Study Guide

2001: A Space Odyssey Manipulation

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Manipulation enjoys the infinity mirror effect in 2001: A Space Odyssey; it's just manipulation reflected in manipulation reflected in manipulation. Every character in the film uses it in some way. Our hominid ancestors manipulate the bones of a dead animal to invent weaponry, while 4 million years later Dr. Floyd manipulates news and information to hide the existence of the moon monolith. Later, our tools, as represented by HAL 9000, evolve to such a level that they begin to manipulate us; Bowman and Poole's struggle with HAL is really a battle of who can outmaneuver the other. Of course, the great irony of all this is that humanity's struggles and destiny are the result of a grander manipulation of the unseen and unknown extraterrestrials. It's manipulating turtles all the way down.

Questions About Manipulation

  1. Who would you say is the most manipulative character in the film?
  2. Who would you say is the least manipulative character and why? Compare this character to your answer above.
  3. How do people use technology to manipulate nature in the film?
  4. Why do you think the unseen extraterrestrials are manipulating humanity? Is it benevolent? Malicious?

Chew on This

HAL only begins making mistakes once he attempts to manipulate the humans.

The art of cinema is to manipulate the audience into seeing something that isn't really there. If the theme of manipulation is turtles all the way down, this makes Kubrick the head turtle.

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