The Aliens of 2009 by Alan Steinfeld
An Overview our Cinematic Encounters and What our
Subconscious say about our Readiness for Contact.
If you were keeping track of the Alien/Human interaction
in the past movie going year, you would say the score was:
Extra-terrestrials -3; Terrestrials -0; meaning that humans
have ended up on the losing side in 3 out of 3 of its past
encounters with other worldly creatures.
For instance: In District 9 (D9) this fairly successful film
from South African, the aliens are forced to live in segregated
ghettos (apartheid hint) in order not to mix with the human
population. Not that you couldn’t tell the difference between
these grotesque looking 8 foot tall shrimp beings, un-affectionately
called Prawns, from the local human population. As their segregation
worsens the alien commander outsmarts the humans, rebuilds their
marooned mother ship and takes it back to their home planet. Aliens
win. Be prepared for an invasion in upcoming sequels.
The Fourth Kind (4K) was a mute effort that came,
stared us in the face for second and left in a flash like real aliens tend
to do. What is most frightening in this horror-sci-fi genre flick is
that the aliens infiltrated the minds of the inhabitants of the small
Alaskan town of Nome leaving the fragile humans psyche with
experiences too horrifying to talk about. And for the relief of the
filmmakers - too awful to depict. The main character says some
where in the film: “How can we remember what we are forced to
Plot-wise the failure of the film is that we never quite know
why They are here or what They want. Suffice it to say they
overrun our minds and torment us. Oo-ha! In reality,
(if abductionsare a reality), many abductees,
although severely freaked-out, have been able to recall
and integratedthese very traumatic psychological
experiences. Nevertheless with these particular
mental situationsthere is no way to cope.
Despite some great acting performances
in this pseudo-documentary film, the aliens come
up winners witheach encounter people dropping off
faster than flies.
Speaking of flies brings us the lush tropical land of Avatar (Av).
This oversized, over-budgeted, overly indulgent James Cameron
picture is likely to be the biggest hit of all time. Here humans are
the aliens, as we invade the peaceful planet of Pandora. “This is a
world,” wrote Manohla Dargis of the NY Times reviewer,“that looks
as if it had been created by someone who’s watched a lot of Jacques
Cousteau television… On the face of it there might seem something
absurd about a movie that asks you to thrill to a natural world made
almost entirely out of zeroes and ones (and that feeds you an
anti-corporate line in a corporately financed entertainment)”[ii]
Another obvious contradiction is, that a film costing close to
$300 million preaching of anti- corporate sentiment and a
return to the simplicity of life. If only Mr. Titanic would
follow his own advise. Instead he gives himself a little slap
on the tush, while this mega block buster production illustrate in
detail how the meglomanic Earthlings are over running the lives,
the traditions and the natural environment of the indigenousness
population, “the Na'vi.”
These spiritually based natives are understandably restless,
being psychicly connected to all the living creatures of their world.
As the forces of the Pandorian nature unite, The Na’vi are victorious
- the cavalry retreats, the military occupation ends and the exploiting
corporations pack it. In other words, the terrorizing , insensitive
terrestrials lose (sorry if that is a spoiler for late comers) are thrown
out of paradise and are forced to return to their dying plant.
The one (Cameron implies) was already been done-in by its greedy
If I was more patriotic, I would be offended by the depiction of
sinister US Marines who are there to defend the indulges of power
hunger big business interests. And if I was more of a terrestrialist,
I would be insulted by the fact that the Na'vi, seem to be way more
spiritually connected to their beautiful world than we human are to
our home plant. But thankfully I am not much of either.
I was offended, however, by the fact that in this lush 3D cinematic
landscape Cameron could not break out of the old narrative of war,
death and destruction. His vision of the future and inter-species
relationships is still very 20th century. There was no acceptance of
“the other”, physically emotionally or spiritually. (In part two I
will go into the subconscious validation of “the Other “ as a way
of transforming our own attitudes.) For now movie-goers are
only provided with an escape from the chaos of this planet.
But this immersion into the other realities may have gone
too far for some. CNN reports that “some fans of Avatar say
they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after
seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien
world Pandora. [iii] On the Avatar Forum site a topic thread entitled
“Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being
intangible,” has received more than 1,000 posts from people
experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope.[iv]
The one thing that we thank Cameron for is reiterating the
message of the native American spiritual leader Chief Seattle
and his now famous saying: “All things are connected like the
blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life,
he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web,
he does to himself.”[v]
My disappointment and hope for movies like these - is that if such
an idea as “contact” is to happen then we need to show greater
leaps of the imagination. The best way aliens and human can
connect is through the vehicle of consciousness, in the approach
that films like Contact (1997), Starman (1984) and ET (1982) depict.
As breathtaking as it is to witness fabricate aliens and their worlds,
perhaps one day that kind of creativity can help us go beyond our
self imposed the fear, hostility and domination and provide fresh
strategies for peace, cooperation and educational engagements
between humans and humans. Real science fiction would be to
embrace new realities of engagement for higher levels of consciousness.
I believe that whoever the aliens are, they have stories that
we have yet to dream and will provide potentials for ourselves
we have yet to tap.
Writer Whitely Strieber, who feels he has had actual encounters
with little gray beings, says: “the grays are just radically different
from us. I mean, incredibly different. Unimaginably different.
It's not that they are more intelligent, I don't think, but that they
have had the level of mind that we are just beginning to touch
on for a very long time, as a result of which they see reality
quite differently.” [vi]
All we have really seen in our staged creations of 2009 were
simple trapping of our conscious minds. On the other hand these
films have something to say about our subconscious preparedness
of real encounters.
Coming Parts 2-4: Alien Comparisons
These pictures say more about our own self image than
anything that could be “out there”. If we take the Jungian
notion that movies are the dreams of the masses, then these
films reveal shifting attitudes about our collective psychological
relationship towards the alien other. Sociologically speaking
there are three outstanding elements of comparison that we can observe
in these particular fictions.
To be continued….
Each of the following parts talk about different levels
of our relationship to the alien other. These points talk
on different levels of awareness and bring forth 3 questions
that demand large shifts cognitively in our individual and collective psyche.
Part 2: Physiologically humans are not the superior race.
Question: What is sentience?
Part 3: Perceptually each films’ cinematic style
suggests a new realism.
Question: Are we ready for Contact?
Part 4: Socioloigaclly the films talk about a
merging of terrestrial the extraterrestrial on the
physical, emotional and mental levels.
Question: What is it to become “the Other” ?
[i] J. Allen Hynek, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, 1972.
[ii] Manohla Dargis, A New Eden, Both Cosmic and Cinematic, NY Times, Published: Dec. 18, 2009, movies.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/movies/18avatar.html
[iii] Jo Piazza, Special to CNN Entertainment, Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues, January 11, 2010 www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/11/avatar.movie.blues/index.html
[iv] Jo Piazza, Special to CNN Entertainment, Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues, January 11, 2010 www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/11/avatar.movie.blues/index.html
[v] Chief Seattle's Letter to all People, www.barefootsworld.net/seattle.html [vi] Whitely Strieber’s Journal, Unknown Country, My Greatest Fear Wednesday December 30th, 2009, www.unknowncountry.com/journal