I just watched a movie right up your alley: Barbarella Queen of the Galaxy. Can you maybe help me understand what i just saw???
You asked me to make sense of it all, and here’s my attempt:
the reason it comes off as so strange is that it’s a foreign film with a
foreign director that tries to duplicate an American comic, so it feels
imperceptibly “off,” in much the same way a lot of the Spaghetti Westerns were “off.”
It reminds me of how absolutely strange animes turn out to be based on very
pedestrian Yankee genres. The oddness is how a different culture filters
something and tries to duplicate it. The end result is something very unique.
The one thing that is surprising to people today is how sexual it is. Barbarella, after all, was based on an erotic French comic. In the old days, though, scifi was always lurid and sexual, and like a lot of less than savory genres in our culture, it thrived on heaping dollops of sex and violence. The sex in Barbarella was more normal. I think an attempt has been made to push scifi into respectable territory, so many things from scifi’s sexy past are brushed over. Notice the way Princess Leia’s slave bikini, not exactly a family friendly bit of imagery, is passed over by a slightly embarassed megacorporation.
You know, it’s funny: Gene Roddenberry once said that the one thing he was never
allowed to do in Star Trek’s original series was show what Earth was like in
the 23rd Century, since it might be too controversial. In that same
vein, I always thought Barbarella’s most interesting question went unanswered,
what was the Earth of Barbarella like?
Sure, the story is set in the vicious and fascinating City of Night built above
the evil Mathmos ooze, but the hints we get about Earth are fascinating.
Basically, it seems like a future where the counterculture of the 1960s “won.”
There are no wars, sex is done by hand to hand contact after taking pills, and
people exist in such a chill perfected state that Barbarella is sincerely
baffled when told that Durand Durand wanted to build a weapon…”why would anyone
want a weapon?” She’s so unaccustomed to evil and greed that when confronted by
it in Durand Durand, she assumes they’re just plain insane. It seems silly now,
but in the 1960s, we really thought a kind of enlightenment was possible: war
and violence were choices we could ignore. And who knows? It might still be possible.