The antihuman unconscious in twenty-first century science fiction cinema : structure of feeling, the political unconscious, and problematising the human in science fiction films produced since 1999
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
This thesis argues that there is an antihuman unconscious present in science fiction cinema of the twenty-first century, which is the result of the tumultuous events of the previous two decades. These events have led many to question if the human species will, or should, survive into the future, and this is reflected in science fiction films of the last twenty years, many of which feature images and narratives of the commodification, vilification, and annihilation of humanity. Utilising Raymond Williams' structure of feeling, whereby dominant cultural attitudes are challenged by alternative attitudes, and Fredric Jameson's political unconscious, in which previously repressed ideologies return to the surface of a text, this thesis explores how and why the antihuman unconscious manifests in twenty-first century science fiction cinema. The reasons for the emergence of the antihuman unconscious are connected with the alternative humanisms - transhumanism, posthumanism, and antihumanism - which have reconceptualised and problematised the human in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. To examine how the antihuman unconscious manifests in science fiction cinema, this thesis utilises film genre theory, equating generic elements with elements of the political unconscious and structure of feeling. Science fiction films continue to present humanist narratives despite the emergence of the antihuman unconscious, and close textual analyses of selected films are conducted to determine how that unconscious is signified in visual generic elements which oppose the often humanist narrative elements of the films. The thesis analyses six English-language science fiction films produced since 1999, grouped into three pairs representing each of the aforementioned alternative humanisms. As crises continue to define the first years of the third decade of the twenty-first century, this thesis elucidates how the present upheavals, along with the scepticism directed towards the human species which can be seen in social movements such as veganism and Extinction Rebellion, are reflected in popular media, and contributes to a gap in the literature concerning this scepticism. Theoretically, it presents a synthesis of the political unconscious and structure of feeling that can be used for analysing emerging and alternative cultural trends. Additionally, the thesis contributes to film genre theory with a methodological approach for examining tensions within a genre which considers the opposition of generic visual and narratives elements.