Wednesday, April 29, 2009

UFO HUNTERS - Assault on the Intellect?

I recently watched an episode of UFO Hunters on History Channel's website. The episode discussed USO's ( unidentified submerged objects ) and the potential of underwater alien bases. Now, as outlandish as that concept is, if you're willing to speculate that a highly technological,  non-human intelligence could be present here on earth then it's not crazy to think that 'they' could be hiding in our oceans. If they are looking for anonymity, it seems like the bottom of a trench would be a very successful option. So good! I was excited to see UFO Hunters investigate a more sophisticated hypothesis. However, that is were my praise ends.

Bill Birnes, is the pretty much the reason why the show exists. I have to say up front that I enjoy Bill Birnes and what he is trying to do. He's the publisher of UFO Magazine and a significant figure in the 'Field of Ufology'. I believe his intentions are honest and I can't fault him for that. But my beef is that I feel he is very out of touch and counterproductive. Anything paranormal these days is very easily written off by the public at large. For those of us who see merit in the paranormal, the public's lack of interest is the bain of our existence. Progress is hard to come by if no one cares. So, you'd think a hit show (I'm assuming) like UFO Hunters would be great, right? Get the mystery out to the uninformed public, right? Well sure, if the show was any good. I feel it bastardizes everything it touches. I think the aesthetic of the show is inappropriate and a bad approximation of CSI, the investigations and conclusions are juvenile, everything feels staged, and while I think the 3D reenactments are useful they are misleading. 

I will say some episodes are better than others. Not all of them are bat-shit-insane. The episode of the Alien Underwater Bases was a real gem of stupidity though. First the team gets some Marine Wargamer dude to show them a satellite view of an anomolous formation on the sea floor. While anomalies are interesting, it doesn't mean that they have anything to do 'aliens'. Bill and the team then proceed to take this geographic anomaly and directly connect it to aliens and Guantanamo Bay. WHAT THE FUCK? I felt like my mind was being raped. I mean talk about illogical speculative leaps! This formation is an unknown, aliens are an unknown, when you put them together you don't get a known. And it was blatantly obvious that the coincidental link with Guantanamo was thrown in there for cheap thrills. It was grotesque! Then the investigators interview a completely crazy old man to get the 'Scoop' on cuban ufo's. I mean, come on! If you're trying to get the american public to take this seriously, you should know that crazy old men are a PR problem. This is what I mean by Bill Birnes being out of touch and counterproductive. He's trying to enlighten the public, but all he does is dumb them down or turn them off. 

Another one of my many quibbles is that they fill the show with a bunch of irrelevant drama... which is another cheap and obvious ratings ploy. In this episode, they spend a whole segment on making it look like one of the investigators is going to get eaten by a shark. LAME. I mean obviously the viewer knows everything is going to be okay in the end because - fuck it's TV! Everything always works out. So the Hunters waste a bunch of time on non-ufo stuff while totally washing over a lot of interesting testimony. It's such a waste of valuable media time. They also try to 'recreate' a splashless alien craft. Another pointless venture. If there is a high-intelligence that is able to do what is being reported, the intelligence is certainly using a technology that we are not prepared to understand. So why go to all the trouble to do a bad job modeling it? The ultimate frustration is that the investigation team does this experiment and then, at the unsuccessful end, they make the point that it was pointless.

Also to drag out my distaste for the show a bit more, I'll talk about the aesthetics. It's a bad attempt to look like CSI. If the UFO phenomenon has any substance to it then painting it up with a 'Rock n Roll' vibe isn't necessary. And can someone please tell me why there is a pair of testicles floating in a petri dish in the opening credits? 
( pictured below )

I mean seriously... that had to be intentional. How can that not be a pair of nuts? All of this is frustrating because I feel like they are trying to appeal to my demographic - young hip twenty-somethings (not with a pair of balls, but with 'edginess') Everybody in Ufology knows that the field, if there is such a thing, desperately needs some youth. But they're pushing youth away. As a self-proclaimed representative of the 'twenty-somethings' I feel very comfortable in saying that I hate how the show looks and feels and most of my peers would feel similar... again totally out of tune. I think it's sort of akin to the old women seen dressed up in club clothes. It just doesn't work.

So now I'll try to be productive and give some constructive advice. There's no point in bitching endlessly. I think the show would be more compelling if it was more honest in it's approach. The phenomenon is beyond us, so don't go out with the intention you're going to solve something. It does a great disservice to the effort. Also if you want to convey the phenomenon as geniune and serious, treat it that way... don't inject it with hokey pop gimmicks. Also, appeal to people's sense of wonder. I know that people today are comfortable with a limited world view, but if something is anomalous enough, then their instinctual curiosity will rise to the surface. I'll admit that my advice is probably not a recipe for a hit show... maybe more public programming. But the problems I have with UFO Hunters are the problems I have with the majority of TV. Then again, a lot of TV is having troubles these days and I have to wonder if it's because there is just a basic lack of believability. Sorry Bill, fellow UFO Hunters, and geniune fans of the show. I believe your intentions are honest but the show needs some work.

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