28 July 2018
The Original Alien Invasion
When asked to think of a monster, what comes to mind? Some common answers would be werewolves, zombies and vampires. Those monsters are cool and all but when I think of monsters, I think of aliens. What? You think “little green men” and that goofy-looking thing from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial are monstrous? First of all, they do count as monsters, but that is not what I have in mind. When I think of monstrous aliens I think of the malevolent and dangerous kinds. Those that invade the earth with the intentions of destroying all humans. I am thinking of the original alien invasion; H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. A tale of human survival that has stood the test of time originally released as a novel in 1898 but has since been adapted as a radio broadcast drama in 1938 and a set of movies released in 1958 and 2005. While the emergence of aliens and extra-terrestrials in media have existed prior to The War of the Worlds, it is Wells’s story the has become one of the pioneers of utilizing aliens as monsters. And because of this it has spawn various stories of invading aliens inspired countless others where aliens are the antagonist. Why are they considered monsters? According to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, writer of Monster Culture (Seven Theses), there are various theses that create and classify monster. It is through Cohen’s Monster Culture various theses that justify the aliens from Wells’ tale as true monsters.
The most obvious thesis that H.G. Wells’s monster coincides with the most is thesis three “The monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis”. According to Thesis three the monster, “refus[ses] to participate in the classificatory ‘order of things’… they are disturbing hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration.” (Cohen 6) and regarding the thesis he concludes with, “Full of rebuke to traditional methods of organizing methods of organizing knowledge and human experience, the geography of the monster is an imperiling expanse, and therefore always a contested cultural space.” All that means is that the appearance of the monster is something unknown or never seen before and therefore does not belong. In the 1898 novel the aliens were called “Martians” because they originate from mars. And their appearance is anything but human.
“I think everyone expected to see a man emerge… A big grayish, rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather. Two dark-colored eyes… There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The body heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air…. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip…” (Wells 27)
The description of the alien continues beyond the excerpt and all the author is trying to convey is that the creature is something that is not of this world; it is something that is different and repulsive, it is very large, moist, has tentacle-like appendages. Though the appearance of the alien changed throughout the different adaptations. In the 2005 film the alien looked drastically different to the novel description. Although the alien is still grey in color that is where the similarities end. The alien in this adaptation are tri-pedal, with very long legs, each leg with three digits. Along with those legs are two additional short limbs. A large trianglar head, with large black eyes and a small mouth complete the look. The alien was also no longer considered a “Martian”. The orgins of the creature are unknown. It is very strange to see such a drastic change between between the original novel to the movie. A speculation for this occurrence could be that the original rendition of the monster would not be as terrifying in today’s modern times. The original seems to have a resemblance to a large cephalopod, not that scary for today’s age well knowing the existence of the giant squid that lurks in the uncharted depths of the ocean. The newer rendition appears more appropriate as a monster because it is something that looks strange out of the ordinary.
The alien in the War of the Worlds fits into thesis four of of Cohen’s Monster Theory: “The monster dwells at the gate of difference” which suggests the monster ,”is difference made flesh, come to dwell among us” (Cohen 7) and, ” The violation of the cultural codes that valence gendered behaviors creates a rupture…” (Cohen 11) which means that a monster’s behavior and actions are outside what is considered normal. People would like to think that we, as humans, are the apex species of the world. Of course there are animals that can compete with humans for that position but those animals can be tamed. So what happens when something is able to completely dethrone us form that spot? The aliens in The War of the Worlds have an intelligence far superior to that of humans. This is evident through their advanced technology and weaponry that far exceeds those of mankind. In every adaptation the aliens arrive in spaceships, which the people mistake for a meteorite. These vessels eventually transform into giant machines piloted by the aliens, destroying everything in its path using a heat ray and poison gas.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Culture (Seven Theses).
Seven theses that define what makes a monster a monster. This source can be used to determine what makes my essay topic (aliens) monsters. After reading I can see that aliens/extraterrestrials fit into at least four different theories. Provided by Professor Ramos.
Eaton, Lance, [LE & LC], et al. “Extraterrestrial.” The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Ashgate Publishing, 1st edition, 2014. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ashgtmonster/extraterrestrial/0?instituti onId=5312. Accessed 18 Jul. 2018.
This is an encyclopedia entry on aliens and extraterrestrials. It describes reasons why they are considered monsters with what they do and how they look as well provide various examples of different aliens in history. This can coincide with the monster theory to determine why aliens are considered monsters. This source can be used to strengthen monster theory. Found on Crafton College database.
“Original ‘War Of The World’ Drawings Expected To Fetch Huge Sum At Auction”. Huffington Post. 5 May, 2015. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/05/war-of-the-world-illustrations-auction_n_7214410.html