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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Science Fiction Movies: The Neglected Field? Since When?

A few weeks ago, Michael Booth posted an article on the Denver Post's website about the movie Serenity (i.e. Firefly the Movie). In that article, he made two interconnected points: 1) that Serenity is a good introductory science fiction film for the younger generation, particularly young teenagers, and 2) that science fiction movies are a neglected field.  I don't disagree with the first of these points.  Serenity is a fantastic movie; it's an exciting space adventure full of fascinating ideas, plenty of excitment, and just the right amount of humor.  The second point, however, is one of the most ridiculous, if not downright ignorant, comments on science fiction I've seen in the last year.

Since when have science fiction movies been neglected?  Not in my lifetime, that's for sure, and before I started writing this post, I would have bet hard cash on that.  Now, I have hard evidence.

IMDB has a list of the top all-time box office earners in the United States (not adjusted for inflation, I think).  There are 466 movies on that list.  Of those 466, a total of 86 are science fiction movies.  107 are fantasy, although there is a lot of crossover between science fiction, fantasy, and horror, so the numbers swing slightly in multiple directions.  The point is that science fiction movies make up roughly 18.6% of the top 466 box office earners in the United States.  That might not sound like much, but you have to remember that there are many major genres (fantasy, horror, drama, action, comedy, etc.).  Making up 1/5th of IMDB's list is nothing to scoff at.  That's bloody incredible.

But it gets better.  You knew that, right?  It has to get better.  Of the top 20 movies on that list, exactly half are science fiction (though you might argue that one or two of them are something else).  Science fiction movies hold 3 of the top 5 spots (1st, 3rd, and 4th), and there are only two non-genre movies in the top twenty (Titanic at #2 and The Passion of the Christ at #15), since the rest are fantasy flicks.

Neglected my ass.  If science fiction movies are being neglected, then the entire movie industry is screwed.  If Booth were making the point that science fiction movies are neglected in academic circles, I might have more to agree with him about, but he's making an argument that is patently false.  Science fiction movies don't need you coercing children into watching them.  They're already watching them.  All they need is exactly what they're getting now:  attention.

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  1. Are you sure he's not referring to it as a field of study? As in film theory and analysis?

  2. If he is, then he really has no idea what he's talking about, since science fiction films have been of interest to academics for decades, and even more so today than ten years ago. All this fuss about science fiction not getting respect in academia is a load of crap. When Fredric Jameson is writing about science fiction, there's really not much left to complain about.

    But I don't think that's what he was talking about.