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The Alien Invasion Trend

The Culture Industry, which usually lacks significant imagination, is releasing, almost simultaneously, numerous alien visitation and invasion films.  I always wonder, whenever I see almost identical films released at the same time, what sort of ideologies or fears the mainstream film industry is expressing or promoting.  What sort of capitalist fears are we witnessing?

First of all, and already in the theatres, there is Skyline:

Reminds me of a better scripted, flashier, cooler version of the 1990s Independence Day.  Remember Independence Day?  You know, the one that was named after the colonial holiday and cleverly short-handed as ID4 to remind people when to see the movie and celebrate their patriotism?  The one where Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, working under the direction of President Bill Pullman, saved America and therefore saved the world?  The one that reminded us of why we should always hate that which we cannot explain, always suspect aliens, and that in the fight against alien invasion the Americans, because they just understand freedom instinctively, would liberate the world?

Well this one might prove to be a little better, though I'm sure the message will be the same.  Note how the aliens infect and racialize people.  The ideology of the invaders (terrorists? Islamicists? the shadow left in America that the Glenn Becks think are running everything like the hidden hand of masonry?) will "infect" you, racialize you, make you the enemy.  Or fear of immigration, the country corrupted by the alien who is really here to destroy the nation.

Then there is Battle: Los Angeles which looks like it will be, aside from a significant difference in style, pretty much the same as Skyline:

This one might be promoting anti-immigrant ideology considering that it is based in Los Angeles, recognized centre of migrant labour.  It also looks like an advertisement for the heroic sacrifices of the U.S. Military.  Very apocalyptic.

Not to be outdone, and maybe in defiance of American anti-immigrant invasion films, Mexico has submitted their own take on the genre:

Aside from the fact that the beginning of the trailer reminds me of the beginning of Star Trek, Seres Genesis is a rather strange alien film.  Aliens meet Catholicism meet ancient Mayan/Aztec mythology.  And considering that the Mexican government has been dealing with indigenous Mayan insurgency for years, it seems appropriate that they would make a film about how the Mayans are really alien invaders.  (It's always interesting how the "ancient Mayans must have been aliens because they were too primitive to figure out complex math and build pyramids" myth is recycled over and over by alien conspiracy theorists.)

I think the best invasion film, however, will be this one:

Yes!  Cowboys and Aliens!!  Together at last.  This is the sort of film I would have wanted to see in grade six to eight.  Cowboys fighting aliens?  Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford?  The fact that they even dared to call this film Cowboys and Aliens demonstrates how awesome it's going to be.

So aliens invade the Old West.  Now here is the fear of invasion, of pollution of the American body politic, placed right where it matters: in one of the founding mythological spaces of America.  The romanticized frontiers, the hollywood cowboy land that was really the site of westward expansion and colonial/genocidal consummation.  But never fear!  They weren't killing indigenous people––they were killing aliens.

I have a friend who was once interested in doing his academic work on how the alien invasion UFO films of the late 1940s, 50s, and 60s were really expressions of a fear of communism.  The fear of an alien ideology destroying capitalist society––is that being expressed again, in these films?  And if so, just what ideology is being ufo-ized?  At least the fear of communism was an expression of a fear of something that actually threatened capitalism, no matter how briefly it lasted and terribly it failed.  Now the fears expressed in these films seem confused, misdirected, unfocused.


  1. Cowboys and Aliens... Amazing. It is on my list of "must see". Speaking of Will Smith movies, this movie reminds me of Wild Wild West. Though obviously it will be better because of the aliens.

    Obviously alien films are nothing new, but they do seem to be appearing with great frequency. I wonder if it really is as simple as expressing anti-immigrant sentiments. I would say yes.

    But the best (or worst) anti-immigrant movie that comes to mind off the top of my head is Constantine, starring the ever-so-versatile Keanu Reeves (I am of course being facetious). SPOILER ALERT - towards the end of the film, Reeves blasts a bunch of "demons" (who all appear to be people of colour) and shouts "You're being deported!" It doesn't get much more obvious than that!

  2. Oh yeah, I forgot about that one-liner at the end of Constantine. That movie was disappointing on multiple levels. The biggest disappointment for me was that it was based on the comic "John Constantine: Hellblazer" which was one of the great vertigo adult comic lines. It was also quite lefty (or at least anti-Thatcher since that was the time he appeared) and more contemplative than action-jackson-americana. (The fact that they even made John Constantine american rather than a brit.)

    And no, I'm not sure if all of these films are simply anti-immigrant as my rather strident post implies. They're probably more ideologically complex than that. Probably: you never know with Hollywood. And who knows, maybe Cowboys and Aliens is actually progressive.... aha ha.

  3. OK a little late here (just found your blog).. the TV Show "V" also deserves a mention.

    But what is REALLY missing here is the connection to David Icke and Glenn Beck. David Icke is HUGE. He argues that reptilian aliens are the NWO, literally. Ever heard of The Disclosure Project? He united that and every other Conspiracy Theory. Even in 2007 people who (believed they) had Biochip Implants congregated on the National Mall (they've since been studied in the ivory tower).

    Now Glenn Beck doesn't cite David Icke, or at least I haven't seen him do so. But Icke does Beck, continuously. They reinforce each other. The argument that Beck is leaving Fox because he is getting MORE powerful makes some sense (new media, etc).

    As for what fear is being ufo-ized? Fear of the future. These are times of "racial and economic turmoil" (wikipedia:Glenn Beck) that Beck et al are capitalizing on.

  4. Great comment. Obviously I was only blogging, here, about the sudden whack of alien invasion movies that the culture industry was cranking out... The connection to right-wing reptilian alien conspiracy theories, especially The Disclosure Project, is an excellent point.

    The new "V" is also a good mention. Which is sad considering that the old "V" had some progressive elements.


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