Monday, October 20, 2008

Analysis: The Day the Earth Stood Still & Forbidden Planet

We are the scariest monsters.

Two science fiction movies from the 1950s act as a poignant reminder that people (and the technology we create) are the scariest monsters. The Cold War provided the backdrop for painting the portrait of the human monster. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) carried a disarmament message that I'm not sure the world's nuclear powers have taken heed even in 2008. People may "watch the skies" but the weapons mankind has constructed are far more frightening than a flying saucer. This film is a reminder that their is a gulf between being able to do something (e.g., create atomic bombs) and the wisdom recquired to use that ability.

MGM's Forbidden Planet (1956) made some very serious statements about the danger that lurks in humankind's subconscious mind. Produced at a time when the Soviets and Americans were developing technology at an alarming rate (especially weapons)--the parallels between Altair-4's history and Earth's present were quite vivid. The society on Altair-4 destroyed in a single day? I remember playground discussions about how nuclear weapons could, almost instantly, destroy all life on earth.

These two movies tried to show us that the real beast was lurking right here, on this planet, across the globe, across the street, and in our own minds. Have we, since the Cold War, become less monstrous and more human--less able to destroy each other and more likely to cooporate?

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