Tonight, Syfy’s otherwise delightful series Resident Alien is scheduled to air an episode in which Harry (Alan Tudyk) attends a UFO conference and meets Ancient Aliens star Giorgio Tsoukalos. The series has made sometimes unpleasant use of ancient astronaut theory material in framing the backstory for its lead character’s extraterrestrial history as an alien visitor stranded on Earth. However, it is disappointing and somewhat shameful that the show would openly embrace Ancient Aliens, a series that the Southern Poverty Law Center and a number of anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians have decried for its use of racist tropes and Victorian-era arguments born of imperialist and colonialist anti-indigenous narratives.
Resident Alien’s embrace of Ancient Aliens is particularly unpleasant in the current political moment where racial insensitivity in art is being reevaluated on a national scale. Ancient Aliens officially originated as an adaptation of the work of Erich von Däniken, who appears on the show and is listed as a consulting producer. Regular readers will remember that von Däniken has made a number of claims over the years that are insensitive to Black people, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, including his claims that the “Black race” is a “failure” and his attacks on a supposed “feminist world dictate” for androgyny.
By giving Ancient Aliens’ biggest star a platform to enhance the show’s pop culture status as “fun” and silly, Resident Alien is only helping to normalize racist claims that indigenous people were not capable of developing their own cultures without outside intervention.
Resident Alien has 1.2 million live-plus-same-day viewers, according to Nielsen ratings from last week, about a third more than Ancient Aliens’ audience.
Resident Alien is produced by various divisions of NBCUniversal, including Steven Spielberg’s Amblin, for Syfy, an NBCUniversal network. Ancient Aliens is produced by Prometheus Entertainment for the History Channel, an A+E Networks outlet.
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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