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October 1997, Week 3


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Scot Hinson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 16 Oct 1997 07:00:35 -0400
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Mike Frank sends this message from his friend:
        I find that many American movies of the last twenty years or so,
which depict an encounter with supernatural phenomena (e.g., Close
E.T., Contact, maybe 2001) tend to suggest the possibility of the
offering an experience of transcendent redemption:  In each of these movies
something fantastic arrives from far away, from the future, or from another
dimension, equipped with superior intelligence, technology,  and --more
important--sensitivity, and releases the characters in the film, and thereby
the audience in the theater as well, from the intolerable or meaningless
or repressive existence they have known. By contrast, encounters
with the supernatural in American films of the 1930s and 40s like It's
a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz seem to convey the message that in
fact American life as we know it is just fine, and that when it comes
down to it there really is no place like home.
        Can you suggest any additional films that would serve as good
examples of this contrast, or, if necessary, films that tend to undermine it
and show that a desire for transcendence was as common fifty years ago as it
seems to be today?   In addition, do you know of any secondary texts
that explore this topic, or related topics?
        Michael Sugarman
In reply, I would say that a natural choice in support of your topic would be
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.  But I would also suggest that encounters with
extraterrestrial Others have more often depicted them as superior, but
hostile, even hungry cannibalistic creatures, whose technological superiority
is not balanced by "common human decency."  In fact, it seems that
recently--since the wall has come down--the big, bad ET has replaced to some
extent those vicious Reds as our favorite nemesis.  With notable exceptions
of course, like ET, CONTACT, we seem to battle and resist visitors from outer
space.  Just something I have seemed to notice.
D. Scot Hinson
Wittenberg U.
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