Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Invasion of the Pod People

Invasion of the Pod People

Invasion of the Pod People (2000)

Look! You fools! You're in danger! Can't you see? They're after you! They're after all of us! Our wives…our children…they're here already! You're next!
--Dr. Miles Bennell

From an essay by John W. Whitehead on Gadfly Online:

In [Invasion of the] Body Snatchers, the pod people, who, like McCarthy and the other red-baiters, look like typical, fine upstanding Americans, search out rebels like Miles who refuse to conform to what has been newly defined as the "American Way"—just as McCarthy and HUAC destroyed the lives of those who refused to knuckle under to their directives. The mob hysteria, the sense of paranoia, the fascist police, the witch hunt atmosphere of the picture certainly mirrors the ills of McCarthy’s America.


Before the bomb and subsequent scientific advances, western humanity knew and accepted the inevitability of death. Seen and experienced by both men and women, young and old, death occupied the realm of the immediate. It was utterly real and visible.

The bomb’s dehumanizing influence, however, made death invisible, abstract and threatening. While the older generation may have viewed the atomic bomb as the pinnacle of human achievement and worldwide peace, the succeeding generation realized that it might possibly be an insurmountable barrier to the future. Suddenly, death was no longer a wispy, terrifying phantom that chose its victims at random but instead became a calculated, mechanical weapon that obliterated humanity en masse.

Amidst the threat of atomic death from on high, the western world was embroiled in the Cold War. Although both the American and Soviet governments were painting a horrendous picture of a possible hot war, the so-called Cold War was, for all intents and purposes, a political fabrication. In fact, mutual threats and brinkmanship supported a relatively stable international system, symbolized by the 1963 installation of the telephone "hot line" linking the White House to the Kremlin.

The Cold War scenario, of course, led to the "Red scare" and the American hysteria over the danger of Communist subversion in the United States. This hysteria culminated in the hearings before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, where hundreds were called to testify about their so-called Communist affiliations. The Committee was led by the then-junior Republican senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, who specialized in sensational, unsubstantiated accusations about Communist infiltration of the American government. As a result of the hearings, many lost their jobs and families and some even committed suicide.


The film’s ideology is focused well to the left of center, despite the fact that Jack Finney’s story is centrist in nature. It was Daniel Mainwaring who followed out the pessimistic strain underlying Finney’s paranoid fantasy. As Al LaValley writes in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, "Mainwaring’s despair is the despair of a onetime strong leftist over the America of the fifties." Indeed, the House Un-American Activities Committee had decimated Hollywood and the Hollywood Ten had gone to jail. A blacklist was in force, and everyone was being asked to sign a pod-like loyalty oath to prove they were "good" Americans and not Commie subversives. A chilling pod-like uniformity reigned in Hollywood. LaValley notes, "Risk was no longer acceptable; perhaps serious social subjects could be approached only in disguised form through the crime and science fiction genres."

From Daily Kos:

What is it about certain people that they're afraid of the truth? It's as if we have two different kinds of people living in this country -- those who are comfortable with a limited understanding of the universe, and the rest of us -- who know that their understanding is limited, and want to know more.

These closed-minded evangelicals scare me. These are the kind of people who will follow a leader blindly into battle, because 'My country right or wrong.' They'll accuse you of [lacking]patriotism because you question whether the government's making the right choices. They were the kind of people that joined the Hitler Youth and the Nazi Party. Religious organizations, especially those that are personality-driven love this climate of fear because it increases membership.


We need to separate church and state. The Pod People will continue to hold back progress, all in the name of Christ.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers' themes of a creeping, invisible mass conformity resonate strongly in George W. Bush's America.

Consider: Pre-screened "town meetings" filled with bobbleheads. Pre-paid media whores (literally in the case of Jeff Gannon) parroting administrative talking points. Politiburo cable networks spinning opinion as news.

No wonder so many of the American (pod) people believe Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 -- and prefer the madcap "Runaway Bride" fracas to a British memo documenting the clear lies and cooked intelligence behind the Iraq War.

And now a Baptist pastor has "cleansed" his congregation of non-Bush supporters? The Ghost of Joe McCarthy smiles.

They're here already! You're next!

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