Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'll Never Forgive Ridley Scott For Prometheus

Yeah, I know!  Prometheus came out what, like 2 or 3 years ago?  Why still bitch about it?  Well, for openers, I was really looking forward to seeing the Alien franchise go off into a new and interesting direction instead of just rehashing the same old thing.  But alas, it was horribly botched.  And now comes word that a sequel to Prometheus is in the works, which only serves to remind me what an awful mess the first one was.

I'm not going to go through a laundry list of plot holes and stupidity in Prometheus.  The video below by Cinema Sins covers a lot of it.

There are a couple of things about Prometheus that really irk me that I haven't really seen addressed in comment threads I have read about the movie in a number of articles and posts.  Here goes.

Charlize Theron's Character Serves Absolutely No Purpose!

When we first meet Vickers after the crew wakes up from hypersleep, we see her staring intently ahead while doing push ups.  The impression we get of her is that of a very strong and determined person who is not to be trifled with.  When she addresses the crew, she tells them rather emphatically that "it's my job to make sure you do yours."  Afterwards, she has a private meeting with Shaw and Holloway, the two characters whose research has provided the entire raison d'etre for the voyage to another star system, and proceeds to give them a thorough dressing down.  Clearly, Vickers is being set up to be a dominant personality and potentially a villain, or at the very least, an obstacle to Shaw. 

But once the vessel Prometheus sets down on the moon LV 426, Vickers almost immediately fades into insignificance.  It is Holloway, not Vickers, who orders the ship's captain Janek to have the crew gear up to venture to the alien structure near the landing site.  Shaw tells one of the security guards accompanying them to the structure that no weapons are allowed.  I thought Vickers was in charge!  At no point during the crew's journey to and exploration of the structure does Vickers provide any orders or guidance to them, nor does anyone consult with her.  The person who just a few minutes earlier in the film made such a show of being a dominant personality ends up being just a passive observer for most of the remainder of the film.

The one time during the entire movie that Vickers shows any real, decisive action is when she torches the infected Discount Tom Hardy with a flame thrower.  Even then, he likely would have died on his own, so her action doesn't affect the plot in any meaningful way.

Her irrelevance as a character is further underscored, rather embarrassingly I might add, at the end of the movie when she ejects from the Prometheus in an escape pod seconds before it crashes into the Engineer's ship, only to die moments later when the alien vessel rolls on top of her.  At the very least they could have had her survive only to be killed by the Engineer or by the squid creature in the life pod.

Perhaps Vickers was more integral to the plot in an earlier version of the script, only to be pretty much neutered in the rewrite.  I don't know.  What seems clear to me though is that if Vickers was completely excised from the movie it would basically have been unchanged.

Elizabeth Shaw's Crucifix

After the android David drugs Shaw, he steals her crucifix necklace.  It is never really explained why David takes it.  Perhaps, because he is an android, David considers religion to be irrational, so by taking the crucifix from Shaw he is separating her from something that he believes she is better off without. 

At the end of the movie, when Shaw goes into the crashed Engineer's ship to retrieve David, she makes a point of taking her cross back from him, which prompts David to ask rhetorically how she can still believe after all that has happened.

What is odd about this little subplot is that we are being told that Shaw's Christian faith is very important to her, but at no point during the entire film (apart from the very end when she prefaces the date with "in the year of our Lord") does she give any indication that her actions or beliefs are informed by Christianity.  In fact, what she does espouse is the complete opposite of Christian doctrine.

When Shaw and Holloway are giving their presentation to the crew at the beginning of the movie, she tells them her belief that the Engineers "engineered" the human race.  This is in complete opposition to the Christian belief that human beings were created by God in the image of God.  If the development of the human race, and indeed, the origin of life itself on Earth, is due to the work of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, then what room does that leave for a biblical creator God in Shaw's belief system?

The prominence of Shaw's crucifix is just a lazy way to inject religion into the movie without providing any substance.  What would have been interesting is if Prometheus gave us an Elizabeth Shaw who struggled to reconcile her Christian faith with her discovery of the existence of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization.  After all, how does the existence of intelligent beings on another planet fit into the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ?  Did Jesus die for the sins of just the human race or does it also extend to all intelligent life throughout the universe, assuming that we are not alone in the universe?  If Prometheus wanted to tackle some really important philosophical and religious issues, surely the impact of life on another world on human religious belief systems should have been on the top of the list.

Yes, I know that Prometheus hints that Jesus was a messenger sent to Earth by the Engineers and that his death by crucifixion is the reason why the Engineers decided to destroy the human race.  That just seems plain silly to me, as it doesn't make any sense that an extraterrestrial being would succeed in his endeavor by being an itinerant preacher in Judea instead of landing his spacecraft outside of the emperor's palace in Rome.  And why didn't the Engineers send a similar envoy to China, which also covered a similar extent of territory and ruled over a large population?

The sad thing about Prometheus, at least in my opinion, is that it could have been a better movie than the one we got.  In Greek legend, Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to humanity.  If Prometheus the movie had been true to the legend, then instead of trying to find immortality, Weyland's motivation for funding the expedition would have been to get his hands on advanced alien technology, with Shaw and Holloway's scientific endeavor providing him with the cover to carry out his true agenda.  The Engineers, in Chariots of the Gods fashion, instead of having engineered humanity, played the role of trying to shepherd us, as well as beings living on other worlds in our galaxy, until we were far enough along to continue to reach the technological level to become a space faring species.  The world that the star map led to could have served as a testing ground for anyone who landed there to determine if their race was worthy or needed to be exterminated.  When Vickers, acting as Weyland's proxy on the voyage, attempts to steal from the Engineers, it sets in motion a chain of terrible events that not only threaten the members of the voyage, but the human race itself.  The tie in to Alien would be that the derelict Space Jockey ship that Ripley and her crew encountered was on its way to destroy another alien world that failed the test, but something caused the ship to crash.

At any rate, we didn't get the Prometheus that we deserved.  Maybe if I was a Christian, I could forgive Ridley Scott for making such a visually beautiful piece of shit.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

More Shit Anti-Choicers Say and Some Shit Pro-Choicers Say

This picks up on a post I did about a year and half ago about the anti-choice line that pregnancies are a "gift from God."

In reading comments that anti-choicers leave on posts that deal with the subject of abortion, there are a number of common arguments I see them make that are flat out dishonest or wrong.  Here they are with my response to them.

If She Didn't Want to Get Pregnant, She Shouldn't Have Had Sex In The First Place!

In a nutshell, the anti-choicers who spout this line seem to be saying that every woman who has ever gotten pregnant but doesn't want to have a baby put herself in her position by engaging in reckless promiscuity without a thought to the consequences.

My retort to that argument is to point out to the anti-choicer who uses that line that unless he or she personally witnessed every act of sexual intercourse in this country that resulted in a pregnancy, then he or she is in not position to judge whether or not the woman was being irresponsible.  This position also implicitly denies any responsibility on behalf of the man who impregnated her, as if all men are so much a slave to their hormones that they are beguiled by these women into becoming sperm donors.

How can we know that a man and woman who have sex intending to have a child weren't making a rational decision at the time, but that subsequent events forced them to change?  Maybe the boyfriend or husband of the woman suffered a serious physical injury or medical condition that made him unable to work while simultaneously incurring huge medical expenses that make carrying the pregnancy to term a tremendous hardship for them.  In that case, it would make more sense to terminate the pregnancy and then try again later when the man has recovered and they get their finances back on track.

What if the woman were in an abusive relationship where she is too scared to refuse consent to have sex?  The act of getting pregnant might be the catalyst to make her realize that if she carries the pregnancy to term, she might either find herself further trapped in the relationship, or if she leaves him, face the horrifying prospect that the abuser will take her to court for custodial rights or give him a reason to hunt her down.

In short, since we don't know the context for each sex act that results in pregnancy, we can't assume that a woman's reason to abort a pregnancy is done for trivial reasons.

Pro-Choicers Hate Babies and also, We Want to Kill Them!

As the father of two children, I call bullshit on that.  I concede that some women who support abortion, such as Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon, are on record as stating that they absolutely have no desire to have children.  However, the majority of those of us who believe in a woman's right to an abortion are parents ourselves.  Some women who choose to terminate a pregnancy will either go on to have children at some point in their lives or they have already had children.  From my own perspective as a father who has a daughter, I want her to be able to have the right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy if she found herself in such circumstances.

As for the hyperbolic rhetoric about baby killing, if it were really true, why would abortion rights supporters stop at pregnancy?  If we were so gung ho about "killing babies" we would be unplugging incubators in hospital maternity wards and snatching infants out of strollers at the part and smashing their skulls against the pavement.  And yet one never hears of such a thing.

Pro-Choicers Celebrate Baby Killing!

Yeah, totally man!  I can't tell you how many post-abortion parties I've attended. 

No, we don't celebrate abortion.  What we do celebrate, if anything, when marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, is the recognition that a woman has the right to bodily autonomy and to be able to have not only the right to terminate a pregnancy if she so chooses, but to also have affordable access to an abortion.  What we also celebrate and advocate for is the right of a pregnant woman, if she chooses to carry the pregnancy to term, to have access to quality medical care not only for her own personal health, but to help ensure that the baby she wants to have is born healthy.  Anti-choicers never seem to want to acknowledge this.

That being said, in the interest of balance, there are a couple of arguments I hear from pro-choicers that also annoy me.

If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would Be A Sacrament!

Well, if men could get pregnant, then they wouldn't be men.  Since we don't live in a world where men can get pregnant, we are in no position to seriously say how that would affect the debate over abortion.  That's why that is a line that I never use in arguing with anti-choicers.

How Many Babies Are You Adopting?

On the surface, I get this argument.  If an anti-choicer wants to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term that she doesn't want to have, will he or she (as there are a fair share of anti-choice women) step up to take care of that baby?

Admittedly, I haven't looked at the statistics, but I don't doubt that some evangelical Christians do adopt children, whether domestically or abroad.

That being the case, as an atheist and a supporter of abortion rights, I don't want anti-choicers adopting children and indoctrinating them children into believing all of the things we deplore among the Religious Right. 

When all is said and done, the basic disagreement between supporters and opponents of abortion rights is that one side considers the fetus to be subordinate to a pregnant woman and the other side takes the opposite position.  One side recognizes that pregnancy is a serious medical condition and that a woman should have the right to determine if she wants to terminate a pregnancy, whether it is for reasons for her own personal health and well being or because she does not want to bring a child into this world if she does not believe the conditions are favorable to raising a child in a healthy environment.