Over the weekend, I was looking for free movies to watch. Fortunately, some of the best films — black and white classics — show up on the budget channels.
One of my favorite B movies, the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” was available on demand. So I popped the popcorn, made some tea and settled in.
When I first saw this movie I must have been about 10. It scared the beejeezus out of me, and triggered a lifelong fear of whatever was growing under my bed. To this day, I jump onto the mattress out of an irrational but robust fear that either a pod person or Barnabas Collins is living there.
Of course you remember the plot.
Kevin McCarthy — the actor, not the House Majority leader — is a doctor who sees his friends turning into empty shells, perfectly modeled after actual human beings but stripped of their souls and their personalities. They look normal, they mimic the voices and mannerisms of their hosts, but they are zombie-like entities with neither emotion nor compassion.
When the host falls asleep, the creature swallows it whole, obliterating it’s identity and unique humanity. It’s the bio-monster version of first-degree murder.
One particularly chilling scene depicts the creation of the pods, blooming from foam and becoming human facsimiles before our eyes. It is a silent, stealthy consumption of identity.
As I got older and read the historical context of the film, I realized that it was in some ways a commentary on the paranoia of the Cold War, the idea that evil lurked in our backyards and we needed to remain vigilant to communist influence. We needed to stay awake.
In an interview given before his death, Kevin McCarthy offered an alternate interpretation of the movie.
He said that he believed it was a commentary on the corporate takeover of society, where individuals became subservient to the collective. No dissent, no crooked edges, no difference. Just one well-oiled societal machine with no room for second opinions. If you disagree, you will be hunted down, and destroyed.
This movie terrified me as a child. Today it seems prophetic.
We have come to a point where people who speak out against the obvious madness that is being forced down throats and into school curriculum are shunned.
For example, if you speak the heresy of gender, insisting that there are only two of them, you are canceled.
You might have written the most beloved series of children’s books in a century, but you will be excised, like a cancerous tumor, from your own literary library.
You might be the greatest female tennis player of your generation, a proud defender of gay rights, but you will be ridiculed for failing to accept men in women’s sports.
You might have triumphed in your field, a surgeon who operated on the vulnerable bodies of sick infants, a Black man who served in the wrong president’s administration, and they will describe you with racist tropes.
There is a way to escape the cancellation. You simply accept what they tell you, and make public penance.
You agree that you’re a racist, or a transphobe, or a Trump supporter, or pro abortion, you mock religion, you attack mothers who challenge school boards, you go on the cable stations like a former New Jersey governor and grovel for crumbs of affection from the sneering anchors, the ones who ridicule you behind your back.
If you do this, the collective will consider forgiving your heresy. But they will demand small concessions, like pronouns in your email.
When Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville questioned the existence of white supremacy, a fluid term that is a useful weapon in the hands of progressives, he was, predictably, called a white supremacist in the cybersphere. To deny is to confess, in this environment.
But there are bright spots.
When Jason Aldean wrote a song about hitting back against thugs who hurt elderly women, he was called a racist. Ironically, his song became No. 1.
When Bud Light mocked women by handing a can to a person with a penis who just happened to wear makeup, they lost millions in revenue.
Some of us are watching, and haven’t yet fallen into pod slumber.
At the end of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Kevin McCarthy loses his love interest to sleep, and then a reawakening as a soulless member of the collective.
Some of us have also lost friends and family to the madness, cut off because they cannot deal with our dissenting views. They fell asleep, and when they woke up and saw that we were still defiantly human, they felt betrayed.
The movie ends on a note of cautious hope, amidst the maelstrom of paranoia.
One man insists on fighting back. We should pay attention.
Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].