Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology > On the Continued Popularity of “Ancient Aliens” Type TV Shows

On the Continued Popularity of “Ancient Aliens” Type TV Shows

A couple of months ago, I decided to write more posts about things other than current political developments. Well.. as many of you can see, so far, I have not been too successful with doing that for a number of reasons- some of which have to do with a lot of developments in the political arena of many countries including the USA. So let us get back to the topic at hand.

I first considered writing this particular post about 3-4 months when flipping through channels on my TV sometime very late at night. While not a fan of most TV channels or their “programming”, the less conventional ones can be sometimes interesting. Anyway, while flipping through all those channels I came across yet another rerun of some episode of “Ancient Aliens“. While I don’t remember the specifics of that particular episode, it was produced sometime in 2015.

A look at the imdb webpage of that show revealed that this show was being still produced and had completed 12 seasons in 7 years. The next thought that came to my mind was.. why? Why was a show like this still in production? And why are people still watching it? Have we not had enough of shows based on people looking for monsters, ghosts, spirits, bigfoot etc? The answer to one of those questions came rather quickly when I looked at the content on other channels. Let me explain..

The idea underlying this series, and other similar ones, is that intelligent extraterrestrial species visited earth in the past and interacted with human beings- aka the Ancient Astronauts theory. While “skeptics” and other assorted credentialed morons who take scient-ism too seriously might want to believe otherwise, the idea that intelligent extraterrestrials species might have visited earth in the past (including human pre-history) is an idea that is highly feasible as well as more likely than not.

More than a few scientists, including people like the late Carl Sagan, have seriously entertained the possibility that a small percentage of the weird stories found in traditional religions might be a distorted account of encounters with extraterrestrial intelligence visiting earth. I mean.. unless the evolution of life and evolution are somehow unique to earth, it is virtually guaranteed that there are more than a few intelligent species capable of inter-stellar travel in our galaxy alone. My point is that the idea underlying that series is highly feasible and likely.

But coming back to that series.. Why do so many people still watch it? Aren’t most episodes of that show full of really tenuous and speculative stuff. Then again, why don’t we ask that question about all those “crime procedural” shows or sitcoms full of outlandish characters and situations? How many viewers of popular sitcoms from Seinfeld and Friends (in the past) to BBT and HIMYM (now) believe that are based on anything approaching reality? What about “reality” shows? How many actually believe that “Real Wives of insert name of some large city” or some “survival” show believe that they are watching something real?

My point is that connection to reality has nothing to do with the success of a show, whether it is on TV or the Internet.

But this still does not explain why people watch such a show in the first place. Let me explain that point a bit more clearly. See, some people watch sitcoms because they like the story or somehow want to identify with one or more of the characters. The appeal of ” reality” shows is based on their ability to titillate and grab the viewers attention- kinda like watching the aftermath of a really bad traffic accident. But what about a show like “Ancient Aliens”? What emotional need does watching such a show satisfy?

The answer to that question can be best understood by posing a counter question- why were such shows not successful in the era between the 1950s-1990s? There are a few factors behind that. The media market, for one, was far more of an oligopoly than it is today. The cost for entry into the field of producing show for TV etc was also much higher than today. But there is a still bigger reason..

The west, especially USA, was a far more hopeful place as late at the 1990s.

But was does hope for a better future have to do with the lack of general interest in shows about aliens visiting the earth during human pre-history? To better understand what I saying, ask yourself the another question- Why were shows and movies based in science fiction so popular during that era and why were they hopeful instead of gritty, dark and dystopic? We,.. for one, this was also the era when the application of science and technology provided massive increases in the quality of life as well as making affordable what can previously considered luxurious.

Since then.. things have not been going too well in the west. Today science and technology is associated with corporate abuse, social atomization, decreasing standards of living, neoliberal technocracy and scient-ism. It is worth noting that the actions and behavior of scientists and academics have also contributed to the rather dismal public image of science. To put it another way, science and technology are no longer connected to hope for a better future and there is no traditional religious bullshit to fall back on. Moreover many other entertainment options, from traditional sitcoms to “reality” shows, contain reminders (direct or indirect) about how the world around you is generally shitty and becoming more so with every passing day.

In such an environment, shows which promote the idea that human ancestors once interacted with space-faring aliens is uniquely positive. Furthermore these shows also promote the idea that human beings, too, could one day in the future become another universally affluent and comfortable space-faring species. As you might have noticed, that particular belief was once the focal point of many successful and optimistic sci-fi shows and films as late the mid-1990s. Then neo-liberalism assumed its full form (after the demise of USSR) and things simply have not been the same since that time. To summarize shows like “Ancient Aliens” are popular because they fill the gap left by the demise of a hopeful future based on science and technology improving the lives of average people.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Dali
    May 24, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Interesting connection, but there is also a large enough UFO sub-culture to keep these things around longer than they would otherwise. Westerners also tend to overthink that an alien species capable of interstellar travel would be hostile and their overt presence would mean the apocalypse.

  2. Yusef
    May 25, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey seriously entertains the idea of an alien visit leading to improvement in primate intelligence. Kubrick wasn’t a mainstream– certainly not a Hollywood– conventional, typical, director or screenplay writer. He’s kind of a fringe character tolerated by Hollywood for rather obscure (to me) reasons. Most people who care about movies, though, consider the man a genius. I think you’re completely correct when you say it’s the credentialed morons who smirk at this hypothesis.

    People care about their ancestry, how we came to be. They care about their descent. It has a direct bearing on who and what we are– how we see and understand ourselves in the here and now. I do not believe their concerns are idle or impractical.

  3. Libertarians are subhumans
    May 26, 2017 at 1:39 am

    Here’s an interesting article,i came across it when looking into the mass sterilization of indian men that occurred in the seventies,if possibkle i’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Libertarians are subhumans
      May 26, 2017 at 5:43 am

      I’ve brought this to your attention because when men are treated horribly,like in this case no one gives a shit and it’s really jarring.

  4. webej
    May 26, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Science fiction has been rather dystopian for as long as I can remember, even in the sixties and seventies. That said, I see two reasons for this type of “nostalgia” about alien intelligence:
    [1] Cosmic loneliness after the death of God and with it, the affirmation of purpose and design were replaced by random chance.
    [2] The earth has become a less and less enchanted place as technology progresses. The only way to put a little foundation under something similar is intelligence from beyond that gives hope, mystery, perspective.

    As far as mainstream (popular) sci-fi is concerned, the mood was generally optimistic as late as mid-1990s. In fact, some of most influential, popular and profitable films and TV shows between the mid-1960s and late 1990s were wholly or partially based in sic-fi. Examples- The whole star Trek TV and Movie Franchise, the Star Wars Trilogy, the ‘Alien’ Franchise, many of Steven Spielberg’s Movies, ‘Back to the Future’ Franchise.. I could go on.

    I am not so sure about your other two points either. Widespread interest in the ancient astronaut theory started in the 1970s. Also there were tons of films and TV shows which had this concept as their main or subsidiary plot element since the 1970s. It is definitely not a new things.

    What is, however, interesting is that popular sci-fi has become progressively dystopic over previous ten years while ancient astronaut related stuff has seen a resurgence in the same time period.

  5. P Ray
    May 27, 2017 at 1:11 am

    Maybe the “ancient astronaut” genre has become more widespread,
    because people want to believe there is a superior being that can deliver them from human nature and perform some kind of debridement to make them “ascended beings”?

    The idea that God can transform man is a very widespread belief,
    and probably a reason why people lionise drug dealers/gangsters turned preachers (like Machine Gun Preacher) and General Butt Naked …
    and do nothing to reward the people who were good from day one.
    That itself creates problems when people become aware of the double standard.

  1. May 27, 2017 at 3:28 pm
  2. January 22, 2020 at 10:50 pm
  3. September 7, 2020 at 4:40 pm

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