Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Analysis and Critique

Note: I am finally biting the bullet and starting a new category of posts called “Lost Writings.” Digging through all of my old files has been a reacquaintance with intriguing content from my past. Whether from a formal prompt in English or a free-write session in Writer’s Workshop, they will be shared here. This next piece was an assignment to analyze and critique a movie that happens to be one of my favorites: Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Not many of my initial thoughts have changed, so I am posting the original unedited.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) has been seen by many as an allegory for the Cold War and the conflicting political ideologies within the United States during that time. Two prominent theories abound as to exactly what message this movie is attempting to espouse. On one hand, some argue that it is merely a warning of the Communist threat to the American way of life. Others take the plot and characters in an entirely different context and argue that the message is a critique and exposé of American conformity. Both perspectives are valid, yet the latter theory is a more accurate portrayal of the essence of the film.

The premise of the movie is unabashedly science fiction—Giant pods created through atomic mutation take over the small town of Santa Mira, California by turning themselves into mirror images of people. On the surface, these ersatz citizens resemble the originals in every way except for their soulless demeanor and total lack of emotion. The plot situates around the character Miles Bonner, a general practitioner who has returned home for a conference. Upon arriving in Santa Mira he begins to have suspicions that something strange is going on. A warning bell goes off in his head and he thinks to himself: “Sick people who couldn’t wait to see me, suddenly were perfectly alright.”

The film deeply explores the concept of how abnormality or deviance is perceived in society. As Miles questions Wilma, who starts to fear that something is amiss, he initially recommends professional psychiatry as a way to rationalize her fears. This is an example of the usual response to deviance by the general, conformist populace. It shows that people are more willing to believe the problem is a figment in one’s head, rather than taking the issue seriously. However, Miles eventually does come around when his friend Jack shows him the “body” or still-forming pod-person. The moment that ultimately wakes Miles to the reality of the situation is when Jack asks: “Would you be able to forget that you’re a doctor for awhile?” This marks the point in which Miles stops looking through his narrow professional lens and begins to use common sense and critical thinking. When he begins to unravel the secret of what is truly happening, he discovers that authorities are highly reluctant to take his own claims seriously.

This represents the discrepancy between common sense and the conformist complacency that often arises from narrow viewpoints. The film adequately expresses how dangerous political apathy can be to the wellbeing of a nation through the metaphor of the pod people. Another prominent metaphor is sleep, which is used to portray the process through which regular individuals are taken over by the invading pods. This is metaphor for the arising of general conformity when individuals are least alert and self-aware. This notion alludes to the importance of independent judgement and intuition.

The most frightening concept is the new world order that will be created after the pod- people have succeeded in their mission. Resembling the old society in every way, it will be a world devoid of any emotion, including love or sadness. It is akin to dehumanization or soullessness. “Life will be much simpler and better,” says one of the transformed townspeople. The ultimate threat to humanity depicted in the film can be seen as two-sided in nature. On one hand there is the external invasion of the pods, but on the other there is the narrow-minded rationality of professionals who fail to use common sense and understand the reality of the issue. In order to reconcile the internal and external threat, one must look at possible allegories that explain the reasons for both.

All in all, Invasion of the Body Snatchers could be interpreted as two distinct allegories: a warning of the threat of communism to the American way of life, or the threat of conformity and political apathy within the United States itself. However, by analyzing all the metaphors stretched throughout the duration of the film, from the professionalism of the characters to soullessness of the pod-people, one can see that the true allegory represented is one of complacency, conformity, and over-rationalization of deviance. The makers of the film were attempting to espouse the dangers of mass society and the degradation of individual critical thinking skills. The Cold War is a shallow metaphor often attached to the film, but by delving deeper, one can understand the true perils being represented.

Political Apathy and the Status Quo

Columbia, Missouri — With the recent midterm elections resulting in a voter turnout rate of only 36.4 percent, it’s becoming quite apparent that a plague of political apathy is taking the United States by storm. In fact, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, this has been the worst voter turnout in 72 years. With our leaders’ approval ratings plummeting, the American people may be beginning to feel that now, more than ever, their interests are simply not being represented.

CBS News recently released a report unveiling that the youth vote (ages 18-29) only represented a meager 13 percent of the national electorate this year. Historically speaking, a lower midterm voter turnout is usually expected in between presidential elections, however the lack of activism and interest among America’s youth was especially unprecedented this year. This underscores the growing divide between the few individuals on top of society enforcing major economic decisions and the remainder of the population that deals with the consequences of those decisions.

Some would argue that an increasing plethora of distractions is keeping the younger generations from finding much motivation to partake in the political system. According to Penelope Romero, a typical middle-class midwesterner, “these distractions [are] not allowing them to see the issues of reality.” Upon further inquiry, it was agreed that online media and social networking have become somewhat of an affliction to political awareness. Entertainment masquerading as “news media,” or what some call “infotainment” gives people, especially youth, a false sense of being on top of national issues.

The function of social networks is also heavily debated in the realm of politics. Penelope Romero continues to say that “They are very useful to political activism, and should continue to be used that way. You just can’t negate the fact that they are also major sources of distraction for today’s youth. The youth will not learn to look at what’s really happening in the political world unless the teachers show them. Who are the teachers? Parents, internet, TV, schools, etc?”

This opens up the question of what or who is the purest and most unbiased source of political knowledge available to incoming generations? Many will look to their preferred cable news network (i.e FOX, MSNBC, CNN), yet the increasingly partisan and idealogical lens through which stories are reported is not conducive to a pure political understanding. Some will unquestionably adopt the viewpoints of their parents and peers, yet how can this be any better if those opinions are founded on a basis of misinformation and rigid ideology?

Schools and Universities are little better. Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has discussed the influence of big money in colleges and the slow and steady shift of Universities to corporate business models. This also involves the indoctrination of youth to become ever more passive and apathetic to the unjust economics being thrust upon them. The most prominent method of indoctrination is the heavy burdening of student loan debt that an increasing number of youth are struggling with. This ties them securely into the capitalistic society and money-centered mentality. Chomsky continues to say that “…another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security, you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control.”

Indeed, the issue of procuring pure and unbiased political knowledge is a daunting task in the United States today. There are a few online publications that feature “alternative news” and several illuminated individuals devoted to spreading truth, however most of these sources are being put under the label of “radicalism” by those on top who wish to keep the populace indoctrinated and apathetic. So far, these methods have worked quite effectively in subduing the political activism of Americans, but when they haven’t, there is always voter suppression and gerrymandering to fall back on.

Beyond the superficial partisan squabbles of Democrat vs Republican or Liberal vs Conservative, there is an underlying trend of misinformation and pure, unabashed ignorance within today’s youth. This indoctrination is all that the younger generations have ever known, and so it is unlikely to be questioned or scrutinized in any broad sense. However, there is hope. Every now now then a movement springs up that could be considered truly populist in nature, such the Occupy Wall Street movement fighting for economic equality. Even in a society where critical thinking and individual thought are happily traded for a herd mentality and the bliss of obedience, there is still something moderately functional in our conscience. Something that speaks loudly when an injustice is brought to light. It is up to those who are brave enough to question the status quo to drag those injustices, kicking and screaming, out of the shadows where they can be seen by all for what they truly are.

To quote from Apple: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Special thanks to Penelope Romero for consenting to an interview for the inclusion of quotes in this article. Your input was very much appreciated.

Works Cited:

“The Young Voter Turnout in 2014.” <i>CBSNews</i>. CBS Interactive. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-young-voter-turnout-in-2014/&gt;.

Stableford, Dylan. “Voter Turnout for 2014 Midterms Worst in 72 Years.” <i>Yahoo! News</i>. Yahoo!, 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://news.yahoo.com/voter-turnout-2014-midterms-worst-in-72-years-143406756.html&gt;.

“Political Apathy Threatens Our Nation.” <i>The Nation</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://www.thenation.com/blog/176252/political-apathy-threatens-our-nation&gt;.

Edwards, Dennis. “POLITICAL APATHY AND THE YOUTH VOTE: A SURVEY OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS.” <i>POLITICAL APATHY AND THE YOUTH VOTE: A SURVEY OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;https://www.coastal.edu/business/cbj/pdfs/articles/spring2005/edwards.pdf&gt;.

“Jacobin.” <i>Jacobin The Death of American Universities Comments</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/03/the-death-of-american-universities/&gt;.

Satirizing Fat America

Throughout the entirety of the western world, corporations and entrepreneurs are heralding the mass adoption of a single moral philosophy: self-indulgence. The lynchpin of these ethically hedonistic nations is none other than the United States of America, where morbid obesity is on the rise. In response to this unfortunate and reprehensible trend, I propose to form a coalition of socially aware and morally concerned individuals to combat self-indulgence in our fair land.

We shall be called the NFFDPA or Network of Fat Fighting Diet Promoters of America. Our obligation to the health of US Citizens is a unifying philosophy our members can rally around. Petitioning Congress and proposing health-conscious policies to the leaders of our great nation is the primary objective of the Network.

The first mandate on our agenda will be to convert all sidewalks between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to treadmills. Sidewalks are normally considered a form of public transit for pedestrians and are typically used to get from one place to another. However, our mandate will change everything. Instead of moving from place to another, pedestrians will remain in a single spot, walking onwards in vain. We believe this plan will work based a recent study unearthing the low IQ scores of American pedestrians.

Our second mandate will be to ban food entirely. Despite the logical errors in our reasoning, the NFFDPA acknowledges that this will successfully solve the problem of obesity within a few months. The rate of obesity has climbed dramatically in the past 20 years, but we believe this trend can be curbed with debatably extreme measures such as a nationwide food ban. Failure to comply with this policy will be classified as a criminal action, and will thus be punishable by law. Criminals may face life-long imprisonment and disembowelment.

The NFFDPA implores Congress to take action and fight self-indulgence in America, one fat cell at a time. With our fairly reasonable plan, the US will be purged of bad eating habits and hedonism. Both mandates should be passed by any and all legal means necessary. Some population decline may occur.