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Tracing the Post-Human impulse: Confessions of the Messenger

by Ethan Tussey

by Jason Derby for IN MEDIA RES

This week’s theme asks us to think through a reoccurring trope in recent sci-fi oriented films. The super-intelligent, post-human, dream woman. This trope is embodied by a woman of incredible abilities, not the least of which is their astounding intelligence, and has exhausted the bounds of the human body. Easily recognizable in Luc Besson’s latest work Lucy, this trope is embodied by Scarlett Johansson’s character who moves from a physical human body to a new shape composed of extreme intelligence and capable of manipulating time and space. The other contributors to this theme week will be discussing her recent numerous roles that embody this trope so I will not address it here but note solely as a type of marker for thinking through this trope as one of process.

I suggest that we think of Lucy as a representation of a more fully realized post-human dream woman. This character has fully developed past the bounds of the body to provide a new world of possibility for thinking through the normal questions of gender that so often code the body. However, if we are to think of Lucy as the marker at the far end of the post-human then how can we think of the beginning of this process? Following Katherine Hayles provocation that becoming post-human is a process, one in which we are able to question the seemingly stable categories of human subjectivity from the inside. I suggest that we understand this argument better by framing it in terms of exposure. That is to say that we can see the beginning of the post-human process as a type of reaching for a new physical medium with which to explore consciousness. To demonstrate this idea I turn to a different film from Luc Besson, The Messenger. Retelling the story of Joan of Arc, The Messenger gives us an image of Joan as a fierce solider plagued by fear and spiritual visions that push Joan to madness.

Besson has continually provided viewers with strong woman characters who embody elements of post-humanist theorization. I suggest that this clip presents the question is the process of becoming post-human displayed as a type of madness? Can we see the projection of Joan’s religious fervor in this clip as a moment of post-human exploration where the limits of Joan’s body have forced her to see a new medium of expression for her overwhelming intelligence and power. More importantly can we view this film as part of a larger argument wielded about Besson that mirrors the possibility of the post-human to reconfigure the conception of the body and the categories of gender that help to stabilize meaning?

Posthuman Dream Girls and Confessions

A clip from The Messenger

from The Messenger (1999)
Creator: Luc Besson
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey