Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Fear Never Dies: How Hollywood Ca$hes In On Terror

“Incredible! Invisible! Insatiable!” They’re here! And you’re next! Getting scared yet? Yeah well, me neither. That’s because we live in 2013, the age of, “been there, done that,” and “please, I already saw that on YouTube.”  But you know who was easily scared? Movie goers back in the 1950’s. Researching Invasion of the Body Snatchers from Susan Sontag’s article made me realize why she focused so much on the role of fear in pop culture. During the 1950's there was an influx of the sci-fi movies, many of which had political undertones about Communism and the fear of a nuclear war between the two main superpowers at the time, the United States and the Former Soviet Union.
A recent article in the LA Times called "A Second Look: Invasion of the Body Snatchers," discusses the "red scare" or fear of Communist spies living amongst American citizens  in the 1950's and the profound impact it had on Hollywood. US SenatorJoseph McCarthy of the time used his political power to lead an investigation into the political activities of several  top Hollywood officials and actors resulting in the blacklisting of several stars and the end of their careers. Movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers preyed upon the mass hysteria of this time period and like Senator McCarthy, these films were able to manipulate an audience who was not as sophisticated as we are today. 
Let’s take a walk down memory lane to get inside the mind of folks in the 1950’s by taking a sneak peak at the trailer from 1956, the year the movie first debuted …
Will we ever go back to those simpler times? Probably  not. We're all amateur cynics and more likely to question what we are told. Plus, it takes a lot more special effects and cinematography to get us scared and excited. Just look at the trailer from the 2007 remake of the film:


This newest version stars Nicole Kidman as a heroine who is not only a  working professional but who also knows how to shoot a gun. What a far cry from the damsel in distress the lead actress Dana Wynter plays in the original film. Plus unlike the 1956 version, the 2007 remake is not kid friendly and has a PG-13 rating due to what the website IMDB calls “violence and disturbing images.” 

 The one constant that remains and what I think is central to Sontag’s argument is that fear is a very powerful money making tool in pop culture. Just look at all of the sci-fi films which capitalize on that age old fear of the end of mankind this from year alone:


The panic that sets in when you believe the end is near and the relief of having some lone hero saving all of humanity from annihilation will always be a rollercoaster ride we enjoy getting on. I guess the more things change, the more things stay the same. Maybe we are not much more sophisticated after all…


1 comment:

  1. Great post, as usual, Dawn ;-) Just be sure to keep your focus on Invasion of the Body Snatchers in your essay; though, you could talk about The Invasion (great movie, btw) in your Class Presentation!