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Ethnocentrism in scifi

I like Stargate, but damn it, even in Stargate Atlantis they futz with people's culture far too much. For example, the Atlantis episode "Childhood's End," wherein nobody in that culture lives past 25. Yeah, okay, I understand the objections, since their reason for doing it is erroneous (they believe the suicide pact protects them from the Wraith, but it's an ancient force shield), but in the story we find out it's a population control measure, since the force shield's range is limited. Plus, it's become part of their culture, their religion. So the constant moralizing by the Stargate team was understandable for a little while. But once they figured out about the reason for the suicide pact, they should have stopped being so morally superior. True, they needed to get across the point that the shield was the important bit, because the natives were about to kill them for calling down the Wraith, but still...

And the worst part of it? Through the whole thing, the natives were VERY adamant about their beliefs, and if the writers had stayed true to their characters, the fact that the shield was the true protector would have been interesting but largely irrelevant information, as the pact was still very powerful in their culture. Yet at the end, the whole village has magically abandoned centuries of tradition. The worse part is that all the other villages (at least 12) did the same damn thing. Twelve villages that the Stargate team had absolutely ZERO contact with. Oh, and increasing the area of the field without any additional power consumption on a device that took them forever just to turn back on again? Riiiiight. Sure. Uh-huh. Violation of physics, anyone?

Personally, I think a better lesson would have been taught if they'd just kept up the tradition. The lesson of "don't fuck with other cultures; don't take the moral fucking high ground." And it would have been a hell of a lot more realistic, too. Because the current lesson in that episode reads to me as "Other cultures are inferior to ours because they're full of ignorant savages. Just educate them on their inferiority and they will magically realize the error of their ways and conform."

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
kengr
Sep. 14th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Actually, they made a point of saying that the increase in area would shorten the generators life, but "not by a lot" (I got the impression is was something like "it'll fail in three generations instead of four")
fayanora
Sep. 14th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
Odd, that's not what I heard. But we know how my hearing is.
my_real_head
Sep. 15th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
"Personally, I think a better lesson would have been taught if they'd just kept up the tradition."

You mean, like how Half a Life ended?

I never paid much attention to Atlantis. I had a hard enough time keeping up with SG-1 that I ended up not watching it anymore. (Same happened for DS9. And Voyager. And, for that matter, Enterprise.)

fayanora
Sep. 15th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
Exactly.
christinathena
Sep. 17th, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
Sometimes there are things in other cultures (and in our own, for that matter), that need to be changed. But, yes, just having people instantly abandon centuries of tradition is highly unrealistic.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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