Section I: Introduction
Interstellar is a 2014 cinematographic masterpiece by Christopher Nolan that portrays a near-future dystopian society placed on Earth. Nolan’s film narrates about an environmental disaster and the threat of famine because of crop disease called blight. One day, a private facility of NASA is discovered by the protagonist Cooper and his daughter Murphy by the coordinates left on the dust in her room. NASA consequently sends a group of scientists led by Cooper through the wormhole to discover habitable planets and, therefore, resettle humanity. The lack of fuel, a gravitational pull, and time disparity are complicating the group’s mission.
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Ultimately, Cooper decides to launch into the black hole and finds himself as the physical representation of space and time in his daughter’s bedroom; communicating through different objects, he gives valuable data back into the past. Murphy, who was an old woman at the time of Cooper’s return, was humankind’s hero since she discovered a technology that saved the planet from extinction.
Section II: Analysis
Concept: Isolation and loneliness
Definition: Social isolation relates to complete or near-complete lack of social interactions as the consequence of distancing oneself from society. Illustration: Cooper was a former NASA pilot who was obliged to become a farmer to help the community and raise his kids alone. While on the mission, Romilly and Cooper were listening to the sound of rainfall and crickets to deal with being isolated from Earth.
Definition: According to Giddens (24), the immense power of humanity lies in its ability to shape its future instead of being under the control of natural forces. Illustration: Interstellar is exposing the basic notions of humanity by emphasizing the way society has to think to value its own lives. Donald and Cooper are arguing whether to derive benefits from Earth or to start searching for something better in the stars.
Concept: Educational challenges
Definition: The structural role of the educational system is transformative since it implies passing on knowledge, skills, and norms of behaviors so that the new members can become a part of society that reflects those norms and knowledge (Giddens 57). Illustration: Cooper was discussing with a teacher the idea of his son enrolling into a college and becoming an engineer. However, society was running out of food, and the world needed farmers; thus, Cooper was facing the task of encouraging his son to become one.
Concept: Ecological problem
Definition: Ecology is the study of the adjustment of social structures to the quality of environmental resources and co-existing with other human and non-human groups. Illustration: In the core of the plot is an ecological disaster, the blight that leads the Earth to the verge of extinction. Concerning the extent of this environmental problem, it led to the disbandment of the world’s military forces and changes in educational systems to suppress any desires that go beyond the earthly requirements.
Concept: Human survival
Definition: The social basis of survival implies forming of a social group within a species. Human survival requires evolved behavioral tendencies, as well as facts and analyses, to address the potential catastrophe. Illustration: Interstellar presents those who are fighting benevolently to save humanity and those who are focused only on personal survival. Furthermore, the film mentions that such a willingness to fight for human survival is rooted in selfishness. Altruism may be attained by implementing sociological imagination.
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Definition: The core concept of evolution implies that all species are related and gradually evolve. Illustration: The wormhole represents contact with alien life, which is believed to assist humanity. It is a more advanced form of humanity that mastered gravity and can travel through time, which is a physical dimension.
Definition: As one of the most vital concepts, love promotes the formulation of human relationships and structuring the social life of oneself. Illustration: In the film, Dr. Brand has mentioned that love is powerful enough to transcend time and space. This notion can be seen when Cooper’s strong love for his daughter helps him to solve the gravity problem in a tesseract.
Definition: Family, as a social agency, is a group of people that are related to one another by blood ties, sexual relations, and legal ties. Illustration: The film embodies the core human elements concerning familial relationships. The central theme is Cooper and Murphy’s strong bond and love, which helped Cooper to face a matter of life and death on Mann’s planet and gave him a hint about the watch that can save humanity.
Concept: Human connection
Definition: As one of the basic human needs, there is a societal connection that involves feeling close or connected and concerns interpersonal relationships. Illustration: Brand was arguing about her feelings toward Edmund, noting that love can be quantified and impact the results as much as any other data. Considering this, Cooper could only agree with her after he experienced the connection with his daughter Murphy inside the tesseract.
Definition: Endurance is the ability to withstand an unpleasant or difficult situation. Illustration: An environmental disaster is testing the protagonists if they can endure and survive. Cooper is experiencing endurance since he has to leave his family to go into space; as well, his family has to endure the separation. Dr. Brand often reads the poem “Do Not Go Gentle” as the anthem of endurance to fight against death.
Definition: Sustainability is the ability to be sustained, including economic, environmental, and socially sustainable development (Giddens 30). Illustration: Interstellar discloses the concept of sustainability of resources and the human race. First, there is a fight for crop sustainability on Earth, and the next step implies the search for sustainably on other planets. During the journey, explorers are facing the personal sustainability of life on the space shift and outside of it.
Concept: The human potential for evil
Definition: Evil is the subject of sociological cognition, the opposite notion of good. Illustration: Dr. Mann is the embodiment of human ability to the potential evil manifestation, as his intentions were focused primarily on saving himself and let his colleagues down.
Concept: The cycle of denial
Definition: Denial is a rejection of a fact; also, it is a statement that something does not exist or is not true. Illustration: Cooper denied the farmers’ efforts to maintain humanity, which influenced his decision to leave the Earth and search for a better place for humankind. His son’s actions later in the film are reflecting this denial, as he shows distressing results of his efforts to maintain the crop and no further improvements.
Definition: Sacrifice is the act of offering a valuable item or some abstract notion in exchange for something important or to serve the common good. Illustration: The explorers knew they were initially sacrificing their lives before venturing through the wormhole; however, they were all united by the common goal to save humanity. Another yet the most important was TARS’ sacrifice, where Cooper had only one chance to receive crucial data from Gargantua.
Concept: Social manipulation
Definition: Manipulation is the social influence that is focused on changing or controlling behavior, emotions, or perception of another individual for personal gain. Illustration: While Murphy was arguing with her teacher about the Apollo mission, it is evident that the government was manipulating society by trying to persuade them that this had never happened. They aimed to make the upcoming generation focus primarily on the planet they are living on.
Definition: A lie is a form of a false or deceiving statement. Illustration: Professor Brand was working on the equation to help humans on Earth to escape in space stations once the problem of gravity is solved. Before his death, Dr. Brand admits he was lying to everyone to keep people working together pursuing the common goal and that the primary mission was always planned B.
Definition: Instinct is the natural behavioral pattern that is unlearned and seen as innate. Illustration: Cooper succeeded in saving humanity due to his instincts because he never listened to anyone else. He was risking his life but relying on his instincts while manually controlling the spaceship.
Concept: Science and space
Definition: The importance of science lies in discovering, defining, and dealing with problems and obstacles. Illustration: Christopher Nolan represents the value of science through space exploration as an urgency because of famine and drought. This concept can be traced through the protagonist Murphy, who mentioned that science is admitting what one does not know, and it has its way to address the problem, including facts and theories. The film opposes the science and the supernatural force, letting everyone stand by their own beliefs.
Concept: Artificial intelligence (AI)
Definition: AI is a fundamental part of computer science that involves the creation of smart machines that perform functions akin to human intelligence. Illustration: The protagonist Cooper was initially against all the machines, although they try to cooperate later throughout the film. Consequently, Cooper understands that machines, such as TARS, play a crucial role in saving humanity and might become beneficial in the future. TARS became a very close friend of Cooper: he repairs TARS, takes him on the ship to save Brand, and treats him accordingly.
Concept: A matter of time
Definition: Time is a variable of action, the external constant of social change that facilitates the versatile development of human life. Illustration: Interstellar applies the notion of time as a symbol that connects humanity through different eras in the image of a bookshelf in Murphy’s room serving as a time machine symbol. Furthermore, Cooper was sending the quantum data to his daughter using his watch, which was another yet fascinating portrayal of connection through time.
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Section III: Reflection
Interstellar is considered one of the most technically advanced science fiction films that are as well complemented by an adept cast. With its intense combination of human emotions, relationship issues, familial sentiments, and the predominant role of science, this film is indeed a significant work that might have a transformative influence on its audience. From the sociological perspective, the film discloses multiple yet vital themes, ranging from interpersonal relationships, core human elements, and concerns with more global aspects of science, space, and artificial intelligence. Interstellar demonstrates whether humans can endure isolation and loneliness that depends on how much it tested our limits. Therefore, it is impossible to know one’s limits until they are fully tested.
Each of the protagonists is united by the common mission to save humanity; however, everyone reveals their real intentions gradually. Apart from the plot, it is essential to examine each of the sociological topics for a better understanding of the characters and film in general. The basic concepts of love, family, human connections, and humanity show the significant role of familial or personal relationships and how a strong connection might assist in challenging moments. The notions of good cannot be fully perceived without the manifestation of evil or deceit by Dr. Mann and Dr. Brand. As the critical concept, time played a predominant role in the film since it was supported by symbolical undertones throughout the plot; ultimately, it served as a fundamental aspect in showing the connection of protagonists.
Giddens, Anthony. Essential Concepts in Sociology. 2nd ed., Polity Press, 2017.