Industrial agriculture, failed crops, and dust storms; automated super machines that take the jobs of working class Americans that leave the country in a state of economic turmoils: This isn’t the opening to John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, instead, it is the opening of Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar. The film is set in the not-so-distant future, where humanity is suffering from massive crop failure, and is looking for a solution to the famine, disease and oncoming extinction of the species. The parallels to the dust bowl are uncanny.
The difference here is that the trek is not across the United States, to seek refuge along the California coast, but rather across the universe (hat tip to The Beatles) for a habitable planet. Yes, humans have reached the tipping point and Earth is in a catabolic state of ecological decline. So off to space you go.
The film Interstellar is ripe with literary parallels, character archetypes, Armageddon-sized disasters, as well as the best technological advances that Director Christopher Nolan could afford to put on screen– cue underground space stations, military grade robots, and panoramic chalkboards, ideal for writing quantum formulas and scientific jargon.
The fusion of modernism and future technologies is what makes Nolan’s film believable. In the opening scenes the former astronaut, now corn farmer, Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey, hijacks an outdated drone using an older model laptop while driving a pickup truck. The moment is humorous, and has the intensity of someone fly fishing.
The literary references within this film are keenly selected; from the naming of the space mission project (Lazarus), to the quoting of poet Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night,/ Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light” as Matthew Mcconaughey and crew leave the Earth’s Orbit.
Cue, the government funded agency, NASA. Yes, you’ve seen ’em in Armageddon, Apollo 13, and Space Cowboys, and now they’re (secretly) saving the world in Interstellar. Well, actually they’re not really saving the entire world, nor does the public know about the severity of the dust storms– surprisingly! Don’t you fret though, this is a major Hollywood film, and there’s sure to be a sugar-coated happy ending– one that glosses over the presumed destruction of the planet Earth and all its inhabitants.”
My only major gripe with this film is the erasure of the rest of the world, because the film’s only focuses is on rural America. Throughout the film, I kept asking myself “what happens to the urban folks, what happened to the other parts of the world, where did all the aboriginal people go?” For a (nearly) 3 hour film, the scope is rather limited. This lack of representation is the film’s major weakness; a failure to have a diverse representation of Earth’s inhabitants. In a film that presents a world-wide crisis, the rest of the world remains unseen. There are two takeaways from this scenario, one is that the film then suggests that survival is for a select few– a power elite– who are still publicly funded, and whose intention is NOT the survival of the planet whatsoever. And secondly, the film is a continued 88 year tradition of #OscarsSoWhite.
The reason I find this lack of diversity scenario to be problematic is because I refuse to believe that world’s activists, ecological educators, and generally conscious people would not come together to create solutions; or could not set aside a few hours a week to put together some plan of action locally. Lest everyone who spoke out disappeared into some mystery black hole, probably not though; rather those people disappeared into the film’s gaping plot hole.
All of this said, I just have to say that to classify Interstellar as a Science Fiction film would be erroneous, it is not. Instead, this film is a grim fantasy film that presents a hyperbole of our current science and technologies. We’re not watching what will happen, but we’re watching what has already happened with the use of industrial agricultural practices, and being exposed to the affects of mono-cultural farms, and genetically modified produce. The question is, what do solutions do we want to create as we go down river, given that we already have our a map, the technologies to navigate our course. While Interstellar presented some great visual effects, some thought provoking points, at its core it is just another tale of colonialism… in space.
Keep in touch:
Michael Ray De Los Angeles
Contact: @vampyrohtechnix Media
Writer, editor, and Generation Y shutterbug. California grown environmentalist and published photographer, “Say Avocado.” You can find me across social media platforms (including Twitter, Soundcloud, Bonoboville, Instagram, and Youtube) with intersecting content focused on ecology, environmental activism, Literature, and California culture. I read and write about plant based living, with recommended readings, audio broadcasts and short documentaries. I like appropriate technologies like solar system and home gardens.
In my non-writing life, I like fashion and set design. I’m a graduate of Humboldt State University with a BA in English Literature, and was a costumer for the world-famous Humboldt Circus 2012-13. I love Poesy, spoken word and was Poetry Division editor for The Toyon Literary Journal. My dream job is to host an travel show with an ecological emphasis.