Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Shifting Ideal

Rhiannon brings up an interesting point that I also came across when reading: are Tiptree’s stories describing utopias or dystopias? There doesn’t seem to be just one answer for every character in each story- things shift and change and sometimes end up in the middle between the horrifying and the ideal. Gender seems to be the first way to answer to this question of utopia/dystopia, especially in “The Women Men Don’t See”, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” and “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”. The men and the women each see the world in a different way, and their view of the world can change throughout these short stories.

The last pages of “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” shows the last breathes of both P. Burke and Delphia as they both express love for Paul before their deaths and how themes can shift. Paul’s view of the world quickly switches from blissful infatuation with Dee, to anger that she is being controlled, to further horror that Dee is a shell and P. Burke is the personality he has been interacting with. P. Burke’s ideal life also shifts very quickly from her ideal world driving Delphia’s body to death, which might be taking P. Burke to an even greater utopia. Thus, Paul and P. Burke’s ideas of the ideal are not constant throughout the story.

Mrs. Parson’s acknowledges that the world we live in, I would say both in the 60s when Sheldon wrote these stories and even today in the 21st century, is a man’s world. Women might feel more or less alienated by their positions under men, but what seems most startling about Parsons story is the belief that women today might feel they have better odds living with aliens than living in a world they know, yet are unsatisfied with.

P. Burke complicates the simple idea that the Parsons have, that women don’t want to live in a world run by men. Burke finds exactly what she wants, as she is allowed to take form in a new, perfect body by becoming property of a series of men (from Joe to the corporate heads). Thus, a world run by men does not necessarily make it a world that women don’t want to live in.

These three stories can be divided into stories about the present and stories about the future. The fictional future that is portrayed in “The Girl Who was Plugged In” is shockingly possible, but not true in the present day. The same can be said of the men up in space. What draws the line of something that “could” happen falls into different categories: what could have happened in the past, what could happen in the future and what could happen in the present. Both the future stories of astronauts and P. Burke are possible, but not in our current reality as we know it. For me, this lessens their shock value, or the paranoia they can stir in a reader. The Parsons ask the reader to think about a choice that might have to be made at any second- as soon as an alien offers to take you into space, which could technically happed at any time. All Tiptree’s stories, and all texts we read in this course, ask us to rethink our present society and how the past has lead to the present and how the present will lead to different possible futures. However, the Parson’s force the reader to analyze our current society in a different way more pressing way, offering up a complex situation in the present day.


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