Today we will complete two tasks. First, read through the following “Monday Mashup” and identify 2-3 questions that you find intriguing and that might develop an insightful line of inquiry. Spend 7-9 minutes free writing your response, then share it with a partner near you. Read your partner’s response and identify either (1) something they leave unsaid, or (2) something you could counter (3 minutes).
In response, choose either to articulate a counterargument, counter-interpretation, or counter-perspective in response to a quotation from your partner; or build on your partner’s perspective by pointing out what they miss and developing it further in the direction that works best as you see it (5 minutes).
Before moving on, we will take a few minutes for students to share their observations.
Next, swap essay drafts with a different partner and read through their draft. Again, find a potentially fruitful sentence that you can quote and either expand or counter as described above (20 minutes total).
At home, as you read through your draft and develop it into a formal draft, see if you can integrate at least one of the questions you considered today as a central question, and try to include at least one of your peers’ sentences and your response within your next essay draft.
(please excuse any typos)
As usual, there were too many good drafts to include, and there is only room for a couple of drafts in today’s mashup. To start us off, we begin with Chloe. She writes:
The relationship between Eddy and Venom can be understood through the idea from Acquiring Genomes, that “with time and circumstance the nature of associations tends to change” when “exploitative relationships may eventually become convivial to the point where neither organism exists without the other” which is evident by the end of the movie (Margulis and Sagan 12). Although it is possible that Eddy could physically live without the symbiote, it is apparent that he does not mind sharing his body.
–Is this a fruitfully unrealistic portrayal of the symbiogenetic speciation? If so, does this mean that Eddy and Venom have become a new “species” of human by the end of the movie?
If we think about Haraway’s discussion of species, that it is “about the dance linking kin and kind” (Haraway 17), what does it bring to light in Venom? Although the Eddy-Venom relation might be called the product of an interplanetary encounter rather than a “gene transfer,” the relation is a technologically mediated one that invites us to share Haraway’s contemplation of interspecies messmates nonetheless:
“[B]iotechnologically mediated gene transfers redo kin and kind at rates and in patterns unprecedented on earth, generating messmates at table who do now know how to eat well and, in my judgment, often should not be guests together at all. Which companion species will, and should, live and die, and how, is at stake” (18).
How does this passage potentially illuminate the many references to eating in the movie? When does eating and being “messmates” come up? To what conflicts or contradictions do these moments give rise?
So far, these questions may be future-oriented, or they may refer to the idea of the future depicted in the movie. Does the movie’s fantasy of the future have things change much? To ask another way, how is the world changed by the end of the movie? How much of the world “as it was” in the beginning is recovered at the end? I use scare quotes around “as it was” to draw attention to the fact that the past, too, is constructed by the fictional narrative and should be described as such. When writing about an exhibit, it can be more fruitful to draw parallels between the world as it is depicted in a work of fiction and the world as we experience it, but it can be equally productive to draw attention to the differences. These are constructed narratives that may or may not encourage us to narrate our lived experience the same way. What might we gain from resisting the urge to do so?
Some writers have made an attempt to reconcile the difference between symbiogenesis as it is described by Margulis and Sagan, and the movie. Margulis and Sagan describe a close association between organisms that potentially becomes mutually dependent over a significant period of time—that is, after multiple generations—but Venomis an instance of one generation. Rather than gloss over this discrepancy by calling it the same, why not examine the differences? Does the Eddy-Venom unit portray mutual dependency or mutual affinity and benefit? Do they constitute a new human species? Does the mutual dependency described in Margulis and Sagan mean that such unified symbiotic bodies make up species? Remember Haraway’s discussion of species, of the bacteria and fungus. If species as she describes it is always multiple, including in our present human bodies, what does that mean for Eddy and Venom?
So far, we have ignored the fact that movies about aliens have often offered commentary on the relations between dominant political groups and their Others, capitalized because the word “other” here stands in for the proper nouns identifying non-dominant groups. Often the non-dominant group is an immigrant group. A famous example of this is found in Men in Black, in which an alien is disguised as an undocumented migrant.
A more recent example is the much-discussed Arrival in which themes of immigration and international diplomacy are embodied in the encounter with two “heptopods.”
What lines of inquiry open up when we consider the possibility that the themes of territorial exploration, appropriation, and colonization are all portrayed via the metaphor of alien life, but may be taken as commentary on Earthly life? How are these lines of inquiry obscured and avoided when audiences approach it as an exclusively scientific case rather than an always-also social narrative?
Diedre begins to touch upon this topic when she presents her key quotation from Donna Haraway:
Haraway states, “In layers of history, layers of biology, layers of naturecultures, complexity is the name of our game. We are both the freedom-hungry, offspring of conquest, products of white settler colonies, leaping over hurdles, and crawling through tunnels on the playing field” (Haraway 16). When stating this, she is addressing the idea that the interconnection between Earth’s organisms bring us to the point where we exploit one another, in an attempt to better ourselves individually. Rather than using this as an opportunity to save both parties from facing crisis, like extinction or loss of habitat, much of the time one party is experiencing improvement at the expense of the other.
Haraway is writing about her dog when she claims they are both “offspring of conquest” produced by “white settler colonies.” Through its characters and their visions or through its plotlines, and likewise through its visual symbolism and mise-en-scene, how does Venomcomment on the history of conquest and settler colonialism, speculate the future or conquest and colonialism, or touch upon the ethics of these somewhere in between that history and those futures?