Monsters from the Id

Id, ego, and superego.  That’s how Sigmund Freud saw the human mind in his psychoanalytic model of the early 20th century.  In Freud’s structural model, each of these three component parts vied for supremacy, and the outcome of the ongoing conflict reflected in human behaviour.

Plenty of science fiction stories feature this hidden self.  Perhaps the most famous is the excellent 1956 movie, The Forbidden Planet.  The film features a spaceship crew exploring an alien world threatened by a monster.  The indigenous aliens have died out.  But two humans survived from an earlier mission, including a Dr Morbius.

An archetype of cold intellect, Dr Morbius harbours powerful passions that never reach the surface.  The beast that repeatedly attacks the spaceship crew turns out to be Morbius’ own savage unconscious, or “Monsters from the id!” as one crew-member cries.

The movie’s message is plain.  Beneath the rational surface of science, made flesh by Morbius, lurks a demon.  And the more we multiply our power through technology, the more we feed our demons.

Though Freud’s theory has since fallen out of scientific favour, it remains to this day a cultural shibboleth, thanks to movies such as The Forbidden Planet.

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