Science Fiction Film & Television

Alienating identification: Black identity in The Brother from Another Planet and I Am Legend

Science Fiction Film & Television (2010), 3, (1), 37–55.

Abstract

This article examines The Brother from Another Planet (Sayles US 1984), in which the protagonist's status as both extraterrestrial and black man lends insight into the black citizen's relationship to an alienating urban environment in the context of a Reagan-era retreat from federal government support for inner cities. I compare and contrast Sayles' film with the more recent Will Smith vehicle, I Am Legend (Lawrence US 2007), focusing on the racial implications of a lone black protagonist in a post-9/11 apocalyptic landscape and analysing Will Smith's star persona and representation of blackness in a neoliberal context. Ultimately I argue that sf films act as a valuable testing ground for theories of identity as the creation of alienating worlds reveals the play of alienation and identification at work in the recent history of race and representation.

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Subramanian, Janani