1. How do historical developments within a society reflect in its cultural output? Illustrate your argument making detailed reference to THREE films/television programmes from EITHER television crime fiction OR Science Fiction. Historical events and developments within a society are usually reflected and represented through its cultural output. This is generally the case according to science fiction. I will therefore examine how the science fiction genre reflects historical developments within a society with reference to three science fiction films.I have chosen to use George Romero’s trilogy of ‘Dead’ films: ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968), ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978) and ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985).
Although these films are usually referred to as horror films they can also be seen as science fiction because they display many of the themes related to the genre. Science fiction has always been a genre in which to play out speculations about contemporary social and scientific developments via the use of a fantastical setting.The various ideological themes that the genre tends to deal with are: the distinctions between “humans, cyborgs and other alien life forms”; the possibility of time travel; “science, capitalism or patriarchy getting ‘out of control'”; and “alien life forms being hostile to humankind”. Other notions surrounding science fiction themes include “highly technological and class-stratified futures”; global, apocalyptic disasters, and queries about leadership exploring “future social orders”.These themes can be more often than not related to current developments within a society reflecting modern day anxieties surrounding scientific discoveries and political issues. George Romero’s trilogy of ‘Dead’ films each reflects the time when they were made. Each film was made in a separate decade and sum up the feel and mood of the times.
They reflect on the social, cultural and political status of the United States of America from the late sixties through to the mid-eighties.The premise consists that radiation from a destroyed satellite in space is responsible for the dead returning to life and attacking the living. As authorities try to contain the situation, we observe with a group of survivors as they try to make sense of the ordeal and keep themselves alive. With each different film we are with a different group of people who try and make sense of the chaos around them. The films borrow certain ideas from past science fiction films such as ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and ‘The Birds’ but convey the themes in relation to the state of America when each film was made.There are a few key themes that are present throughout all the films, such as the failure of technology as a means of communication and the pitfalls that a capitalist, materialist state can bring upon the world. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ was made during a transitional period of American history.
In 1968 the USA was in a state of tragedy and civil unrest. Americans had watched from their living room the assassination of a President in Dallas and again when his brother and several prominent civil rights leaders were shot down in a hail of bullets.There was student unrest, mass protests and police violence all being televised in American homes. One of the major events occurring during this time was the Vietnam War, where thousands of American dead soldiers were returning back home in body bags. All of these aspects were conveyed in ‘Night of the Living Dead’ through the film’s main characters and through its nihilistic and downbeat tone.
Romero manages to present a society where the notion of the family is diseased, authority and the media are incompetent and lack any form of credibility and equality is non-existent.As part of its challenge to social norms the film manages to disrupt traditional gender and racial roles as presented to us in the conventions of the science fiction/horror films of the Fifties. The typical white male character of Harry Cooper is denied family leader by his wife and is also denied group leadership by Ben, a black man. Through the characters of Harry Cooper, his wife Helen and their injured daughter Karen, Romero presents us with a dysfunctional family.