12 May 2013
How Giant Ants Taught Me About Nuclear Warfare
As a kid, sitting on the couch with my dad watching cheesy 1950s Sci-fi horror flicks, it never occurred to me that these movies could actually hold importance beyond their entertainment value. At a glance, it’s all just a bunch of bad acting and cheap tricks (compared to todays standards); however, behind all the stage make-up and “spooky” fiction creatures there is often an important message, i.e. social commentary. Many writers and directors use film as a way to entertain the masses while bringing their attention to important events (usually controversial matters) happening in our world, and what better way than to use giant radioactive bugs! This is precisely what director Gordon Douglas does through the movie, Them!, a 1954 Sci-fi Horror film based in the desert of New Mexico. Douglas uses his giant mutated ants to shed light on the deadly effects of the earliest atomic bomb testing’s in the U.S. (something that many Americans were not aware of at the time), as well as government crookedness (in terms of what the public could and couldn’t know), and finally, female empowerment through the use of a strong female character (unorthodox for the time).
In his movie, Douglas brings America’s attention to the deadly effects of nuclear bombs through exaggeration; obviously, in reality, giant man-eating ants were never the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, however, cancer was. At the time of the first nuclear bomb testing’s on American soil, many Americans were unaware of just how harmful fallout from the bombs could be. Fallout is the term used for the bits of radioactive matter that fall from the sky after a nuclear bomb has been detonated; it can spread for up to 100 or more miles, traveling in a dust-like form (Fallout min. 1:20-2:30). Extended exposure to fallout is likely to cause cancer, a fact that many Americans were completely unaware of as those living...
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Fallout - 1950s Atomic Weapons and Hydrogen Bomb Safety Education Documentary. Prod. United States Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. YouTube. YouTube, 04 June 2012. Web. 04 May 2013.
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Them! Dir. Gordon Douglas. Perf. James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, and Joan Weldon. Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., 1954. DVD.
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