Athony Perkins: May 2010
The Aliens Within
Why do humans create the aliens we create? A look at the evolution of aliens in popular culture, from an astrological standpoint.
This article is an introduction to a theory that I started researching and developing in 1997. It is about the presentation of aliens in popular film and television and how they appear to correspond to the astrological phenomenon of the movement of the planet Neptune through a particular astrological sign in the Western zodiac.
The aliens are “archetypes,” the kind that have been famously presented by people like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, in that they are products of a “mass unconscious” that expresses itself through art. The difference in this case is that my perspective adds the element of time, that is, that these particular things are not only created universally, but that these creations change, and that they vary, according to certain cycles of (what humans at least perceive as) time. In this case the cycles represented are the archetypes that are represented by the astrological signs in the Western zodiac.
I hope it will appeal to anyone interested in archetypal “phenomenon” and/or astrology, as well as fans of science fiction/fantasy. I welcome input from anyone with something to add or correct, in terms of specific elements that I mention. And as I will discuss the plot lines of a number of different films and television shows, be warned that there is a certain “spoiler alert” in effect.
In the Western system of astrology the different planets are supposed to represent different behavioral aspects in individuals, populations, and the world at large. The “inner” planets–the ones that are visible to the naked eye–are thought of as specific because they move relatively quickly in the sky and, for that reason, are used for the purpose of making determinations about the individual characteristics of a person. The “outer” planets are thought to represent generalities because they move slowly, and are thought of as “generational influences.” The most pronounced of these is Neptune. Neptune is the planet that is supposed to represent (among other things) the “mass unconscious,” the way everyone (at least in Western civilization), on a certain level, is thinking and acting (whether or not they are aware of it).
Neptune changes signs approximately every 14 years. During that time, society in general is thought to be under the influence of the sign Neptune is moving through. Everything that human society (at least in the West) does during those years will generally correspond to the characteristics of that particular sign. For example, from 1956 to 1970, Neptune was in Scorpio, and so those years had a “Scorpio” aspect to them. From 1970 to 1984, Neptune was in Sagittarius, so the times had a “Sagittarius” feel. Between 1984 and 1998, the influence of Capricorn was felt as Neptune moved through that sign. From 1998 to the present, Neptune has been in Aquarius, and thus an Aquarian influence has been felt. In 2111 Neptune will begin to move into Pisces.
One would need to write a book to explain this in a completely satisfying way, but if you start observing history, and in particular art, within the context of those periods of time, and are aware of the generally accepted characteristics of each sign, the Neptunian influence should become clear. As a musician, I first noticed it in trends in popular music.
Look at the periods when Neptune was transiting closest to the center of a particular sign; those being (respective to what I mentioned above) the years 1963-64 (Scorpio), 1977-78 (Sagittarius), 1991-92 (Capricorn), and 2005-06 (Aquarius). Notice the nature of the trends in music, fashion, art, comedy, culture, sexuality–and you will see the extent to which they correspond to the sign involved.
And as Neptune moves through one particular sign and into another, activity manifests as a blend of the “energies” of the two planets involved, so instead of times being, say, Scorpion or Sagittarian, they become a combination of the sign Neptune is exiting and the one it is entering, to the point where humans see the times they are living in seem to just “change.” Eras end and new ones begin.
The times to observe in this case would be the years 1956 (the Neptune transit from Libra to Scorpio), 1970 (the Neptune transit from Scorpio to Sagittarius), 1983 (the Neptune transit from Sagittarius to Capricorn), 1998 (the Neptune transit from Capricorn to Aquarius), and soon, 2111 (when Neptune transits from Aquarius to Pisces). Again, this is something else that is fairly is easy to observe when you start looking for it, and once again, something beyond the scope of this article.
By my observation, one of the many areas that this progression of “energies” manifests itself is in the way that fictional aliens are presented in film and television. Of these manifestations there are basically two types, which I refer to respectively as “aliens attack” and “aliens among us.” The former occurs when Neptune begins to go through the process of transiting from one sign into another, as mentioned above. It is during this time when one astrologically represented mindset begins to have its influence over the mass unconscious and human behavior in general, and the old astrologically represented mindset begins to fade. This new mode, being fundamentally different than the previous one, is perceived by the current unconscious mindset as “alien” and, sensing that the new mindset is becoming the more dominant one, the old mindset is threatened.
This conflict is subsequently represented in films and television programs in which “aliens attack.” For example, the first time that the “alien invasion” film was introduced into Western culture (i.e., War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Attack of the Flying Saucers) was during the years 1953 to 1956, the time just before the transit was beginning to be made between Libra and Scorpio. In the year 1967, as Neptune began to get closer to entering from Scorpio into Sagittarius there was the television show The Invaders, which was about a secret alien attack on earth. The years running up to 1983, the year that Neptune transited from Sagittarius to Capricorn, gave us the infamous miniseries V, which told the story of aliens who come to earth posing as benevolent saviors, but really plan to exploit and ultimately destroy the planet. In the years before the transit from Capricorn to Aquarius (1996 to 1998) began, there were the films Independence Day, Starship Troopers and Mars Attacks! There are different reasons and strategies involved as to how, but in this case, the aliens are always out to destroy or enslave the earth for their own ends. These films usually come in a “wave” during these particular times and then stop and there are generally no more popular ones until the next time that this Neptune transition occurs.
“Aliens among us” occur after Neptune has moved more fully into a new sign, at which time the “alien” energy has been brought in to the new mass unconscious. The story here is that the alien (or aliens) live among us, usually in secret, sometimes with good intentions and sometimes bad, though in any case they are not nearly as threatening. The ‘60s My Favorite Martian was one show that was popular while Neptune was in Scorpio; the ‘70s Mork and Mindy, as well as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Rocky Horror Picture Show were popular while Neptune was in Sagittarius. ALF was a popular comedy that ran while Neptune was in Capricorn. Invader Zim, a notable cartoon, ran from 2001 to 2002, while Neptune was in Aquarius.
All of the above mentioned are comedies and, as I said, the aliens involved are not particularly menacing, even when they try to be. Some others are. For example, They Live, a John Carpenter film about how aliens rule the world in secret, came out during the Neptune/Capricorn transit in 1988. Predator, the popular Arnold Schwarzenegger film about a dread-locked alien who lives secretly in the jungle and hunts humans for sport, came out in 1987. They are not always secret, like Alien Nation, a film about aliens who accidentally immigrate to earth, came out around the same time (and was also a television series that lasted in different forms until 1997).
The dates at which these films were made connects them astrologically, as does the nature and presentation of the aliens themselves. I think that it can be argued persuasively that the aliens presented in these films appear and act in a way that corresponds to the astrological sign that Neptune happens to be occupying at the time of the film or television program occurs.
That is, during Scorpio times, the aliens tend to be, in appearance and action, “Scorpio-like” during Sagittarius times, “Sagittarian” and so on. To use some of the examples above, you could see where Robin Williams’ wacky, optimistic, mime-like Mork would be considered Sagittarian in nature, especially compared to the character in My Favorite Martian that was played by Ray Walston, who was rather intense, personality-wise.
ALF could be reasonably described as a Capricorn figure, with his boar-like appearance and tragic history (as one of a handful of survivors of interstellar nuclear war). To use the examples from the Capricorn-era films mentioned above, the Alien Nation creatures are escaped slaves, who prove valuable to humans because they are hard working and physically tough, whereas the aliens in They Live are basically greedy, outer space imperialists who control the earth by bombarding the population with subliminal programming urging them to attain wealth and procreate. The Predator alien is a recreational hunter, albeit an ethical one (it is established that it only hunts armed humans). All of the things above could generally be thought of as (for better or worse) “Capricorn” values and behaviors.
As far as the issue of physical appearance, when the aliens are viewed in their actual alien form, there are certain common traits that could also be attributed to an astrological influence. For example the “attacking aliens” of the ‘50s–the “Scorpio” creatures–tended to be pretty slimy, like the frogish War Of The Worlds aliens and the pod people in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. The Capricorn aliens, for example, E.T., ALF and the V aliens, tended to be somewhat dry and “earthy” looking. The Aquarian aliens seemed to have an insect-like quality to them (or they literally were insects, like the aliens in Starship Troopers or the main extraterrestrial in Men In Black).
There are other examples of “aliens among us” that actually happen close to the “aliens attack” phase, where the aliens adopt the qualities of both signs. For example, Third Rock From the Sun, the sitcom which ran from 1996 to 2001, as Neptune was moving from Capricorn into Aquarius. The family in that show, the Solomons, had a number of what could be considered “Capricorn” traits: they were (outwardly) fairly conservative looking, and the youngest member of the family physically was actually the oldest and wisest mentally, and the most masculine character was actually the matriarch. They were all pretty odd, being aliens and all, attempting to reconcile the fact that they had “human” bodies and desires, a very Aquarian theme.
This is similar to the aliens in 1997’s Men in Black, wherein Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones play secret agents dealing with a panoply of alien residents, both good and bad, who have sought refuge on Earth, disguised as humans and trying to blend in. (Men in Black is an interesting variation, in that it actually combines the “aliens among us” (they live in New York) with an “aliens attack” motif, as the earth nearly meets its maker. ET, the Extra-Terrestrial was released in 1983, when Neptune was beginning to cross from Sagittarius into Capricorn. E.T. was an “alien among us,” with wizard-like, seemingly magical abilities, but with an earthy, turtle-like, Capricornian countenance.
Sometimes the same “alien among us” can adapt to different astrological mindsets, that is, they can be similar, but at the same time take on the traits of whatever sign Neptune is in when they are presented. For example, the Coneheads from Saturday Night Live originally appeared in the late ‘70s, but returned in a 1992 feature film. The basic characters are the same, but when you compare their traits in the ‘70s SNL sketches–during Neptune in Sagittarius they acted more in accordance with that sign, being fairly wild-looking, indulging in “mass quantities” of food and beer, and allowing their daughter to date Frank Zappa. The ‘90s film, made while Neptune was in Capricorn, found the clan to be far more conservative.
Another example is The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was originally released in 1951, and remade in 2008. The original starred Michael Rennie as a very Libran alien gent—polite, good looking and even-tempered, whether he’s injured in an attack or threatening the planet. Portraying the same character in the 2008 remake, Keanu Reeves played the character as far more detached and lacking understanding about the emotional nature of humanity, atypical Aquarian qualities.
War of the Worlds also has two major film versions, one made in 1954 and the other in 2005. The 2005 Stephen Spielberg version would seem to be an exception to my theory, since the film was released at what would be the very middle of the Neptune/Aquarius transit (there should be no “aliens attacking” at that time). However, it is interesting that in that story, while the “aliens” do “attack” they never actually do so from outer space. They initially appear with tripod machines that come out of the ground (hidden dormant, the film implies, for hundreds of years), activated by lightning (which, according to the film, acts as a kind of transport beam). Lightning would typically qualify as an Aquarian image. If you had no familiarity with the story that it is based on, a person might well conclude that the aliens actually came from underground, as opposed to outer space.
This concept—of aliens attacking from, basically, within—qualifies perhaps as a third “archetype,” a combination of the two I’ve presented here, and is best described as “aliens below.” There are many examples of this. For example, Quartermass and the Pit, a 1967 film of the 1958 British television show (released in the United States as 5 Million Years To Earth), finds the bodies of three-legged, Scorpio-esque horned mantis-like Martians which are discovered buried below London and then threaten the city in the form of a huge, glowing creature which compels humans to attack one another. This is also the basic plot line of The Day of the Triffids, the unfaithful film adaptation of the book by John Wyndham. Released in 1962, it was close to the “center” of a Neptune transit (Neptune/Scorpion). The “aliens” here are Triffids, large mobile plants which attack the human race after it has already been weakened by an epidemic of mass blindness. In this case, again, the “aliens” come from out of the ground, having been transported to earth, the film implies, as spores delivered by a meteor shower. The Triffids’ primary weapons are their whip-like stingers, very Scorpio-esque appendages.
In the recent Transformers films (based on the ‘80s animated series), it is understood that the robots came from outer space but initially emerge from underground, where they’ve been for a long time. The Transformers movies are a good example–as are the 2005 War of the Worlds tripods–of Aquarian archetypes, in the sense that in appearance, they look and act more like robots than as vessels or vehicles (as the ships in the 1954 film did). Astrologers often associate robots (and computers) with the sign of Aquarius.
The idea of robots as an archetype also brings another observation that sometimes the “aliens” do not need to be from “outer space,” and that other types of things can exist in “secret” that represent the mass mindset that I have been talking about. For example, the television show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles which ran from 2008 to 2009 on the Fox network during the current Aquarius period, featured secret robots, once again not “alien” in name but similar in most ways, being from an alien place (in this case, the future) and very Aquarian (detached, super intelligent but lacking in awareness of normal human emotions, an awareness of which is developed over time).
Bewitched, which ran throughout the ‘60s during Neptune/Scorpio, featured a witch with magical powers. She came from an earthly place, but it was unknown to non-witches. She kept this secret hidden so that she could live with her husband. A more Sagittarian take on this theme would be the flamboyant Jeannie, the character that Barbra Eden played from the I Dream Of Jeannie television show, which came out a few years after Bewitched and only had moderate ratings success when it was widely syndicated in the Neptune/Sagittarian ‘70s.
The Harry Potter characters had a similar appearance during the current Neptune/Aquarius period when the books and movies were most popular, as well as teenage witch sisters of the show Charmed (both began around 1998 and have very similar premises, i.e., young people who discover that they are magical beings destined to do battle against great evil). Different beings from different places, “aliens” of a certain type, but influenced by different times.
Reading all of this one might be curious about what it bodes for the future, as Neptune gets closer to its transit into Pisces beginning in 2111. To answer this one would begin looking for the things that I have mentioned, that is, the time at which any “alien”-themed film or television show is released, as well as the appearance and actions of the “aliens” presented. As I have said, the window for “aliens attack,” a theme where aliens come from afar and seek to conquer and or destroy the earth, should be within three years of when the new Neptune transit begins. According to my theory, we should be seeing something, and as I write this in the Spring of 2010, we are. Since the Fall, ABC television has debuted a brand new version of V, the ‘80s television miniseries mentioned earlier. In 2009, there was the animated film, Monsters vs. Aliens, which is the story of a small group of secret but earthly “monsters” who are ordered by the government to defend the earth against an extraterrestrial attack.
Another issue is what the aliens will be like. What do they look like? Do they appear and act Piscean? What would a Piscean appearance or mannerism be? As Neptune is supposed to be the ruler of Pisces (a water sign) and since its symbol is that of two fish, my guess would be that, as far as appearance, there would be some kind of aquatic element. This is simple enough to see in Monsters vs. Aliens, where the alien is basically a talking octopus.
As far as the new V show, the aliens in the old show are (disguised) lizards, which fit well as a Capricorn archetype, but would not fit well as a Piscean one. This time however, they are apparently not disguised reptiles, but disguised amphibians, which is revealed in around the 10th episode when Anna, the evil V leader/queen, gives birth to a large number of V “eggs,” which are soft and are left to gestate in water (as opposed to reptiles which are hard shelled and are generally kept on land). Amphibians, or amphibian like creatures, could be qualified as Piscean.
As far as behavior, the story of the current V show is similar to the old one, aliens posing as peaceful, benevolent humanoids who land on earth offering the benefits of their technology. Their outward behaviors and appearance are quite Piscean: beautiful, sensitive, graceful in manner, and generous, particularly in their desire to offer their advanced medical technology to help to humans, and making constant declarations of how they and their purposes on earth are peaceful. Their spaceships, which are interesting in that they are not round as in the old show, but rather have a kind of streamlined, greyish, ovular look which, personally, reminds me of whales, could be interpreted as another Piscean image.
Of course, they only turn out to be complete aliens in disguise with a malevolent agenda. What is revealed about the actual nature of the V aliens is interesting. They obviously have bad plans for humans but despite their overwhelming technology and power, seek to hide that fact, preferring to find ways to deceive and manipulate humans into doing what they want. They apparently lack “human” emotion, with the exception of a technologically created ecstatic state called “the bliss” which is controlled by Anna, and is used from time to time on the V’s as a method to ensure loyalty and control. This process which works well until certain individuals, who, as a result of contact with humans, begin to acquire human emotions themselves. They begin to with the humans, and then because of that, decide to turn against the V leaders and aid the small number of humans who have not been duped in their fight against them.
The V’s could be seen as representing the negative qualities of Pisces, i.e., deceitfulness and addictiveness. Most of them could actually be seen as victims themselves, as they seem to basically exist mostly to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their leader, Anna, who rewards them with a kind of technological “ecstasy.” There is also an Aquarian element, with their lack of emotion, as well as their cold ruthlessness, another Aquarian trait. So, as I mentioned above, we have elements of both signs.
District 9, a popular film about aliens, came out last August. The aliens here, similar to the aliens in the Alien Nation film mentioned earlier, are not attacking or hidden and are in fact almost like the latter in that they are rescued from a damaged spaceship. The similarity stops there, however. They appear to look like humanoid crustaceans (they are referred to as “prawns”), which would appear, to me, again, to have elements of both Pisces and Aquarius in that they appear to be from the sea but also have an insectoid appearance (crustaceans basically being “underwater insects.”) How they fit in thematically is interesting. They pose no threat and are peaceful and benign (until they begin to be mistreated). They are victims, trapped in a ghetto by humans after their spaceship crashes on earth. Victimization, being a victim and the after effects are Piscean themes. The main human character in the film is a victim as well, suffering incredibly until he eventually mutates into an alien himself. This is also a Piscean theme.
Also, of course, there is the blockbuster film Avatar, which is different from what I have discussed so far in that the story is inverted. In this case, it is the humans that go to a different planet to attack the aliens (who do attack back, eventually). This actually would fit with Pisces, since out of all the zodiac signs it is the most passive. Avatar not only has Piscean-natured aliens, but features a series of Piscean themes and images. It is, as most people know, about a crippled soldier who is sent to another planet to inhabit the body of an alien and to interact with the alien society in order to deceive and exploit them, but who then empathizes with and eventually becomes one of them. He then leads them to victory against the invading humans. Jake, the hero, is already a victim to begin with (he is crippled and has recently lost his brother). He is then offered the opportunity to escape all of that. The Na’vi, the Avatar aliens, are beautiful, emotional, compassionate, intuitive, spiritual and empathic (they are in fact physiologically designed to be that way). Pandora, the planet itself, to me is filled with Piscean imagery, a magical, dreamy looking place resplendent in peaceful blue and green hues. A great deal of the plant life, appearance-wise, is based on plants that usually only exist underwater.
Notice an important common theme in all three of these, which is that of learned, transformational empathy. In V, District 9, and Avatar, there is a story of a person or persons who represent an overwhelmingly powerful force that seeks to exploit or destroy a weaker one, but the larger power is thwarted when one of their members comes into contact with, and then learns, the values, of the “weaker” group, eventually internalizing those values. The hero then allies himself with the weaker group and then helps them to triumph against the more powerful one, at the cost of everything that the hero previously had. The thing that saves the the weaker group is not power, or intelligence, but instead empathy, compassion and sacrifice, all Piscean qualities.
As I have mentioned, the alien does not have to be an extraterrestrial. In Cloverfield, a film about a monster that comes out of the sea and attacks New York City, features “parasite” creatures that fall from the monster and attack humans. They are also crustacean-like, while the monster itself, at least as it is presented in the film, appears to be a sea creature.
So, that is basically the idea, though there are some things that are missing. One thing absent from this discussion so far are the films of Alien franchise (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection), as well as Species and the series of films that followed it. I have also not mentioned the X-Files television series, which ran from 1993 to 2002 and featured alien encounters as its primary theme. From my point of view, they do not fit within the astrological archetypes that I have been discussing here, and fit into another one that I refer to as “Alien X,” which would be another article unto itself. For that reason I have avoided analyzing the Alien vs. Predator films as well.
I also did not mention Superman, the most famous fictional alien of them all, and an archetype of its own, which has been discussed extensively by others and is once again beyond the scope of this article.
I hope that this is found to be useful. Once again, I welcome comments.
Anthony Douglas Perkins is a musician and hobby astrologer currently residing in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at saferok2000 at yahoo.com.