Viewing posts tagged philip sandifer

How Curses Work 2: This Fez is Loaded

The utility to Western imperialism of depicting Arabs with the kind of culturalist discourse of modern vs. pre-modern, secularism vs. cultish religion, democracy vs. theocracy, civilisation vs. medievalism, rationalism vs. fanaticism (translated out of code: good Westerners vs. bad Arabs) that followed in the wake of the "war on terror" is obvious.

This way of constructing Arab and/or Middle Eastern cultural identities in Western art, literature, media and ideology, is very old.

Edward Said's seminal book Orientalism outlines the way in which the West has constructed the East as an exotic, romantic, cruel, sensuous, decadent, fanatical, inscrutable Other.  (...though it is occasionally weakened - in my presumptuous and insignificant opinion - by the problems underlying Foucault's notion of 'discourse', which Said utilises.)

Jack Shaheen's book Reel Bad Arabs reveals how Hollywood has vilified and dehumanized Arabs.  Here's a great short documentary demonstrating his thesis.  It's central message may not come as a surprise to you, but it's still salutary to see the evidence collated and concentrated.





Such representations of Arabs pop up in the Doctor Who story 'Pyramids of Mars' (1975) as part of the show's tactic, at that time, of raiding the motifs ...

Skulltopus 8: Society of the Tentacle

The quasi-tentacular returns in 'The Claws of Axos'.  Big time.




What's more, this story is an orgy of strange flesh... to the extent of looking like a precursor to John Carpenter's The Thing.










Now, if my idea is right - that, in the 70s,
Doctor Who starts invoking Weird tentacles as a kind of evasion/signification of capitalism when it veers too close to potential systemic critique - then this really, really should show up in 'The Claws of Axos'.

Not to keep you in suspense: it does.


Taking it on the Chinn

Now don't get me wrong.  I'd hate you to get the idea that I was claiming that 'Claws' is 'subversive' or anything.  I'm not.  It isn't.  As political critique goes, objectively, 'Claws' is feeble.  Yes, it is very cynical about the government, but that in itself doesn't amount to subversion.  After all, Clear and Present Danger  (to take an example more or less at random) features a secret plot by the President, the White House Chief of Staff and high-ranking CIA people to launch a covert war in South America - but Clear and Present Danger isn't ...

Skulltopus 5: Fair Exchange, No Robbery

Erato the Tythonian in 'The Creature from the Pit' doesn't much resemble an octopus, but nevertheless he/it is a shapeless, amorphous creature that extends a probe which is (briefly) a bit tentacular... though this tends to be obscured by the fact that it also supposedly resembles a cock:

If this picture reminds you of your genitals,
seek immediate medical advice.

Neither seems to have been the writer's intention.  Indeed, in the novelisation, it is specifically stated that "you couldn't call it a tentacle".  The probe is repeatedly described in terms of hands, fingers and fists.  As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Erato is meant to be a kind of giant, disembodied brain.

However, the probe is a long, flexible, green, non-humanoid limb... so let's not fear to call it a quasi-tentacle, whatever Fisher says.

In any case, the Tythonian is - at least until it starts talking - reminiscent of the Weird... if only via its unstable and amorphous blobbiness.

In this post, I suggested that 'Spearhead from Space' erupts into tentacles at the end partly as a way of obscuring something else that is going on in the story, namely a convergence of various ...

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