Saturday, February 9, 2008

Medusa's Ladder: The Cold War and Altered Minds: Recalling The UFO Device in Retro TV Episodes

Richelle Hawks looks at TV and UFOs in her Medusa's Ladder column for Binnall of America: The Cold War and Altered Minds: Recalling The UFO Device in Retro TV Episodes.

It's a good article; Richelle points out the mind set behind these television episodes that included UFOs or flying saucers:
During the Cold War, the “UFO episode” was practically a tiny archetype to be fulfilled in popular shows—inevitable and perhaps necessary somehow, a token--similar to the “beatnik” episodes of the 60s, in which the squaresville mainstream characters venture very out of place into the smoky stoned beret-laden basements of jazzhouses, or the “very special” preachy social commentary episodes of the 80s, in which a main character loses her virginity, experiments with drugs, or gets abused.

Viewing these UFO episodes of popular shows, in almost every case, a theme of “secrets” (usually military) is revealed, and personal sanity is either compromised or questioned. More generally, there is a sense of mistrust and unreliability, both intrinsic-culturally and personally. These ideas obviously reflect the Cold War mindset. It is important to note too, that in almost every case in these episodes, a mundane (opposed to magical or ‘real’) origin and solution is supplied for the featured UFO mystery.

There’s also a common thread of an induced altered state, or abnormal of mind. The characters who witness the UFOs are either mentally ill, drunk, stupid, immature, exhausted, or otherwise compromised from normalcy. This feature seems to be necessary to telling the story, but whether it mirrors some instrinsic Truth in the UFO experience, is a novel representation of liminality, or is a simple apologist type device, is up for debate.

Be sure to go over there to Binnall of America and read Richelle's column, as well as the other great stuff over there.

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