Brave New World?

Artist: Miriam English

“O brave new world
That has such people in’t!”
– Shakespeare, The Tempest.

What can we learn from our dreams? We can learn about our dreamers.

In 1898, HG Wells wrote War of the Worlds, which was reportedly inspired by ‘British colonial treatment of Indigenous Tasmanians’. This allegorical exploration has been mirrored in other sci fi treatments of different peoples: Alien Nation looked at refugees; The Invaders reflected 1950s paranoia of communists; The X-Men mirrored the struggle of LGBT people to ‘come out’. Also, many sci fi movies have been presented as a western in space, where humans versus aliens explore the stereotypical racist meme of cowboys versus Indians.

In 1977, Princess Leia was a stereotype – a damsel in distress who needed rescuing. A generation later, she had morphed into a military General leading a rebellion. Leia did not evolve and mature over the years – but her storytellers and our society did. Our expectations and aspirations for women have evolved since the original Star Wars, although as a society, we still have a long way to go.

Doctor Who has recently been a woman, and next will be a Rwandan refugee émigré; other diverse characters can be found in modern Star Trek TV series. Elsewhere, the Serenity TV program married Chinese and western cultures as a foreshadowing of probably much to come in the decades ahead. The future is beckoning: infinite diversity?

© 2022 Geoff Allshorn

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