I use one of those rent-movies-by-mail services. (OK, I'll just say it, Netflix.) One of the great things about my membership is the ability to watch movies online. While many of the options available to watch this way are pretty bad, there are some that are really good - at least in my opinion.
Recently, they have given access to a lot of science fiction movies from the late 70s and 80s. I saw many of these when I was young, having developed a taste for sci-fi from Star Wars and Star Trek re-runs on TV, and in watching some of these again, and some for the first time, I've noticed a trend.
There was a series of movies dealing with humans having some sort of relationship with friendly aliens. The most obvious example is E.T., but there was also Cocoon (and it's sequel), Starman, The Abyss, the Superman movies, Star Wars with "The Force", and a whole slew of B movies. And not only where these aliens friendly, but they all possessed some sort of super natural powers. Which was good, because they were on "our" side. (There were some that dealt with not-so-friendly aliens, such as the Alien series and The Thing, but these were the antithesis of the friendly-super-powered-aliens that only further promoted their popularity.)
What was it about these movies that made them popular? What was it about that time that brought these movies to the fore-front when they would not be as popular if they were made today?
The 80s were a scary time. The history books call it the "Cold War Era". The Soviet Union was still a world power and they and the US were engaged in a ridiculous arms race that had us all scared of a nuclear war. President of the US, Ronald Reagan and his administration were convinced that a nuclear war was winnable and it seemed that at any moment the "button" would be "pushed". While some people seemed unconcerned, many people, especially young people, as I was at the time, were held captive by their fear.
Hollywood responded by providing us with a great deal of escapism. While there were a few movies that used the Cold War as a backdrop ("WarGames", "White Nights", et al.) most others were a complete distraction from the political and military posturings of the US and USSR. Films such as "Weekend at Bernie's", "Airplane" and "Bachelor Party" were huge hits, giving people a goofy and ridiculous world to lose their cares in. But there were also Sci-Fi films, like the previously mentioned "E.T." and "Starman", that gave us the hope of a place "out there" that was better than where we were. There were people out there than were beyond fear, beyond war, and they were better than we were. Better yet, they had their own world that WE could go to, if only for about two hours in the movie theater.
But there was more to these characters. These beings with god-like powers had something that drew us, that called us. They had the power to save us. And though you may accuse me of stretching and reaching, I will say that these movies held up a mirror to our longings and reflected back the face of Christ.
(Maybe more to follow.)