Not too long ago vampires and zombies were all the rage, but nowadays pop culture is full of creatures that come from a place much farther away: aliens.
When was the first time you learned about aliens? I remember being fascinated by the idea of their existence when I was younger.
First I was exposed to E.T. and then I would spend hours googling different stories of UFO sightings and encounters. I would pretend blips in the night sky were alien spacecrafts instead of boring airplanes. They permeated our culture, we have always had a fear and fascination of what lies beyond our small (in the grand scheme of things) place in the universe.
History of Extraterrestrial Sightings
Of course, UFO sightings have been part of our history four thousands of years. The Puritans were some of the first known Americans to see them. But there were signs of primitive humankind having their own theories about extraterrestrials too, with petroglyphs and cave art being found as evidential relics of prior beliefs.
1940 UFO sightings were far different than the UFO sightings and stories we hear about today; they evolve along with humankind. Aliens were scarier to us in the 1900s because they represented a vastly evolved technological civilization. As our technology has evolved, alien sightings have become more scarce.
The Smithsonian featured a fascinating article by writer Greg Eghigian about how UFO reports have evolved with the technology of the times.
“Flying saucers” weren’t actually common until the post-war hysteria, fear of Russian entanglement in American space and rocket experimentation manifested these visuals and terrors of foreign weaponry. Prior to the 1940s, alien sightings were more celestial in nature and less about the technological component.Project Blue Book – War Games – Courtesy of Eduardo Araquel and the History Channel
What Does That Say About The Modern Usage Of Aliens In Pop Culture?
I believe, today, aliens represent our ownership of technology. It explains why people used to fear abductions and invasions. Many sightings (research specific cases) were people afraid their bodies would be used to conduct experiments. People were afraid of modernization and the growing eye of big brother.
Constant surveillance is part of the modern societal tapestry. You could even say present day warfare is often waged over cyberspace. Our world has transformed and therefore so has our lore, our urban legends, and even our scary stories.
Aliens are more a point of fascination, there is a general acceptance of life beyond our immediate galaxy. Sentient life forms exist outside of Earth. I don’t believe there is any denial of that now unless you’re naive about the sheer size and space of our never-ending universe.
Instead of fearing the invasion of these species, we are actively seeking them out. Thus our media and storytelling when it comes to aliens has transformed as well.