atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#503: Jerry Was A Man

I was all set to sit down and write a glowing review of the Masters of Science Fiction episode, Jerry Was a Man, based on the Robert Heinlein short story of the same name.

That changed in the last five minutes of the show. That was when the creators of the TV show took a messy, runny shit all over the story. They were doing so very well, making only a few minor changes which were reasonable; but then, they blew it.

Heinlein's original story revolved around the virtues of being human. The guy who was representing Jerry's owner tried to get Jerry to lie in exchange for a bribe and Jerry refused. The final proof of Jerry's status as human rather than thing was when he sang "Swanee River".

In the TV show, while they included Jerry's singing, they then added a whole bunch of stuff. Jerry was ready to lie in exchange for a bribe. They showed video of Jerry switching places with another "Joe", which was killed. The lawyer maintained that Jerry's selfish and treacherous behavior was what made him human.

In Heinlein's story, Jerry wasn't a "minesweeper"; he was just a menial worker. He was due to be liquidated by the company which owned him. His tasks were menial and required little intelligence--the kind of labor which "Joes" were made for--and as manufactured products, when they were no longer economically viable they were disposed of.

The story revolves around the rich dowager who buys him, in order to save him from liquidation; and she comes to sue the company which owns Jerry in order to save him and his kind from being destroyed. In the process, it is proven (in court, no less) that Jerry feels pain and experiences joy, and that he understands the difference between right and wrong and refuses to do things which are morally wrong. ANd when it is shown that Jerry has the ability of self-expression, that clinches it.

That is what the creators of Masters of Science Fiction took a crap on.

Fortunately for me, I was expecting them to fuck it up. That's all Hollywood knows how to do. As the episode proceeded my hopes were rising, that this time at least they wouldn't, but my extremely low expectations turned out to be correct.

Heinlein was a realist about human nature; he's the one who always said "Man cannot be tamed" and insisted in many places that the most dangerous creature in the universe walks on two legs and has opposable thumbs. But throughout his writing was the acknowledgement that Man--in spite of this base nature--is also good and noble and capable of greatness.

The Hollywood morons don't understand that because they can't; it's utterly foreign to their world view: Man is a violent killing, eating, and fucking machine, and there is nothing more to life than making sure you get enough sex and money before you become worm food, after which there is nothing. There is nothing else; morality and religion are for the hopeless rubes in the hinterland who just don't get it and probably voted for Bush anyway.

I had hoped that my expectations would be proven wrong; but Hollywood has never managed to do a Heinlein story correctly, not even when he himself was closely connected with the production (here I am referring to Destination Moon). That's what happens when the task of converting story to screenplay is given to someone who doesn't understand the Grand Master but went to the "right" schools.

So that's how it goes.

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