Science Fiction Film & Television

Screening Cosmos-politanism

The Anthropocenic politics of outer space media

Science Fiction Film & Television (2019), 12, (3), 343–363.


An emergent outer space media cycle represents a future of space exploration fraught with terrestrial anxieties about the geopolitical role of the United States in two major forces shaping the class dynamics of worldwide urbanisation: neoliberal globalisation and anthropogenic climate change. As with these global economic and environmental issues, outer space necessitates theorising the social totality. Even as it promotes the particular interests of the American hegemon, mass media summons us to think in the universalist terms of the Anthropocene and imagine utopian possibilities.

We interpret this outer space media cycle using a semiotic square consisting of four conflicting political stances on the US’s future in outer space. While the films Gravity and Interstellar engage in the nostalgic nationalist politics of 1) reactionary state imperialism and 2) progressive state socialism, Orphans of Apollo, Elysium and Oblivion promote 3) corporatist-libertarian cosmopolitanism, the future-oriented belief that space should be privatised and exploited for profit on an international scale. We refer to the future-oriented utopian vision of an international space agenda for public outer space as 4) cosmos-politanism. The Martian and the television miniseries Cosmos provide case studies in the difficulties of mainstream American media to imagine this most speculatively leftist political position.

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Author details

Boyle, Kirk

Mrozowski, Dan