Viewing posts tagged pyramids of mars
I always dimly assumed that Stephen Harris - whatever combination of real people he may pseudonymically represent - got the idea for a story about pyramids on Mars from all that guff about there supposedly being pyramids and giant monkey faces on Mars.
However, I learn that the 'face' and 'pyramids' on Mars were not 'discovered' until the NASA Viking missions, which didn't snap pictures of the region of Mars known as Cydonia (where all the pyramids, town squares and giant useless chimp portraits are said to be) until after 'Pyramids of Mars' was broadcast.
The whole pyramids / Mars thing is alive and well today, beyond Who-dom. Viz, this species of utter balls:
This kind of drivel has not been stopped - or even slowed - by better and more detailed images taken by NASA since.
Here, for instance is an image of the 'pyramid', taken by Mars Global Surveyor in 2001:
Self-evidently NOT an artificial, architectural structure, I'm sure you'll agree. (If you don't, you have no business reading this blog. Go away immediately.)
Here, is the spooky 'simian' 'face' on Mars, imaged by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2007:
Looks exactly like Roddy McDowell in Planet of Apes ...
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 ...
We've all seen him. He's swarthy, usually (though not always) with a dark beard. He's often wearing a fez (no, I'm not going to say it) and robes of some kind.
|A fanatic. And friend.|
Sometimes, he leaves his home desert and comes to England. He may be dressed in Western clothes and live in a house with Western furnishings, but he's got a secret room, or a shrine, or a sanctum behind a billowing curtain, in which he keeps his infernal idols amidst clouds of suffocating incense.
(cue dramatic music)
...the Egyptian Fanatic!
When he comes to England, he becomes the mirror image of the English Explorer Who Has Just Returned from Egypt (henceforth, the Explorer). This man goes to Egypt for the love of antiquities and discovery, and comes back enchanted and bewitched by the place (by the place, mind, not the people); filling his big, wood-panelled home with Egyptiana. The question of whether the Explorer has any right to this Egyptiana is raised only by the Egyptian Fanatic in England (henceforth, the Fanatic).
The Fanatic has come to England from his native land in search of something, some inscrutable justice ...