesh eating ghoul. This would become known as the zombie, and a feature of Haitian folklore was changed forever. So was our understanding of the family and other institutions we had previously valued and trusted. Everything was now suspect. Horror with hope, where good always destroyed evil resulting in a happy ending, was now gone, and a nihilistic foundation of horror set forth in the past has continued into the present. It is perhaps best exemplified (and literally embodied) by our current fascination with the zombie in many levels of popular culture.

Tyreese is right. The whole world is haunted now. And its not be limited to horror entertainment.

‘Transcendence’ featurette on transhumanism and artificial intelligence

2014 could be a great year for serious science fiction films. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes premiers July 18 in theaters nationwide, and even sooner than that Spring will see the release of Transcendence. Transcendence addresses transhumanism and artificial intelligence. Below is the film’s synopsis.

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.

Related posts:

“Cyborg Singularity: Charting the Intersection of Humanity and Superintelligent Machines”

“Terminator Salvation: Apocalypse and Transhumanism”

“Surrogates: Sci-Fi Thriller’s Reflections on the Self and the Synthetic”

“Robert Geraci: Robots and the Sacred in Science and Science Fiction”

The Real History of Science Fiction Airs April 19 on BBC America

This looks like a promising series airing on BBC America, The Real History of Science Fiction. The first episode airs April 19. The description from the website:


BBC AMERICA delves into the real history of science fiction with filmmakers, writers, actors and graphic artists looking back on their experiences and on how their obsession and imagination has taken them into the unknown. The new original documentary series is a BBC AMERICA and BBC Two co-production. The Real History of Science Fiction premieres Saturday, April 19, 10:00pm ET.

From Star Wars to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and from Jurassic Park to Doctor Who, each program is packed with contributors behind these creations and traces the developments of Robots, Space, Invasion and Time. Narrated by Mark Gatiss, Doctor Who writer, actor and co-creator of the BBC’s Sherlock, the series determines why science fiction is not merely a genre… for its audience it’s a portal to a multi-verse – one that is all too easy to get lost in.

Among those taking part are: William Shatner (Star Trek), Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek), Steven Moffat (Doctor Who), Richard Dreyfuss (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Chris Carter (The X-Files), Ronald D Moore (Battlestar Galactica), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Schlock),David Tennant (Doctor Who), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), John Carpenter (Dark Star, The Thing), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, Stardust), Kim Stanley Robinson (Mars Trilogy), Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise), Ursula K Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness), Syd Mead (Blade Runner), Kenny Baker (Star Wars), Anthony Daniels (Star Wars),Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Peter Weller (Robocop), Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica) and many more.

On one level, sci-fi can deliver a ‘white knuckle-ride’ – jaw-dropping special effects, and thrills that have cinemagoers flying out of their seats. But also, it is possibly the only area of pop culture that engages with big ideas. Good science fiction engages audiences on a deeper level than mere spectacle; it becomes a place to discuss not just the universe and how it works – but what it means to be emotional, sentient human beings.

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