What if you woke up one morning and your spouse, or roommate, or loved one was gone, and in their place was someone – or something – else? And what if slowly everyone around you becomes replaced as well? And worst of all, what if no one believed you?
This is the challenge faced in Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers and its most famous adaptation, the 1956 film (and perhaps even better 1978 remake), Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The story begins with Dr. Miles Bennell, who is somewhat confused and suspicious when several of his patients, his former girlfriend Becky, complain that their loved ones are imposters. However, he starts to believe that they’re not merely paranoid when his friend Jack discovers a body which, though not yet fully formed, bears a striking resemblance to Jack himself. His fears that the townspeople have been replaced in their sleep with copies are confirmed when duplicates of Jack, Becky and Bennell emerge from pods. Unfortunately, by the time they return with the police, the bodies have vanished and their desperate pleas as chalked up to just another case of hysteria. By the time anyone believes them, it may already be too late. It’s rather a genius plan on the pod-people’s part, I regret to say.
If you stumbled across something like this, would you be able to sleep at night? I certainly wouldn’t – which as it turns out, isn’t such a bad thing. Insomnia . . . aka. sole defense against alien replacement.
I think the creepiest part of the story is the pod-people’s utter lack of emotion. They remain completely passionless, seeming to only concern themselves with getting to every remaining human holdout. This lack of emotion – of love or anger or hatred – might make for a more peaceful planet, but as Yorish says in The Invasion (yet another Body Snatchers remake), “To imagine a world where every crisis did not result in new atrocities, where every newspaper is not full of war and violence. Well, this is to imagine a world where human beings cease to be human.” And these pod people are definitely not human. It makes me think violence might, in this one instance, be the answer.
I have to say that, as much as I love Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy in the 1978 film, perhaps my favorite adaptation of the novel (which is actually more of a hybrid between Body Snatchers and Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters) is the 1998 sc-fi/horror flick, The Faculty. It’s completely ridiculous and unreservedly campy, but I just love it. For those of you who’ve never seen it, let me sum it up in one quick sentence: Pod-people meet high school social hierarchy.
And yet, as absurd as the movie is, it doesn’t lose sight of Finney and Heinlein’s original themes: as destructive as they may be, humanity is lost without emotions. And more importantly, extraterrestrials may be stealthier than we ever imagined. It’s not all war of the worlds or Independence Day invasions. Sometimes they sneak in through the unsuspected back door, infiltrating the earth without causing any immediate alarm.
So whether it’s being taken over in your sleep or an ominous trip to the principal’s office, beware the pod-people. And from the body snatchers, may I say . . .
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2012. My theme is (in case you didn’t already guess) science fiction. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the rest of the participants, simply click here.