Science Fiction Film & Television

‘Leaving a record of their coming’

Extinction and evolution in Creature from the Black Lagoon

Science Fiction Film & Television (2021), 14, (3), 279–296.

Abstract

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Arnold US 1954), perhaps the quintessential and most enduring atomic-age creature feature, is a rich text for ecocritical analysis. Not only does the film heavily emphasise extinction and evolution in its narration and plot line, but the film is full of tensions that both calcify problematic Anthropocenic narratives and erode them. The film offers us a way of critiquing Anthropocenic histories and ongoing narratives without erasing racial and colonial injustices. It also offers us a way to imagine other stories - other ways of writing on our world - that engage material entanglements, disorient colonial and anthropocentric perspectives and create empathy. Recognising the film’s rocky Anthropocenic and extinction narratives enables a more fluid approach. Reading through water, emphasising evolutionary entanglements, brings into high relief past injustices against humans and nonhumans, and it engages a palimpsest effect, where an awareness of our muddled materiality helps us write over hierarchical pasts. Framing the film ecocritically by reading extinction and evolution emphasises the tensions of Anthropocenic violence (through colonial science and Anthropocenic erasures) and of positive material entanglements (through empathy and disorientation).

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Barclay, Bridgitte