Speculative fiction in television is cropping up everywhere. Across the globe, people are fixated with paranormal behavior, horror fiction, and alternate worlds. There have been countless superhero and vampire films and gory television shows emerging just in the last few years. Of the 28 new television shows released this season on primetime television alone, 6 of the shows have sci-fi or fantastical themes. But why is this so? Read on as Inside Beat takes you on a journey to another planet.
Historians are unsure whether speculative fiction is meant to detract the public from their bleak lives at home and escape to another world, or whether it is meant to comment on society. In the ‘50s, we saw a prevalence of science fiction films during the Cold War. Motion pictures like The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers depicted an unknown or extraterrestrial being invading humans' minds and desecrating our lives. Could these themes have been allusions to communism?
If these movies and shows are meant to exist as commentary, then what are they trying to discuss about society now? There have been a handful of vampire TV shows in the last few years alone that have been growing in popularity, especially with the youth culture. After the emergence of The Twilight Saga, HBO released True Blood, and teen channel The CW sanctioned the release of two other shows with themes of witchcraft: The Vampire Diaries and, new this season, The Secret Circle. Similarly, we have seen a growing number of shows and films based upon or akin to graphic novels, including AMC's The Walking Dead, which existed originally as a graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, and FX's American Horror Story, whose premise is obviously derivative of horror stories and picture books like Kirkman's Walking Dead, even if Glee's Ryan Murphy has smeared his sugary stamp across the production's name.
Several programs this season on television provide a darker, edgier perspective to classic fairy tales. Meant to bend the perception of reality, these shows will make you question whether it's all in their head or really happening. Grimm, set in present-day Portland, puts a new spin on the stories of the Brother Grimm in which a homicide detective learns that he is a descendant of a group of hunters known as "Grimms," who fight to keep humanity safe from supernatural creatures in the world. Once Upon a Time has a similar concept. Jennifer Morrison (House) stars as a woman who is approached by a ten-year-old boy claiming to be her son. Where he is from, time has frozen and the residents of the town are fairy tale characters that have forgotten who they really are. Are recent productions that make you question reality (Inception) meant to mirror society's disillusionment, just as films did during the Vietnam War, or is that reading too deeply into it?
Perhaps these shows are simply catering to the "geek" market that's recently been formed. It started with Big Bang Theory, but let's be honest, geeks are more into alternate realities than watching a program that mimics their own. Who isn't? Geeks like dinosaurs, parallel universes, and the prospect of playing with their place in time and space. Terra Nova was the most anticipated show of the season, thanks to Spielberg's seal of approval. The show follows one family as they travel 85 million years into the past in order to save humanity.
Professors of media assert that art mirrors society, that The Blob who invaded American homes really represented socialistic ideas infiltrating otherwise sane minds and brainwashing innocent American citizens. But could it be that the reverse is true, as well? If society mirrors art, The Blob, then, represented merely a horrible otherworld thing, and because of what was going on in history, we purely determined that there was an allegorical meaning to the otherwise simple-minded plot. It's a chicken-or-the-egg case; which came first?
It is hard to look reflectively on history as it is happening in the present. It is difficult to attribute a reason behind the growing popularity of speculative fiction recently. But when we look back ten years from now, what will we determine? Are we making statements about what's going on in society? Are we escaping from our dismal lives to another world so unfamiliar to our own? Or, are we simply giving the geeks what they've long desired: ghosts, gore, and time traveling? These questions may not be able to be answered, but at least we're getting good TV out of the deal.