Forbidden Planet and the id

 

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I watched Forbidden Planet last night.

In the movie, a demonic creature is created from the primitive depths of an otherwise sophisticated and well-intentioned scientist. He wants to remain on an alien planet, and this creature kills his original expedition mates when they decide to return back to Earth, and try to kill all of the current rescue expedition when they too want to bring him back to Earth.

There is an obvious reference to Freud’s model as the creature is referred to as id, or the it, that in us which is disowned and so appears as it instead of as I or me. Both in the movie and in the documentary about it, this is referred to as the primitive depths of humans, the raw animal hidden under a thin veneer of civilization.

But is it really the primitive depths? Is it really the ugly primitive sides of us rearing its head, in spite of trying to suppress it with our civilized side?

We can also see it as coming directly from certain beliefs, from just a story taken as true.

There are two ways these demonic creatures can be created from beliefs…

First, it can be the direct outcome of a belief, such as they shouldn’t take me with them. If we have this belief, and the world goes in a different direction, something will happen. And if the context of other beliefs are set up that way, a demonic creature can be the outcome.

Then, it can come from the shadow of a belief and identity. If I believe that I am good and well-intentioned, then anything that doesn’t fit becomes disowned and an it, which can then take over in different ways.

If we take a quite reductionistic view, and see it only from the filter of beliefs, the biology or “nature” of a being is not needed to explain these things. Looking at the beliefs alone is sufficient to explain the outcome, and it is relatively or entierly independent of biology or other physical characteristics. Any creature with the same beliefs would act in very similar ways.

Of course, even if a particular view is a sufficient explanation, it doesn’t mean that all the other aspects – such as biology, evolution, culture, economics – are not important. They flesh out the picture, makes it far richer, and helps us see how beliefs are formed by individual & collective history and interact with biological impulses and characteristics.

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