Day Two: Fear and Loathing in South Africa
On Monday, we explored some initial thoughts about why humans feel the need to create something other than us. It could be due to our own need for significance, or perhaps because we need to know whether or not our decisions matter, or possibly it stems from mere loneliness, but no matter what reasoning stands behind it- we all ask that question: “are we alone, or is there someone else out there?”
Alien films, of course are an exploration of this issue and others.
Of course, the answer to what “someone” else is like is up for debate, too. The aliens in ET: The Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind look and act a whole lot different than the ones in Alien, Independence Day, or the recent District 9.
Of course there are the Predator films which feature aliens who hunt humans for sport. And there’s War of the Worlds and the rest of the alien invader movies that presents grim hostiles from Mars who operate huge tripods and are bent on destroying human life to make room for their own kind. And then of course, there are films like ET where the alien is a sort of cute little brown guy who hangs out with kids.
Something that really stuck out to me about District 9 is that the film is really about apartheid and the monstrosity of humanity’s actions against those we don’t understand. On a lesser level, ET and Flight of the Navigator echo the same meme. They’re both about the fact that man has a need to dissect what we discover in order to control it and understand it.
But no matter what the film is, almost all Alien Films center on fear. Aliens represent something unknown and foreign. They represent something to be afraid of because they’re different, more powerful, problematic, violent, or such a mystery that we feel like we need to shoot first and ask questions later.
But isn’t this pretty much what we do anytime we’re in a new situation or around people that seem different or strange to us. I don’t mean to suggest that we always kill other people or dissect them when they seem different to us- but isn’t there something curious about racism and prejudice? Both of these are prime examples of how we tend to treat other people like something alien. Something different. Something Other. Even the more subtle approaches like writing off another nationality because of a language barrier or mannerisms that don’t line up with social norms are a form of what I’m talking about here.
When humans are confronted with something different than what we’re used to, we automatically assume the worst and look for ways to make ourselves more comfortable. This often means isolating ourselves from those who are different than us or deconstructing and “figuring out” their actions so that we can cut them down to size and make ourselves more powerful.
Alien films are a way for us to key in on some of these issues that we have with other human beings. And if you haven’t taken the time to check out District 9 yet- it’s a perfect film to begin thinking through our actions and how they relate to other people.
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Nathan Key likes to think about faith and philosophy and talk about it with others. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. He doesn't always refer to himself in the third person.