film

The Prometheus Pants Problem

Prometheus. It’s the film that disappointed pretty much everyone. The internet is flooded with in depth critiques of it, many of which refer to the lack of real science, along with the deep metaphysical and philosophical issues with it. All of these posts, however, have missed what I found to be the most problematic feature of the film: Underwear.

And yes, I know it came out two years ago, and it’s a bit weird to be writing a blog post about it now, but I’ve found myself trying to explain the Prometheus Pants Problem (PPP) to a few people, both verbally and on Twitter of late. Its complexity and importance means that 140 characters will just not do, and I think it is important to have a robust reference source to refer people to when explaining all aspects of the PPP.

It is important to note, I think, that in actual fact I vaguely enjoyed Prometheus. When I saw it at the cinema, I hadn’t seen any of the Alien films (I know, I know), but I thought it was worth a shot anyway. I found the running about with lots of alien goo stuff flying about fairly entertaining. The problems came when they kept interrupting the frivolous alien romp bits with Important Thinly Veiled Stuff About God, which made me rather lose patience. And, of course, I ended up pretty fixated on the PPP, which meant that I couldn’t think about anything else in the film. I’m like that- I’ll fixate myself on one tiny thing that happens for a millisecond, and then spend the entire rest of the film thinking and internally ranting about it.

The Need for Pants At All.

Let’s be honest with ourselves here. You get in from a hard day’s work. You’re not expecting anyone. You’ve got a whole night of delicious nothingness stretching ahead of you. Its toasty warm in your home. What’s the first thing you do? You take off your uncomfortable outer wear, and let it all hang out, right? I mean, no one is going to see you and you’re in the comfort of your own home, so why the hell not wander around in all of your naked birthday suited glory if you want to?

Perhaps you wear your PJs instead, or a pair of comfy pants. That’s probably because, deep down, you’re sort of somehow worried that someone might see. You might get an unexpected visitor, or the pizza man might be arriving at any point. But imagine for a second that you are the only person alive at that point in time. What’s the point in clothes then? Especially if you can absolutely, categorically be sure that you’re the only one, because you’re the person who creates lifein the first place, and you haven’t yet drank the wormy goo that you need in order to do so yet.

So, in the opening seconds of Prometheus, we’ve got our engineer guy, on a planet in which he hasn’t yet created life (except for, well, all the plant life that is already there, but I think we’re supposed to ignore that). Now, never mind your front room, imagine having an entire planet all to yourself. Would you wear pants? Of course you wouldn’t. Any sane person would be running about joyfully, jiggling here there and everywhere, enjoying the sense of freedom. You’d let every little bit hang and flop about as much as you like, because who is going to be there to judge?

The Need For Pants At All Part 2.

We don’t ever see any Female Engineers at any point in Prometheus. Thanks for that bit of everyday sexism, Ridley. The Baldy One does not seem to require any sort of sexual act to create life: just a shot of tarry goo, and that’s that.

 So on this basis, would they even have genitals at all? And even if they did, why would they be considered a special part that needs to be nestled away from prying eyes, if the reproductive act doesn’t need to take place? 

Disappointing Pant Technology

Let’s play devil’s advocate here for a while and accept that pants are required for some unknown reason. This then leads on to another problematic issue.

These engineer types appear to be pretty smart. After all, they are the purported creators of life itself, right? Yet with all of their super advanced technology and supremely high IQs, the best they can come up with is a couple of bandages wrapped around themselves, nappy-like.

That just doesn’t ring true to me. Even our lowly human selves can come up with better pant technology than that. We have all sorts of colours, fabrics, designs, access holes, fastenings, elastic etc. But no, this superior life form instead decides to wrap some bandages around its crotch. How much of a faff must those things be to get into? They’d be a right clart on to get back out of if you need a wee. Do they need someone else to help them put them on in the morning, holding the bandages while they spin themselves around? How undignified and inconvenient.

 Lack of Pant Technology Evolution

This first engineer scene is Prometheus presumably takes place thousands of years prior to all of the kerfuffle depicted in the rest of the film. And yet, we are supposed to believe that pant technology has remained starkly primitive through all of this time?

The evidence for this is Noomi, who is merrily wandering around, post-surgery, wearing what is clearly another pair of low tech bandage pants, along with a matching bra. What’s happened to underwire technology? Why are people from this time still wearing the same design of crap pants as their creators? Surely, in the intervening millennia, someone would have realised elastic exists.

And that, dear friends, is a brief examination of the Prometheus Pants Problem. I’ve seen it creeping into other films since (most recently Guardians of the Galaxy), and I won’t rest until these important questions are answered, in full.

Other things to note about Prometheus:

  • They appear to use Joseph Joseph kitchen implements. Nice to know that this mid-range kitchenware design brand is still going strong that fair into the future.
  • Wandering around important historic sites that have been sealed off for thousands of years should probably be done in a more respectful way, if you’re wanting to preserve it for proper research. One guy says at some point “We’ve changed the atmosphere in here”. Well, yes, yes you have, though its nowt to do with the inherent evilness of mankind, and everything to do with barging in, blithely breathing your modern germs all over everything. If a door has been shut for thousands of years, I’d imagine that yes, it might get a little musty in there. Opening the door and allowing a bit of fresh air in is likely to change the atmosphere somewhat.
  • The Dead Head that explodes: Apparently the theory behind this is that this head, reawakened after a very long time, can’t cope with how crap, evil and corrupt the world now is so it explodes. Now, I’m no expert in these matters, but I’m pretty sure that exposing a thousand year old corpse to all sorts of new atmospheres might well lead to a build up of some gases, which on electrocution, may well then explode.
  • The most obvious plot hole of them all, which has most probably been covered in great detail elsewhere, still annoys me. Noomi’s oxygen is about to run out, and its all very tense indeed, but then phew, she is okay. However, it appear to magically recharge itself somehow whilst she tends to her errant offspring, as when she needs it again afterwards the oxygen level in there is just fine. Grrr.

Anyway, I’ll shut up for now, though I won’t apologise for bringing this important matter to your attention. And yes, you will now be forever destined to notice intently all pants being worn in any sci-fi movie, and yes, it will probably ruin all enjoyment for you. You’re welcome :D

Hxxxxx


When Z-day comes, Think Pharmacy

A little while ago, it occurred to me that I hadn't watched many zombie films in my life. I therefore made it a bit of a project to watch a whole load of them. I got myself a mentor (my friend Frankie) and together we perfected the art of walking back from the cinema in a zombie fashion whilst giggling hysterically.

 

I've watched good zombie films, bizarre zombie films, Christmas zombie films, thoughtful zombie films, and absolutely terrible zombie films starring Billy Connelly. So I sort of know the ropes when it comes to the genre. On the advice of Nancy, I started listening to the We're Alive podcast, and now extol the virtues of it to any who will listen. Although I dont recommend listening to The Archers right after it, as you find yourself waiting for zombies to jump out and ruin the Ambridge flower festival.

 

So I've just gotten back from World War Z. It was better than expected, and it managed to squeeze more entertainment than I thought may be possible out of a lab in Wales and Peter Capaldi wearing a jumper. Although I may be biased as I do have a bit of  a thing for Peter Capaldi (and Brad Pitt), so I was happy enough as soon as he arrived on screen. All that was missing was Hugh Laurie. And a better ending. And more gore. And less CGI. And less not realising that with a pen and paper and the camera he could easily get the people in the know to tell him which vial to choose. And wouldn't there be an intercom in a WHO lab with infectious diseases in it anyway?!

 

Anyway, I digress. Aside from all the problems with the film that no one else would probably notice, I did note one shining light in all of the z-day carnage. Brad Pitt, like any good citizen should, Thinks Pharmacy. In need of an emergency supply of a salbutamol inhaler, off he goes to the local, friendly community pharmacy.


I don't think this is much of a spoiler, given apparently pretty much the whole film is in the trailer, but after barging into the supermarket pharmacy (probably unlikely: in real life he would have just coughed loudly and shouted "shop!") he is greeted by a friendly professional, white coated  pharmacist who offers him an NMS consultation. Okay, maybe not. He's wearing  hoody and carrying a gun, but, ever the professional, still manages to give some health advice when handing over three inhalers. "Children grow out of asthma" he says, helpfully, which may be true, but I think is unlikely to be the case by the time the  3 inhalers are used up.


He even link sales, passing over some bottles of what I presume to be paracetamol liquid too. How very helpful.


Its nice to see a pharmacist in a film or TV show doing something other than serial killing, murdering, nearly killing orphans with poison when drunk, or merrily doling out vicodin to Dr House without a prescription. Its nice to see a pharmacist resolutely doing what he can to help. It reminds me of all those stories you see in Chemist and Druggist, where there has been horrendous flooding but the pharmacy staff still manage to open up and do their deliveries in a makeshift canoe. The ones who, despite broken shutters or six foot deep snow or pandemic Ebola still turn up to make sure all the collections are done and the order is put away.


The pharmacist in question doesn't do any WWHAM questioning though. I'm not convinced Which? Would have been very happy with him.


Hxxx

The Godless Matinee

A while ago I- with the help of all of you lovely lot- collected together a little playlist of songs with an atheist theme. It was a great post to write, and what I love about it is that I still get suggestions now, or will be absent mindedly listening to something and will think "ooh, I must add that to the list". I love very much that many of you now have atheist playlists on your MP3 playing devices, and that I've had a tiny part to play in that.

Its been at the back of my mind for a while that a similar list for films should be in existence, then I was kicked into action by the same suggestion from the lovely Alom Shaha. Great minds and all that, eh? So here we have it, a humble list of films with an atheist or godless theme.

Some House Rules first. Be warned that I am the sort of person who will get up halfway through a film to tell someone off for talking, or having their phone on during a film. Even minor rustling of food packaging drives me crazy. So may I politely request that you follow this Code of Conduct, and we'll all get along fine.

So, phones off? Right, well settle in, get comfy, and lets watch some films. 

Remember guys, let me know if you want anything added. email me at healthydoseofskepticism@gmail.com, tweet me @SparkleWildfire, or leave a comment. I'd love to include your reasoning for choosing the films too.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) as suggested by @krypto: "All about the goodness of people. Polar opposite of religious remake"

Winter Light (1963) as suggested by @eyeswideshut75: "Bergman was tormented by atheism all his life.  i wouldn't say he was a one who celebrated it - to him one of the great pains in life was the silence of God, and this is never more evident than in Winter Light, Bergman's most unflinching and searing portrayal of personal, emotional and spiritual suffering.  the main character is a country priest who has lost his faith, but continues the rituals and tasks of his religion out of servitude, fear, a lack of anything else to do, out of service to his (ever dwindling and hopeless) congregation, and out of any cowardice to actually face up to this.  that Bergman's father was a strict Lutheran pastor adds whole new dimensions to the film." There you go, Ian, I did use more than two sentences after all.

The Wicker Man (1973) I recently rewatched this as part of an all-nighter at my beautiful local cinema, and it struck me how differently I viewed it now, as a more self-aware atheist than the first time I saw it. It seems like an odd choice at first glance, given it is entirely about belief of one form or another. But from an outside observer's perspective, its really interesting. Staunch catholic Sergeant Howie seems utterly repressed by his Catholic faith, whereas the paganism of the Summerisle residents initially seems full of freedom, but soon becomes a clear example of cargo cult science. In the end, all parties end up looking daft- the residents useless singing  in the face of failing crops whilst Sergeant Howie cries out in vain to Jesus, who can't save him from a fiery death. Oh, and sorry for the spoiler, but lets be honest here- the title is a spoiler anyway.

Carrie (1976) I only watched Carrie for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Not the most flattering depiction of religious families really, is it?

Life of Brian (1979) "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!"

Star Trek V (1989) as suggested by @_TheGeoff.

 

Chocolat (2000). i add this on a Friday night of what has been an exhausting week. I've just watched Mother, a Korean film which is not what one would call a laugh riot, so I figured I had earned a sugary sweet, mindless film. (Mindless films are actually quite rare for me, with the exception of zombie films. I tend to shy away from anything that even vaguely resembles a rom com.) Its been over ten years since I saw this, so I had completely forgotten how atheist it is. And you can't beat a bit of Binoche.

Touching The Void (2003) as suggested by @damonayoung

Kingdom of Heaven (2005), as suggested by @JPSargeant78

Conversations with my Gardener Dialogue Avec Mon Jardinier (2007). This film has been chosen by North East Humanists as one for their film night next year. I haven't seen it yet, but am happy to take their word for it that it contains many of the sorts of values held by humanists.

Religulous (2008), as suggested by @epparry. I'm watching this as we speak, and crying laughing at the Holy Land Experience bit.

The Invention of Lying (2009) As mentioned in Alom's book.

A Serious Man (2009) as suggested by @Buster_Bear

Whatever Works (2009) I'm sure I saw somebody suggesting this but I can't find who it is, so my apologies

The Infidel (2010) in which a lapsed British Muslim finds out he is actually Jewish. Its not godless as such, but it does call into question the ridiculousness of hatred between the different factions of religion.

Four Lions (2010) because one if the only ways we have of dealing with the horrors of terrorism and religious freedom extremism is to make black comedies and laugh at it. When I saw it at the cinema I was left uncomfortable at the riotous laughter going on around me: its a film of hilarity mixed with deep sadness, but many appeared to be missing the sadness bit. Through the humour, the dangerous ridiculousness of violence based on religion is addressed, along with the manipulation it involves. In the end, you're left feeling that when it comes down to it, a belief in god is about as valid as a belief in rubber dinghy rapids.

The Ledge (2011) as suggested by Alom Shaha

Paul (2011) as suggested by @Alex250175. "beautiful moment of revelation"

Side Effects (2013) as suggested by @Dilip_Modhvadia. In his words "a good film apart from Jude Law's nauseating performance".

Philomena (2013) as suggested by the ever wonderful @obsolesence

 

Anything by Michael Bay. Because any merciful god would surely not allow such atrocities to exist.

 

Hxxx

In defence of Dirty Dancing

A little while ago, I asked for feminist film suggestions on Twitter. I was almost drowned with enthusiastic responses, and will hopefully be able to categorise them all into some sort of blog post at some point. 

One suggestion really stuck out in my mind. @ayiasophia suggested Dirty Dancing, but also mentioned that she had gotten some stick for suggesting it as feminist in the past. Now I must admit, I did scoff a little myself for a few seconds. But then I thought about it. Could Dirty Dancing, in actual fact, be one of the most quietly fervent feminist films around?

What? This blog post needed a picture. Its hardly my fault if a half-naked picture of Patrick Swayze just happened to present itself to me. Its not objectification, honest

What? This blog post needed a picture. Its hardly my fault if a half-naked picture of Patrick Swayze just happened to present itself to me. Its not objectification, honest

Firstly: allow me to declare that I love this film. I've watched it many, many times: on my own, with friends, in a packed cinema with smuggled in wine (yes, we ended up dancing in the cinema, but it's okay because everyone else in there was too), I've seen the stage show twice. Most of all, though, I remember this film from my childhood. If the weather was bad, they used to let us watch it on video instead of PE. My mum and I knew the soundtrack off by heart. To this day, She's Like The Wind makes me weak at the knees. However, it's always felt a bit guilty, loving this film. After all, it's pretty frivolous, right? or is it? 

When I was younger, the subtleties of it totally passed me by. It was, as far as I was concerned, a film entirely about kicking bridges, pretty dresses, dancing, and of course watermelons. I even remember vaguely wondering what was dirty about it. Of course, when you watch it as an adult you realise they're lolling post-coitally around in bed for a lot of the time. And they used to show us it in school! 

Baby is, it's safe to say, not defined by her looks or sexuality at the start of the film. She's smart, and she's going to change the world. She's not what would be considered particularly beautiful. Her sister, on the other hand, is defined by her looks. She's that stereotypical, air-headed woman who thinks her appearance is what matters.


My views of feminism are strengthening constantly these days. It's tempting to define it as not needing a man, but I think it's a real shame to exclude men and relationships from a working definition of feminism. In my opinion, a feminist heterosexual relationship is one in which you are free to be consumed by love at its frightening best, and yet its about not being defined by your relationship with men. 

At first glance, this film is about getting the guy (and what a guy!). But when you think about it more deeply, the reasons why she gets the guy are really important and quite admirable. It is her ideals, her intelligence, and her ability to be an all-round decent person that gets her the guy rather than how drop-dead gorgeous she is. Her sister, who does try to use her looks to get her way, fails miserably. There's also that pro-choice storyline, and who could possibly forget Jonny's speech about how he's used by rich women- he's the one who is objectified here, not Baby.  
 

So, when you think about it, its actually the perfect film for the school to have been showing us as children, and for my Mum to watch with me time and time again. It's about a young woman who learns that she'll be loved because of who she is, rather than what she looks like. It's about her learning about and pretty freely enjoying sex and love but not being defined by it. She is her own person throughout and at the end... Well, off she goes, like the wind. 

I've noticed that a few of the feminist films that were suggested centre around revenge, usually against men. But there's none of that here. There's an acknowledgement that  men are present, enriching and important, but they are not the be-all-and-end-all of being a good person. Jonny is a support to Baby, but not a crutch - and to me, that's exactly what a healthy relationship should be. 


Hxxx