Another Celebrity Endorses "Ancient Aliens"; Plus: A Newspaper Explores the Show's Connection to Orange County, Calif. and the UFO Movement
In the ongoing parade of celebrities who have enthusiastically endorsed the History Channel pseudo-documentary series Ancient Aliens, we can add yet another entry: former Glee star Chris Colfer. In an appearance on The Tonight Show this week, Colfer said that during the grieving process following the death of his mother, he spent long nights watching Ancient Aliens marathons. “I got like really, really into it,” he said. “They just kind of talk about things in history that might have been influenced by extraterrestrials. And I bought every word of it.” While Colfer might not buy “every word” today, he is still entranced enough with the show to have recently visited Peru in search of ancient astronaut evidence. “Peru is one of the extraterrestrial hotspots. So I was like I have to go, and see if I see something. And I didn’t.”
For a TV show that attracts between 1 and 2 million weekly viewers, it commands an absurdly large number of celebrity viewers.
Speaking of Ancient Aliens: Recently, the OC Weekly profiled the Orange County chapter of the Mutual UFO Network as part of a larger article on why Orange County is an ongoing UFO hotspot. What interested me most is the admission that the UFO industry is increasingly inseparable from Ancient Aliens, with the TV show driving what remains of public interest in the so-called UFO phenomenon. The local chapter has a monthly speaker in order to drive membership and to sell money-making tickets to the organization’s lecture series, which run $15 a person. According to the paper, talking heads from Ancient Aliens are regular speakers at MUFON OC, probably due its proximity to Los Angeles, where many ancient astronaut theorists live, and where Ancient Aliens is produced.
Nevertheless, it seems that Ancient Aliens has become the UFO industry’s flagship, not to mention the gateway drug that leads the fantasy-prone down the path to becoming full-blown believers.
Dr. Robert Wood of MUFON International, which is headquartered in Orange County, explains the conclusions that he has reached after fifty years of “research” into space aliens as part of the group:
The first anti-gravity craft flew in Germany in 1924 when a woman who was a psychic got the plans from an alien race in another star system called Aldebaran. In the meantime, Hitler, who was basically involved in the occult, had established a relationship with a group of reptilians who were living here in Antarctica, the Draco Reptilians. They were from the Draco constellation.
The article concludes with an interview with Michael Dennin, the UC Irvine physics professor who has been a regular talking head on Ancient Aliens since the beginning and who has served as an enabler for the program by providing scientific cover for the show’s many flights of speculative fancy. Dennin claimed that he had no problem with his heavily edited appearances on the show, in which he seems to endorse far-fetched hypotheses when his words are spliced into discussions of space alien technology.
“My main interest in life is public outreach in science,” Dennin told OC Weekly, “and obviously, many of the people interested in UFOs and aliens are also interested in science, so it’s a great place for me to do public outreach, in that regard.”
Maybe he should start his outreach with his neighbors, like Wood, who seem to think that the scientific study of space aliens involves evidence-free assertions about Hitler’s relationship with lizards from Draco.
I supposed reasonable people might disagree on how effective outreach can be when scraps of genuine science are folded into a quasi-theosophical salvation narrative, but there you have it: Dennin thinks he is doing good work by lending his authority to a program that blatantly accuses scientists and the government of a vast conspiracy to destroy knowledge.
“They like me because I’m their ‘friendly skeptic,’ and I like that title,” Dennin said.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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