April 02, 2021
“I’ve seen how people have allowed their humanity to drain away. Only it happened slowly instead of all at once. They didn’t seem to mind… All of us – a little bit – we harden our hearts, grow callous. Only when we have to fight to stay human do we realize how precious it is to us, how dear.” – Miles BennellFrom the 50s movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers come the above quote.
Subsuming the individuality into the collective, for the betterment of society is the pathway for the pod-people. The audience is never let in on the reason why. It’s just the reason that they are “alien.” What would happen if the world was actually overrun with these knock-offs of humanity? The film never answers this question, but just as a parasite consumes the host, the spread of the ‘body snatchers’ destroys the human race. And while the film is firmly rooted in 50s Americana (small town, friendly neighbors, community spirit), it never takes a side and says that the issues presented are purely American, as many other sci-fi films in the 50s do. There is a more global message of humanity and individuality that is expressed. Even the poster for the film has an image of a palm and fingerprints; the most personal and unique depiction of the self.
While many people see the themes in Body Snatchers being intricate parallels to the Communist witch hunts of the mid-50s, both the writer and director have denied any overt political agenda. It is eerily a film of its time, but the themes, as discussed above, are bigger and more universal than just the issues that plagued America. The hearings of Joseph McCarthy, and the pressure for many, including many people in Hollywood, to “name names” of suspected Communists does lend itself to an interpretation of this film. To become one with the collective sure seems like Communist propaganda, which America was still recovering from. But the pod-people in the film can be seen as any outside force consuming the will of the individual. It could be read as Communism, or the blind-following of a political party, or even the cult-like behavior of some religious doctrines. The film inspires viewers to follow their own path, and think for themselves, lest they lose the ability for love, joy and beauty.