The Horror Within: On watching Life

After watching Life (2017) on Netflix I wondered how the small responsive unassuming alien life form grows, feeds, and transforms into a creature that eventually squeezes the vital parts of the body in order to nurture itself. Much in the vein of Frankenstein (1818) killing its creator/stimulator and thus, warning of the perils of meddling with science, space, and life forms.

As literary students, we were taught to look upon monsters, aliens, ghosts, devils, as unknown beings that were meant to be feared as they disrupted the status quo. Post-colonial literature and its theory reveals how we are conditioned to be afraid of “the other” as it is uncivilized and manic, in comparison, to the refined, evolved, educated, white first world. Thankfully, now we have rudimentary tools (much more work needs to be achieved before we have a sophisticated measure) with which we can unpack these constructs.

The extra terrestrial being in Life named Calvin is intelligent, but wild. It consumes without discernment. It develops at a rapid speed. With the body that looks like a sea creature – a cross between an octopus, jellyfish, and frog fish, it retaliates with the ferocity of an attacked snake. Calvin in the end – supposedly, impacts Earth as well.

What irked me was not the fear factor Calvin invoked (he reminds me of most of my right-wing friends), but the half-baked diversity representation the movie offered. Admittedly, with the first death being of a white “lead” actor I thought that this film might handle things differently, however, that was not the case.

The three characters who die in succession are the black scientist in a wheelchair, the Russian female astronaut, and the Japanese character. Thus, leading to a climactic scene in which we have two white people, heteronormatively a man and a woman, looking protectively towards Earth while reading “Goodnight Moon”. Though romance is never brought up, it should not be a coincidence that they read a children’s story while gazing longingly into each other’s eyes – this is how children life is created. It is a tender moment. Thankfully, they too die in the end, and apparently, so does all of Earth.

The message of Life is that in order for life to be protected we should not toy with lives. I think more than this, for me, it managed to expose that more than the alien who awaits the unsuspecting innocent Vietnamese fishermen, we need to be very worried if we have the perception of our scientific best being such a bunch! Please!

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on

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