Friday, May 7, 2010

Thoughts on Lexx, Part 3

earthdestroyedI have finished up with all four seasons of Lexx now, and this post is going to contain some spoilers.

In (what has turned out to be) this short three-part series on Lexx, I have been attempting to think through my sense that by offering up a parody of Star Trek:TNG, Lexx inadvertently distills a humorous, posthumanist antidote to the humanist poison of that much more well-known series.  I wanted to write of Lexx what Sørina Higgins has written of Cary Wolfe’s What is Posthumanism? (2010) in her recent review of the book, “Posthumanism: A Christian Response”:

it seeks to problematize humanity’s unique existence; it calls into question universal ethics; it interrogates our assumptions about rationality; and it destabilized distinctions that are essential to religion, such as nature/culture, presence/absence, and human/nonhuman.

Now, I haven’t said anything about Lexx’s treatment of religion, of course, and there’s probably something to be said about it.  TNG, while secular, at least tended towards a multicultural tolerance of diverse faiths, I think, whereas Lexx was quite a bit more antagonistic, particularly in the first season, in which the primary villain was His Divine Shadow, the tyrant ruler (actually an insect-spirit in disguise as a anthropomorphic god) of the so-called “Light Universe” (there are two universes in Lexx until the one is destroyed) and in the third season in which the Lexx spends 12 episodes orbiting two planets that turn out to be forms of heaven and hell existing without apparent purpose.

But I’m less interested in what satirical barbs Lexx may or may not direct at religion than I am in the ways it makes the human body mutable, the individual divisible, the human spirit both complex and indistinct from its machine, animal, and alien environments.

However, like the crew of the Lexx, who might occasionally swap genders, re-grow limbs and other organs, or die and be reborn,  the series undergoes sometimes drastic transformations from one season to the next.  Unfortunately, not every evolutionary adaptation proves viable, and, regretfully (to me), it seems the writers opted in the end to contrive the triumphant return of the human.  Alas.   Each of those characteristics that I initially found so interesting…so “problematiz[ing],” to use Higgins’ phrase, “of humanity’s unique existence”  is ultimately undone in the final episode. 

The fighting spirit and contempt for the non-human that comes just so naturally to our species finally overwhelms Stanley’s hitherto un-

Kirk-like cowardice.  The undead Kai, whose catch phrase had once been some variant of “The Dead do not feel,” is restored to life so that he may lay down his life for his friends.  The profundity of longing professed by the robot head, 790, is belied by the coldness with which he calculates how to destroy the earth and kill all living humans.  Only Xev, in the end, comfortably in her lizard-skin outfit, still acknowledges her hybridity.  But one wonders, any more, whether her Cluster-Lizard DNA could still manage to unbalance her, as it once had led her to kill and eat a series of human mates, or had she learned finally to master it, to colonize her reptilian self, to make it subservient to her human control-center? 

I fear that, passing through the crucible of post-humanity, the crew of the Lexx emerge not reconfigured but purified, and I’m left feeling gratified but no stranger.

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