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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

A Very Primitive Species

Jeff Bridges is an amazing actor. He was robbed of an Oscar for Starman (1984), in which he plays an alien who clones Karen Allen’s dead husband and leads her on a three-day road trip from Wisconsin to Arizona to meet his spaceship at the bottom of a crater. I know it sounds nutty, but it’s actually a really romantic and thought-provoking movie. For example:


Starman: Dead deer? Why?
Jenny: People hunt them, to eat, for food.
Starman: Do deer eat people?
Jenny: No.
Starman: Do people eat people?
Jenny: No, no, of course not. What do you think we are?
Starman: I think you are a very primitive species.

Starman later brings the deer back to life, and the jerk hunter you see in the background (no, he really is a jerk) rounds up a bunch of cronies and they all try to beat him up.

Watching this scene reminded me of a little thought experiment I come back to every now and again. We are at the top of the food chain, yes? But what if we weren’t? What if some aliens touched down and announced that we were to be, wink wink nudge nudge, the guests of honor at their spaceship dinner party? They’d only be using the same rationale that we’re using now.

Hold up a second, someone might say to me. WE are a SENTIENT species.

Sentient—yeah, okay, so we’re sentient. Which means we ought to know better. Who’s to say an animal suffers any less than we would, if we were put in the same position?


While we’re on the subject, yesterday morning the wonderful vegan cookbook author/podcaster Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was interviewed on KQED (California public radio), and she tackled a lot of common questions and concerns people have about veganism and vegan nutrition; you can listen to the archived program here.


Okay, I have to come clean on one point. In the movie, Starman does eat a hamburger. [EDIT, 2018: I misremembered! Rewatched this movie recently and it’s Karen Allen eating the hamburger. Starman just eats a lot of pie.]

1 Comment to A Very Primitive Species

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    March 15, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I have heard good things about Starman. I really should see it one of these days.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.