August 15, 2011

Xenophobia, Bogyphobia, and Hollywood

Hollywood is prone to really weird trends. Sometimes these trends are the result of political activism, sometimes these trends are in response to perceived fads in popular culture, and sometimes these trends are in response to religious fads sweeping through Hollywood's upper crust. At this point in my life I've suffered through so many of these weird trends that I often go years between visits to movie theaters. The current trend started a couple years ago and is one we haven't seen since the end of World War Two. I'm not sure whether it represents a ballooning xenophobia among Hollywood elites, or merely another episode of mass bogyphobia sweeping through both producers and consumers. I'm talking about the recent explosion of movies featuring really nasty alien invaders:

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Cowboys and Aliens
Apollo 18

and so on.

Now I've been a science fiction fan my whole life long. My first encounter with science fiction was a children's book about a young boy who builds a spaceship from cardboard and glue. That night a friendly Martian comes along and magically transforms the boy's dream ship into a working spaceship. They visit the moon and maybe a few stars (hard to remember now) and then the boy returns home. I graduated into Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, and even now my bookshelves are weighted down with books by David Brin, Philip Jose Farmer, and Kathleen Ann Goonan. There's really nothing that compares with a quality science fiction story written by someone who has taken the time to understand the science behind the tale they are telling.

But alien invasions one after another? Really? Is that the best contemporary Hollywood can do? It makes them seem paranoid. Why has this sudden fear of aliens swept over the writers and producers of Hollywood movies? Is this related to the popularity of Scientology among Hollywood's richest, most successful creators?

I don't know. I only know that it's getting to be kind of boring. Science fiction is a beautiful and diverse genre. Focusing on alien invasion is like focusing on metaphysics. Interesting from time to time, but quickly becoming boring and repetitive. I guess this is another year when I'll be sitting at home playing games instead of contributing to my local movie theater.

How about a nice story of an alien ambassador who helps prevent a nuclear war? Or maybe a space colony that befriends little furry animals because they seem like nice pets only to discover that the pets are a highly advanced, highly simplified society so far ahead of our own they seem magical and enlightened? How about a story about an alien anthorpologist who lives as a human, learns his people's enemies are planning to invade Earth, and changes his role into liaison and diplomat to help his adopted world survive?

With so much variety at your fingertips, why focus on violence and destruction?