Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Paul, a Love Letter to Science Fiction Fandom and a Commentary on American Culture

Tonight, I finally got to see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Paul, a science fiction-road trip-comedy film that was released in theaters earlier this year. It is about two English science fiction fans, one is a semi-pro writer and the other an artist, who trek to America to visit the southwestern UFO sites like Roswell and Area 51 following San Diego ComicCon. Along the way, they meet a pleasant alien fellow named Paul, who enlists them on his mission to return home. There are jokes a-plenty for those in the know, and you know who you are. For those not in the know, Paul is a sort of science fiction, road tripmovie, and I suppose it isn’t a coincidence that Rogen provides the voice for Paul.

The film also provides a lot of commentary on American culture–especially the dichotomy between science and religion, liberalism and conservatism. It isn’t too transparent that Ruth, who we first encounter as blind in one eye and wearing a t-shirt of Jesus shooting Charles Darwin in the head–representing her hyper-religiosity, has her eyes opened by Paul, who uses his evolved power of healing to give her sight in both eyes. However, her shift in world view concomitant with Paul’s healing touch swings her into the diametrically opposed position of a kind of hyper-liberalism that involves lots of inventive cursing.

Another thought occurs to me: It is interesting that science fiction fandom films like Fanboys and Paul are road trip movies, too. Space opera is also a kind of road trip movie. What other science fiction films are also road trips? I will have to think about this more tomorrow.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.