The Alien Movie Project: Studying the Narrative, Affective and Production Politics of Alien Stories in Cinema
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Alienhood rhetoric is everywhere: "Do you want to know more?"
The Alien Movie Project blends podcasting and communication studies scholarship to introduce readers to critical theory centered on mediated stories of Otherness.
In Part I readers can explore perspectives on how culture and ideology are constructed and maintained via cinematic storytelling and familiarize themselves with the "constitutive model of communication." Alienhood is centered to enable us to draw upon familiar titles (alien movies) and explore themes like Otherness, nationalism, border-making, belonging, storytelling, and power.
In Part II, readers can learn the basic contours of "good" and "bad" aliens, and explore 3 of the films watched in class (Contact (1997), District 9 (2009), and Brother From Another Planet (1984)) via the tools and perspectives described in Part I. This means learning about alienhood across three decades and various scales of cost leading to additional lessons on how the community and economics of cinema implicate the politics explored.
Each chapter includes a "rhetorician's toolbox" with useful critical concepts described therein to help students isolate key ideas and extend their learning through additional perspectives or titles that matter to them. The Appendix includes the titles of each Alien Movie Project episode (91 total) and a reference section for more than 100 additional sources.
PART I: WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON?
Chapter 1: Leia, Leeloo, and the Hidden Lessons in Film
Leia and Leeloo: (Dis)Empowered Heroines
Critical Thinking and Alienhood Rhetoric: The Hidden Lessons of Film
Chapter 2: Confronting the Colonized Frontiers of Our Imagination
Culture, Ideology, Discourse: What Are Aliens Made Of?
What Is Discourse?
What Is Ideology?
What Is Culture?
White-Cis-Het-Settler-Patriarchy and “The Future”
Let’s Get Critical: Opening up the “Tool Kit”
Why Are They Here? Reading Power into Alien Movies
Chapter 2 Toolbox:
Active Forgetting • Alienhood Rhetoric • Alien Affects • Critical Consciousness • Criticism, Culture—Ideology—Discourse • Dominator Culture • Ethnographic Position/ Positionality • Intersectional Feminism • Monstrification • Nakayama and Krizek’s Reflexivity • National Security Cinema (myths of) • Otherness/Othering, Pedagogy • Power • Rhetoric • Settler Colonialism • Whiteness • White Acceptability • White-cis- hetero-settler-patriarchy
Chapter 3: Putting it All Together: Constitutive Rhetoric and the Narrative, Affective, and Production Politics of Alienhood
Constitutive Rhetoric: How Discourse Makes Up the World
The Ideograph: Building Blocks of Politics
Persona: The “Ghosts” in Our Discourse
Interpellation: Bodies in Motion
Alienhood Rhetoric: Making Up Aliens
Studying the Narrative, Affective, and Production Politics of Alienhood
Chapter 3 Toolbox:
Affect • Complimentary Copy • Constitutive Rhetoric • Ideographs • Interpellation • Narrative Politics • Persona (Second, Third, Fourth) • Political Affect • Product Placement • Production Politics
PART II: AND WHAT DID WE LEARN?
Chapter 4: We Come In Peace, Until We Don’t
What’s in a Movie, What’s on TV?
I, For One, Don’t Like Uninvited Visitors: Cinematic Storytelling and Alienhood Rhetoric
We Come in Peace, and We Are Willing to Prove It: “Good Aliens” in Cinema
The War of the Worlds: Alien Movies and Cultures of Violence
The Risks of “Blunt Instrument Criticism”
Chapter 4 Toolbox:
Alien Affects • Banal Nationalism • Blunt Instrument Criticism • Cinema Laudatory Transnationalism • Militiatainment • Nowhere Spaces • Political Unconsciousness • Power • Trope (“The Reveal,” “Opens On”)
Chapter 5: The Only Thing We’ve Found that Makes the Emptiness Bearable Is Each Other
Making the Emptiness Bearable: Contact and the Politics of Alienhood
The Production Politics of Contact
The Narrative Politics of Contact
The Affective Politics of Contact
They Should Have Sent a Poet
Chapter 5 Toolbox:
Flicker’s Six Types of Women Scientists • The Male Gaze • Nulman’s Three Themes of Women in Blockbuster Films • Steinke’s Steps for Studying Women Scientists in Media • Whitewashing
Chapter 6: The Most Valuable Business Artifact on Earth
A Spectacle of Slaughter: District 9 and the Production of White Power
Bottom Feeders and Bugs: The Alien Affects of District 9
District 9 and the Production of White Power
Why Is There No District 10: The Limits of Cinematic Conglomeration
When Good Aliens Are Bad
Chapter 6 Toolbox:
Abjection • Alien Affects • Cityscapes • Race and Revenge Fantasy • White Rage
Chapter 7: Communication: That’s What It’s All About
Welcome to Harlem, Viewing Black America through the Lens of Whiteness
Flows of Acceptability: Alien Affects and Brother From Another Planet
Conclusion: Making Sense with Symbolicity
Chapter 7 Toolbox:
Alienation (Marx) • Alienation (Science Fiction) • Place • The Said • The Saying • Space • White Sensibility/White Acceptability
Appendix I: Alien Movie Project Sources
Appendix II: Alien Movie Project Episode List
Aaron Donaldson is a longtime speech and debate educator and communication studies lecturer, as well as an amateur podcast and radio producer. He currently lives with his family and two dogs in Arcata, California.
In addition to The Alien Movie Project, Aaron co-hosts The Reel War Project and Fields of Glory, extending this study of alienhood rhetoric into war and sports cinema.