Have you noticed the slew of alien movies that have been hitting the big screen? From Skyline to Battle: LA, from Paul to Super 8—it’s an invasion…of a sort, anyway. Personally, I have my fingers crossed, hoping that J. J. Abrams’ latest, Super 8, will deliver on the old school sci-fi goods its trailer seems to promise. What I find most compelling about the film’s premise is how it draws heavily on classic conspiracy theory mythology–conspiracy theories are right up my alley.
But of course they are–I’m a recovered conspiracy theorist. It started with the September 11th attacks (Bush did it), then moved to brain washing and mind control (we’re all subservient drones), and then ended with pharmaceutical companies (they’re killing us). I flirted with other, less well known conspiracy theories, and, for a time, they amused me too. But only for awhile.
I lost interest in conspiracies because they were no longer fun for me. My exploration of all things top secret always had more to do with my lifelong fascination with the surreal, the fantastic, and the unknown than it did with anything remotely altruistic.
I’ve always been a daydreamer. Films, novels, and short stories were (and still are) a constant companion of mine. What I could imagine as a child was always more palatable than what was real and in front of me, for the world that I created was often far more fascinating than the one in which I lived.
It’s no surprise then that I was drawn to conspiracy culture. Any film or novel about aliens, government cover-ups, and the like had always pulled at my curiosity. The mere possibility that such things could be true was wonderfully intoxicating–frightening, yes, but intoxicating nonetheless.
And that’s the problem with the world of conspiracies: while some of it may be founded on fact, a good deal of it is mere imagination–no more than wishful thinking couched in fantasy. It exists much like the world of fiction, both engrossing and surreal, but doesn’t carry with it the latter’s title of make-believe. And encouraging these kinds of fantasies can have real life consequences.
So when I see a trailer for a film like Super 8 or even for a film like Paul, I do look forward to watching it. But, at the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder if these movies (as a cultural force, as opposed to a single film) are distorting our views of society, community, and government. How are they shaping the way we interact with each other (as individuals, communities, and nations)?
Of course, the same can be asked of all films, of all pop culture, really. What we read, view, and listen to influences the kind of people we are—that’s undeniable. But with conspiracy culture, we are encouraged to become distrustful and suspicious, sometimes even fearful.
These days, with the oversaturation of literally every corner of the pop culture world, that level of influence may be small. But it worries me nonetheless—I don’t trust it.
But maybe that’s just the conspiracy theorist in me.
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.