A 1969 interview with Frank Herbert breaks down DUNE's white savior complex

It’s kind of spotty. There are places that look really amateurish, there are scenes that are almost ruined because they’re overclocked, like a throwback to the Keystone Cops, but there are also places where it’s screamingly funny.

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At the same time, I thought it was both funny and instructive about cultural differences when the bushman sees a white female. In US terms she would be considered quite attractive; some would consider her really beautiful. In the movie, the narrator describes him as thinking he had just met the ugliest woman he’d ever seen, says why.

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There are several ways to read Dune, and it came as a surprise to me to discover that anyone could miss the aspect of it that I saw in favor of the “Heroe’s Journey” one. What struck me from the beginning (and I read it first serialized in Analog – still have the issues) was Maud’Dib’s struggle against the inevitable. The book concludes not with his triumph, but rather his surrender.

Later, the sequel Dune Messiah was reviewed by Analog’s house reviewer in a context that stuck with me (and now that I’m retired I can dig it up): The sequel is a well-told story of a remarkable man, but Dune is the story of a planet. No man, however remarkable, can compete with a planet.

Which, reading the interview, is totally consistent with Herbert’s intention.

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Eugenics is all about race, it takes it’s starting point from the concept of a race or races existing and goes from there.

Moi8Rpr

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I wouldn’t say his surrender, but rather his evasion. He did finally embrace the idea that he was the holy one the Bene Gesserit wanted. But they had wanted a female, and one that they could control. Their purpose in trying to breed the Kwisatz Haderach was to develop a superbeing who could see the future for them, so they could use that foreknowledge to direct human development. Paul escaped their grasp and turned his abilities to his own purposes, neutralizing them.

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I mean you read the same book I did.

If that’s not eugenics, I guess I don’t know what eugenics is.

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I mean, I read it like a million years ago… I did see the Lynch film recently, though. So yeah, it’s pretty much eugenics.

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He had been trying all along to prevent his vision of jihad from coming true. At the end he recognized that forces vastly greater than he were moving to leave him no choice in the matter, that the jihad would occur, and he quit fighting it. The Bene Jesserit were no different, they were fooling themselves into believing that they could order the tide and were just as much as going to end with it rolling over them.

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This is true. And it’s deeply ingrained in the notion of the KW. I guess what is interesting wrt the study which is the topic of this thread, is that it’s overt imperialism which generates this thing. The proposal is that this was intentional by Herbert, not precisely to build on Paul’s and Leto’s intrinsic fitness, but as their use for imperialism.

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Yes, eugenics, big time. There is eugenics hidden, and hinted at, all over that universe. Dune is, among other things, a science fiction eugenics novel.

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I would argue that there was an internal struggle against the inherent evil of a jihad, but the prescient knowledge of the necessity of it for a diaspora into the greater universe so that humankind would be guaranteed future existence. Of course, that generated the Honored Matres, and a whole different potential problem, but…

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Of course, writing about something doesn’t have to imply endorsement. If he’s critiquing white savior complex in narratives like Lawrence of Arabia, in order to further a critique of imperialism, it’s a likely bet that he’s also critiquing eugenics too.

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Paul surrenders to fatalism. That’s made explicit in the first two sequels.

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Yes, remember that the other product of the selective breeding program that produced Paul Atreides was Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, sadistic heir to the infamous Baron.

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It’s a lot of slapstick, not as stuffy and arty as you would think it is. Watchable.

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not much he could do, he basically became kassandra.

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Still my fave SF critique of eugenics…

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This is my favourite:

Eugenics, it turns out, could totally work, if only we wanted the right things.

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White male savior, of course. I was struck by all the misogyny the last time I watched the Sci-Fi films.

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Yep. And there’s a lot of misogyny baked into the novels, especially the latter three of the original six and the notes Frank Herbert left for the subsequent story developments he never got around to writing. @thomdunn describes it as Freudian issues with women, and that’s honestly one of the better pithy takes I’ve seen. I love me some Dune, and because I love the universe (never in spite of it), I don’t want criticism to shy away from its many deeply problematic facets, just as I wouldn’t want critics to coddle me if I were so talented and fortunate as to write something seminal.

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