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Sport-Fi: To The Death!   Leave a comment

The landscapes of both sports and science fiction are made up of monumental heroes and villains.  They both have stories that are told and told again, inspiring future generations of Sci-Fi Nerds and Sports Nerds (yes, I think that is a thing).  They both dominate and drive modern entertainment industry and every now and then they collide and become Sport-Fi! A term I just made up!

Sport-fi has been around for decades.  It has come in the form of insane races, 8-bit video games, and what ever the hell this is:

Seriously, what the hell is Rollerball?

For my first dive in what will be a series of entries about the world of Sport-Fi I want to take us back the days of Rome, and the lost art of gladiatorial combat!  This old trope shows up in stories as a way nudge the audience to reflect on our own society and ask if we have become too blood thirsty and desensitized to violence.  Also it makes the hero look like a total bad ass!

Well… most of the time…

Hunger Games

The biggest name in gladiator Sport-Fi in recent pop culture history is Hunger Games.  Teenagers are kidnapped by the government, dolled-up and sent to murder each other in the name of entertainment, fame and glory.  Just like a weekend at my parent’s house!

This movie/book lays on the ancient Rome allegory pretty thick.  It goes as far as to name the announcer of the games Caesar and placing the contestant’s supplies inside of a giant cornucopia.

Somehow no amount of baked goods will ever make you winner of the Hunger Games. But it will win you the Hungry Games, coming to Food Network.

The government uses the games as a form of control, maintaining a mental and physically oppression over its subject districts by forcing them to play along or otherwise getting blown off the map.  Which makes sense so long as no one takes time to consider that a government that enjoys living luxuriously would never survive after killing off key components of its own labor force.  But hey, what do I know?  I’ve only seen the movie, so maybe they go into that in the books.  Pound for pound I would say that Hunger Games had the most teen murder since its Japanese counter part…

Battle Royale

Battle Royale is the demented older sibling of the Hunger Games.  In fact a lot of people went as far as to say that Hunger Games is a rip off, but I do not subscribe to that considering that the basic premise is just not anything new.  But it was pretty messed up.

Hunger Games is down right wholesome compared to this madness.

In Battle Royale once a year members of a ninth grade class are forced to fight to the death as a way to keep the population from growing too big.  I suppose we need to ignore the fact that the equivalent of one bad bus crash every twelve months would never amount to significant population control.  Contestants are all given a tool to use in the fight, which could be an assault rifle or a frying pan or anything in between.  Wacky fun ensues!

TRON

In Tron,  Disney’s decade spanning series about 1980’s computer programs that want to take over the world, the primary form of battle is tossing Death Frisbees at each other…

This game, designed to play out like a 8-Bit arcade game, is the Tron universe’s primary form of short range combat.  This would have sucked for Clu, the bad guy of Tron: Legacy, if he had succeeded in his plan to escape the computer world with an army of Frisbee armed warriors.  Best case scenario he would be the captain of a really huge Ultimate team after discovering that their disks, while perfectly suitable to delete computer data, would probably not do too much damage to a flesh and blood human.

Not to mention how long it would take for his massive army to upload into the real world while running on a computer that was developed in 1982.  I think that humanity would remain thoroughly unmenaced by a giant floating hour glass.

Doom, at 6 kb a minute.

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Meanwhile, in Australia…

Pro Wrestling

The WWE (formerly the WWF) has made the sport of professional wrestling into what is essentially a Saturday morning cartoon/ soap opera.  Over the years they have introduced over the top characters, plotted story lines, good guys and bad guys and has built it into a long running stage show.  Perhaps not truly sci-fi, but take a look at these guys and tell me they don’t belong in GI Joe.

In fact, one of them is a GI Joe.

This makes it no surprise that they were marketed the same way too:

Several went on to land rolls in sci-fi movies, ranging from the kid friendly Suburban Commando starring Hulk Hogan, to the cult classic They Live starring Roddy Piper, to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who is in just about everything.  The Undertaker got his own comic book, co-staring other popular characters from the WWE.  And, yep, they even had a moral teaching cartoon back in the 1980s:

In the WWE combined sports with action cartoon sensibility, creating an intricate continuity and mythos that rivals any long running sci-fi series.

That is just a small cross section of Sport-Fi: Gladiator Battles.  What other stories deserve to to be remembered?  Tell me below! 

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Posted October 10, 2012 by atomicsam in Film, Lists, TV

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