Friday, March 22, 2019

Memory, Blog: Those Creepy Alien Shows

For one reason or another throughout my life I've found myself drawn to TV shows and films about the paranormal and I'm not talking about those reality shows, like Ghost Hunters. Specifically, for me, it is anything to do with aliens and UFOs. It's a contributing reason for my obsession with The X-Files, but it goes much deeper than that.

I want to preface this by saying that I don't believe in aliens. I don't think there's some grand conspiracy that a group of intergalactic beings from another planet/dimension/reality/whatever are visiting earth in ships, abducting people for experimentation, and screwing around with livestock.

I think my fascination with the subject is three-fold.

One reason is that I'm captivated with the idea that there are people out there that whole-heartedly believe in it all. And I don't mean this as a condescension, like, "How could someone believe in this crap!?" It's more akin to wanting to understand why they believe what they believe. It's probably like a secular philosopher trying to better understand religion.

The second reason is that I find alien and UFO stories to be like the ghost stories of our generation. We live in a world driven by science, so of course our fireside stories are that of science fiction. It kind of just makes sense.

The third and most major reason is that the idea of aliens scares the ever-loving shit out of me.

I have zero context to offer you as to why, but when I was really little I had nightmares that the Martians from Sesame Street were going to take me from my bed at night. I had to be the only kid on the planet petrified of Muppets.

They're still creepy.

This fear was exacerbated one fateful day by my unwitting mother who picked up a new video for me to watch: E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. And why woudn't she? It was an international family-friendly hit! As soon as I saw E.T. for the first time, plodding around the forest with his freaky glowing heart, I was instantly traumatized. I can't recall so much as breathing throughout the rest of the viewing, but I somehow survived it. I had a new face for my fear and it was the dough-eyed alien that every other kid at school had on their bed sheets.

See, it's petrifying!

Considering I was so afraid of the subject I have no idea why, but I would try and watch anything that featured aliens, which in the late-80s and early-90s was no problem. The paranormal was a hot topic and one could simply flip to any channel on a Friday night and find a program featuring unexplained phenomena.

The result was a fascination with those hokey paranormal TV shows that used to cover the pages of the TV Guide. For me, it all started in the early 90s when A&E began airing re-runs of In Search Of..., which was one of my favourite TV shows ever. The ideas and topics were so interesting and they would often feature the crazy stories of aliens or UFOs that I was craving, but presented in a way that wasn't all that scary.

Okay, that's BS, I was still scared to death, but I could make it through an episode, so long as all the lights were on. I think this is why I found the courage one night to watch a relatively new show called Unsolved Mysteries, which although it wasn't strictly a paranormal show had the occasional alien/UFO-related topics. In fact, it was an episode of Unsolved Mysteries that spurred on my fear in a big way, but we'll feature that story another time.

There were all sorts of paranormal shows that cropped up in the wake of Unsolved Mysteries, like Sightings and Encounters, both of which tried to employ the trappings of a real news magazine show to make the topics at hand seem that much more credible. And lets not forget the myriad of one-off specials, like Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction or Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

My obsession continues to this day, so this is just the beginning for this topic on the site. I already have some related posts in the works, but I thought it made sense that I outline my fear and fascination with aliens and UFOs in films and television before we really begin to scan these starry skis... I mean skies.