Missing 3-Nippled Alien Hookers: Put The Sex Back In Sci-Fi!
Science fiction hasn’t always been the nerdy endeavor of slick computer effects, transforming robots, and wise-cracking space ship captains. Just a couple of decades ago it had grit, it had style, it had tits. That’s the sci-fi I grew up loving, a world of imagination where men made out with apes, where alien lizards tortured women in the nude, and where green skin meant three tits and non-stop horniness.
Sex seeped into science fiction early. In 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs published the first in his John Carter of Mars series, featuring a powerful, sculpted alien princess with a disdain for the trappings of clothes. In the 30s sex and nudity in sci-fi continued and by 1960 it was soaked in it. All through the 60s, 70s, and 80s sci-fi paperbacks came emblazoned with men holding guns next to scantily clad, occasionally naked, pin-up girls. Outer space was a place where astronauts got laid and women cast off the sexually repressed mores of society to take control both of their lives and their libido. Writers like Robert A. Heinlein used their powers to write not just about new gadgets, but about a hopeful cultural shift which freed mankind from all of our hang-ups pushing us into a place where we all finally grew up and felt free to get busy. Once upon a time science fiction foretold not only a time where man mastered technological achievements beyond imagination, but also finally broke free of the cultural shackles of shame to build perfect societies of toned bodies and absent nudity taboos.
That carried over into sci-fi on television and on film too. In the 60s, every week Star Trek’s costume designers competed against themselves to come up with even more deceptively skimpy outfits to show off the female bodies of their guest stars while script writers worked on new reasons for Captain Kirk to rip off his shirt. Around the same time, Barbarella pranced on screen, teasing us with bikinis and laser guns. The late 70s and early 80s brought us movies like Total Recall and Alien, in which Sigourney Weaver, even in the midst of fighting acid-spitting assholes from space, finds time to strip down and show off her barely there underwear. In the 80s it seemed like we were really going somewhere, a place where maybe geeks might even start getting laid. Nerds subscribed to lusty sci-fi publications like Heavy Metal, full of depictions of female skin which were, even more fantastic than the stories they put them in.
It was in the 90s that sexy science fiction really started to sputter and falter. Sure we got Starship Troopers and it’s gratuitous shower scenes, but big box office numbers went to modestly clothed movies like Jurassic Park. Species became a cult hit, but only a cult hit, as its alien sex goddess screwed and killed her way through men. Mainstream sci-fi, big money sci-fi was becoming increasingly geared towards kids and their puritanical parents, intent on saving them from the least amount of bare flesh. In 1999 Star Wars returned, expressing that shift to kid-tainment more clearly than ever. There was no slave Leia in this new Star Wars world and with his squeakier clean take on a galaxy, far, far away George Lucas launched us into a boring, boob-free new millennium.
And here we now sit, in a decade without sci-fi skin. The Terminator franchise is no longer a place where a powerful woman can shamelessly flaunt her body. Instead it’s dominated by robots and footage cut down to fit into a teen friendly PG-13. We live in a world where Star Trek takes flack from feminists for daring to show Uhura’s knees. The bikini-clad female space ranger is a thing of the past and, when Disney finally turns Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” novels into a feature film you can just bet they’ll put Dejah Thoris in a sensible dress. They’ll hide her nipples and put her on lunchboxes, and we’ll be all the worse for it.
Sexy science fiction has been forced underground, in anime comics hidden at the back of adult bookstores or in horrible, late-night softcore. Sex is a part of life, a part of the human existence, but in science fiction it’s been marginalized and shoved off into some dirty, sticky, corner on Live Journal where lonely people write unread fan-fiction involving tentacles. Science fiction is now viewed as the realm of the sexless, birth control in entertainment form. It wasn’t always that way, and maybe there’s hope that outer-space strip-teasing can return again.
Genre directors like Robert Rodriguez and Zack Snyder are pushing back against the white-washed establishment. Snyder’s 300 was a pin-up cavalcade of bare chests (male and female) and perfectly toned bodies. Now, if we’re lucky, he’ll bring that same sensibility to science fiction by pushing forward on a resurrection of the erotic world of Heavy Metal Rodriguez has long toyed with the notion of bringing back the pin-up badass. He’s already done it in other genres, with his stripper-zombie killer in Planet Terror and the sex-soaked world of Sin City. His remake of Barbarella was, alas, not to be and his next sci-fi project, Predator, doesn’t exactly lend itself to busty babes fighting with big guns.
Just because geeks can’t get girls doesn’t mean they don’t want to see them on film. Unfortunately, sex and science fiction are now forced to exist in different worlds. The pin-up pulp past of the genres masters can only be found in antique bookstores and on discount DVDs hidden beneath the counter at Blockbuster. I say enough with the tunics. Bring bikinis back to science fiction.