Steven “SS” Spielberg, Lucas and the Infantilization of Hollywood (Part One)
In recent years, the science-fiction film has placed great emphasis upon the child, and this is no accident. Robin Wood has argued convincingly that recent American cinema generally has tended to construct the viewer as childlike, 31 in thrall to the illusion. In science fiction specifically, the generic sense of wonder, and by extension the position of the spectator, has been located in the image of a wide-eyed child. This development, of course, is largely the result of the huge commercial success of George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters and ET: The Extra-terrestrial (1982), all of which rank among the top box-office winners in film history. (The Star Wars cosmology became even more firmly entrenched in American cultural consciousness when former President Ronald Reagan named his national defence programme after Lucas’s film and referred to the Soviet Union as the ‘Evil Empire.’) Subsequent science-fiction movies such as Starman (1984), The Explorers (1985). Short Circuit (1986), Tron (1982), and The Last Starfighter (1984) exhibited a new adolescent orientation, clearly showing the influence of the Lucas and Spielberg films. Cocoon (1985), with its premise of alien lifeforms that change a swimming pool into a fountain of youth, even manages to make children of senior citizens.
Alien Zone II: The Spaces of Science Fiction Cinema edited by Annette Kuhn. Verso.