Monster Sundays are back! What better way to start than with atheists and aliens?
OK, so here it is Sunday morning and I haven’t written about monsters yet. I just went out to breakfast with Mr. Writerdd, so the monster post is a little late. Today I want to write about atheists and aliens in movies. Depending on who you ask, either of these groups may be considered to be monsters, although I think the characterization is unfair in both cases.
In most films about creatures from other planets, the aliens are hostile beings hell bent on taking over the earth in one way or another. Of course, if we humans had spaceships and were traveling the galaxy, we would probably be looking for planets to inhabit and, based on what we’ve done (and are still doing) on our own planet, it’s pretty obvious that we are projecting our own tendencies to violence, genocide, and colonization onto the poor, innocent aliens. If they’ve lived long enough as a species to develop the technology to explore the galaxy, perhaps that means they are more peaceful and less prone to killing every stranger they see than we humans have been over the past centuries. I really would hate to imagine that we represent the best and most noble life form in the universe. How sad would that be? Yes, I am a misanthrope. I sometimes look forward to the day when human beings go extinct and other species have a chance to reclaim planet Earth. Would they be any better than we’ve been? Nature is red in tooth and claw, so perhaps our violent tendencies are simply artifacts of evolution. If so, could things be any different elsewhere? Does “survival of the fittest” have to lead to a culture of violence and conquest? Is it possible to outgrow these tendencies through cultural evolution? I certainly hope so. I would rather live in a Star Trek future than a Firefly future. I hope there are aliens like ET.
To many Americans, atheists may as well be creatures from other planets. We often seem to be as different from beleivers as ET, Yoda, and Jar Jar Binks are from humans. I often compare skeptics to Vulcans myself. While there are atheists in many TV shows and movies — from House to Fire Fly to Contact — most are curmudgeonly at best. Many are people who have faced so much disaster and tragedy in their lives, that they are no longer able to believe so they become nihilists. Many atheist characters also tend to “come to their senses” and “see the light” and turn to God in the end.
Apparently it takes a B movie to feature an atheist as a polite, compassionate, caring person who doesn’t turn to religion at the end of the flick. Last week Mr. Writerdd and I watched a 2001 Creature Feature called The Day The World Ended. In this film, a child psychologist from New York moves to a small town in an unspecified but redneck area of the United States. As she drives into town, she is stopped by the sheriff, who notices her bumper sticker. It is a Darwin Fish eating a WWJD fish. This is the only comment about the woman’s lack of belief in the whole movie, and you can miss it if you look down to grab a handful of popcorn, but it’s an important part of the film, setting the stage for the whole town to automatically dislike this big-city atheist who invades their cozy village with her uppity New York ideas.
Classic plot. But it turns out that the atheist shrink is really the only compassionate person in the whole film. In the end, she discovers the dirty little secret of the pious townsfolk, and drives away back to New York. Throughout the film she is the only person who actually cares about the boy who is the center of the main mystery of the film, and she treats him like a real person, not like a freak of nature or a reject. The atheism of the protagonist in this film was quite subtle, but it was also positive. I’d like to see more of this in feature films.