The Terror and the legacy of Empire

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– The Terror _ Season 1, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: AMC

Exploration: Then and Now

There is nothing inherently evil about the desire to explore the world around us; it’s arguably one of humanity’s better qualities. But to present that impulse uncritically, given its real consequences, is to erase a part of history which is just as important today as it was in 1845. Just look at Star Trek. It may take place in an idealistic future, but those explorers are bound by codes like the Prime Directive. They explicitly acknowledge the damage that explorers can unwittingly do to new cultures simply by interacting with them. If we’re going to consume and enjoy narratives of exploration as they happened in our actual history, that understanding and self-awareness is even more important.

The impact of colonialism is not over. We can’t afford to just wave our hands, say ‘man, that sucked!’ and keep regurgitating the same narratives which glorify genocide. Or, perhaps even worse, to wring our hands and ban the mention of that history at all, lest it be “problematic” — and in so doing, erase that history entirely.

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That’s why it’s crucially important to see fiction explore these themes the right way — and The Terror sticks the landing. It explores the ways in which the colonialist mentality hurts everyone involved — the native people deprived of their resources, and the explorers driven to their deaths by harmful cultural ideals. No one wins — that’s what makes the story as much a tragedy as the real-life history is.