The Postmodern Prometheus

Science gnaws at the boundaries in Jurassic World, as Katie Watson looks at the movie from a Marxist perspective in The Postmodern Prometheus.  Katie is an English Studies MA student who previously graduated with a BA in English and Drama.

With the velocity of progress in modern society, so, too, have our fears and anxieties changed dramatically since the ghosts and ghouls of the previous centuries.  This social anxiety, though developing from the works of Karl Marx in Das Kapital with Marx’s discussion of the blood sucking nature of capitalist society, is something that manifested in this form for the first time in 1993 and predates the stereotypical feudal monster by about… 65 million years.

The 2015 release of Jurassic World revealed to us not only that the fourth film in a series doesn’t have to be awful, but also social apprehensions about our culture that perhaps we had not uncovered. I’m the first to admit, I wouldn’t traditionally categorise Edward Hyde and a T-Rex together but I couldn’t help noticing the monstrosity present in this movie, especially considering the help of the multiple characters who frequent the term ‘monster’…

This is the age of consumption. We see, we want, we buy. Isn’t that what the Indominus Rex – the films monster – represents? She consumes without any intention of stopping. Just as we purchase beyond what we need, succumbing to our wants and desires every time we see an advert for a cute new skirt, the Indominus Rex goes on killing even when she’s past eating (past consuming what she needs) and begins killing for sport (consuming what she wants). This is all emphasised by the ludicrous amounts of memorabilia available to the park’s visitors: t-shirts, posters, cups, the list goes on. This non-stereotypical Gothic monster has begun to develop a rather Gothic disposition. She represents contemporary fears, just like her Gothic predecessors: Dracula, Dorian Gray, Dr Jekyll and his less friendly counterpart, Mr Hyde. I think my favourite metaphor was when the two defenceless children were in the glass ball, roaming around the jurassic plains. The sense that they were staring up to a glass ceiling, symbolic of their belief that they are in control of their own consumption, when really they’re completely vulnerable to the manipulation of consumer culture, a.k.a everything the park represents.

Not only that, but just as the Indominus Rex feasts on her victims so, too, does capitalism feed on the lives of its workers; exhausting them for pecuniary gain. This is very much like Marxist readings of Dracula (1897) that the Count drains his victims in a similar fashion to the capitalist machine described by Marx in Das Kapital (1867). And need I even mention her Gothic sublimity, or does she explains that well enough when she screams horrifyingly into the camera?

Another interesting and remarkably Gothic tendency this film takes is that of the mad scientist, Dr. Henry Wu, a brilliant comparison to Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Both combine the parts of different creatures to create a being of their own, with a life spark thrust upon them by a human, not divine, hand. The film’s unsettlingly white laboratory is a stark contrast to the dark work of its scientists. Where Frankenstein is the Modern Prometheus, creating a beast that can destroy the individuals that cross its path, Wu is the Postmodern Prometheus, inventing a beast that destroys in the masses. Frankenstein’s monster can be reasoned with, he expresses wants, he negotiates with the doctor the terms upon which he will cease his rampage. Wu’s creation does not care for negotiations, she is completely out of our control and can only be destroyed by creatures of her own design, creatures that the humans still possess no control over and could, after the destruction of the Indominus Rex, turn round and devour the handsome hero, the swooning heroine and the two innocent boys. Luckily, however, it’s still an American family film, and the Gothic sublimity slowly fades as the credits role and we realise we are safe from the monsters in our television.

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About spectralvisions

Spectral Visions is an annual Gothic conference hosted by the University of Sunderland. It explores the dark, the decadent and the terrifying aspects of Gothic literature and language. This blog is a student-run initiative, where Visionaries showcase their creative talents and learning in short stories, poems and essays on the Gothic. You can follow us on Twitter at @spectralvisi0ns or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/uosgothic
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