Science Fiction novels are still fighting an uphill battle for academic recognition as, “serious stuff,” but they’ve certainly come a long way. Most high school juniors are reading Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” and likely a solid selection of Phillip K. Dick stories. However, while we see massive scholarly appreciation for science fiction film, the Academy peers down behind its bifocals at the swords and lasers and sneers.
Film has always had it rough. During its inception it was treated as a gimmick or something to simply shock and entertain. The end of the 19th century and turn of the 20th saw films of trains being used at carnivals and circuses to scare audiences out of their seats. It wasn’t until George Melies that we saw film begin to truly be appreciated, and it still wasn’t art. We’ve come a long way, and just like the novel, film is appreciated as a colossus of storytelling. Science fiction, however, always seems to be a bit behind the curve.
A B-movie genre well into the 1950s, movies like “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Forbidden Planet,” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” stood out, but garnered no critical appreciation whatsoever. The two game changers didn’t roll around until the late 60s and early 70s. Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” was hailed as a masterpiece from the moment audiences left the opening night. Critics told of its scope and teenagers told of its similarity to taking acid. Needless to say, his follow up, based on the science fiction novel, “A Clockwork Orange,” had much the same effect, becoming the first sic fi movie to be nominated for best picture.
After this we were treated to epics like, “Star Wars,” and Ridley Scott’s, “Alien.” Eventually we started to get Gilliam, Spielberg, “Blade Runner,” and “Close Encounters.” These films helped shape modern culture. These are undeniably worthy of recognition, but the Academy is still biased. Each year more and more science fiction movies are made and snubbed, but each year more and more are nominated. In 2009, “District 9,” “Avatar,” and “Star Trek” were all nominated, and just this past year “Gravity” was expected to win. Science Fiction has become one of the most beloved and talked about genres in the world because of its capacity for analyzation, stylization, and introspection. It is ripe for speaking in its broad, terrifying strokes to every one of us. Luckily, we don’t have to wait for it to be appreciated by other people, we can go rent a Christopher Nolan film right now and watch science fiction lean over from behind its global pulpit and give the Academy a big brotherly smile.