[Movies] Interstellar’s “Blight” as a Racial Metaphor for “Ethnic Third Worldization”

Great science fiction occurs when the skilled writer creates a plausible universe simultaneously exotic and alien, while still politically and philosophically relevant to our world and our society. Great science fiction uses fantasy to comment about reality. –Blogger “Reappropriate

The 2014 blockbuster Interstellar depicts a mid-21st-century USA that has undergone serious decline, in almost all areas, for decades. The USA still hobbles along but has turned into a mushy, faded carbon copy of its former self. Mired in hopelessness, the political apparatus is tasked with managing further decline (which it does in certain pathetic and entertaining ways).

After being shown this vision of our own future, at some point after about the first hour a different movie (in effect) begins. It involves the movie’s titular “interstellar” colonization effort and off we go “through the looking glass” into the wild black yonder of outer space. The rest of the film is only loosely related to the movie we’d seen up to that point.

Staying with the USA as depicted in the film’s first hour: What caused such a steep decline? The answer: “Blight” did it. Blight is only offhandedly-alluded-to on screen and is not explained. So what might it mean? Global warming? Not likely (see point #8 below). It will be shown below that “Blight” in Interstellar can be seen as a racial metaphor for the effects of the ethnocultural displacement of the USA’s core White population by immigrants and resultant Third Worldization.

interstellar_blight

Interstellar: A dust storm in the American Midwest caused by “Blight”

(Preliminary Note 1: On spoilers; Once the major spoilers approach below, you will be warned.)
(Preliminary Note 2: We only see the USA’s Midwest in the movie. There is nothing necessarily USA-centric about Blight as a racial metaphor. It holds for other European-derived societies that are being subject to mass Nonwhite immigration (and, in theory, it can hold for any society at all undergoing such a process]. For simplicity, though, I will limit this analysis to the USA, the setting of the film).

Blight-Induced Decline as Racial-Displacement-Induced Decline
In the universe of Interstellar, social, cultural, and economic decline have all come because of the corrosive effects of “Blight”. “Blight” makes areas unlivable, causes people to emigrate (White Flight), and the spread of Blight, in a few decades’ time, we are told, may spell the end of humanity itself. Let’s be very clear, again: “Blight” means Nonwhite immigration and Third Worldization. Continuing the metaphor, “humanity” by metaphor is the White Core population of the USA.

Consider the following:

(1) Blight acts slowly, over years and decades. People in Interstellar‘s USA may be down on their luck, but they can earn a fair living. They face slow decline. Likewise, real and ongoing racial dispossession is gradual and steady, not a rapid knock-out game. It probably rarely is a rapid process, in any time or place. Racial displacement is generally a process that occurs over decades, even centuries. The USA was nearly 90% White as late as the mid-1960s, vs. only 60%+ White today; only about 50% of children in the USA are White. (Note that Blight’s timeframe is more realistic than that in zombie movies [which are also plausible metaphors for ‘the rising tide of color’, as Richard Spencer explained last year]. Zombie scenarios in film seem to play out over a period of weeks or months.)

(2) Blight steadily erodes quality of life in one area after another, inducing people to emigrate from their homes. White Flight.

interstellar

(3) The Choice of the term “Blight”. In general modern usage in the USA, “blight” refers to urban decay. “Blight” in this sense is an unmistakably racialized term (along these lines is the term “ghetto”, for instance; no American today today would refer to a poor White community as a ghetto). The phrase “urban blight” conjures up images of abandoned buildings; dilapidated houses; bullet holes; crime; and…Nonwhites (especially Blacks). There is an implication that the area was formerly all-White but then was “afflicted by urban blight” (as if it were a virus) and so became mired in hopelessness. Along the way, incidentally, it racially transformed into a Nonwhite enclave. The filmmakers could’ve chosen any number of words to describe their mysterious phenomenon (which they never bother to define) but chose to use “blight”.

(4) Post-Blight society in Interstellar maintains a general disparagement of the accomplishments of the (White) past as a way to cope with the new realities dictated by Blight. The official policy of the post-Blight America is that the Moon landings were faked. Administrators at schools are to mete out disciplinary action to students who spread the conspiracy theory that the USA actually landed men on the Moon. This profoundly angers the main character, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). He refuses to go along with the lie and confronts the school officials.

We already see a version of this today in the USA. You know, the history of the USA as an evil, unjust, terror state. Just like Hitler invaded a series of countries solely to round up and kill their Jews (the average person vaguely believes), the USA’s raison d’etre from the beginning, many vaguely believe, was to persecute and terrorize saintly Nonwhites of various kinds. The heroic Civil Rights crusaders fought back and triumphed. MLK as Jesus. You know.

This is increasingly becoming the only vision of the arc of U.S. history allowed in respectable society. A profoundly informative survey asked high school students in 2008:

“Who are the greatest heroes in American history?” (excluding presidents)
[1.] Martin Luther King Jr. [most common answer]
[2.] Rosa Parks [second most common answer]
[3.] Harriet Tubman [third most common answer]

This seems almost beyond belief, but these are the actual results. This is not satire. These three people, in that order, are the three greatest heroes in all of American history, according to a scientific survey of American high school students a few years ago. Oprah Winfrey also made the top ten.

It’s not teenagers’ fault. They were trained to think that way in school. Still, we ought to be a bit angered by this kind of thing (which is the direct product of school curriculum), just as Cooper in Interstellar is angered by the curriculum teaching the Moon landings were faked. Both — the fake Moon landing idea and the idea of the USA (and all European-founded societies) as inherently evil — serve similar purposes, to lose hope in the future by losing inspiration from the past.

I’ll go so far as to say that the belief that MLK, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman (sigh; Harriet Tubman) were “the greatest American heroes in history” is profoundly anti-American. Frankly. It is a sign of a serious cultural blight. This is not the realm of conspiracy theory or fantasy or some vague quasi-dystopian future. It’s here. It’s already here. We are culturally blighted without Blight.

(5) There is a general decline in cultural output in Blight-affected society. Early in “Interstellar”, we see a traveling baseball team of apparent amateurs. It is revealed that they are the “New York Yankees”. / One of the most tired and cliche of all the diversity buzzwords is “vibrant”. Vibrant is a code word for Nonwhite in our Multicultacracy’s lexicon. As Steve Sailer often points out, though, many Vibrant Americans aren’t particularly “vibrant”. The USA’s now-20% Hispanic population is almost completely invisible in the entertainment industry. Movies, TV, music. What few Hispanics you find are often full-Europeans; the more Amerindian blood, the less visible.

(6) The victims of Blight we see are all White. As far as I recall, without exception, the people shown to suffer from Blight’s effects are all Whites. Cooper’s family, and the old folks talking on the video recordings in post-Blight interviews are all “typical White people” (to borrow an Obama phrase). I recall two Blacks in the movie who were, as usual, flat and detached in their saintliness. One was a school principal and the other a brilliant, soft-spoken scientist. They were not really depicted as victims of Blight in any way, but the White characters were. Cooper’s family certainly was, throughout the movie. There were no Nonwhites in the movie at all, other than these two Blacks.

Farming in Interstellar

Farming in “Interstellar”

(7) The “Back to Farming” movement in the film is a policy to try to hold something together while Blight continues to cause a declining food supply. The main character, Cooper, is a trained engineer and former NASA pilot but is forced to work as a farmer. The move back to farming may be a sub-metaphor for the productive Core population needing to work ever harder to prop up the decaying (Third-Worldizing) society. As the famous bumper sticker put it, “Work harder! People on Welfare Depend on You.”

See this post from Anti-Gnostic:

[Article:] “[B]y 2050, [Hispanics] are expected to be 39 percent [of the USA’s children]. But the social status of Latinos, even those born in the United States, is persistently low.”

[Anti-Gnostic:] In sum, immigration means the developing-world (i.e., those regions which are perenially “developing” yet never ultimately developed) conditions are simply replicated here. The US is literally engineering its own decline into Third World status. [Emphasis mine]

The italicized sentence above could be a way to restate the entire racialized “blight” metaphor here.

(8) What about global warming? One possible interpretation of Blight is that it is a metaphor for global climate change. This is seems a common-sense explanation, but has to remain speculative because there is no direct evidence for it anywhere in the movie. Blight is never explained. Nobody ever says “if only we’d put less CO2 in the air…” Nothing of that kind.

To the contrary, there is big reason to believe that the filmmakers do not want the film to be a morality play about climate change at all. This is the character of Dr. Mann. [Spoilers will follow here].

We meet Dr. Mann in the second half of the film and he seems very much to be a satire of a climate change activist. He is a shockingly cowardly, murderous, treacherous rat of a man who lies, manipulates data, and in so doing actually imperils the human race itself for some vague notion of possible personal advancement. He is the only true villainous character in this epic in which the real villains are impersonal forces of the universe like time and its loss, separation from loved ones, and civilizational decline, i.e. Blight itself. (As the writer says in at interview with IGN: “I was most interested in…blight, because it’s so impersonal…I believe that what will most likely wipe us out will be something that has nothing to do with us”). The portrayal of Dr. Mann in this way hugely undermines the “Blight as global warming” argument.

(9) The writer and director are ultimately “optimists of the will”. Even in the dismal state of Blighted USA, they give us the wholly virtuous character Cooper, who is certainly cut from the cloth of traditional Northwestern European heroism, especially as exemplified on the American frontier. (A note of clarification: I refer to the heroic archetype that existed in the bad old days before we came to our senses and realized that the holy trinity of MLK, Parks, and Tubman were the real heroes all along [See #4].)

Cooper displays unusual courage, leadership, personal initiative, logic, determination, honor, independence of action and thought, and self-sacrifice. The reviewer Christopher Pankhurst in his review of Interstellar at Counter Currents alludes to this idea that Cooper is a quintessentially European hero, and the entire saga into space a quintessentially European affair. The drive towards the stars is the European spirit at work. But I won’t say anymore about that here. Read other reviews for that (see below).

(10) [Spoilers in #10] Finally, speaking of Pankhursts’s Counter Currents review, near the end the film we are presented with an interesting scene that Pankhurst says is “uncomfortable to watch”. Our hero, Cooper, still only around 40 years old due to the effects of space flight relativity and all of that, meets his daughter, who has aged normally and has grown to be something like 100 years old. Cooper has not aged. It will be the first time he’s seen his daughter since she was a girl of 12.

Cooper walks in. Inside the hospital room we see a crowd of people. We are told they are her children and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren. All are White. (The moment they turn and look at Cooper, all at once, it is a bit disturbing; these are Cooper’s own grandchildren and great-grandchildren but many are older than he). Including Nonwhites among the descendants of our “hero lost in time” might be expected as default, today. Remember that this film was made entirely in the age of the reigning Multicultacracy under a President whose name includes the word Hussein. But the crowd was all White.

(11) This from an editor of New York Magazine, Abraham Riesman (who is Jewish):

But What About the Politics [of Interstellar]?
A 19th-century imperialist would have adored Interstellar. Christopher Nolan says his movies are apolitical, and I’m sure he genuinely thinks they are, but the unspoken racial and cultural metaphors in this movie were abhorrent. Ultimately, it’s a story about manifest destiny, cultural chauvinism, and willful ignorance. Coop and his coterie make one assumption that the movie never questions: Humanity (which, for all we ever see, is white, English-speaking America with a couple of black friends and one British guy) deserves to go to the stars and will suffocate if it’s confined to its current environs. That logic was, of course, one of the main justifications for most imperial expansions since the dawn of the 1800s. No one stops to ask whether this civilization (which, in the movie, appears to have murdered its home planet through human-caused climate change, though, for some reason nobody talks about that) [see #8 above.–Hail] needs to make some fundamental changes in its approach to social construction and resource use. Indeed, when we see the bright new future on Cooper Station, it’s all baseball and manicured lawns [In other words, White Bread, boring, stale, vaguely sinister, little redeeming value.–Hail]. Perhaps more important, no one questions whether human expansion will kill off the new planets’ current residents.
(From a compendium of mini-reviews of “Interstellar” at Vulture.com, a branch of New York Magazine.)

Riesman here notices the same things I do. He is in a veritable fit of indignation. Just about every sentence quoted above includes at least one veiled (if not rather overt) swipe at White Christians (especially White-Protestants, in the U.S. context). It would be most polite of me to refrain from judging his motivations. If I said he was animated by ethnic animosity against the White Core population of the USA; or if I said he’d sing a different song if the movie were amended such that it were Jews we were supposed to cheer on rather than “white, English-speaking America” (as he puts it), for example, that may be a breach of decorum, so I won’t do it. I also wouldn’t deign to bring up Riesman’s own words on his own ethnicity: “If there’s one thing I learned [while living abroad], it’s this: I don’t want to live in a world without Jews.” Of course he doesn’t. At the same time, Riesman has identified the same racial metaphor in Interstellar as I have. This racial metaphor, we can say, is veiled call for exactly what Riesman wrote about his own ethnic group. “We don’t want to live in a world without Whites”, says Interstellar (in the racial metaphor reading of the film). Riesman is outraged and condemns this message as evil. It’s one rule for me and another for thee.

(12) [Update, 11/20] [Spoilers herein] Commenter Jenn points out:

Your notion of the Blight as a racial metaphor is fascinating given Nolan’s choice to ground his Earthly scenes in the 1930′s Dust Bowl imagery, and his subsequent choice to parallel the Saturn station with a 1950′s feel: both consciously or unconsciously also evoke a highly racialized subtext.

These are good points that were left unstated (at least explicitly) above, so I am adding this as point #12. The final scenes at the space station do recreate a Norman-Rockwell-esque America. I think we actually see honest-to-God picket fences in the space station, another coded symbol for race in the American metaphorical lexicon.

(13) Wrapping up the metaphor(s) as proposed above:

  • “Blight” as the process of racial displacement of Whites by Nonwhite, Third World immigrants, i.e. “racial de-Westernization”;
  • “Humanity” as the American (White) core population;
  • “Farming” as a metaphor for productive hard work in general (net contribution to society rather than net taking from society);
  • And here is a final metaphor: [Spoiler coming] It is revealed that there is a secret, underground NASA cabal that seeks a solution to ongoing Blight-induced civilizational decline. This cabal boldly proposes to save the human race from impending doom. This is an interesting one; I think the overall metaphor can still hold here. The NASA cabalists are what can often called “far rightists” today. Those seeking solutions today are forced to the margins as well-and-true dissidents, just like what is left of NASA is forced underground in Interstellar. These people are the kind whom our good Son of Israel quoted above, Mr. Riesman, would condemn to high heaven (perhaps unless they’re Israeli far-rightists, I suppose).

_______________________________________
Postscript
The writer-director team Christopher Nolan (b.1970) and Jonathan Nolan (b.1976)’s “childhood was split between London and Chicago”, Wiki says. With such a background, as semi-outsiders they may have developed acute awareness of racial and civilizational issues. Perhaps have been able to see them more clearly than others.

Did the director and writer consciously intend a racialist message in Interstellar? It seems extremely unlikely. (Note, anyway, that Counter Currents published “Christopher Nolan as a Fascist Filmmaker?” in 2012.) Subconscious, implicit, even potentially “unintentional”, but there is something here. The metaphor is fairly deep, so one way or another plausible deniability can be maintained.
_______________________________________
I have attempted to outline a case for the metaphorical interpretation of Interstellar‘s “Blight” as the “rising tide of color” that drags the USA down.

This has not been a true review of the movie, though. In fact, I have touched only on the arguably less-important part of the film itself, the Earth-bound part. I saw no one else making the case for this, so here it is. Below are some more comprehensive reviews and commentary:

 
Reviews of Interstellar

  • Counter Currents: “Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is an epic, metaphysical poem addressing the question of ultimate human survival in both an individual and collective sense. […][ [It is a] parable of the indomitability of the Faustian spirit…”
  • Steve Sailer: “Few admire the expansive spirit of midcentury science fiction more than the Anglo-American Nolan brothers. …Their Interstellar is an epic homage paying tribute to the Promethean age of space exploration.”
  • Paul Kersey: “While our destiny is the stars, our immediate future is nothing more than the albatross of places like Selma, Ferguson, and the pathetic sight – memory – of the Poor People’s Campaign of black people on a mule and cart demanding equality, justice, and the continuous penance by white people…”
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12 Responses to [Movies] Interstellar’s “Blight” as a Racial Metaphor for “Ethnic Third Worldization”

  1. Cecil Henry says:

    Great article. Explicit racial consciousness among whites is sorely lacking, But this is a good example of an implicit white racial awareness. At least one can hope.

  2. Hail says:

    This post has been updated with new content since yesterday.
    #3 “The Use of the Term Blight”
    #8 “What about Global Warming”, and
    #11 An analysis of a review of the racial component of “Interstellar” by David Riesman, an editor of New York Magazine.

    But What About the Politics [of Interstellar]?
    A 19th-century imperialist would have adored Interstellar. […][T]he unspoken racial and cultural metaphors in this movie were abhorrent. Ultimately, it’s a story about manifest destiny, cultural chauvinism, and willful ignorance. Coop and his coterie make one assumption that the movie never questions: Humanity (which, for all we ever see, is white, English-speaking America with a couple of black friends and one British guy) deserves to go to the stars and will suffocate if it’s confined to its current environs. That logic was, of course, one of the main justifications for most imperial expansions since the dawn of the 1800s.

    See above, #11, for more of this.

  3. AppSoCRes says:

    A really excellent and insightful analysis. I think you make reasonable arguments about many hidden messages in the movie which I quite honestly missed on my first viewing. And I flatter myself that I’m usually a very knowledgeable and engaged movie viewer. Jerks like Reisman need to be outed more often. He’d likely never have existed if the very people for whom he shows such contempt hadn’t created a perfect host society for parasites such as he.

    • Hail says:

      Thanks, AppSoCRes. You’re right that Riesman’s type of arguments should always be mocked. Double standards. It took only a few minutes of research to see him for what he is.

    • Hail says:

      Riesman, if you ever reads this, please take this as constructive criticism. Your double standard really exists. Think about this.

  4. Jenn says:

    Great commentary and thank you for the link to my post as an opener to your commentary. On this:

    One possible interpretation of Blight is that it is a metaphor for global climate change. This is seems a common-sense explanation, but has to remain speculative because there is no direct evidence for it anywhere in the movie. Blight is never explained. Nobody ever says “if only we’d put less CO2 in the air…” Nothing of that kind.

    I do seem to recall a point in the film where a character comments that high carbon output created conditions that favoured the blight. I didn’t get a chance to rewatch over the weekend (my IMAX showing was all sold out), but I will watch for it on the second viewing to confirm. Nolan and company are also on record saying the film is intended to comment on global warming.

    I don’t think that discounts your commentary and insights — I think your writing offers a fascinating analysis, actually, and a much more nuanced conversation about race and racial metaphors in Interstellar than what I’ve seen elsewhere — but do think that the global warming interpretation is the “intended” analysis from Nolan et al. Which, of course, doesn’t mean that they didn’t also deliver a possibly racialized message in the context of what they were trying to say about climate change (as you note, this is all likely a subconscious infusion of a racialized message). Your notion of the Blight as a racial metaphor is fascinating given Nolan’s choice to ground his Earthly scenes in the 1930’s Dust Bowl imagery, and his subsequent choice to parallel the Saturn station with a 1950’s feel: both consciously or unconsciously also evoke a highly racialized subtext.

  5. Vic says:

    Very interesting and persuasive analysis (to one who hasn’t seen the film). I wonder whether this understanding will gain any widespread agreement. I recall a similar situation last year with the zombie thriller World War Z. That film was a bell-clear allegory for the “blight” of Moslem fanatics overrunning the world. Many details in the film supported the point. If it wasn’t blatant enough there were even murderous “zombies” (Arabs) swarming over an actual protective wall surrounding Israel. Yet I have seen virtually zero commentary noting zombies = Moslems. This obvious (to me) equivalence was totally absent from IMDB commentary. My suggestion of the key to the allegory met a wave of disagreement. The consensus was (yawn) that the zombies represented the literal problem of disease besetting the world. No Islam to see here. Let’s see how Interstellar’s message fares.

    • Hail says:

      Vic,
      You’re right about World War Z. The metaphor(s) in World War Z are real and are elucidated clearly in the video analysis linked to above. Here it is again.

      It is my view that great movemaking stems from a key moment (or moments) in the imagination of one particular writer or producer or director. The compelling scene has social, cultural, political, maybe spiritual relevance and in a sense is the movie, meaning the rest is just — the weaving of a story to make that key moment an hour or two long.

      One example of this may be World War Z’s scene in which walled-off, happy-go-lucky Tel Aviv (the people were literally singing idyllic songs of praise) was finally breached by the teeming millions surrounding it, and that was the end of that. A massacre.

  6. kwaisabai says:

    The aptly named ‘White team’ of Apollo fame.

  7. Tyler says:

    Apparently the film is popular in places like South Korea and has promoted interest in space science there. I wonder if they noticed these sorts of metaphors.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/2014/11/27/interstellar-inspires-koreans-to-study-space-science/

    Hollywood blockbuster “Interstellar” may have used some artistic license with science, but it’s also inspired South Koreans to learn about the real thing.

    In the three weeks since opening, the movie has attracted nearly 7.3 million moviegoers in South Korea and racked up 58.2 billion won, or $52.8 million, in ticket sales, according to the Korea Film Council. That’s about the same pace as “Frozen,” the country’s second-most watched foreign film after “Avatar.”

    The film’s huge success has also sparked interest in phenomena like black holes and Einstein’s theory of relativity, resulting in Interstellar-related events and online educational offerings.

    This weekend, the National Science Museum near Seoul is hosting a well-known astronomer for a Q&A session on the science in the movie. The purpose of the event is to “solve lingering questions moviegoers still have,” the museum says on its website.

    Earlier this month, movie theater complex CGV invited two space experts for a discussion session after a screening of the film.

    Megastudy, one of the country’s biggest online private tuition companies, has posted a video lecture on physics and space science for students planning to watch the film. “If you have scientific knowledge before watching the movie, you can enjoy it to the fullest,” it says.

    Meanwhile, Korea Educational Broadcasting Institute, a television and radio broadcaster, has created a special section on its Youtube channel with space science video clips, including an educational documentary series “Physics of Light.” It encourages people “who couldn’t understand the science in Interstellar” to watch.

    South Korea’s zeal for education is driving some of the success of the movie as local schools have been going to see it in groups.

  8. Special Agent says:

    @Tyler “Apparently the film is popular in places like South Korea and has promoted interest in space science there.”

    I received an email from a friend in Korea who said that Interstellar was one of his favorite films of all time. This was after asking me if I had watched it. I had not heard of this movie until my friend had contacted me about the film. I had told myself that I would catch the movie once it came out on blu-ray. After watching, I couldn’t believe that there were only two Blacks in the film. I also noticed a photograph of an east Asian astronaut at the NASA facility when Coop first visits there.

    Going back to Korea, it’s unfortunate that the Koreans are unaware of Hollywood’s white wash. I would even argue that Koreans are actually “victims” of the white wash. Just look at the top grossing movies in Korea. For a while, “Ghost” was the biggest movie blockbuster for seven long years. Then Titanic came along. Now it’s Interstellar, Frozen and Avatar. And, for whatever reason, they love the all-white Transformer movies with the “Black” rapping/jive talking/illiterate/mildly-retarded Autobots. Let’s just say that the images of the Rodney King LA riots didn’t help Koreans’ view of Blacks.

  9. Mar Nan says:

    You are delusional. Many whites live in trailer trash parks, low class suburbs. Not all white people are smart, just go to a low class suburbs around America. only 100 million middle class in america, and, not all middle class are white.

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