My cyborg anthropology course has an adjunct, one-credit film class called Folk Science in Film where we meet weekly to watch and discuss scifi films through an anthropological lens. We’ll be watching Equilibrium, Ghost in the Shell 2, Star Trek: TNG Best of Both Worlds I & II (the episodes where Picard is assimilated by and deborged.), Crash (the old one), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Gattaca. (Offline friends: guests are welcome, so send me an E-mail for the time and location.)
Last night we started off with Logan’s Run, a classic scifi cheeseball from 1976. In 2274, people live in a dome and are are summoned to a die at age 30. They go willingly into the carousel, before a peppy crowd of their peers, for a chance at renewal. Logan is a sandman, a police officer of sorts who hunts down “runners” who try to flee the city instead of going to carousel.
My brother’s name is Logan, so that was reason enough to eagerly watch the film when it came on television. I was frightened by the carousel (I couldn’t go on merry-go-rounds for years) nor bring myself to watch the movie again until I was a teen. This was my first time moving beyond filling the plotholes to actually analyze the movie.
Pam Noles’s essay, Shame, was still fresh in my mind when I watched the film. She noticed, as a little girl, that there were no people of color in Star Wars. Logan’s Run was released a year earlier, so I wasn’t really surprised the only person of color any of my class spotted in the film was a black man with an afro and bright gold bracelets, in a crowd shot. We’ve got one token person of color, the black man, for the entire “utopia.”
No surprise, my 21st-century, radical feminist gaze took note of the gender roles in Logan’s society (or 1970s Hollywood?). The sandmen are all men, and the only other characters who actually have “jobs” beyond looking pretty are a plastic surgeon at “new-you” and a ditzy female assistant who has difficulty doing more than act sexy (ironically, it is the female heroine Jessica who rescues her). Besides Logan, all of the clients at new-you lobby are women–because women are the ones who care about staying young.
Earlier in the film, Logan flips through a teleporter “circuit” to find a lover for the night. A man appears first, and Logan shakes his head in disapproval and moves on to meet the heroine, Jessica 7. When she refuses his advances, he asks her if she’s a lesbian. Logan’s buddy shows up with a woman on each arm and Jessica slips away. Logan ponders at her absence for a moment, but is quickly distracted when the two willing women jump on him.
Logan forces Jessica to return later because she won’t come to see him willingly. He tells her she’s the most beautiful woman he’s seen and he won’t force her to have sex with him. He’s giving her a choice about what to do with her body. Whether Logan’s authority comes from his job as sandman or simply because he is male is unclear, but sandmen are only men. In a film released three years after Roe v. Wade, women’s freedom to choose is a privilege granted by men. This strikes very close to real life where women’s freedoms to choose–from voting to reproductive choices–have been given, and particularly the later teeter dangerously close to being taken away.