Are we a culture obsessed with our own mortality? For centuries, and even millennia, man has documented, foretold, chronicled and prophesized over the end. Our art, our history, and our literature have focused on apocalyptic visions and a future leading only to Armageddon.
Hollywood blockbuster films have offered us a grand selection of doomsday imagery and storyline; as far back as the early 1950’s, screenplay writers have been recording the product of their morbid and disturbed imaginations, all for the entertainment of the masses.
In most cases it’s an easy journey from real life to the apocalyptic vision of Hollywood’s jet set, and back again; but occasionally, there comes a story that is more difficult to reconcile with our fragile sense of reality and which becomes an icon within our culture, serving to shape our own understanding of what it means to be a human in our galaxy.
One such story, which admittedly was not made into movie form until many years after its debut, is said to have sparked the global pandemic of UFOism, Orson Well’s �?War of the Worlds’. Most everyone is familiar with the basic outline of the story, both the written tale and its original telling, and since that time, the creative minds of storytellers worldwide have capitalised on the base fear that Mr. Wells accidentally preyed upon, to sell theatre tickets and concession stuffs.
Hollywood has pushed forth a plethora of fantastic and brutally grim fiction for our entertainment, all of it backed by big money and even bigger business. No one would argue that the business of making scary movies is anything but a success, but the slight of hand magic of big budget movie houses may have pulled more wool over our eyes than you think.
In recent years there seems to have been an influx of movie scripts mixing Armageddon, or near apocalyptic threat with an alien presence. Often the story line warns of an inability to control our own technology and/or progress and, whether by proxy or direct influence, we suffer confusion, attack or simple domination at the hands of an outside intelligence.
Zombie hordes brought on by genetic and chemical manipulation, alien invasion by malevolent DNA farming ET’s, and even heavy handed judgement of our ecological impact on the planet by an all powerful entity and its robotic bodyguard. From the satirical to the horrific, we’ve been inundated by every vision of doom and gloom imaginable, and yet, in this process we happily integrate these new perceptions, new ideas and new horrors into our psyche, all the while maintaining our sense of self and carrying on with our lives as if nothing could sway us from the inevitable conclusion of our existence.
Art, imitating life, imitating art; this profound statement is used in various contexts, in various collegiate settings and with varying levels of understanding, but seldom is it used to describe the potential for Hollywood to pull the wool over our eyes, while feeding us little tidbits of truth and slowly desensitising the global masses to the real inevitability.
What better machine of dissemination is there, what group of companies, financiers, unions and regulatory commissions are in a better position to influence the mindset of the population at large than the big budget apparatus of Hollywood?
If, as conspiracy theorists the world over have suggested, the governments of the worlds major powers are capable of large scale cover-up and secret endeavours of an extraterrestrial nature, all without anything more than a whisper of a conspiracy, what would stop those same controlling regimes from manipulating the content of our beliefs through the ever popular Hollywood machine?
In a matter of two generations, the horror movie genre has gone from black and white depictions of vampires and werewolves, and strange spaceships made of cardboard and bottle caps, to multi-million dollar computer generated worlds and entirely believable monsters. Generations following the X’ers and Y’ers may find themselves at the mercy of cultural manipulation, the likes of which have never been seen before.
But to what end you might ask, to which I must answer that we may never know, at least until it’s too late. Though for our part we can hypothesise, and we may actually come up with a reasonable piece of conjecture, though we must be careful to always mind that the foundations for our conclusion remain without support.
Since the days of Orson Wells, the most popular and possibly the longest lived conspiracy theory in our history, has been one of government collusion with alien technologies and even extraterrestrial beings. That old chestnut about area 51 and an alien effort to infiltrate the hierarchy of our leadership has become the foundation of nearly every paranoid and irrational fear of government control over the individual since the end of the cold war. But if we concede the possibility that the above couldbe true, then we’re faced with the idea that such a government would be obliged to desensitise its population through whatever means are possible, effective and efficient enough to succeed.
Having gotten to this point, and either jumping into this pool of wild accusation head first, or toeing the water at the shore, we all must admit that there is both a ring of familiarity to this proposal, as well as a small bit of credibility.
With a list of movie titles ranging from; Fire in the Sky, Independence Day, Men in Black (I & II), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, War of the Worlds (remake), Battlefield Earth, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Knowing; one might be drawn to ask the question…are these works of pure fiction, or are we being led down the garden path?
Some might see this as entirely implausible and even a bit delusional, while others may be lining up behind me for their Government Issue foil hat. Somewhere in between likely lies the truth, for what other global industry has the power to influence our beliefs, our ideas and our acceptance of new and even frightening circumstances, than the one we rely on for entertainment and even identity?