Blog Directory CineVerse: Close encounters of the entertainment kind: Media make believe

Close encounters of the entertainment kind: Media make believe

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

by Erik J. Martin

(Note: This is part 2 of a 4-part series that will continue next week.)

Psychologically speaking, why is it that we are so intrigued by aliens and their craft, especially considering we have no proof of life beyond this planet? Dr. James E. Gunn, Emeritus Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, has his own theories.

“I have the feeling that the ready acceptance over the years of flying saucers and the aliens they involved was a kind of replacement of religion,” says Dr. Gunn. “If God is dead, as some theologians claimed, then we had to look elsewhere for some kind of superior creatures that might save or damn us.”

The notion espoused in popular science fiction that aliens might covet our planet or our women or our bodies is an old one, says Dr. Gunn. “It makes good fiction, but it isn't logical. In fact, it isn't rational that aliens would ever come to our solar system or our planet. The distances are simply too great to make such a trip practical, even if it is practicable. But we like to speculate about such matters because it is a great burden to imagine that we are the only intelligent creatures in the universe, and on our shoulders is the responsibility for understanding it and making our existence matter.”

Believing in UFOs and aliens has a lot to do with our openness to identifying reality and asking the simple question, ‘What is real?’” says Patricia Baker, a psychotherapist and sociologist who has investigated UFO cases and worked with people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. “To think that there is life out there on other worlds is a sign of our culture’s intelligence. It’s also a reflection of our yearning for ‘wholeness,’ the feeling that something—call it a higher purpose or a deeper connection to explain the mysteries of life--is missing in our lives, something bigger than ourselves.”

Baker asserts that the media has the power to influence our image of and beliefs about aliens, and it certainly makes a lot of money off of our enjoyment of sci-fi. “But the consciousness of our culture has created the media’s obsession with science fiction entertainment. Once the media gives us a quality, credible program like 'The X-Files', the public responds and interest in extraterrestrials and making contact with them grows all the more. But the interest was there long before those savvy TV and film creatives introduced their sci-fi products.”

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