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Posts Tagged ‘The Fly’

An earlier blog post discussed technology as horrific in science fiction films, as a continuation bodily transgressions as a result of future technology, are also a source of discussion.  The Fly (1986) is an interesting film to consider for this area as it can be seen as a film that crosses the science fiction and horror genre. The Fly (1986) through its mutation of the body, is an example of ‘body horror’, which conventionally is synonymous with the horror genre. Bukatman (1993:261) concurs in noting that ‘the horror genre…centres upon an extensive hyberbolization of the body and its (dys)functions.’ It is therefore clear that the mixed genre of science fiction and horror provides the grounding for technology as horrific though bodily transgressions adapted from the horror genre. It is this notion of body horror and transgressions, as a result of technology that is of interest to us.

The premise of The Fly (1986) lies on the creation of a machine that can teleport objects from A to B. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldbloom), the protagonist of the film plays the scientist who develops and experiments with the technology and ultimately mutates through using it. The relationship between technology and the body is seen after Brundle teleports himself unknowingly with a fly, consequently morphing with it. As a viewer it is clear that this has happened through crosscutting and due to the insect hair on his back, brought to our attention by Veronica (Geena Davis).  At first this accident with technology is portrayed as good. For example Brundle awakes in the night and performs a highly acrobatic routine, displaying a great deal of strength. This is depicted as evolutionary through Brundle’s ecstatic reaction. Bukatman (1993:268) concurs in noting that ‘Brundle calls for transcendence.’ Meaning that his belief that technology has bettered him in his human form, he now believes that he has transcended over machine and ultimately technology revealing his true self. It is initially the case that technology has release the potential of the human body. This is however short-lived as in a later scene Veronica asks Brundle, ‘Do you take coffee with your sugar?’ as Brundle adds the tenth spoonful to his coffee. Indicating the possibility of further side effects to the teleportation with the fly. The film can be said to embrace the idea of technology, initially depicting it as anything but horrific, and perhaps for the greater good.

Despite initially showing the relationship between human and technology as positive, the continued mutation of Brundle changes this. As Brundle gets more and more visually grotesque the notion of technology as horrific strengthens. For example the very last scene of the film shows BrundleFly, complete a full mutation into a fly. The body horror begins to deliver its full effect. Although somewhat disfigured, up until this point Brundle still has human facial features, eyes, mouth and a human shape head. As the rotting flesh drops of his arms, Cronenberg shows the implosion of his face directly at the camera, as more flesh falls away, revealing the ‘fly inside’. The horror of the loss of the human form, the mutation and display of human in flesh and muscle is considered horrific. In merging the genres of the horror film and science fiction, explicitly connects that horror to a technological scenario. As this is a direct product of human interaction with technology, one can suggest that the film portrays technology as horrific.

Whilst visually looking horrific The Fly (1986), also adheres to a conservative ideology, alluded to in the earlier blog post. This can be suggested as the conservative notion of the individual is threatened as Brundle’s constant mutation changes his identity.  For the example the first teleportation merges him with the fly, the second can be seen to advance the mutation and finally the third results in his mutation part machine, part Brundle and part Fly. Bukatman (2004:232) concurs in noting that ‘The apparent mind/body dichotomy is suppressed by the trichotomy of mind/body/machine.’ It is therefore clear that the identity of Brundle is now lost or confused as he becomes less and less like his self. His individual character is now a three-way milieu, that is no longer recognisable as Seth Brundle, the self and other, human and non-human, subject and object all become jumbled and dissolved. Placing this in the context of technology as horrific Bukatman (2004:232)notes that ‘the dissolution of identity into new forms is connected to the rise of new technologies.’ Therefore it is clear that the telepod machine or more directly technology takes over his body, a depiction of technology controlling a human, as is the situation in The Matrix (1999). The technology in the film is horrific as it effective destroys the identity and life of Seth Brundle. The Fly (1986) can be read as somewhat of a cautionary tale, that opens the possibilities of technology, whilst hinting at the potential side effects.

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