m_francis (m_francis) wrote,

The Moon is Hell

Motive -> Action -> Purpose, some thoughts

Before You Read Further:
Two respondents were upset that the following came with no Spoiler Warning.  I hadn't noticed this lack myself, since it reveals nothing about the film that I had not already heard.  However, some folks like to be "surprised" by plot twists, even if they make no sense whatsoever.  So consider this a Spoiler Warning.  It is a warning that the movie is irretrievably Spoiled by plot stupidities.  I have also deleted one of the comments, since it contained an obscenity. 

Over on her blog, the esteemed Nancy Kress has this to say about the new movie, MOON.

They lost me before the action even started, with the prologue in the form of an advertisement for a company that has discovered and now solely controls a form of cheap energy involving cold fusion. But the only thing you can use for this fusion is 'He3," a molecule found only on -- get this -- the dark side of the moon. Because of course the sub-lunar composition is different on the farside than the Earth side. Then, the evil corporation (of course) that controls this resource sets us a harvesting operation for He3, manned by ONLY one person. That person, it turns out, is actually a series of clones, with a new one thawed out to replace ones who wear out (which they do every three years or so). To make this work, the corporation (1)plants huge jammers on the moon so the clones can't find out through live feeds from Earth what they are or what the situation is, (2) a helpful robot who tells them what they are, despite having been programmed by the corporation, (3) "uploaded memories" in each new clone about his wife and baby on Earth, (4) periodic "messages" from the wife, (4) an "escape pod" to Earth, even though the corporation does not want the clone to escape, (5) a "secret room" full of unthawed clones that each clone does not know about, (6) a rationale that all this is "cheaper" than just hiring a team of employees with high enough hazard pay to do the job, (7)...No, I can't go on, it's just too stupid.

The lesson for the writer is not to disconnect motive, purposes, and actions.  It is way too easy to ascribe wicked actions to a character of whose motives the writer disapproves.  But that someone may have "bad" motives does not mean that any "bad" action whatsoever can be ascribed to him.  But as Chesterton's Fr. Brown once said of a suspect in a murder case, it's not that he could not be guilty of murder, but that he could not be guilty of this particular sort of murder. 

A corporation motivated by greed and with the purpose of profits would not implement an expensive, Byzantine production plan.  Greed more often involves cutting corners, and whatever evils follow are due to miscalculating those corners.  Now, the actions may be ill-conceived.  (The New Coke springs to mind.  What were they thinking?)  Or they may be scuttled by errors.  (The Edsel).  But they usually do not involve implementing a plan known to be more expensive when there are less expensive, proven alternatives available.  Not for extraction and manufacturing operations, they would not.  But characters with "bad" motives are always "stupid," too.  Hollywood writers probably have little knowledge of these things.  They think all corporations are like Hollywood studios. 

Now I can imagine a scenario salvaging much of the clone business.  But the actions would not stem from greed.  Rather, we would imagine a milieu in which clones are not regarded as "real" human beings.  Add this to the age of the pussyfoot, in which people have become so risk averse that they go in paralyzing fear of ppb concentrations of chemicals with scary names.  They would howl in terror at the prospect of sending "real" human beings on missions where they might be hurt!  So, send in the clones!.  They aren't really human beings; they don't feel emotions like we do. 

We already see the seeds of such a milieu in our present: we distinguish between humans at different developmental stages, we talk about different grades of "quality of life" (which the Germans in the 1930s called lebensunwertes Leben, or "life unworthy of life").  And of course the paralytic fear of risk is already well-known.  So this is an easily imagined projection. 

The Byzantine deception of the clones that Nancy describes is another matter.  Their status as untermenschen -- or as unmenschen! -- would lead to something like: Send back x amout of He-3 and we will send x amount of air, water, food, etc.  Obey or die.*  (I will assume that the economics works out somehow and the value of the He-3 is vastly more than the value of the supplies.) 

(*) Clone decides to die rather than obey.  Story there.  So make it three clones.  Betting that while two may agree to starve themselves to death on principle, three are unlikely to do so.  Another story -- an ANALOG story -- the clones figure out how to extract oxygen from moon rocks, grow crops in lunar soil, etc.  But John Campbell did that already in THE MOON IS HELL.  Which come to think of it, it a good description of Nancy's review....

Tags: scrivening, the flicks, untergang des abendlandes
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