Did PLANET OF THE APES Revive Creationism?

by Buzz on 10/04/2014

Serious question:
Did the original Planet Of The Apes movie revive the fading creationist movement by unintentionally preying on the racial fears of rural and suburban white Christians?

SPLOWW indeed SNSPLOWW!! indeed

Planet Of The Apes was one of four major ground-breaking / trend-setting sci-fi media concepts that landed within an 18-month period of one another in 1967-68.[1]  It was the biggest popular hit of the quartet, launched a successful series of features, a not-so-successful live-action TV series, a somewhat more successful animated series, numerous novel spinoffs, comic books, and a host of imitators and rip offs.

Then as now the film was viewed (at least on one level) as a parable of American racial politics, with the apes implicitly understood to represent the downtrodden finally getting the upper hand over the previously dominant white culture.[2]

Michael Wilson and Rod Serling’s script followed the lead of Pierre Boulle’s original novel to show a satirical (albeit not particularly humorous) view of “normalcy” turned upside down.  In many cases it was done by showing humans used the way we use animals:  For taxidermy, research, and sport.  In others, it was an implicit criticism of dominant white culture with the promise / warning:  “You’ll get what’s coming to you.”

While the apes were presented as antagonists in the first two films of the series[3], African-American audiences tended to sympathize with them more than they did with stalwart Chuck Heston (even before his NRA days).

By the times Escape From… and Conquest Of… rolled around, the identification of African-Americans with the apes was clearly overt (albeit it in a sympathetic and not denigrating manner).  Conquest in particular hammers the apes / slavery issue home with a 12-lb sledge, and it’s pretty hard to whip up any sympathy with (predominantly white) humanity in either of those two films.

Recognizing this, and desiring the success of the series to continue, 20th Century Fox watered down the message in the fifth and final film of the original series, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, which ends in a bright future where apes, humans, and mutants co-exist peacefully and happily.

That vision of the ape-ocalyptic future flopped miserably at the box office and the films series ended, tho it continued thriving on the small screen and in comics with the original potent message.

It’s hard for modern audiences to understand the impact of these films when first unleashed from 1968-73.  First off, nothing quite like this had ever been seen before.  The closest anyone might have come to it is The Wizard Of Oz with its myriad of bizarre cultures in an even more bizarre world, but that was a fairy tale and not meant to be taken seriously.  With the exception of a few post-apocalypse movies that featured mutants in cheesy make-up, nobody had ever tried to create not one but three entire species of realistic non-human characters for a film, complete with costumes, props, and buildings designed with apes in mind.[4]

And despite the nervousness of the studio, producer Arthur P. Jacobs & co. pulled it off with remarkable aplomb.  There had been serious sci-fi films before Planet Of The Apes, to be sure, but Apes was one of the first that easily crossed over into main stream audiences instead of relying primarily on the (admittedly growing) sci-fi fan base.[5]

But the cinematic / literary / pop culture impact was only a small fragment of what the world of 1968 – especially the United States of America – was going through at that time.

Consider: 
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was only four years old at the time Apes was released.

Had the nation not been in a period of shock and mourning in the aftermath of President Kenney’s assassination, conservative southern politicians would have probably blocked the act until the 1970s.

The nation was only four years away from segregated bathrooms, segregated diners, segregated water fountains.  Loving v Virginia was only one year old!

African-Americans were still pretty much invisible in their native land.  They were starting to make a few token appearances in TV shows and movies[6] but they were far from ubiquitous.

Planet Of The Apes, without directly referring to the apes as analogs for African-Americans, pretty much forced audiences to draw that unavoidable parallel.

And, yeah, there were some who sneered and hooted and derided contemporary blacks by likening them to the monkeys on the silver screen…

…but the inescapable conclusion was that
those damned monkeys were in charge!

…and things were not going to be
so rosy for Mr. Whitey in the future.

This was the first time a lot of white people were forced to realize that the times, they were a’changin’ and what they were changing into was not going to resemble the world they grew up in where everyone knew (and kept) their place.

Planet Of The Apes did not present its topsy-turvy world as one laid down by divine fiat, a wrathful God punishing sinners by letting apes rule over them.

Planet Of the Apes said pretty plainly that humans – white humans in particular – were not fit to survive, and that a more vigorous, more capable breed was going to take over.

That was classic evolution,
and there wasn’t a damned thing
white humanity could do about it.

Creationism was not unheard of or even unargued in the late 1960s, but it was pretty much losing its steam.  Evolution existed; there was no denying genetic changes in various species with common ancestors, and even prehistoric humanity had been guiding evolution along for their domestic plants and animals (“survival of the fittest” in this case meaning those most fit to serve humans).  Creationists were pretty much giving up on the new earth / six literal twenty-four hour days version of creation and instead arguing what is now referred to as Intelligent Design (only with God explicitly in control).

Their basic point was that God had a plan, and that everyone in the world was assigned a place in that plan, and if God ordained one race to be the masters leaders and another to be the slaves servants workers helpers then who are we to argue with God?

Planet Of The Apes pretty much says God is no respecter of species, much less persons, and in fact famously ends with Heston ranting and screaming that God has rightfully damned humanity for being a buncha murderous self-centered pricks.[7]  It was a pretty shocking ending for mainstream audiences at the time[8] and has been lampooned so often and so successfully that contemporary audiences have no idea just how chilling it was to Joe Six-Pack and Mrs. & Mrs. Suburbia.

…especially in light of the ongoing societal change / upheaval and
the rapid advancements in civil rights by African-Americans.

Mind you, the majority of white audiences seeing the film for the first time were not racists in the classic sense of the term:  They burned no crosses, lynched no victims.

But they kinda liked the fact that they got to live over here while those people had to live over there, and while many of them knew and genuinely liked black folks they encountered daily, few of them realized they held a protected and privileged position that was paid for by the sufferings of others.

Apes kinda sunk home the message that there might not be a soft landing for their genteel lifestyle, that rude awakenings and abrupt changes may be the order of the day.

And yeah, Planet Of The Apes is at heart a big budget goofy Hollywood movie, with a whole bunch spectacle & action and a smattering of smarts, not really the sorta thing that can withstand close logical scrutiny for long…

…but that didn’t matter.

The message is what mattered.

And the message was:  Time’s up.  Things are changing.

A lot of people did not like that change.

They rendered lip service to it, but were willing to do so only so long as things didn’t change for them.

Now, when faced with major changes in one’s life, there are two basic approaches one can take:

You acknowledge the change even if you don’t willingly embrace it; life may get rough but at least you’ll be prepared for it and it won’t catch you by surprise.

The other is to double down on the old system, to bet the heart transplant money that the way things are is The Way Things Are Meant To Be, and that if you just hold fast this faddish craze of modernity will pass and things will once again be good and wholesome and sweet with you in the driver’s seat, just like when you were a child and your father was a child and your great-great-great grandfather was a child.

It’s no accident that the big push towards homeschooling – which originally began among hippy-dippy parents looking to raise their children outside the conforming standards of the dominant class public schools – took off among rural and/or white and/or conservative religious fundamentalists in the south and midwest during this period.[9]

And it’s no accident that creationism takes – nay, demands – a centerpiece of that movement.

Because creationism allows the believer in it to deny the humanity of others, to deny their rights, to deny their equality.

Creationism allows the believer to dismiss all claims for justice with a derisive “God doesn’t want that” and never examine the basics of the question.

Creationism, as has been pointed out, is the handmaiden of Mammon, the self-righteous belief that one’s personal enrichment is God’s master plan for the universe, that every sub-atomic particle in every atom in every molecule of every speck of dust and wisp of gas up to and including the hugest of stars exists solely for the purpose of making your life materially easier and more comfortable…

…and maybe the lives of your immediate family as well…

…and perhaps even a few of your closest friends…

…but certainly not the lives of them – and especially if making their lives any easier requires you to give up an hour of TV or some outrageous demand like that.

Planet Of The Apes is downright terrifying
to people with that mind set.[10]

Small wonder so many conservative whites willingly and eagerly embrace a disproven anti-intellectualism that denies the reality of the world around them, because embracing that fantasy makes it possible to deny the change going on around them.[11]

Like little children threatened by a big mean dog, they sincerely believe if they squinch their eyes closed reeeeeeeeal tight that it will go away.

No, one single silly movie does not a religious heresy make, and in a different time it’s doubtful that the film would have had much more impact than as a popcorn muncher (much like the recent remakes and sequels have landed with resounding thuds).

But one thing Planet Of The Apes sure did was to give millions of scared white people a very very frightening glimpse of a future where they would no longer be in charge, when the first would indeed be last, and the low would be risen high.

And rather than embrace that spiritual truth, they flock to a self-serving myth that not only will fail to protect them, but will make the eventual change that much more painful for them.

As for me,
like Mark Twain wrote: 
When it’s steam boat time,
you steam boat.

.

.

.

[1]  It isn’t an exaggeration to say the shadows from these projects – both in film, TV, comics, and other media as well as literary and other pop culture influences – is still being cast today.  The other three were the original Star Trek TV series, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Barbarella.  Of the four, Barbarella received the worst response from the public, a critical drubbing, and a commercial flop…and yet each year a loyal cult grew and grew around this film.  Today it’s a fondly remembered classic of the era and has aged better than the other four.  Go figure…

[2]  I may be wrong, but I can’t remember any African-American actors among the primitive humans in the original film, not unless one counts the ill-fated astronaut who ended up lobotomized.

[3]  Tho who wasn’t an antagonist in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes?  It’s the only major studio Hollywood production ever to end with the hero thinking that blowing up the entire planet was A Real Good Idea.

[4]  The world of the final film was much different that the original concept and script.  Jacobs originally wanted a world like the one in Boulle’s novel with full size cities, cars, and helicopters designed for apes.  By scaling the size back to a few isolated middle-sized towns with low grade industrial age technology, the film actually became more convincing than a modern version.  An exact ape parallel to our own world would have only invited laughter, but changing it significantly enough while still leaving it basically recognizable helped sell the idea to audiences.

[5]  And basically, because of all the projects of that era, Planet Of The Apes offered the one concept that every body in the audience, including the dullest witted, got right away:  The five-fingered shoe is now on the other foot.

[6]  And more importantly, cast in commercials as users of the product being sold, not servants making white folks’ lives easier, thus tacitly acknowledging them as part of the American fabric and not just an accessory after the fact.

[7]  …or words to that effect…

[8]  No matter than we fan boys saw it marching down the avenue from the moment the film started talking about archeological digs involving humans.

[9]  No, I am not saying Planet Of The Apes was responsible for that; it was the general societal upheaval of the late 60s and early 70s that scared much of the mostly white religious right into fleeing society with the hopes of one day leading a counter-rebellion against it.

[10]  And mind you, screenwriters Michael Wilson and Rod Serling managed to have their Darwinian cake and theologically eat it as well:  A strong argument could be made for the film as the mene mene tekel uparsin of mainstream American values, a judgment handed down from on high and executed with our own hands around our own throats – but holding to that argument requires denying human supremacy in general and American exceptionalism in particular and recognizing both our personal and national sins and shortcomings and, hey, who wants to believe that becuz America!  Right?  Right?!?!?

[11]  And embracing it not in a little way but going all out:  None of this namby-pamby “God created the universe billions of years ago and guides the natural processes in it” but “Bang! Done!  Full and complete in six twenty-four hour days and you can’t change it – ever!”

 

No Comments

Jack Kirby Sez Make Your Own School

by Buzz on 5/04/2014

Jack Kirby sezsound advice from the King of Comics
(God, I miss you, Jack; you and Steve and
John and Mark M. and a host of others)

thanks to Steve Niles for the tip off

 

No Comments

BALDO On Writing

by Buzz on 2/04/2014

ba140313 edit

Baldo by Hector D. Cantu and Carlos Castellanos

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets…

by Buzz on 29/03/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

WotP Anthony Douglas Williams

No Comments

I Luvz Me Some NOAH

by Buzz on 28/03/2014

Noah_poster946While not a great movie, Noah is certainly a good one, and it is certainly the hands down front runner for the title of weirdest Biblical picture ever made.[1]  You can’t drag the Nephilim into your story and hope to stay within the bounds of normalcy.

Kudos to director Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel for moral complexity, unexpected plot twists, good restrained acting, and top notch production values.  It follows the Biblical story closer than either the 1928 version or the 1966 version but it does add stuff that is not specifically excluded in the Bible story (such as how they kept all the animals quiet on the ark) and ends with a positive statement that we are most like God when we show mercy and love.

The middle portion is much stronger than the beginning and end, Anthony Hopkins steals the show as Methuselah, and the fallen angels vs. human army slugfest has gotta be the wildest scene ever filmed for a Biblical movie.

So why do so many people hate it, sight unseen?

A great many people objecting to it are doing so mostly because it says rapacious greed and treating humans like commodities are evil (there are hints of cannibalism in the film as Tubal-Cain’s army prepares to assault the ark).  As servants of Mammon and not God, these critics are appalled at the mirror-like reflection Noah shows of contemporary culture, and as such they feel duty bound to condemn it.

Noah gets more into the why & wherefore of the flood than previous versions of the story, and in doing so casts it in a light that doesn’t make God seem to be a petty spoiled child who kicks over the sand castle when things don’t go His way but rather a just and loving creator who realizes that humanity is far from perfect but if there is to be any hope of saving us from ourselves it is to save those who desire to serve Him and His creation (including other humans) rather than those willing to consume the planet with their own greed, gluttony, and lust for power.  That is what is driving the prejudice against this film.

God (referred to thru out as The Creator) is depicted as just and righteous, yet loving and merciful.  The destruction of the world is a human process, the flood is a cleansing one from God.

Noah is willing to serve God, but in the process makes an erroneous but not wholly illogical assumption; he does not act on that assumption but shows love and mercy instead.  This leads to his famous post-flood drinking binge because he feels he has failed God.  In the end of the film Noah and his family realize the flood was not to punish the wicked but to save the just from the unjust, and that we are closest to the image of God when we show mercy and love.

So far all the objections I’ve seen have either been from false-flag extremists or nit-pickers who regard any deviation from what they believe to be true and factual as blasphemy.

Does Noah take liberties with details in the Genesis story?
Yes, but without undermining the moral & theological core of that story.

Does the film state there is a Creator God who has the moral right to judge humanity?
Sure does.

Does the film state mercy and love are the most God-like traits humans can hope to aspire to?
Once again, affirmative.

Does the film have the Nephilim in it (referred to as The Watchers in the movie)?
Yes, and I think a lot of people are bugged that somebody dared to depict them other than the way they had personally imagined them.[2]

Has any movie ever followed the true Biblical account?
Movies are works of fiction using actors performing off scripts that are written and edited to form a dramatic whole; that’s why even with historical films we see events and characters dropped or melded together so that the underlying truth of the story can come through even if the actual facts can’t be emulated.

There have been hundreds of films based on various stories in the Bible.  This is one of three big budget Hollywood productions based in whole or in part on the story of Noah.[3]

What this movie does state clearly again and again is:

  • There is a Creator responsible for everything
  • This Creator has the moral right to judge His creation
  • Even those who believe the Creator has abandoned them believe He exists
  • A just God is more interested in saving the just (i.e., those willing to serve Him and His creation including the humans He has created) than in punishing the wicked
  • We are never more God-like than when we shown mercy and love

Sounds like Biblical truth to me…

.

.

.

[1a]  Some would argue Godspell deserves that title and I would not oppose anyone who chose to argue that point.  But ultimately Godspell is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew set in Manhattan with a troupe of circus performers adding song and dance to the otherwise intact text; it’s odd in appearance, not content.  Noah is like the James Tissot of Biblical movies.

[1b]  The question also arises as to just what is a Biblical movie?  Godspell, despite its odd style, is clearly meant to be the actual story found in Matthew; Jesus Of Montreal, despite being one of the finest religious allegories ever made, is not the gospel story per se but a story about the gospel story; a fine distinction but a real one.  And The Sign Of The Cross, the only religious based movie to give Noah a serious run for the title IMO, is technically not a Biblical movie even though it occurs during Paul’s time in Rome.

[2]  That’s one of the things that makes this movie so weird for a Biblical film: It actually shows stuff that no other Biblical movie has shown before.  I think the style of the presentation is what is bothering some folks, not the actual content.

[3]  It’s certainly closer to the text than the 1925 version (which was forgiven its egregious departures because it was presented in a pious manner)or 1966 version (which was just an all around bad movie, no matter how sincere the film makers were).  We shall not speak of the Disney adaptation with Donald Duck as Noah (admittedly a more even keeled Hollywood personality than Russell Crowe).

No Comments

A Couple Of Quick Questions (Story Research)

by Buzz on 16/03/2014

Okay, a couple of quick questions regarding a story idea that’s been percolating in the back o’ me beedy widdle bwain for a while…

I’d like responses from folks who can answer authoritatively re math & physics.

Story involves a large/mostly hollow spherical space colony/artificial world.  Let’s say it’s about 1,200 miles in diameter, rotates on its north-south axis, ergo the  ”gravity” along the interior equator is Earth normal.  Central light source in the very middle; hot but not unbearably so/no dangerous radiation.

Images below give a rough idea of what I’m talking about…

AC76-628

AC76-1288My protagonists are teleported into the vast hollow space of this artificial world (we will presume our teleportation machine has adjusted for angular momentum, orbital speed, etc.)

Question #1: 
How long would it take my protagonists to hit the interior surface if they arrive about 500 miles above the equator?

I know if the sphere had no atmosphere then theoretically my protagonists would fly along inside it…at least until the minimal mass of the hull of the sphere slowly pulled them toward it, or the light from the artificial sun pushed them away.

However…would the interior atmosphere still be relatively thick enough for humans to breathe all the way from the interior surface to the artificial sun?

Would the currents from this atmosphere push my protagonists along gently, or would they start dropping like a rock almost immediately?

Would they start slow and then begin picking up speed geometrically as they would on Earth (32ft p/s p/s)?

Question #2:
How fast does this world (1,200 miles in diameter) need to be rotating for the equator to have one Earth gravity?

Would my protagonists be falling straight towards the interior surface, meaning whatever speed it was traveling at would hit them laterally like a freight train, or would they be gaining angular speed as they fell (perhaps due to wind currents) so they will be matching the angular velocity on impact?

For the sake of my story, would it be safer for them to fall in the direction of either interior pole rather than towards the equator?  (I presume “gravity” would be considerably less due to angle of spin.)

For this particular story I’m looking more for plausibility than hard scientific realism here — a handwaveum answer that lets my protagonists survive a freefall to the interior equator (into water, mushy vegetation, marshes, whatever) will work just as fine as a master’s thesis in physics.

Thanx!

 

 

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets

by Buzz on 15/03/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

WotP barry mcguire

No Comments

Jack Nicholson Orders A Wedding Cake

by Buzz on 14/03/2014

I’d like to order a wedding cake
with two grooms on the top.

We don’t do wedding cakes
for same sex marriages.

What do you mean? 

Only what’s on the menu. 
You can have a standard
heterosexual wedding cake. 
It comes with a bride and a groom.

Yeah, I know what it comes with,
but it’s not what I want.

Come back when you make up your mind.

Wait a minute.  I have made up my mind.  
I’d like a plain wedding cake with flowers on the top.

No substitutions.

You don’t have flower wedding cake toppers?

Not for same sex marriages.

Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can.  
I’d like to order two heterosexual wedding cakes. 
When you deliver them, we’ll remove the bride
from the first cake and substitute the groom
from the second cake.  Then you bill me for two
heterosexual cakes, go deliver the second one,
and you haven’t broken any rules.

Where do you want me
to deliver the second cake?

I want you to deliver it in your ear.

i know the voices arent real

thanx to Bob Rafelson and Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce)
for writing the original scene this was based on

No Comments

Raymond Chandler On Technique

by Buzz on 12/03/2014

Raymond Chandler on technique

“The moment a man begins to talk about technique that’s proof that he is fresh out of ideas.” — Raymond Chandler

No Comments

The Words Of The Prophets…

by Buzz on 8/03/2014

…are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

217434_481247571947284_1500343728_n

No Comments