|So Long, Savior/Slayer: The Alien as Mensch and Mentor
by Candace Talmadge
Posted: 16:12 August 26, 2007
Throughout literature and on screens big and small, non-human beings (a.k.a aliens) have tended to come in just two varieties: almost too good to be true or thoroughly wicked. There's not much in between, although a few alien characterizations have attempted to redesign the mold if not shatter it altogether.
Well, we may not have Buffy to protect us against terrestrial and extraterrestrial vampires and aliens anymore, but there will always be a superhero or a need for one in our future.
In the "almost too good to be true" category falls the sweet little being of Steven Spielberg's E.T.-The Extraterrestrial. This fellow is A-OK; he charms children and uses his mysterious abilities to help his young friends ride their bicycles through the treetops. He just wants to go home. Who doesn't?
The Vulcans of Star Trek are downright saviors. Both the original and the next generation series posit that initial contact with the Vulcans in the mid 21st century brought the human race out of a dark era of worldwide warfare into an accelerated flowing of technology and a civilization renaissance. To be fair, Star Trek also has its share of "bad" non-human beings: the Romulans, the Ferenghi, and the Klingons, until the latter make peace with the Federation of Planets and join the "good" side.
"Slayer" aliens abound. They include the invaders of H.G. Wells' classic novella, War of the Worlds and the unwelcome visitors of Independence Day. There is nothing redeeming about these critters from outer space as they trash the world in their quest to annihilate the human race and loot the earth of all its resources. Then there are the acid-dripping, ruthless killers from the Alien film series. They exist only to slaughter all other living creatures and, sometimes, even their own. The aliens of the Sci Fi Channel's Taken miniseries aren't much better. They conduct repeated inter-generational breeding and other kinds of experiments on unwilling and unwitting human beings who are powerless to stop their tormenters and are left with deep psychological wounds.
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