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Dune on Page & Screen • Superhero Ethics • episode 282

Dune on Page & Screen

Matthew Fox is joined by Dr. Steven Cox to dive deep into the classic sci-fi novel Dune, and how it is often portrayed on screen and in other media. They analyze the complex themes around religion, politics, colonialism, and the dangers of charismatic leaders that author Frank Herbert weaves throughout his epic saga. Matthew and Steven compare and contrast Herbert’s original vision to the various film and TV adaptations, examining how the nuance and messaging has often been lost or skewed over the years.

Key Takeaways

  • The popular “white savior” conception of Paul Atreides as a destined superhero leading the Fremen to freedom distorts the narrative and critiques at the heart of Dune. Herbert warns against putting faith in such messianic figures.
  • The Bene Gesserit religious order manipulates beliefs across the galaxy over generations to pave the way for their envisioned super being, the Kwisatz Haderach, to emerge. This illustrates the insidiousness of cultural and religious control.
  • Charismatic leaders often start off as liberators and revolutionaries before succumbing to repression, domination, and atrocity once taking power, a pattern Herbert highlights through Paul’s trajectory.

Other Topics

  • The intricate rivalries and schemes of the various factions seeking control of the spice trade
  • Jessica’s defiance of Bene Gesserit doctrine by birthing a son instead of a daughter
  • Potential directions for the film sequel and hopes that it will capture more nuance
  • Herbert’s possible inspirations and metaphors – the Middle East’s anti-colonial movements and the decline of European imperialism

Member Bonus content: we talk about what parts of the story we think we’ll see in the upcoming Dune Part 2!

Riki Hayashi and Matthew Fox explore the ethical questions from the stories geeks love—superheroes, sci-fi, anime, fantasy, video games, and so much more.
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