Today we will complete two tasks. First, read through the following “Monday Mashup” and identify 2-3 questions that you find intriguing and that might develop an insightful line of inquiry. Spend 7-9 minutes free writing your response, then share it with a partner near you. Read your partner’s response and identify either (1) something they leave unsaid, or (2) something you could counter (3 minutes). Your response needs to be in the form of declarative statements and not additional questions.
In response, choose either to articulate a counterargument, counter-interpretation, or counter-perspective in response to a quotation from your partner; or build on your partner’s perspective by pointing out what they miss and developing it further in the direction that works best as you see it (5 minutes). As stated above, your response needs to be in the form of declarative statements and not additional questions.
Before moving on, we will take a few minutes for students to share their observations.
Next, swap essay drafts with a different partner and read through their draft. Again, find a potentially fruitful sentence that you can quote and either expand or counter as described above (20 minutes total).
At home, as you read through your draft and develop it into a formal draft, see if you can integrate at least one of the questions you considered today as a central question, and try to include at least one of your peers’ sentences and your response within your next essay draft.
(please excuse any typos)
As usual, there were too many good drafts to include, and there is only room for a couple of drafts in today’s mashup. To start us off, we begin with Josh. He writes:
Currently in the 21st century, we really live in a society with record levels of depression. I believe that in at least in part, this is a direct consequence of how easy it is to completely shell oneself from the natural. Today, it is completely and entire possible to live inside of your house for days, weeks, even months without ever seeing the light of day. Technology has made it possible to completely seclude oneself entirely from face to face human interaction, if one so chose they could wall themselves in their home, order food with current delivery apps, and never have a real reason to leave their houses. The advent of social media apps plays into this as well, creating a false sense of interaction. Some may think that interacting on social media qualifies as human interaction, and while partially true, typing little letters back and forth to each other while straining one’s eyes on a screen the size of ones hand is reductive of the human social experience. In my personal life, I’ve seen a complete false dichotomy of how people act in real life versus how those people act in [virtual] life. People, when interacting in real life seem more willing to rationally reason with each other, and show sympathy and empathy in interaction. It stands clear that in normal conversation that the full range of human emotion is allowed to thrive. However often online this is subject to change, and the emotianal range is often slashed.
–It almost seems like Josh is beginning to interpret the symbiotic relation of Eddy and Venom as a metaphor for the human-technological relation at its current state, with its level of mediation in our daily lives. Is this the case?
Wayne observes that history has its version of Carlton Drake and have raised similar ethical concerns to the ones we “read” in Venom:
“Venom” can be used to shed light on the contemporary fear and hopes of a real world society. Earlier within this writing I proposed a question that if Drake had won that battle and his methods of research and success were exposed, would Drake be considered a hero within this story despite the unethically nature of his experiments? . . . One such experiment is the Tuskegee experiment that used African Americans as lab rats for many years to test and observe the effect of syphilis. This experiment lead to the death of numerous African American men, few of their wives that contracted the disease and lead to the birth of 19 children with congenital syphilis. However they did find a cure, which wasn’t used to help the participants of this experiment, but is used today to treat syphilis for anyone affected. Carlton Drake’s experiments were also a success that ultimately to create Venom/ Eddy Brock. I mention this to say that both these experiments were ethical and morally wrong, however you can find individuals who would argue for it being a good or bad; but what both these types of individuals have in common is that if in a situation that required a symbiote like venom and a cure for syphilis, despite its history people would disregard its past for the benefits it may provide them.
What forms of exclusion do the experiments cited, Drake’s response to overpopulation and climate change and the Tuskegee experiments, mean for the ethics of its characters and the aspirations of those who attempt to save “us” (narrowly defined at times, but often in unspoken ways) from our present circumstances?
I thought of the section in When Species Meet when she contemplates the meaning of the word species, that it is “about the dance linking kin and kind” (Haraway 17). What does this bring to light in Venom? How does species as it is defined in our source texts have us identify Venom and Eddy? Although the Eddy-Venom relation might be called the product of an interplanetary encounter rather than a “gene transfer,” the relation is a technologically mediated one that invites us to share Haraway’s contemplation of interspecies messmates nonetheless:
“[B]iotechnologically mediated gene transfers redo kin and kind at rates and in patterns unprecedented on earth, generating messmates at table who do now know how to eat well and, in my judgment, often should not be guests together at all. Which companion species will, and should, live and die, and how, is at stake” (18).
How does this passage potentially illuminate the many references to eating in the movie? When does eating and being “messmates” come up? To what conflicts or contradictions do these moments give rise?
So far, these questions may be future-oriented, or they may refer to the idea of the future depicted in the movie. Does the movie’s fantasy of the future have things change much? To ask another way, how is the world changed by the end of the movie? How much of the world “as it was” in the beginning is recovered at the end? I use scare quotes around “as it was” to draw attention to the fact that the past, too, is constructed by the fictional narrative and should be described as such. When writing about an exhibit, it can be more fruitful to draw parallels between the world as it is depicted in a work of fiction and the world as we experience it, but it can be equally productive to draw attention to the differences. These are constructed narratives that may or may not encourage us to narrate our lived experience the same way. What might we gain from resisting the urge to do so?
Some writers have made an attempt to reconcile the difference between symbiogenesis as it is described by Margulis and Sagan, and the movie. Margulis and Sagan describe a close association between organisms that potentially becomes mutually dependent over a significant period of time—that is, after multiple generations—but Venomis an instance of one generation. Rather than gloss over this discrepancy by calling it the same, why not examine the differences? Does the Eddy-Venom unit portray mutual dependency or mutual affinity and benefit? Do they constitute a new human species? Does the mutual dependency described in Margulis and Sagan mean that such unified symbiotic bodies make up species? Remember Haraway’s discussion of species, of the bacteria and fungus. If species as she describes it is always multiple, including in our present human bodies, what does that mean for Eddy and Venom?
So far, we have ignored the fact that movies about aliens have often offered commentary on the relations between dominant political groups and their Others, capitalized because the word “other” here stands in for the proper nouns identifying non-dominant groups. Often the non-dominant group is an immigrant group. A famous example of this is found in Men in Black, in which an alien is disguised as an undocumented migrant.
A more recent example is the much-discussed Arrival in which themes of immigration and international diplomacy are embodied in the encounter with two “heptopods.”
What lines of inquiry open up when we consider the possibility that the themes of territorial exploration, appropriation, and colonization are all portrayed via the metaphor of alien life, but may be taken as commentary on Earthly life? How are these lines of inquiry obscured and avoided when audiences approach it as an exclusively scientific case rather than an always-also social narrative?
One of the authors in another section of this class begins to touch upon this topic when she presents her key quotation from Donna Haraway, and I find it so useful that I want to quote her here with you:
Haraway states, “In layers of history, layers of biology, layers of naturecultures, complexity is the name of our game. We are both the freedom-hungry, offspring of conquest, products of white settler colonies, leaping over hurdles, and crawling through tunnels on the playing field” (Haraway 16). When stating this, she is addressing the idea that the interconnection between Earth’s organisms bring us to the point where we exploit one another, in an attempt to better ourselves individually. Rather than using this as an opportunity to save both parties from facing crisis, like extinction or loss of habitat, much of the time one party is experiencing improvement at the expense of the other.
Haraway is writing about her dog when she claims they are both “offspring of conquest” produced by “white settler colonies.” Through its characters and their visions or through its plotlines, and likewise through its visual symbolism and mise-en-scene, how does Venomcomment on the history of conquest and settler colonialism, speculate the future or conquest and colonialism, or touch upon the ethics of these somewhere in between that history and those futures?