Science Fiction Film & Television

Screening Cosmos-politanism

The Anthropocenic politics of outer space media

Science Fiction Film & Television (2019), 12, (3), 343–363.

Abstract

An emergent outer space media cycle represents a future of space exploration fraught with terrestrial anxieties about the geopolitical role of the United States in two major forces shaping the class dynamics of worldwide urbanisation: neoliberal globalisation and anthropogenic climate change. As with these global economic and environmental issues, outer space necessitates theorising the social totality. Even as it promotes the particular interests of the American hegemon, mass media summons us to think in the universalist terms of the Anthropocene and imagine utopian possibilities.

We interpret this outer space media cycle using a semiotic square consisting of four conflicting political stances on the US’s future in outer space. While the films Gravity and Interstellar engage in the nostalgic nationalist politics of 1) reactionary state imperialism and 2) progressive state socialism, Orphans of Apollo, Elysium and Oblivion promote 3) corporatist-libertarian cosmopolitanism, the future-oriented belief that space should be privatised and exploited for profit on an international scale. We refer to the future-oriented utopian vision of an international space agenda for public outer space as 4) cosmos-politanism. The Martian and the television miniseries Cosmos provide case studies in the difficulties of mainstream American media to imagine this most speculatively leftist political position.

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Johnson, Matthew. ‘Piracy on the celestial frontier? The “NewSpace” quest for the privatisation of the outer space commons’. Property, Place and Piracy. Ed. Martin Fredricksson and James Arvanitakis. New York, Routledge, 2017. Google Scholar

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Klein, Amanda Ann. American Film Cycles: Reframing Genres, Screening Social Problems, and Defining Subcultures. Austin: University of Texas, 2011. Google Scholar

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. New York: Simon Schuster, 2014. Google Scholar

Latour, Bruno. ‘Telling Friends from Foes in the Time of the Anthropcene’. The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch. Ed. Clive Hamilton, Christophe Bonneuil and Francois Gemenne. New York: Routledge, 2015. 145–55. Google Scholar

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Moltz, James Clay. The Politics of Space Security: Strategic Restraint and the Pursuit of National Interests. Stanford: Stanford Security Studies, 2008. Google Scholar

Monbiot, George. ‘Interstellar: Magnificent Film, Insane Fantasy’. The Guardian (12 Nov 2014). https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/11/interstellar-insane-fantasy-abandoning-earth-political-defeatism. Accessed 20 Jan 2019. Google Scholar

@neiltyson. ‘Evidence that the @MartianMovie is fantasy: The USA & China cooperate with one another in Space’. Twitter (2 Oct 2015). https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/650078572183339009. Accessed 20 Jan 2019. Google Scholar

Pak, Chris. ‘Red Marble’. Science Fiction Film and Television 10.1 (Spring 2017): 105–14. Google Scholar

Pappademas, Alex. ‘“Chappie” Accidents: The Willfully Apolitical Sci-Fi of Neill Blomkamp’. Grantland (6 Mar 2015). http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/chappie-neill-blomkamp-district-9-elysium/. Accessed 20 Jan 2019. Google Scholar

Qianwen, Lu. ‘Serious About Science’. Global Times (23 Nov 2015). http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/954263.shtml. Accessed 20 Jan 2019. Google Scholar

Sheehan, Michael. The International Politics of Space. New York: Routledge, 2007. Google Scholar

Space Frontier Foundation. ‘About the Space Frontier Foundation’. http://newspace.spacefrontier.org/about/. Accessed 12 Dec 2017. Google Scholar

Tyson, Neil deGrasse. Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier. New York: Norton, 2012. Google Scholar

United Nations. ‘World’s Population Increasingly Urban with More than Half Living in Urban Areas’ (10 Jul 2014). http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html. Accessed 20 Jan 2019. Google Scholar

Yarm, Mark. ‘Elysium’s Director Thinks His Hellish Paradise is Our Future. Let’s Hope He’s Wrong’. Wired Magazine (16 Jul 2013). https://www.wired.com/2013/07/blomkamp-elysium/. Accessed 20 Jan 2019. Google Scholar

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