By Scott Knopf | March 13, 2009

In the 1950s, American popular culture turned to science fiction for a great number of films, books, magazines, and television programs. “Monsters from the Id” examines why. A handful of experts, ranging from physicists and NASA scientists to film historians and novelists, run down a number of reasons why America loved the genre then, why it isn’t in love with it anymore, and the effects this has on the country.

Everyone should know better than to dismiss sci-fi as just silly spaceman and monster movies. Many of these films, books, magazines, and television programs serve as allegories for issues the American population was dealing with when they were created. During the 50s, some of these issues were atomic power, Communism, the possibility of space travel, and societal change. For one reason or another, these allegories often utilized big-headed aliens and giant ants. The panel of sci-fi aficionados discusses the history of the genre along with the correlations between itself and America. The trouble is, the film quickly touches on an issue and then simply moves on to next without exploration that would have strengthened the film’s arguments. “Monsters” really could have used some deeper analysis into science fiction’s effects on American culture, and vice versa. The film makes some good points but never goes beyond the grounds covered in an Intro to Sci-Fi course.

The film main point is hammered in towards the end of the film. Most of these scientists and lovers of science-fiction believe that the scientist must be the hero of today’s sci-fi stories and films. The fact that the smartest man is no longer celebrated – in most cases now it’s the strongest or best fighter – has led to a drop off in the number of children who dream of becoming scientists when they grow up. With less children studying science, the overall cultural importance of it lowers. That, in turn, means less funding for science departments, which results in less scientific advancements being made. And that’ll mean trouble the next time giant ants take over Manhattan.

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