It crawls….it creeps…it eats you alive!

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the classic American horror film The Blob.  For those unfamiliar with the movie, The Blob is about an alien who lands on planet Earth and immediately begins to consume everything in its path, increasing its size and power.  The alien has an amorphous and gelatinous shape, thus the title “The Blob.”  The movie is centered on two teenagers, played by Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut, who witness the destructive nature of the alien when it kills three people, and eventually destroys much of their small Pennsylvania town.  The wholesome teens try to warn the authorities about the alien, but their words are met with disbelief.  It isn’t until the local movie theater and a diner are consumed by The Blob that the townspeople and policemen see for themselves that the kids are telling the truth.  It is quickly discovered that The Blob recoils when met with cold air.  The policemen, the teens, and other adults attack The Blob with the CO2 found in fire extinguishers.  The Blob is finally subdued enough that the US Air Force is able to transport The Blob to the North Pole to keep it frozen.  The Blob ends with the title card “The End…?”

The Blob was released in 1958.  Since the initial release, critics, academics, and film buffs have analyzed the movie to be a thinly veiled, and well executed, metaphor for the looming threat of the rise of Communism, as well as condemnation of passive authority figures.  The Blob, which was purposefully designed as red, is seen literally consuming a small town in the United States.  It entered and destroyed a movie theater, which may have been meant to serve as a warning against Communist propaganda, while also providing one of the most iconic scenes in film history.  The fact that The Blob is only harmed when faced with cold temperatures is a metaphor for The Cold War, and when The Blob is contained in a frozen tundra, it is meant to be an optimistic look to the future when America would “win” The Cold War and Communism would stay in The Soviet Union.  The ambiguous denouement “The End…?”? An obvious message that moviegoers should heed the warning of the film and resist Communism.

So why are we talking about this now? The Cold War is long over and now The Blob can just serve as a fun relic of the culture’s past, right?  Maybe.  But if you take a critical look at The Blob, the propagandist message it has, and combine it with the present political and global climate, you may find that The Blob is still relevant.  If The Blob was produced this year, the alien wouldn’t signify Communism; the movie would instead be a reflection of the very real fear surrounding the threat of the rise and spread of terrorism, specifically militant Islamism.  Today, every news source regularly publishes multitudes of articles about terrorist groups, mostly ISIS, but the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Boko Haram still sometimes manage to make headlines.

Given the fact that our daily existence is bombarded with warnings and stories about “the other” and the imminent danger “the other” presents, it wouldn’t be too much of a leap to predict at least one imitation of The Blob in our lifetime.  It  surprises me that, with the exception of American Sniper, there haven’t seemed to be any blatantly propagandist American films about terrorism– this is especially intriguing since yesterday marked the 14th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack on The World Trade Center.  For those of us old enough to remember where we were, this horrific event serves as a sobering reminder that reality, and the terror that we inflict on our fellow humans, is much scarier than anything we see on the screen.

Just like how the threat of terrorism has been a part of our existence for most of our lives, particularly if you are of the “millenial” generation, the threat of Communism, the “Red Scare” as it was called, was a very real concern for the previous generations.  The Blob should, and does, occupy a space in our cultural memory and, indeed, serves as a relic of our nation’s past.  While we should view it with respect and empathy, we should also feel free to laugh at it.  After all, most of the film is unintentionally funny– Steve McQueen was a 27-year-old portraying a teenager.  But most importantly, we need to find humor in our circumstances, whatever they may be.  Laughter in the face of fear is an important form of empowerment.

 

 

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