At this point in the run of Ancient Aliens, more than halfway through its third season, it has become clear that the producers never expected the series to last this long. Where the early episodes of the series moved quickly and covered the “classic” ancient “mysteries” of the ancient astronaut theory, more recent episodes have slowed the pace considerably and spend increasing time talking to people other than ancient astronaut theorists. This seems to be a confession on the part of Prometheus Entertainment (who, as of this writing, has still refused to speak with me about the show) that they are running out of material.
How else to explain last night’s embarrassing hour of television, “Aliens and Evil Places,” which even by the low standards of cable mystery-mongering failed the first function of television: to entertain. Since the production was so lazy, I find it difficult to muster up the energy to watch it again to pull out quotations. I think I’ll just wing it. Heaven knows they were.
The premise of “Aliens and Evil Places” is that some places around the world “feel” charged with evil energy, and this evil energy comes from the long ago presence of extraterrestrials (or as Giorgio Tsoukalos puts it, “extraterrestrials”), preserved in folk memory as frightening, scary creatures. Or maybe it has to do with alien uranium mines, or alien missile defense shields. One of those, definitely. But mostly the “feeling” part.
Now, it wasn’t that long ago that Ancient Aliens claimed that alien visitation made places sacred (S03E03, “Aliens and Sacred Places,” August 11, 2011), so it is somewhat disconcerting to see the same “experts” argue with equal vehemence that ancient people thought aliens (whom, we must remember, they are supposed to have viewed as “gods”) made places “evil.” The apparent explanation is the un-evidenced supposition that there are multiple groups of aliens, some good and some evil, and usually at war. To put this in even geekier terms, this is something like discussing the battles of the war between the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps without ever bothering to establish whether Green Lanterns exist (hint: they don’t).
But no matter; because the criteria for judging an alien presence has been downgraded from physical evidence or even textual evidence to merely a “feeling” that a place is “creepy” or “evil,” ancient astronaut theorists are now free to see aliens everywhere without fear of having their alleged evidence actually examined. How can one argue with a feeling?
Of course, if a creepy feeling is all it takes to prove aliens were involved, then nearly every town in America must be infested with extraterrestrials.
Every town has a house like the one above, an abandoned old place usually known as a “ghost house” or a “witch house,” the alleged site of eerie events. Such houses are found everywhere, and they certainly cannot all be built on the sites of alien encounters. Instead, the answer is to be found in Edmund Burke’s 1756 treatise On the Sublime and Beautiful, where he argued that large, imposing ruins and dark, eerie nights are elements that induce a feeling of the sublime. In other words, sites have stories attached to them because they make us feel a connection to the sublime; they do not become sublime through the stories circulating around them. This is the feeling that the ignorant “experts” on Ancient Aliens tried and failed to describe, for they had not the words to express a philosophical concept at odds with the dull literalism of the ancient astronaut theory.
Finally, the whopper of the week: In discussing Australian aboriginal mythology, the narrator of Ancient Aliens asked whether the “rainbow serpent,” a flying Aboriginal mythic figure, was in fact an alien spaceship. A clue to why this is not true can be found in the name of the creature.
The rainbow serpent is actually believed to live underground, not in the sky. He can be found primarily in waterholes and derives from the rainbow formed when sunlight strikes the water, making little ripples that look like the body of a Technicolor serpent moving beneath the surface. This serpent is a creature of deep water, not deep space, and is obviously immensely different from flying saucers, rocket ships, and other things that streak across the daytime sky.
Of course, if we seriously hold that Aboriginal people cannot distinguish between a rainbow in a puddle and a flying saucer in the sky, then quite clearly the famous internet meme Nyan Cat is also a symbol of ancient aliens. Think about it: The cat bears an uncanny resemblance to the “gray” species of alien. His pop tart is quite clearly an ignorant artist’s attempt to depict a flying saucer, while the rainbow emerging from behind Nyan Cat (flying through space no less!) clearly represents the light trail burned into the eyes of those who dare stare at the quick-darting brilliance of the extraterrestrial feline traveler. On what grounds can we deny that Nyan Cat is clear and unambiguous evidence of extraterrestrial intervention in cyberspace?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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