Despite all the claims about ‘the death of UFOlogy’, the never-ending stream of movies and satellite TV shows, such as Chasing UFOs and UFOs: The Untold Stories prove the idea of UFOs and alien visitations is more alive than ever.
And the public fascination with UFOs simply feeds the ongoing myth of extraterrestrial visitations, as the recent OnePoll survey for ITV’s This Morning in the UK demonstrated.
The impact of what The Guardian called ‘The Will Smith effect’ is neatly summed up by journalist – and former Sheffield Hallam University student – Mark Lankester in a feature published by Yahoo News (29 March 2013).
Mark quizzed me on the link between UFO sightings, Hollywood movies and popular culture in the run-up to the release of a new sci-fi thriller produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, After Earth, starring Will Smith, in June.
In the interview I said:
“Popular culture informs what we see in the sky and then how we interpret [what we see]…you can’t help but absorb it.
“We have grown up with science fiction movies like Independence Day [released in 1996] and no one can divorce themselves from it. Not that people were seeing that one movie, and then going out to look for UFOs. It simply raised their awareness, and they became more likely to report things.
“It’s the power of popular culture. It’s not mass hysteria, and it’s not just movies – TV, books and comics contribute also – it’s just a zeitgeist. When UFOs are popular, people see them.
“And people’s descriptions alter with time. In the 50s it was all flying saucers, and right now it’s big black triangles. There are two explanations for this. Either the aliens are very fashion conscious and move with the times, or people interpret their experience through what’s going on around them.
“Quite often we see what we believe, and not believe what we see.”
[Read the full interview here]