Understanding human emotions through science fiction

Proposal:
The complexity of human interaction can’t be categorized with a single adjective, it can’t be seen or felt yet our emotions are the closest we can ever hope to understand each other. Society often tries to shove the conversation of emotions into the closet because of the stigma that emotions are a sign of weakness. People usually end up perpetually running away from these emotions or growing unable to control them entirely because of their fear of ever speaking up in the first place. Mental health issues in the United States are dire according to the National Institute of Mental health “Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019)” 

Science fiction gives perspective to the emotions we constantly feel. Whether that be loneliness or happiness. These emotions are presented from perspectives that help humans feel more human. Writings and movies that make a robot feel love and loneliness, that make a man fall victim to the reality created by the internet, or maybe a strong will and happiness of a blue alien allows you to feel more human being because something that isn’t even of this world or isn’t even considered “living” is capturing those same emotions. 

Sources: 

Ruiz, Liliana. “ “Her” and The Loneliness We All Share” onbeing.org, 15 Jan. 2014, https://onbeing.org/blog/her-and-the-loneliness-we-all-share/

Ruiz gives a quick summary of the movie “Her” by Spike Jonze where the main character Theodore is a sweet and caring guy who is going through a hard time in divorcing his childhood sweetheart. Out of loneliness Theodore buys an OS which is an operating system that is an assistant that answers emails, organized files but also does much more by being a companion. Theodore and the OS Samantha become more intimate and leads to a relationship. Ruiz then goes to explain the depth of their relationship and how Theodore was able to tell her his most intimate secrets saying “Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever gonna feel, and from here on out I’m not going to feel anything new, just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” Which goes to show the true numbness that Theodore has felt from his sudden divorce and the inability to find companionship in this world turning to a robot to mend emotions too complex. Samantha on the other hand gives perspective on what it is to feel emotions for the first time while being conscious. Samantha says “Earlier I was thinking about how I was annoyed, and this is going to sound strange, but I was really excited about that. And then I was thinking about the other things I’ve been feeling, and I caught myself feeling proud of that. You know, proud of having my own feelings about the world. Like the times I was worried about you, things that hurt me, things I want. And then I had this terrible thought. Are these feelings even real? Or are they just programming? And that idea really hurts. And then I get angry at myself for even having pain. What a sad trick.”this shows the complexity of Samantha’s emotions how she goes through happiness, anger, sadness and excitement. This connects to our humans emotions because sometimes we feel like this jumble of emotions and Samantha being an OS something that knows everything and yet knows so little of what it really means to be humans shows us how our crazy jumble of emotions are just part of being human. 

“Robot ‘Wall-E’ Holds Unexpected Message About Love in Animated Film” Voice of America, 1 Nov. 2009 https://www.voanews.com/archive/robot-wall-e-holds-unexpected-message-about-love-animated-film

The article explains how Wall-E is a gentle reminder to care about each other and to care about the planet. Describing the characters Wall-E and Eve as being expressive through their sounds saying every whirl and beep matters. The reason that Wall-E and Eve were robots in the first place was to have them fight over the meaning of life. The co-writer and director of Wall-E states “We all have our habits, our routines, and our programmed things that we fall into to distract ourselves from really living. They are not necessarily bad or evil in and of themselves. It’s just that we can use that as a crutch to fill up our day and avoid the act of having relationships and contacting one another.” This is important because not only is that shown by Wall-E and Eve’s programming to do their tasks and nothing more it’s shown by the mindless people in the film who don’t interact or care anymore about anything but themselves. The emotions of two robots falling in love show us that maybe stepping out of that routine and habits can make us live life and feel love. These robots make a relationship without any dialogue and compels humans to understand how little is needed to actually feel love. 

Blust, Christina. “HONORING GRIEF: BIG HERO 6” The Live Sincerely Project, 16 Dec. 2014 http://thelivesincerelyproject.com/2014/12/16/honoring-grief-big-hero-6/

In this article Christina Blust summarizes the movie “Big Hero 6” an animated marvel movie. The main characters are Hiro and his closest companion Baymax.They get involved in a dangerous plot because of unexpected events leading Hiro, Baymax and 5 other friends of Hiro’s brother to become a group of high-tech heroes. Hiro is the main character due to him having to face a devastating event, which is losing his older sibling Tadashi. Baymax is a robot created by Hiro’s brother Tadashi, his only purpose is to take care of people, he is very sweet, gentle and incredibly huggable. Hiro has to deal with grief and loss of his older brother but he also gets taken care of by Baymax who not only is a creation of his brother but “a loving supportive, healthy support for Hiro”. This is relevant to my article because the love and support from Baymax to Hiro grieving over his brother connects to human emotions and how people feel during the grief of losing someone. It gives a perspective that not all things can be replaced and sometimes you have to carry that feeling with you. Baymax is the coping mechanism to his grief showing the viewers that sometimes their feelings of loss need to be expressed. 

Ho, Stella. “Ignorance is bliss: Heartbreak, memory in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’” The Daily Californian, 18 Oct. 2019 https://www.dailycal.org/2019/10/18/ignorance-is-bliss-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind/

In the article Ho speaks on the deep emotions all humans feel through the lens created by the movie Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. The author gives her own personal experience in how the passing of her grandfather made her mother block out the memory of his death and she refuses to try and remember to cope with the grief. She says it doesn’t keep her mother happy but she chooses to accept ignorance then to face sorrow. The article ends talking about Joel and Clementines relationship and their reunion and explains how there are some memories, people or events that you can’t eliminate your emotions from. This is relevant to my article because science fiction through the usage of memory deletion gives us a perspective of what would happen if we forgot the painful memories in our lives. It would end up removing the things we know and we would be in a cycle of falling into our emotions with no explanation. In the broadest terms this article states that you can’t run away from emotions unless they will surely fall back into the same pattern of behavior. 

Lee, Joseph M.D. “Science Fiction & Science Fact: What They Tell Us About Our Emotions” Mental Healthiness, 2015. https://www.google.com/amp/s/mentalhealthiness.com/2016/03/29/science-fiction-science-fact-what-they-tell-us-about-our-emotions/amp/

Dr. Lee mentions how science fiction has been a representation of our emotional state in society. He also relates movies like Star Trek with the responsibility of changing people’s perspective on emotions as we progress to a society with more understanding. The article begins with Star Trek in 1966 surrounded by high tensions with Russia and constant war with Vietnam and the beginning of the space race and the peak of the civil right movement. Star Trek was set 300 years in the future with an Earth that was a multicultural and gender equality society with other species besides humans. The show was optimistic which was a well needed change for the extremely high tensions that we felt during the 1960’s. The emotions drove science fiction to represent the complete opposite view to give views some hope. He also explains how in Star Trek there was a scene in the original where a character Spock sacrifices himself as his friend Kirk watches. Spock stays stoic as he dies and Kirk cries and is viewed as weak. The reboot in 2009 is later shown to reverse the roles Kirk sacrifices himself and Spock watches and unlike him to stay stoic and poised he loses it at the sight of his lost friend. This article shows the impact that emotions have when displayed in science fiction as it has a greater impact on how we view these emotions in society and as a society we have an impact of how science fiction responds to the emotions we resonate at the time period. 

1 thought on “Understanding human emotions through science fiction”

  1. For one, you need to get more specific with how sci-fi can give us this perspective since any story no matter what genre can do the same thing. I also feel commenting more on how society feels as a collective is a good start but it’s still kind of broad best thing to is a word it better or narrow it down. otherwise good sources and concept.

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