Come on Saddam

I caught the opening sequence to Dune a few nights back, and came to quite a strange realization:

President Shaddam, controller of Arrakis, has domain over the valuable resource spice.

With a little linguistic legwork and metaphor we have:

President Saddam, controller of Iraq, has domain over the valuable resource oil.

Coincidence?!? I think not. The movie was released at just about the same time as Saddam’s ascension to power, but these names are from Herbert’s novel right? Who is this guy, Rasputin?

5 thoughts on “Come on Saddam

  1. Dune falls into an enormous and well-established body of fiction which uses Arab imagery as a quick-and-easy signifier of “exoticness.” The coincidence is not particularly surprising, when you figure that Herbert was using slightly mangled Arab words and really obviously Arab settings on purpose so that the readers would bring all of our existing cultural associations of the exotic Arab desert to bear on his story. Edward Said (I think) called this “Orientalism” and it goes way, way back. I wrote a 30-or-so page thesis paper on this in college for an Arab cinema class, but I won’t bore you with the whole thing. Dune was one of my source movies, though.

  2. Remember, it isn’t that differences are interesting. It’s that the people who find them interesting are racists. Thanks, Prof. Said!

    Herbert had slightly different motivations for writing his book, and given his extensive reliance on Arab imagery for the Fremen, it would seem he admired Bedouin tribesmen. But the poststructuralists have spoken; honest admiration, in this case, is only a stand-in for a dissociated self seeking succor from self-hatred as a result of cultural imperialism, and a hope that the oppressed will forgive the oppressor. Clearly. Bleah.

    http://tim.oreilly.com/sci-fi/herbert/ch03.html

  3. A little defensive, Dan? It’s entertaining to still find people eager to rail against the evils of post-structuralism. In other news from the sixties, those four lads from Liverpool are really starting to look like they might make it big.

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