PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

Wilson the volleyball in Zemeckis' Cast Away (2000)

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

The cultural art-as-facts taking place on "deserted islands" are something akin to taking the human animal outside his habitat, to be examined in conditions far from conditioning, and relatively free from consequence, in a big old research lab. There we can study what lies between the ape and the apex predator, that cortex on two legs, and isolate the savage from the genteel, raw of cooked, lord off flies, and coalesce Homo duplex into Homo adaptabilis.

In certain instances an ensemble cast is analyzed by isolating and studying the different kinds of Homo Sapiens and their relations, identified by sociological and other fields of research. For example on the television show Lost (J.J. Abrams, 2004-2010), Evangeline Lilly's Kate is Homo Mendax, Josh Holloway's Sawyer is that strain turned Homo Narrans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's Eko is that strand sublimated into Homo Metaphysicus, Terry O'Quinn's John Locke is Homo Faber to Jack's Homo Logicus, etc.

The original basic scenario of deserted island research begins with the failing of Homo Technologicus, in the form of a wrecking ship, retrieving one from the colonialist position onto the very way of life he sought to exploit, one of a pure and absolute Homo Faber. In Daniel Defoe's The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe unsurprisingly seen by Rousseau himself as an important pedagogical vessel. The protagonist must prove his superiority over nature and thus over natural man, earning his return to civilization by way of a hybrid ship of pirates, half nature half cultured, in a moment of veiled transgression against Homo Contaminatus, that apotheosis of technologicus failed.

(Simon & Schuster)

The principles of that voyage are seen already in the translated into Hebrew title of 'Cast Away', retranslated roughly as 'Starting Anew'. In the morality script that is Robert Zemeckis' 2000 film, Chuck Noland's (Tom Hanks) dedication to his work prevents his settling down in sweet matrimony, and he must vision-quest to experience the flaws of culture, and find through his loneliness the tribe, presented in his old country as the nuclear family, being essential to his survival. Hanks discovers this in somewhat sublimated Homo Sanguinis fashion, as Homo Pictor anthropomorphizing an object, baptized in the blood of Hanks' first pure Homo Faber attempts at making an all-natural fire.

In his volleyball friend lies an allusion to tribal animism cum commodity fetishism, almost parodying Homo Socius whose given name, like Wilson, is predestined to be his brand. When Nolad returns home, he finds his lost love as a family woman, and both agree that their pure animalistic feelings towards each other must be tamed and sacrificed for socius sake. In Cast Away, as in other exemplars, the movement between the worlds occurs through losing regular consciousness, a kind of necessary psychopomp leading to rebirth, and at times also in the opposite motion, returning to civilization a different person.

This interplay of losing control consciousness and hold over industrial society's trusty steeds are encapsulated already in the many-layered name of another example in this trope of a sub-genre, Lost. Losing their way, the flight passengers will find themselves struggling to keep hold of their lost old culture's cultured humanity viz a viz the animality manifested in the absence-appearance of its other, the others tribe. The show goes on to augment the failure of Homo Technologicus with symbols of its evil twin, Homo Contaminatus, as in the self destruct clock bunker. It also displays echoes (with trace amounts of imperialism) of tribalistic beliefs, embodied by the mysteriously destructive pillar of dark smoke.

Matthew Fox as Dr. Jack Shephard in Lost (IMDB)

In William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954) returns said motif of a two-party system of sorts, standing for the egalitarian democratic and hierarchical totalitarian. The ultimate separation between culture kids and ignoble savages is signified by the technological animality of the character Piggy. To his own socius group, he is Homo Faber-Technologicus, using his glasses to help start a fire, but for the other group, his piggishness demands destruction, being a caricature of their own apex carnivore humanimality. In a final attempt to burn the democratic rises again the smoke motif, that man-nature made phenomenon, signaling to ship technology it is time to return the children inside civilization.

Perigee (1987)

Such pillars of smoke, dating back at least to God revelations in biblical times, sign to the individual who has grown to identify with an island self, that his only means of escaping savagery is to make a Promethean gesture towards the embrace of civilized society, to find himself as the stowaway in a ship of colonialistic fools, or with their uncanny nemesis, the savage-social hybrid of pirate vessels. Because after all we are still both, since animal is father to the man, as was found by Homo Sciens Darwin on the Galapagos Isles of lab habitats.

In conclusion, I must mention how such deterritorializations of humankind to experimental settings are at the heart of that somewhat pesky meme, "'what X would you take to a deserted island?" As materialist attempt to take humanity and make of it matter, distilling being human into a little listicle of extract essence.

P.S. I never could get myself to watch Charlie Parsons's reality television show, Survivor.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.