Last week for Monday Mayhem, I wrote Why I Like Zombies. I detailed how I enjoy watching a movie or reading a book where the undead are unrelenting with capturing their prey. I also drew a connection between those dastardly demons and their representation of humanity’s search for everlasting life. Lastly, I wrote about how they are metaphoric depictions of a writer’s overactive imagination—specifically, my overactive imagination.
This week, I want to talk about the reasons I like aliens.
Unlike zombies, who have a distinct set of rules dictating behavior, biological makeup and life expectancy, aliens have none of that. In fact, alien folklore is so open-ended that anyone can make up anything about these characters and still call them aliens. I like that aspect of the extraterrestrials. Spider-Man 3 had an interesting take on aliens. If you haven’t seen it, it had to do with an organism that has the ability to amplify the negative traits in a person, thereby rendering them evil. It’s quite a fascinating twist of the ordinary alien subplot you see in many other films because in this case, the alien does not have a fixed appearance.
On the other hand, I also like aliens because of the exact opposite of what I just wrote. In some circles, aliens have a concrete mythology based on the crash landing of an alleged spacecraft in 1947 Roswell, New Mexico. The UFO supposedly contained aliens the U.S. government, to this day, conspired to suppress detailed information. This incident sparked multiple theories of the government’s involvement with other planetary life forms. These theories created the legends of little green men from mars all the way to Area 51’s complicity to housing alien ships for technological studies.
I like the fact that some of my favorite movies have aliens in them as well. Movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Men in Black, and Paul feature them in prominent roles as visitors from another planet. What’s not to like of cuddly creatures aiming to take over earth?
Much like zombies, aliens also have an allegorical value to them. In the 1950’s, society’s biggest enemy was communism. Naturally, what did Hollywood do? Of course, they produced Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a film about people taken over by aliens. The commentary came when America was in the midst of McCarthyism—a time when anti-communist sentiment was at its height. It’s that allegory that attracts me to aliens the most. Aliens can symbolize any hot-topic issue thinly disguised as entertainment. They can come to embody social non-conformity matters, oppressive governments or even control-centric cults. The possibilities are endless.
But you know what? I also like aliens because they make incredible splatter patterns when shot.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
Do you like aliens? What do you like them? What other alien legends haven’t I covered?
21 thoughts on “Why I Like Aliens”
I really like alien flicks too! Paul is a great one!!!!
Paul is the cousin of Roger the alien from ” American Dad “. 🙂
Ender’s Game! Amazing book…love love love it!!! Avatar is probably my favorite alien movie. The Host is another good alien book, but a terrible movie!!
Great post: the idea of the alien as carrying water for a writer/director’s political bent. And some cool references I’ll have to add to my “Must See” list.
I’ve always been partial to aliens as embodying the archetype of The Magician; faced with power so advanced and inscrutable (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke), we as a species are made to feel absolutely vulnerable to a superior will.
Stories told in this vein work on the old idea that we must “give” something in order to placate the magician/god/universe, which for some reason hates us, and would otherwise single us out for extermination. (See The Old Testament and the many instances of sacrifice, both human and animal therein.)
In these instances the writer/director is playing on our species’ eternal insecurity: Do we even deserve to be here?
So, in movies such as “War of the Worlds” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” the idea is that we’re only to be redeemed (if at all) at a very steep price: in the former case, the untold millions of deaths in the preceding eons that have gone into making up our biological heredity; in the latter, our capacity to transcend the very psychological makeup that defines us.
You’re right, though: Ultimately they serve, like most movie villains, as a mirror we hold up to ourselves.
(Personally, my favorite alien “type” comes from the movie “Fire in the Sky.” They don’t want anything from us, anymore than a biologist wants the specimen he dissects; it’s just the study of an inferior life-form. Nothing personal. Absolutely terrifying!)
I enjoyed Avatar, although I think it is a remake of Dances With Wolves. To me, one of the most political of the 50s S-F films has always been Them (discounting some of the really obvious exploitation films like the 1952 Red Planet Mars), although those were not aliens, just giant insects. But, wow, what a right wing film. (Especially notable: the scene with Fess Parker, when James Arness tells him the government will decide when he’s sane again.)
On television, I think the best story I’ve seen that involves aliens is the Torchwood: Children Of Earth miniseries. Nasty motives there.
Jack is right; these are really Rorshach tests for is and they allow us to project our own motives onto them and have fun at the same time. It can’t miss!
I love MIB. 😉 I’m never catching those political innuendos in movies though. When I sit down for a movie I am attempting to disconnect, so I love the whole Alien movie theme for the exploration of the unreal, the unknown, and the potential for scaring the crap out of myself and jumping off the couch! 😀
Political innuendos. That’s why I haven’t watched ” AVATAR ” all the way through yet. Imperial Earth people vs. peaceful extra – terrestrials.
AAAAAh yes the Avatar movie, yea I caught that one. Not my fav.
I got the Directors Cut one Christmas. I heard so much negative press & reviews that it SPOILED it for me. Made it impossible to view it sans bias.
Aliens are certainly interesting. Though you don’t see many of them these days unless you count Transformers. It does feel like they are routinely put in the role of conquering villain too. Paul and E.T. seem to be rarities. I’d like to see a movie where you have a good moral variety of aliens like Star Trek and Star Wars. Only without a franchise behind it.
Also, don’t forget The Blob.
A good moral variety of alien – Klaatu in the original CLASSIC ” The Day The Earth Stood Still “..
Or the original Time Lords in classic ” Doctor Who ” ( I just came away from a week of binge – watching it on BBC America leading up to the new Doctor ).
And there’s the Nav’i from ” Avatar ” – An allegory of exploitative white colonial Europeans vs. peaceful natives in the Americas, Pacific Islanders, Africans, Asian Indians / SE Asians, Australian aborigines, etc. where terrestrial humans are the big bad guys.
I forgot about Doctor Who, but I’ve only caught episodes here and there. I think the addition of time traveling makes me forget that he’s also an alien.
What about Battle for Terra? That’s very similar to Avatar/Fern Gully. 🙂
Never seen ” Battle for Terra “. Rings no bells.
The Mor – Tax / ” Martians ” in the series version of ” War of the Worlds “. For some reason, everybody FORGETS the alien invasion in the movie, the bodies are stored on military bases in drums alongside RADIOACTIVE WASTE. The waste drums ae damaged, the waste leaks onto the drums containing the alien bodies ( Not dead, but merely hibernating ) & they ” resurrect ” to take over human hosts & resume their plans in the late 80s.
Battle for Terra is a 2007 animated movie where humans are trying to colonize a world of peaceful aliens. A war made Earth, Mars, and Venus uninhabitable, so the surviving humans are looking for a new home.
Never knew about the War of the Worlds series. Probably look that up when I get a chance.
War of the Worlds – The Series was good, but it could get unneccesarily gory. The Mor – Tax / ” Martians ” would dissolve their host bodies after leaving them. & the radiation that ” resurrected ” them also made them look like zombies.
John Colicos ( Kor from original Trek & ” Baltar ” from original Battlestar Galactica ) played a human / Mor – Tax hybrid who developed an immunity to terrestrial bacteria that killed his comrades.
How old is the series? Though unnecessary gore was kind of a new thing. Honestly, I spent most of my youth watching comedies and action movies. Science fiction didn’t go further than Star Wars and Star Trek for a while. I do remember Alien Nation back in the day.
Alien Nation & War of the Worlds are both from the middle late 1980’s. I liked Alien Nation because the Newcomers were the ultimate refugees.
I feel like ALF should be mentioned too. 🙂
Or ” Roger ” from ” American Dad “. He always cracks me up !
Good one. Prefer him to Brian lately.
Brian – Knee – Jerk Liberal d*****.
Roger – Selfish, self – centered, alcoholic, funny commentator on human culture. 🙂 ET’s ne’er do well cousin.