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October 1997, Week 3


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Lang Thompson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Oct 1997 22:28:09 -0400
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This is an interesting idea but I'd like to point out that the four recent
examples are all science fiction films and don't have any supernatural
elements.  Admittedly this can be a rather vague distinction because (a)
advanced technology might be indistinguishable from magic (Arthur Clarke's
famous statement) and (b) in narrative and thematic terms ET is no
different than an angel.  SF deals with with events plausible under our
current understanding of science (more or less since some common SF
concepts like time travel are impossible).  And in the four films mentioned
(though I haven't seen Contact) only one or two characters get any kind of
transcendence.  You might argue that the characters in "ET" find home just
as fine as Dorothy did (& she at least got to visit Oz).
Also, there's a pretty common and obvious counter-tendency that the
visitors won't be too redemptive:  Independence Day, the Alien films, Split
Second, Event Horizon, The X-Files (assuming that there are actually
aliens), Starship Troopers, the Borg in Star Trek, maybe the Terminator
films, etc.
Many American films of the 30s & 40s with supernatural elements weren't set
in the US but in Central Europe or England or even the Caribbean so there
wasn't always that immediate connection to American life.  One really
strange exception is the 1933 Gabriel Over the White House where a crooked
politician becomes President and after a mystical near-death experience
starts a fanatical clean-up-the-country program (and pretty much a
fascist).  It's implied that some supernatural power caused the change.
Lang Thompson
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