Let’s face it—it’s illogical to believe we are all alone on this pale blue dot in the grand masses of the cosmos. That in the trillions and zillions of galaxies out there, stars and space innumerable, we are the only signs of intelligent life. I, for one, subscribe to the belief that we are not alone. Have we been visited by lifeforms? I can’t say for sure, and I admit, as much as I love the idea of Area 51, I find it unlikely that the American government are the sole keepers of alien lifeforms (other secrets, yes, just perhaps not this one). But is the universe full of possibility? I, for one, believe.
Still, whether the enigmatic “they” have visited us or not, the idea of alien life form is an indelible part of our mythology. Who really built the pyramids? What’s the deal with Stonehenge? Or the Easter Island sculptures? It’s easy to say there was some sort of divine interaction.
And that’s the point where I look at aliens and see a blurred line. A fuzziness between extra-terrestrial and godly. Think about it. Aliens—beings from the heavens, possessing a power and knowledge beyond what we humans can comprehend. After all, we don’t often get aliens that are “lesser.” No aliens come to earth and stand in wonder at our technology. Nope. Not a thing. They are always advanced.
So what are gods? Omnipotent, all-powerful beings who influence humanity. They affect how the earth runs, rule seasons, harvests, creation itself. Often, they will visit their chosen people. Think Zeus and Apollo scamming on women. Or Christ, the son of God, coming down to dwell with man.
If you stand back and squint, aliens and gods aren’t all that different. Two sides of the mirror, tweaked ever so slightly.
Amber is covering more god-like creatures on Thursday, giving far more examples, but for now I want to look at one of the end-all be-all alien franchises.
The Alien franchise.
The perfect blend of horror, action, and survival tale. The Alien movies might not seem like obvious god-examples, but let’s begin by taking the last and making it first. Let’s talk Prometheus. Many people hated Prometheus, and many people were wrong. It’s a killer flick, with a magnificent Fassbender the android, the deliciously icy Charlize, and Idris Elba. Idris. Elba.
But it’s also film that fairly explicitly deals with the conflation of science and religion, all through the unknown question of other life, and how external influence could have changed our world. This idea is discussed excellently here (and touched on here, and also here, although that last one is a bit out there). Essentially, Prometheus sets up a clear mythology from the very first moments.
There’s the creation aspect. Greater life—in Prometheus, the Engineers—are responsible for cells, for DNA, for us being mere shadows of their glory. It’s implied that Earth is an experiment, an attempt to create something new. Then there’s the further implication that they kept checking in on humanity (the pyramids!), which, as a whole, disappointed.
This led to the vengeful gods, the destroying angels. Those who came not with a plow, but a sword. This is where the remaining Alien films sprout from. Something only vaguely humanoid, but completely indestructible and awesome in its malevolence. Acidic spit? Unholy appetite? A seeming lack of any weakness? This is where the xenomorphs come in, to become wrathful divinity.
The spectrum of aliens always shifts between savior and demolisher. Most are either here to help or here to enact harm. It plays on the mortal fear that whatever is actually in control doesn’t have clear motives. That we are small, and here to act on the whim of those above.