The other day, a few of my students were talking about that dreadful colostomy bag of a film, The Fourth Kind. Apparently some of them — including, most surprisingly, a science major, and by that I mean a student majoring in the hard sciences — had fallen for the fake “real footage.”
We (gently, mind) had a little talk about a few things:
- The cultural concentration of alien-abduction reports, which suggests that they, like sightings of ttokaebi, are manifestations of culturally-determined imagination or delusion, rather than factors in the real world. (The fact that so few alien abduction accounts originate in Korea, or Czech Republic, or India, suggests that they’re happening inside people’s heads, not outside of them.) Also, the fact that UFO and alien-abduction reports both spiked directly after entertainment media first presented these narratives in fictional form.
- The problematizing fact that alien abduction stories share so much in common with the psychological terrain of child sexual abuse — a figure impossible to resist repeatedly abducts one in the dark of night, from one’s bed, submits one to anal probing, and then returns one to one’s bed, “vanishing” and also being unreportable in the morning. In a society where it was impossible to even raise the issue a decade or two ago, it wouldn’t be surprising if some reports were simply the outpourings of people who’d been traumatized in much more, shall we say, terrestrial ways.
- The obvious riffs on extant alien-abduction “literature”, such as for example the use of memories of owls (large-eyed and somewhat ghostly-looking/sounding beings) as stand-ins for memories of aliens. This is a trope which, if it doesn’t come from earlier, exists at least as far back as horror author Whitley Strieber’s supposed true-life (but obviously fictional and con-man-ish) book Communion. This particularly shocked them. They were so disappointed to discover that the owl thing had been done before.
- The fact that the “true life” events the film claims to be based on are, well, some distance from the truth.
- The fact that, as I mentioned not long ago, The Fourth Kind rips off Erich von Däniken (who ripped off some French dudes, who ripped off H.P. Lovecraft), and Zerchariah Sitchin (who probably fits into that chain of ripoffery somehow too) in the idea that ancient religions formed when humans were still the helpless, powerless slaves of aliens who had bioengineered them from their less-sentient hominid ancestors. All that Sumerian stuff? Er… so Sitchin and soooo very HPL, via von Däniken.
- The significant difficulties involved in believing that aliens would come all the way to Earth — in all apparent likelihood (from what we know of the physical universe) apparently using energies so vast that anyone with the cleverness to harness them would likely know there are much better uses for such energy — to kidnap us, shove probes up our backsides (and perform other kinds of wacky interstellar sexual molestation), kidnap our kids and not give them back, and hang around outside our houses fucking with our heads.
But somewhere later on in the day, I stumbled across a thought that surprised me.
What’s with Spider Man’s eyes? He looks enough like those classic Grey aliens (The Greys) to certainly be considered a possible partial inspiration for their own appearance. Spider Man was created in 1962. Barney and Betty Hill’s famous and archetype-launching description of the Greys came in 1964, by which time Spidey was already a major comic book character, and probably unavoidable in America. While it’s likely, of course, that the connection made with an episode of The Outer Limits is also likely, it seems to me maybe some residual memories of Spider Man could have contributed.
And what about those eyes? Why do Spidey’s eyes extend around the sides of his head, and taper odd at a slant like they do? It’s an interesting question. Are the eyes supposed merely to be nonhuman? Are they supposed to gesture towards some sort of oriental “slanted-eye” concept? Or is it just whatever Steve Ditko came up with in the process of designing Spidey’s look? I don’t have time (or the resources, or the interest, to be honest) to research it further,but I’d be curious to hear if anyone has seen something about it.
My point, though, is that things like this take shape in really strange ways. Bitlets float around, cropping up in unexpected places and ways. Cultures are funny that way.