MT VOID 09/29/00 (Vol. 19, Number 13)

MT VOID 09/29/00 (Vol. 19, Number 13)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 09/29/00 -- Vol. 19, No. 13

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-447-3652 for details.

Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619,
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218,
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell,
HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt,
HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer,
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.


I sometimes wonder about romance in the cinema. So many films are about boy meets girl. Film after film has a major plot or sub-plot about romance. And then I look at romance in the real world around me and I wonder what's the big deal. I see great romantic films like CASABLANCA and I ask myself there is so much fascination with the subject and what is it really all about? Not to be unromantic, but is it really as important as we make it out to be? And is it so important really whose socks Ingrid Bergman will wash and who will she have to fix her toaster? Okay, there is more to it than that. There is sex, but why does that make so much difference?

It really makes you wonder why do so many of our stories and films have love stories. Murder mysteries, comedies, horror films, and Westerns have boy-meets-girl plots, even if that is not the main thrust of the story. Our literature is full of love poetry, our dramas are full of love stories, and our popular music is all about love relationships. What is it that makes us care so much about the mating of people who are strangers?

And let me take these issues a step further. This fascination with the mating of others apparently extends beyond humans. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas relates in her THE HIDDEN LIFE OF DOGS a peculiar piece of canine behavior. She had a very close-knit group of dogs as pets. She mated her alpha female to a male dog from another family of whom the female was very fond. After the mating Thomas was surprised not just to find the two dogs most concerned very happy, the whole pack of dogs was radiant. They had not taken part in the actual action, but they knew it had taken place and that seemed to have really pleased them. Perhaps their reaction was not so different from human reaction after seeing a romantic film. Why do they care?

Longtime readers of this column know that I am a fan of the theory Richard Dawkins put forward in THE SELFISH GENE. At least that is the origin of the theory I believe. (Okay, let me be honest. I have not read his book, but I believe in a theory that I believe has been ascribed to his book.) The theory is that we have a number of motives on the surface for our behavior, but they seem to contradictory. There is a single unifying explanation for a lot of human behavior. We all want the genes in our body to survive. We all want them to reproduce and to have a good field of genes in which to survive. And this admittedly subliminal desire manifests itself in many of our attitudes.

Not that any of this works on a conscious level. It is just what is really happening to form our conscious mind-sets. It is like the real reason we have an urge for a good breakfast is not the same as the apparent reason. When you wake up in the morning you do not say to yourself, now I have to get some carbohydrates so that my body will have energy and some protein for building cells. You do not think in that detail. You just think that you are hungry and it is time for breakfast. And that attitude on the conscious level provides the proteins and carbohydrates your body needs without you ever thinking much about the real reason behind the behavior.

Over the years attitudes that pass genes on to the next generation have survived as their own reward. The genes may even carry these attitudes much as retriever dogs all get the idea that retrieving thrown items is a good idea. Terriers get the idea that digging is nifty. These attitudes are genetically inbred. Genes that give humans attitudes that are good for reproduction of genes are likely to be passed on to later generations.

Let's see how genetic advantage fits into familiar behaviors. Take the old story of Don Juan, Dona Ana, and her father. Don Juan has made love to many women. Why? His survival technique for his genes is to reproduce with as many women as possible, particularly if they appear to be healthy. He believes that his behavior is just that pretty women are enjoyable to have sex with, but his genes want to reproduce themselves and give him the attitudes that will help them accomplish that. His attitude makes many copies of his genes survive. Dona Ana is at a time in her life when she wants to make sure her genes survive. She is looking for a strong set of genes to pair them with. It will bother her if he continues to pair his genes with competitive genes not her own, but for the time being she just wants to get her own genes paired to genes likely to be survivors. Dona Ana's father enters the scene. He knows that half of his genes survive in Dona Ana and has hoped that Dona Ana's genes would be paired with good breeding stock to carry them on. Don Juan is not what he considers to be a good set of genes since he is a social outlaw. He wants more of a voice over whose genes his daughter mingles with his. He draws his sword. Now Don Juan's genes are in trouble. This might be his last pairing. Don Juan jumps to defend his genes' future. Well, you get the idea.

So, getting back to romance, is there a genetic advantage to this obsession we have with boy-meets-girl? I think there is. First of all seeing romance leaves us in the mood for romance. It puts the idea in our minds and that has to increase the likelihood we will pass on the genes. But it does more than that. We like to see attractive people getting together and putting their genes into the gene pool because it increases the probability in later generations that our genes will be mated with healthy and attractive genes.

I suspect we like to see attractive people mating because it preserves the best of the genes in the gene pool and give our own genes a better chance to be paired with those good genes in later generations. [-mrl]

THE CONTENDER (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):

Capsule: This is a behind the scenes story of a vice-presidential confirmation proceedings that gets into many serious issues. It is hard to imagine THE CONTENDER not being the best film of the year. This political drama says a lot of things that need to be said with terrific dialog. This is an adult film in the very best sense of the word. Rating: high +3


BEAUTIFUL (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):

Capsule: A ruthless woman so wants to win a beauty pageant. She messes up the lives of people around her. This script was nowhere near ready to be filmed. It leaves so many loose ends and immoral messages, intended and unintended. In spite of my liking for Sally Field, she did not show a lot of discretion in script choice. BEAUTIFUL is a very ugly film. Rating: -2 SPOILER: some of the problems are told in an afterword after a spoiler warning


BEST IN SHOW (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):

Capsule: Christopher Guest produces another documentary satire showing the foibles of American society. This time he takes on the before, during, and after of a national level dog show. It combines good biting satire and some broad comedy that sabotages the effect. Rating: high +1. On principle I will not reveal humor from the film.


BLESS THE CHILD (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):

Capsule: Basically silly, 70s-style horror film in the mold of ROSEMARY'S BABY crossed with THE OMEN. Satanists want to get hands on newly- born female Christ, this time born as illegitimate, autistic girl named Cody. Rating: 0


Quote of the Week:

    Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality the cost
     becomes prohibitive.
                                   -- William F. Buckley, Jr.