“Arrival” of the Sinosphere or the Political Unconscious of Space Invaders



A few weeks ago, I sat down with my buddy Christian Thorne and my delightful wife Dalena Storm to watch “Arrival” (2016). We discussed the movie afterwards and Christian encouraged me to write up my first impressions, so this is meant to be a light post in which I interrogate a movie for its implicit politics. Basically, the kind of thing I say about a movie after a few beers (sorry I’m a total critical theory nerd). Warning: Spoilers.

For all the buzz about the philosophy of language in “Arrival,” the film’s politics have been little discussed. Part of this might be because they are hard to parse. I see this as due to the fact that most “first contact” Science Fiction can be sorted into three different master themes—alien invasion, space ethnography, or stellar revelation—and while “Arrival” is closest to the third, it actually passes through all three. So in what follows I’ll map out the latent politics of different sub-genres of first-contact science fiction and then use that to explore the film’s political unconscious.

If you are curious, follow me over the fold…

Continue reading