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Chaos Walking's Author Touches On How Trans People Fit Into His Sci-Fi World - Exclusive

Science fiction, as a genre, is rarely solely about aliens, the future, or unobtainable technology — it's also about the world we're living in right now. In fact, you could probably argue that science fiction is never purely about the trappings. Black Mirror, for instance, is jokingly referred to as "what if phones but too much," precisely because we already use our phones too much. District 9 isn't actually about an alien invasion so much as it's about how we oppress people of different cultures. And similarly, there's Chaos Walking – the latest film starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley – which may be about a newly colonized world, but it's not really about a newly colonized world. 

In Chaos Walking, the most notable feature of the new planet that humans have come to call home is the very powerful psychic impact it has on all the men who live there. Every thought a man has on this planet is broadcast, sometimes audibly and sometimes visually, for all to see. Just as notably, the planet does not have this impact on women.

And while it's interesting to use this science fiction device to explore the way we socialize men and women (and to explore how that shapes the interactions between men and women), it does suggest a gender binary that, in real life, simply does not exist. Humans don't exist in two gender buckets, we function across a spectrum — there are trans people, non-binary people, peoples with XXY chromosomes, and people with an near infinite variety of differing primary and secondary sexual characteristics.

So, if we were to apply the actual diversity of the human race to Chaos Walking's concept, what happens? Looper sat down with Chaos Walking author and screenwriter Patrick Ness to answer this big question, and here's what he said.

The nuance of noise in Chaos Walking

In Chaos Walking, there's already some nuance in regard to how thoughts (referred to as "noise") are perceived. For example, while Todd Hewitt's (Tom Holland) thoughts are almost completely visible to the world, the Mayor's (Mads Mikkelsen) thoughts are almost entirely silent. 

Patrick Ness told Looper that he feels these things would be even more on a spectrum, if trans people were introduced into the story.

"I believe that transgender men are men and I believe that transgender women are women," says Ness. "So I think that in a world with noise, the noise would be a help with that. The noise would be a suggestion of that. You would think, 'Ah, there's a spectrum here.' And I think people's noise will be louder or quieter or they might have different colors and might have different ways of controlling it. I think it would just be because gender identity is, I believe, intrinsic, then it would be reflected in your noise. And I'm not just saying that as a stereotypically 2021 woke response, I genuinely think it would be interesting. And I wish that I had known as much as I do now back then. I think it would have been super, super interesting to come across somebody whose noise did not fit the pattern that Todd thinks that it does."

What an interesting proposition: For noise in Chaos Walking to go from being something that challenges someone's life, to acting as a validation of gender identity. That would be as if a trans woman was chosen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer — it would come with challenges, but would act as an acknowledgment that trans identity is as valid as cisgender identity.

Chaos Walking is available now across multiple PVOD streaming platforms.