Popular Culture on the Couch: Revealing a Darker Side to Us

Remember the optimistic 50s and 60s? You know, two cars in every garage, meat every night, and everybody absolutely certain that their children would enjoy even better lives than their parents. Of course our movies and popular culture in general reflected that view of life. Think of Star Trek, as an example. We weren’t out there conquering new worlds, we had our own rules against that sort of behavior. No, we wanted to explore new worlds and bring them into a federation of planets that all treated each other civilly.

Of course science fiction has taken a darker turn since those days. When SF writers aren’t describing space operas with us (the good guys) fighting everything from mindless robots to very intelligent bugs. We’re fighting for survival, so anything goes.

Have you wondered at the change in tone? Popular culture has a way of putting humanity on the couch and analyzing it. Ask yourself what really has changed since Spain conquered the new world? Some alarmists already are describing our planet as “doomed” because of the pollution we’ve created. They’re solution is that we colonize other worlds. Their major fear is that we’ll be late to the party. Other intelligent races might beat us to juicy planets and stake their claims.

If humanity found a world where there were all kinds of valuable natural resources and a race with less powerful weapons than we have, what are the odds that we would leave that race alone? I think all you readers know the answer to that. We’re probably somewhere between Shakespeare’s description of Man as “noble” and Mark Twain’s condemnation of the “damned human race.” The fine point of where we actually lay on that scale would be lost on a defenseless race when we roared in with advanced technology and superior weapons.

Many leading scientists tell us that there are infinite numbers of parallel worlds. Theoretically, we could visit each of them and view them as scientific experiments as to humanity’s basic goodness. How many of these worlds exist where the Nazis won or Rome never fell? How many Earths where slavery still exists or women still are second class citizens? How many Earths where life is far better than in our current world?

So, the next time you view a science fiction movie, think of it as more than just entertainment. It’s telling us something profound about our own view of ourselves. If you saw Prometheus, for example, why did the aliens decide to terminate their experiment (us)? Did they discover the had major a tragic mistake and perhaps failed to eliminate a fatal flaw in our DNA?

Why do so many science fiction films and novels show us under attack from aliens who want our planet or our women? Think of the film “Independence Day” as an example. There’s a psychological condition where people transfer their own flaws to someone else. Perhaps we are doing that ourselves.

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