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The rebel hero and social anxieties in selected cinematic representations of the twenty-first century hollywood dystopian and science fiction imaginary.

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This thesis focuses on the rebel hero located within four twenty-first century Hollywood films. These films are Equilibrium (2002, dir. Kurt Wimmer), The Island (2005, dir. Michael Bay), The Giver (2014, dir. Phillip Noyce) and Ridley Scott’s science fiction film Prometheus (2012). Drawing from a cultural studies perspective, this analysis focuses on heroism through rebellion, by discussing the psychological journey of the hero within each film text. The first three films focus on the male rebel hero. By contrast, Scott’s film offers an analysis of the female hero (and female alien) through my employment of a feminist lens. More broadly, this thesis explores the social, cultural, technological and psychological anxieties that utopian and science fiction films project onto the viewer. These anxieties focus on the psychological impacts of war and trauma, the use and dangers of technology, the power of totalitarian regimes and the female body, as represented by a female hero and the female alien. Utopia and its filmic representation are dependent on the lens of science fiction. The texts in this study show the capacity for the genre of utopian and science fiction film to explore trauma studies. The films that form part of this analysis are initially introduced as seeming utopias, even projecting eutopian elements. The hero at the centre of each narrative is initially compliant with the utopia. The moral awakening of the hero signals the emergence of dystopian elements in each utopia. Dissent on the part of the hero brings about an alternate utopia, one accompanied by hope for the future. Through journeying (physically and psychologically) each hero’s characteristics for rebellion are revealed, which they use to transform their respective societies. In relation to heroism, this thesis ultimately draws a distinction between the psychological journey of the female hero with that of the male hero. This study illuminates the capacity for utopian and science fiction film to act as warnings for the present and the future, drawing from dystopian elements in human history. This analysis therefore places an emphasis on history and remembering rather than on the projected future, revealing the value of utopian and science fiction film for our current time.


Doctor of Philosophy in English Studies. University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2017.


Theses - English Studies.