is for Xenophobia
Xenophobia is a fear of strangers or of the unknown. It is frequently used as a device in literature, especially science fiction literature.
My theory is that, in times of war, the stranger is the enemy, be they German, Russian, or Mid-Eastern. During times of war there is an upswing in the number of books, movies and television shows where the stranger is the enemy. In World War I and II, most people had no idea what the typical German was like, except that s/he was different from typical Americans (or Canadians or Britains). Ditto Russians during the Cold War or people from the Mid-East since 9-11. It makes sense to cast the stranger with the unknown culture, the object of fear, in the position of the enemy in the media.
In times of so-called “peace”, there is an upswing in the number of popular culture projects in which the alien–as in from another planet–is the enemy. This is because with the advent of the Internet, the world has gotten smaller and we pretty much know about every culture there is. But a stranger from another planet? Now that is something to fear.
Most works simply assume aliens are out to annihilate the human race. Aliens speak a foreign language, they look different than us, and their culture–if it exists–would be different than ours as well. The truth is, most aliens would probably look more like Star Trek‘s Horta than its Klingons. Does a steaming mass of lava or a shimmering plasma field have a culture? Can it/he/she/schlee have a culture?
I’m not sure what is more frightening to me, the likes of Hannibal Lechter and Joe Carroll, or Lrrr and Ndnd from Omicron Persei 8. What’s scarier to you–an ordinary human psychopath or an alien from another planet? Would you fall prey to xenophobia and automatically assume the alien is your enemy? Post your opinions in the comments below.