Extraterrestrials depicted in Science-Fiction The human race has come a long way since the beginning of its existence. Throughout that time, shared interpretations and concepts have changed profusely. The genre of science-fiction has been popular in both literature and films for centuries. Science-fiction displays aliens in many contrasting styles, but the very idea and wonder of aliens has always been around. The different ways writers and filmmakers portray extraterrestrials in science-fiction novels and films has changed over time and influences the perceived appearance and behavior of an alien to the public.
The concept of aliens themselves saw a large growth around 1900 and changed throughout the years. “One of the most influential early examples of aliens in pop culture was HG Wells’ War of the Worlds (1898) which popularised the notion that advanced, malevolent aliens could invade the earth” (“Aliens in Popular Culture”). Overtime, the foreseen physical appearance of aliens changed from green-lizard like creatures to a grey, hairless creature with an odd shaped head and big, black eyes (“Aliens in Popular Culture”). They came from outer space in the 1950s and the 1960s to invade earth, even human consciousness, with unquestionably terrible intentions. Since they found us first, they were technically (although not morally) superior, and eventually the local authorities, the military, the scientific community, and, sometimes, the whole planet marshalled their forces against the alien threat to world peace, local tranquility, and the American way of life” (Brain, 1).
Over the years, alien-featured movies and novels have showcased a variety of themes set into the story. “As in the earlier films, the alien is the key to the film’s moral position: once we fought to save humanity from alien forces; now, it would appear, the aliens have come to deliver us from ourselves” (Brain, 1). In the mid to late 1900’s, we see a shift in the focus of aliens in science-fiction. It changed from massive fights that took place around the world to personal struggles that are experienced between humans and aliens (Brain, 11).
Throughout the history of aliens in movies, alien contact with earth has changed from an all-out war to a group or individual defending the extraterrestrial from scientists, government, military, etc. (Brain, 2). Rick Yancey perfectly sums up how the human race has envisioned this idea of extraterrestrials in his novels: The ones we made up, the ones we’ve been making up since we realized those glittering lights in the sky were suns like ours and probably had planets like ours spinning around them. You know, the aliens we imagine, the kind of aliens we’d like to attack us, human aliens.
You’ve seen them a million times. They swoop down from the sky in their flying saucers to level New York and Tokyo and London, or they march across the countryside in huge machines that look like mechanical spiders, ray guns blasting away, and always, always, humanity sets aside its differences and bands together to defeat the alien horde. ” (Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave, 5) Yancey makes these points with the characters in his novels: “Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays.
Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, unbroken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm. That’s about as far from the truth as their dying planet was from our living one” (Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave, 6). “We got it all wrong, there was no alien swarm descending from the sky in their flying saucers or big metal walkers like something out of Star Wars or cute little wrinkly E. T. s who just wanted to pluck a couple of leaves, eat some Reese’s Pieces, and go home. That’s not how it ends” (Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave, 27).
How baffling it is that we imagined cities incinerated by alien bombs and death rays when all they really needed was Mother Nature and time” (Rick Yancey, The Infinite Sea, 9). Popular culture has brought a common image of how the typical alien appears. Spielberg’s E. T. has a large oval-shaped head and gigantic eyes with a brown, wrinkly body. This is a good example of what humans think aliens might look like (E. T. ). The aliens in Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders come disguised as a female hippy and her dog and befriend the gang.
At the climax of the story, they reveal they are shape-shifters and true aliens that came in peace to investigate the Earth (Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders). Ba’al is a powerful Goa’uld system lord who has powers such as being able to clone himself. In this movie Ba’al sends his clone back in time to destroy the Stargate program before it is ever made (Stargate SG-1). The menacing aliens featured in Independence day, called harvesters, are grey, slimy creatures with large heads and multiple arms or tentacles (Independence Day).
Whether aliens good or bad, they come with a reason and almost every time they come in their flying space-ships, dazzling and terrorizing any human in sight. In Independence Day, an alien mothership, a fourth the size of the moon, comes into the Earth’s orbit and releases over 30 smaller spacecrafts which spread out and destroy millions in cities and military bases. The aliens are eventually overtaken when their force fields are shut down and the alien ships are then vulnerable to missile attacks (Independence Day).
In their trip to mars, Tom and Jerry accidentally end up on a spaceship to mars and are left stranded there and soon run into little martians. These martians are upset after Tom ruins their village and plan an invasion on Earth with their flying saucers and ray-guns (Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars). In Men In Black, the giant cockroach crashed it’s typical saucer-spaceship at a rural farm. It found the man who lived there named Edgar, and took his body (MIB). In E. T. , a group of aliens fly to Earth to collect flower samples.
They flee quickly in fear of being seen, but leave one behind. These aliens are friendly and wish no harm on humanity (E. T. ). Most science fiction plots involving hostile aliens end in a spectacular battle for Earth with humanity overcoming what looks like an impossible feat almost every time. In Men in Black, Agent K and J need to retrieve the stolen galaxy from Edgar the bug and return it to the Arquillians in one hour or the Earth will be destroyed. Kends up being eaten by the cockroach and shooting it apart from the inside and the coroner, Laurel, finishes it off with J’s gun (MIB).
The president of the United States gives a motivating speech before the final fight in Independence Day: Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind. ” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests.
Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… ut from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. (Independence Day) The martians in Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars fly to Earth in their saucers and begin to zap every human with their disintegration rays. Peep, the friendly alien, turns the piles of dust back into people with her special tool, but the aliens’ gigantic-robot, the Invice-a-tron, makes its appearance. The robot makes an attempt at sucking up all the humans with its giant vacuum, but is eventually taken down by Tom and Jerry (Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars).
In nearly every human encounter with an alien; the human is taken back and petrified of the menacing alien. At the start of the story in The 5th Wave, all is well on Earth until the alien mothership makes a visit and widespread panic takes over. In a matter of weeks, Earth’s population has dropped tremendously with little effort from the others. The Others disguise as America’s military and set up a safety point at Wright-Patterson and bring in any child survivors.
They train them to be killers and send them out into the wilderness, deceiving them into killing ny remaining human beings (Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave). In E. T. , the government agents are taken back and scared of E. T. and they instantly think it has bad intentions and set out to capture it to protect themselves (E. T. ). The humans at the space center, in Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars, send a team to Mars to prove to themselves that martians do not exist. Two astronauts visit, and without finding anything after a few short minutes, head back home. Shortly after, the martians attack Earth and panic breaks loose as the humans are vaporized (Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars).
Sometimes a human-alien interaction can be a friendly one. One of the Other’s, assigned as a silencer, quit his mission of killing Cassie Sullivan and nursed her back to health. He came to find he was in love with her and turned on the rest of his kind to save her and her friends (Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave). Teasc is a character from Stargate who is a Jaffa warrior from Chulak. He is genetically modified to be stronger and live longer caused by a larval symbiote. He joins the Stargate program to help them with all of their various missions (Stargate SG-1).
In the MIB series, aliens are living among us and the Earth and the galaxy are constantly at stake without the majority of the human population on Earth knowing one thing. Some aliens are good and work with the humans to fight off the bad ones while some disguise as humans so they can lead a regular life (MIB). In the genre of Science-Fiction, the way aliens are described has an influence on real-life scenarios. “Aliens are often portrayed as aggressive, adversarial or scheming, probably because this makes for easier action scriptwriting” (“Aliens in Popular Culture”).
Alien sightings throughout the years often resemble those featured in films and evolved as the aliens changed appearances in films (“Aliens in Popular Culture”). “But it’s worth remembering that in sci-fi, the future actually isn’t safe or sterile at all. On the contrary, with its alien invasions, evil empires, authoritarian dystopia, and new lands discovered and pacified, the genre can look as much like the past as the future” (Berlatsky).
The characterized alien featured n literature and films has alternated diversely throughout history and it seems as if science-fiction itself has a direct influence on how people comprehend aliens. Movies and books help put this stereotypical image of the extraterrestrial into a human’s mind. These lifeforms from outer space come with inimical intentions to take over the human planet almost every time. In science-fiction there is an infinite amount of possibilities of how an alien can act and appear. Even so, the conceptualized physical appearance, strength, skill-set, and potential abilities of the alien have changed over time and may never stop changing.