Invasion of the Body Snatchers:
Are the Pods Really “Outer Space” Invaders?
Mar 19, 2012
The era of 1950s in America was an era of paranoia. Following WWII, it was a time when the Americans were confused and neurotically preoccupied with international political events, especially the on-going Cold War. For Hollywood, these fears turned into the exploration of the science fiction genre, while huge numbers of movies about monsters, alien invaders and modern technologies like hydrogen bombs and spacecraft were made to covertly mirror the fact that the America was filled with severe anxiety, fear and even hysteria under the shadow of “Red Scare”------the danger of nuclear wars and the possibility of Russian Communist conspiracy, as well as Americans’ suspicion of its own capitalist system and political tendency. Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is such a “social” science fiction film that expresses the psychological tension and unbearable fears that swept the country during the fifties. The film tells the story of the heroic but helpless struggle of Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), a doctor from a small Californian town of Santa Mira, to vainly combat with the deadly, indestructible threat of tremendous alien invasion by large seedpods that replicate and take over people’s minds. To be short, it is a film about…“Pods”, which Siegel answered in an interview. (Kaminsky 133) These huge vegetable seeds actually serve as metaphors of the issues of communist subversion, atomic bombs and McCarthyism conformity, which illustrate the main factors of the mass paranoia at the time. “Something evil had taken possession of the town.”
------Dr. Miles Bennell The pods, most obviously, are the metaphors of Russian communist ideology, reflecting Americans’ fear of communist subversion in 1950s for their identical characteristics of invading into people’s minds without their awareness and changing their mentality. “The notion of the slowly growing seeds which essentially take over the minds of normal Americans, converting them to an alien ideology and invisibly substitute them with replacements who look the same as everyone else, but feel no emotion and have no individuality” in Body Snatchers, as Keith Booke stated, “directly echoes the era’s most prevalent stereotypes about communists”(64). The idea of communists’ attempt of secretly taking over our country through some kind of conspiracy plans was prevalent among Americans. The invasion goes into the very heart of American people’s lives. This is clearly reflected in the film, which sets its location in a small suburban town of Santa Mira in California, a place that should be the most peaceful and securest in Americans’ minds. Dr. Miles, hurrying back to town for a whole bunches of medical appointments, only to find that most of the schedules are cancelled, and the rest patients insist that their family members are not who they seem anymore. Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter)’s cousin Wilma insists that her Uncle Ira is not her Uncle Ira, little boy runs down the street crying to escape from his mother who he thinks is not his mother. It turns out that some alien pod invaders replace these people, as M. Keith Booke points out that, “These replacements, who look the same as everyone else but feel no emotion and have no individuality, directly echo the era’s most prevalent stereotypes about communists”(65). The growth of vegetable seeds, along with the characteristics that they can appear any where, at any time to replace Americans (greenhouse, back of car, pool tables), resonate the popular image of the way how Russian ideologies spread in most Americans’ minds. The mass annihilation people’s soul by the alien pods in Body Snatchers allegorizes another important element of “Red Scare” in 1950s, the tremendous paranoia toward nuclear bombs and the possibility of collective extinction in...
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