The US administration is now acknowledging the existence of extraterrestrial craft. For decades, the creator of “The X-Files” has been anticipating this day. In a phone interview this week, Chris Carter said, Pop Culture Set The Stage “It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time, so to see it hit the equivalent of front-page news is a thrill.”
As intelligence agencies prepare to give a report to Congress on what they termed unexplained aerial phenomena, it’s a potentially revolutionary moment for the American people. However, for artists who have long fashioned our collective understanding of enigmatic flying objects, this is an extremely strange period.
The filmmaker of all three films of the original “Men in Black” trilogy, Barry Sonnenfeld, expressed his fear of what we could learn.
Sonnenfeld’s nervousness is appropriate for a man whose book is headed “Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker.” After all, a cockroach-style invader disguises himself as a farmer in the first “Men in Black” film and goes on a murdering rampage.
The concept of UFOs landing on Earth has long been associated with “aliens” and filtered through the lens of Hollywood, for better or worse. It’s a paradigm that some designers have enthusiastically embraced, while others have sought to disrupt it intelligently.
Cold War anxiety was expressed in films like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” in the 1950s. Otherworldly visitors have wreaked havoc on Washington (“Independence Day”), New York (“The Avengers”), and other places in recent decades, which have been damaged by worldwide terrorism.
“The X-Files” went much farther, picturing both paranormal events and a massive government cover-up to keep the truth about alien life hidden.
The program, which starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents investigating strange events, was partially inspired by the “residue” of Watergate-era government suspicion, according to Carter.
It’s impossible to overstate and nail down Hollywood’s involvement in molding popular opinions on UFOs – what constitutes socially acceptable dinner party discourse, and whose tales of reported sightings are viewed seriously.
The media’s fascination with UFOs has sometimes been a double-edged sword, encouraging genuine curiosity while sensationalizing it in order to sell tickets or increase ratings.
UFO-themed entertainment may be split into essentially two groups, according to Diana Walsh Pasulka, a professor of philosophy and religion at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and author of “American Cosmic: U.F.O.s, Religion, and Technology.”
The first category includes films like “Independence Day” and other violent catastrophe epics in which “the UFO event is discovered to be destructive to mankind.” The second category includes films like Steven Spielberg’s “Close Sightings of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” in which UFO encounters take on a softly philosophical tone and alien visitors are basically good.
Hollywood has frequently stepped in to create fictitious but spiritually evocative solutions for cosmic riddles and national puzzles, such as the 1947 “Roswell incident,” according to Mark Fergus, a co-writer of the genre mashup “Cowboys & Aliens.” (NBCUniversal’s Universal Pictures co-produced and released “Cowboys & Aliens” in the United States.)
Pasulka, on the other hand, argues that some media portrayals of UFOs, as well as the government’s attempts to control national narratives, have hampered genuine research.
“A lot of people consider UFO believers are weirdos, odd, and marginal,” she explained. “How persons who believe in UFOs have been depicted in culture has had an influence on the credible, serious research of UFOs.”
In other words, popular culture has made it easier to dismiss believers as conspiratorial caricatures rather than seeing UFOs as potentially significant scientific or national security issues.
For example, the crew of former Navy pilot David Fravor’s ship utilized Hollywood shorthand to scold him the day after he sighted an unexplained “Tic-Tac-looking item” during training drills over the Pacific Ocean in 2004. On the internal television channels, they played “Men in Black,” “Signs,” and other alien invasion movies, according to Fravor.
Pasulka noted that the more traditional “scary depictions” of UFOs have tended to be more popular over time, feeding off common wants to be excited and transported. Denis Villeneuve’s contemplative drama “Arrival,” which was a financial and critical triumph when it was released in 2016, is a fascinating case study in the alternate method.
Inside a spaceship that resembles a metallic black egg, a linguist (played by Amy Adams) is charged with decoding the language used by interplanetary visitors. The film gradually uncovers its secrets, eventually revealing itself to be a metaphor for the significance of international communication in a society shaped by obstinate nationalism and knee-jerk militarism.
When the film “Arrival” was being produced in Canada in 2015, one of the producers, Aaron Ryder, believed it was “almost inevitable” that “undeniable evidence of UFOs and extraterrestrial life will one day emerge.” (Ryder was also an executive producer on “Donnie Darko,” a modern sci-fi masterpiece.)
“If anything, I’m shocked more information hasn’t come out sooner,” Ryder said this week. “I’m not sure why we haven’t demanded this information much sooner. Why is it necessary to keep evidence hidden? It’s all about the clock.”