Nowadays, despite the development of modern technologies and an increase in the level of education of people, there are still many phenomena and theories that do not have scientific explanations. One of these theories is the idea about aliens who come to Earth from another planet using special flying devices, which are commonly referred by people as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). Having an interest in unknown, mysterious objects, Earthmen created numerous media sources such as movies, pulp magazines, and TV shows about UFOs (Callahan, 2017). In this essay, the ways and reasons why aliens are presented as subjects of fear in Hollywood films of the 1950s will be discussed. The information will be focused on the movie named The Thing from Another World.
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The Thing from Another World is an American science-fiction horror film, which was produced in 1951. The story is based on the novella Who Goes There? written by an American author, John W. Campbell, in 1938. The plot revolves around the arrival of an alien to the Earth. This humanoid is extremely dangerous as it feeds upon the blood of both people and animals. To avert the danger, scientists decided to get rid of the alien and kill it by electrical current.
According to the professor of film and media studies, Telotte (2001), all Science Fiction Films can be divided into three types, namely marvelous, fantastic, and uncanny. Marvelous movies imply “the impact of forces outside the human realm, fantastic films entail changes in society, while uncanny stories mean technological alterations and substitute versions of the self” (Telotte, 2001, p.12). Thus, the movie The Thing from Another World can be applied to the category of marvelous films, as it shows the encounters of human beings with representatives of other planets and worlds. These representatives are often presented as subjects of fears in movies, and The Thing from Another World is not an exception.
There are a number of reasons why aliens are shown as subjects of fear in the film. The first reason is that humans do not trust something if they do not have any knowledge about it or records. This uncertainty results in subconscious anxiety and the desire to protect human beings from an unknown threat (Callahan, 2017). Thus, one of the last phrases in the film encourages people to be more attentive and watch the sky in case of any suspicious activity. In general, in the context of the film, producers of The Thing from Another World demonstrate aliens as metaphors for the potential unexpected danger that comes from unknown, unexplored sources.
There are no scientifically proven facts that confirm the existence of aliens. However, if they exist, it is obvious that their civilization is more advanced than the level of human development. Thus, they are traveling from other planets overcoming hundreds of thousands of light-years, which is impossible for humankind. Moreover, they possess a number of magical features, such as the ability to convert into human form, reproduce in a short period of time, and survive in unfavorable conditions (The thing from another world 1951). Therefore, it is logical to suggest that they have technologies and abilities that are far more developed than those possessed by men. As a result, in case of confrontations, it would be hard for human beings to win over aliens. This is the second reason why aliens are presented as subjects of fear. In addition, this way of showing the weakness of human civilization may serve as a motivation for scientists who study space. Improvement of modern technologies and implementation of innovations will help to facilitate the process of space exploration and find out if there is life on other planets that might be dangerous for Earthmen.
The third reason is that, in general, filmmakers tend to create movies that would attract as many people as possible. After a long working day, people want to distract themselves and enjoy watching a fascinating movie that would allow them to forget about daily concerns and problems (Callahan, 2017). The story about friendship with aliens might be found less interesting and fascinating by the public. Hence, in order to gather as many spectators as possible, the filmmakers of The Thing from Another World created an image of fear and danger that keeps the audience in tension till the end of the movie. This fear serves as the center of narration and the main problem of the film that needs to be resolved.
To find possible ways to present humanoids as subjects of fear, producers use their knowledge about the behavior of human beings rather than humanoids. To show the invasion of aliens, the filmmakers refer to historical information that demonstrates the military and bloody nature of colonizers. Being unable to explore behavioral peculiarities of humanoids due to the absence of such data, the producers represent the alien as a colonizer, demonstrating bloody scenes and aggressive behavior. In this context, the humanoid is shown as a symbol of a bad human whose actions bring a negative impact on society. Therefore, scientists face a challenging problem when they have to invent a means to fight with the uninvited guest while it did not destroy the world.
Another way to present the humanoids as a subject of fear in the film is to show the difference between humans and aliens by describing the body structure of the humanoid. According to the film, the alien creature did not have flesh, blood, and nerve cells. Instead, it had green liquid inside its organism that reminded juice rather than blood. In addition, this creature was given the abilities that cannot be possessed by human beings. Thus, it can survive being frozen in an ice cube for a long time, cannot be killed by shooting, and is capable of quick multiplying. Therefore, this set of skills makes the alien hard to eradicate, which results in people’s fear of humanoids.
Therefore, it can be concluded that there are three reasons as to why aliens are shown as subjects of fear in the film. These reasons are the natural fear of human beings of unknown subjects, the potential danger that might come from more developed civilizations, and the desire of filmmakers to attract more spectators. The creation of the image of aliens as subjects of fear is achieved in three ways. These ways are building of the humanoid’s image based on the knowledge about humans, demonstration of physical difference between aliens and people, and empowerment of the humanoids by magical features that cannot be possessed by Earthmen. It is significant to mention that despite all the difficulties met by humans on their way to get rid of the guest, the Earthmen managed to disable the alien. The metaphorical meaning of the main ideas of the movie shows that the danger may come from unknown sources that need to be explored. It would help people to save the world from the potential collapse and provide peaceful and comfortable living conditions for all generations.
Episode 1 Astro Boy
It is not a secret that modern technologies have become an integral part of people’s lives. Experience has shown that there are no limits for the achievements of scientists as well as no boundaries for humans’ imagination and creativity. While scholars of various specializations announce the development of new technologies, those who work in media also make their contribution. Their opinions and ideas about modern inventions, as well as their positive and negative impacts on society are expressed in books, movies, or TV shows. The description of people’s lives in the future in media resources is especially popular as it can serve as an excellent educational tool. For instance, it shows the positive effects people might have if they invent a new medication or problems that can be caused by people’s thoughtless utilization of technologies. Episode 1 of Astro Boy, a Japanese TV series, is a great example of media work that shows the impact of modern technologies on society. This essay will contain the answer to the question of how the representation of the future reflects the problems of the time when Episode 1 of Astro Boy was created.
Even though the movie Astro Boy was filmed in the 1960s, it narrates the story that allegedly happened in 2000. A scientist, Dr. Tenma, loses his son, Tobio, in a car crash. Being unable to deal with the grief, he decides to create a robot that would look like his son. However, the robot does not bring happiness for Dr. Tenma, as it is not capable of growing up and have a life similar to the lives of humans. Therefore, the scientist sells it to the circus, which results in losing his job as a scientist at the Ministry of Science. His place is succeeded by Dr. Ochanomizu, who treats the robots in a completely different way than Dr. Tenma. He is a gentle and kind person who does not see androids as machines or slaves but treats them as human beings. By the end of the episode, he frees Tobio from the circus and becomes its father.
The Astro Boy TV series transfer many important ideas for society, which ensured its popularity. It is the first anime series that was translated into English in order to be broadcasted abroad (Maydia, 2015). The most distinguishing feature of the episode is the reflection of problems that existed in Japanese society in the 1960s through the representation of the future. Osamu Tezuka, a film producer, created this series in order to show people how the problems of the current time can affect people’s lives in the future. It is well known that Japan experienced remarkable economic growth in the 1960s, which is called Japan’s economic miracle (Beckley, Horiuchi and Miller, 2018). This economic boom was ensured not only by the discovery of mineral resources in the country but also by the hard work of scientists and other parts of the population. Trying to eliminate the consequences of World War II, the government of the state decided to reduce the economic gap between Japan and developed countries. As a result, the majority of the population was working hard for many hours a day, especially in manufacturing.
In his film, Tezuka used robots as a specific metaphor that implies people who work as slaves trying to rebuild their country. The state authorities treat people as machines and do not care about their needs and concerns, similarly to the way how Dr. Tenma used to treat his robots. However, when other authorities come to power, the efforts of hard-working people will be appreciated and every person will find his or her vocation. It will happen the same way as Tobio found its place next to Dr. Ochanomizu. Therefore, the producer of the film, giving the robots symbolical meaning, tried to call people’s attention to the current situation in the country. In addition, he demonstrated the consequences of the war, which resulted in the destruction of the state and the necessity to rebuild the economic situation using people’s work. Therefore, the anti-war theme is one of the most significant ideas of the series.
Another feature that reflects the significant issue that prevailed in Japan in the 1960s is the persistent desire of humans to interfere with nature. It is obvious that losing a kid is the most terrible experience that a human being might have. Nevertheless, Tezuka highlights that it does not matter how far science has progressed, people will not be able to alter the law of nature. The only outcome that scientists can get as a result of their experimentations is a disappointment, as it was in the case of Dr. Tenma. Describing the feelings of the scientist, the filmmaker transferred the idea that people are obsessed with technologies. They do not understand that there are still some things that they would not be able to deal with even in forty years.
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According to the theory of Telotte (2001) about the categorization of the Science Fiction Films, the Astro Boy can be applied to the group of fantastic movies. Fantastic movies show the “changes in society, which are wrought by science and technology” (Telotte, 2001, p. 12). However, it has been more than 50 years since the first release of Astro Boy, and today the idea of people living with androids does not seem fantastic anymore. Indeed, that is not news that the production of robots has been increasing for the last decades. People aim to use the workforce of androids in order to reduce their working days and the number of employees in manufacturing. Thus, more than 50 years prior to the events that happen nowadays, Tezuka predicted what might happen in the future.
It can be concluded that technological progress has its advantages and disadvantages. While it has been developing rapidly for the last decades, people forgot that they are not capable of changing the law of nature. There are still some things that even the smartest and most experienced scientists would not be able to deal with. Therefore, one of the problems reflected in the movie is people’s insensitivity about nature. Another problem is the willingness of the authorities to enslave people to achieve their goals by the hands of others. Also, Tezuka shows how important it is to keep the peace as it is very hard to deal with the circumstances of military actions in the future. Being a talented and creative person, Tezuka could generate a series that reflect the problems that prevailed in the 1960s in Japan. He could show what consequences people might have if they do not think about their deeds now.
Beckley, M., Horiuchi, Y. and Miller, J. (2018) ‘America’s role in the making of Japan’s economic miracle’, Journal of East Asian Studies, 18, pp. 1–21.
Callahan, T. (2017) ‘The real origin of UFO’s and aliens: how the media shaped our ideas about extraterrestrials’, Sceptic [Altadena, CA], 22(3), pp. 12–32.
Maydia, P. (2015) ‘Astro Boy and the ethics of technology’, Screen Education, 78, pp. 20–23.
Telotte, J. (2001) Science fiction film. London, UK: Cambridge University Press. The thing from another world 1951, film, Los Angeles, USA.