Whatever happened to alien abductions and UFO sightings in the mainstream media?
November 17, 2004 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Whatever happened to alien abductions and UFO sightings in the mainstream media? (MI)

Back in the mid-90's there seemed to be nearly 24-7 coverage of crazy people and their UFO and alien abduction stories on TV, especially The Learning Channel. I remember a time when you could pretty much flip through the channels and find at least one show on this topic at any given time. Today, this topic seems dead. Wha happen?
posted by crazy finger to Society & Culture (19 answers total)
X-files ended.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:32 AM on November 17, 2004

America moved on to Bennifer and The War On Terror.
posted by bondcliff at 11:32 AM on November 17, 2004

Cliche as it may seem, bondcliff may well be right. 9/11 changed anxieties. Now we're afraid of terrorist attacks and either Dick Cheney or Liberals, depending.
posted by weston at 11:42 AM on November 17, 2004

I remember reading something in The Guardian about how there was less of an interest in "unexplainable phenomena" because there was way too much "explainable phenomena" going on, but I can't find the source.

I did, however, find an article on UFO Magazine closing down, which might help. I think.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:49 AM on November 17, 2004

America moved on to ...

home renovationm and plastic surgery shows
posted by probablysteve at 11:49 AM on November 17, 2004

Lord Kinbote returned to the Earth's molten core while the TV crews that tried to follow him failed to avoid the lava men.

Four (real) reasons:

1) End of the Xfiles and the exit of aliens from popular culture.

2) 9/11 and the feeling that talking about government conspiracies keeping info from the public may not be in your best interest anymore.

3) The success of Lord of the Rings (and failure of Star Wars Prequels) helping the rise of the Fantasy half of SciFi/Fantasy.

4) The fact that TLC/Discovery/A&E went reality TV crazy with home makeover shows, shows where men build machines and bicker, and following white trash (either mobbed up or bounty hunters) around with cameras.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:54 AM on November 17, 2004

"America moved on to ...

home renovationm and plastic surgery shows
posted by probablysteve at 11:49 AM PST on November 17"

Does anyone remember the syndicated series "In Search of..." with Leonard Nimoy, in the late 1970's?
posted by ParisParamus at 12:11 PM on November 17, 2004

If you would like to know everything people think about UFOs and "shadow people" and "indigo children" and pyramids on Mars and "out of body experiences" and Bigfoot and all that sort of stuff, let me encourage you to listen to "Coast to Coast" with George Noory {on weekdays} and Art Bell {on weekends}.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:35 PM on November 17, 2004

ParisParamus: Absolutely! I loved that show when I was a kid, and some time in the past couple years I've caught a repeat on cable. It was a little dated, but I still dug it.
posted by jennyb at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2004

And what various other people have said--entertainment crazes pass. Remember the craze for "trash sports" TV shows, like "Battle of the Network Stars" and "Celebrity Circus" and that sort of thing? How about the craze for the "Candid Camera" type of show, or things like "That's Incredible" and "Ripley's Believe It or Not"?

One day, not too far in the future, someone will post to the WirelessNanoGreen asking "Hey, whatever happened to the 'poker craze' of the early 21st century? It used to be that if you turned on the TV, you'd see nothing but minor celebrities playing poker."

Hookey Walker! There goes your mother with her eye out! I say, that's a shocking bad hat!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:39 PM on November 17, 2004

Now you're REALLY trolling, PP. :->

According to this fan, the original "In Search Of..." was rerunning in the recent past on The History Channel, and The SciFi Channel did a short-lived revival of the show, hosted NOT by Mr. Spock, but by Mitch Pillegi of "X-Files", bringing the topic almost full circle.

BTW, SciFi is going to do a "mini-marathon" of all 7 "New In Search Of..." episodes next Wednesday...

Oh, and IMO, "In Search Of..." was the second-best show to come about because of the classic act of FCC over-regulating: the "Prime Access Rule", taking away the 7:30-8:00 timeslot from the Networks. And the first-best? "The Muppet Show".
posted by wendell at 12:40 PM on November 17, 2004

And, if I may input a bit of potential flamebait to the original topic, I thought that the current revival of more hard-core religiosity also contributed to the ebbing interest in extra-terrestial life. I mean, if The Bible doesn't mention anything about people on other planets, then you couldn't have been abducted by one of them... It must've been... Could it be... SATAN?

Dana Carvey, we need your Church Lady now, more than ever!
posted by wendell at 12:46 PM on November 17, 2004

Actually, wendell, as a hard-core listener to "Coast to Coast", I have to say that extreme religious fervor and belief in wacky paranormal things coexist quite nicely in a lot of people's heads.

Not mine, of course. I'm an Episcopalian and a skeptic. But I like to keep my finger on the weak, thready pulse of the American zeitgeist.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:13 PM on November 17, 2004

The success of Lord of the Rings (and failure of Star Wars Prequels) helping the rise of the Fantasy half of SciFi/Fantasy.

There may be more truth to this than not. A quick check of any bookstore with tell one that the fantasy section is eating the sf section whole. Even a few years ago, "fantasy" used to be just a few shelves, now whole sections are filled with mystical dragons and shit.
posted by bonehead at 1:15 PM on November 17, 2004

All that crap came and took over The SciFi Channel's program lineup because the mainstream media needed more room for elimination-based "reality" contests.
posted by majick at 2:02 PM on November 17, 2004

Metafilter: Now whole sections are filled with mystical dragons and shit.

Sorry, couldn't resist...
posted by neckro23 at 2:13 PM on November 17, 2004

A couple things:

1. Crop circles were debunked with ease and the original creators of the crop circles broke their silence after seeing how crazy people were getting. They've spoken to so many media outlets, now editors wont run these stories because they know they're all pranks.

2. The abduction crowd was called on its claims and all these investigators put up cameras and such in their bedrooms only to realize that no one ever leaves their beds and its all in their heads.

3. The sightings crowd is the same place its aways been "Umm there's something there so it much be ALIENS!" They dont have the proof to back this up so tabloids and other rags will run these stories (they still do, look at your checkout lanes) and then add some content like "Then Mr Jones realized his true purpose was to save humanity from itself."

In other words, the media along with skeptic groups finally called these people on their bullshit and the love affair with all things "aliens are in my butt" ended.

Persoanlly, i think its natural for humans to assume that something odd must be Jesus, Aliens, etc. Its deep seated "caveman" thinking. I mean, I cant even imagine a culture that looks at a cloud and thinks "its just a cloud." It takes some background in logic an science to really see simulacra for what it truly is.
posted by skallas at 4:25 PM on November 17, 2004

An interesting history of the origins and evolution of the UFO phenomenon is Curtis Peeble's Watch the Skies! The flying saucer mythology has changed over time from being dominated by "nuts and bolts" researchers looking for physical spacecraft to more "fantasy-prone" individuals who favor abductions and remote-viewing. Contemporary ufology seems more concerned with weird conspiracies and psychic powers than space aliens. Writers who have rejected the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis include Jacques Vallee (Passport to Magonia) and John Keel (The Mothman Prophecies), who view the UFO phenomenon as part of a chain of supernatural / paranormal phenomena that run throughout human history and folklore.
posted by SPrintF at 7:06 PM on November 17, 2004

skallas, skallas, skallas. If you listened to "Coast to Coast" you'd know that 1. Some crop circles are, indeed, the work of hoaxsters, but "some of them are so intricate that there's just no way they can't be caused by aliens"; 2. There are lots of abductions that are delusions, but "there are other abductions that are REAL--even Harvard Professor John Mack believed in them, but then he died...mysteriously...coincidence? OR DID HE KNOW TOO MUCH?"; 3. There are certainly some UFO hoaxes, but "how about Billy Meier/the Majestik documents/the Phoenix lights?" or whatever particular thing the guest or caller is exercised about.

The love affair with aliens is still going strong, even though the high-end broadcast media has lost interest. In fact, although one might think that debunking and the exposure of hoaxes (not to mention failed prophecies) makes people less willing to believe in a phenomenon, there is quite a bit of sociological data that suggests that there are some people who are inspired by those failures to cling more tightly to the central idea (the research that began with Festinger et al.'s When Prophecy Fails (1956) has been dramatically expanded and amplified upon, especially in the past fifteen years--this article is an interesting example of how far our understanding of these phenomena have come since Festinger's work.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:41 PM on November 17, 2004

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