Monday, July 20, 2009

How science fiction movies can mess with your head

Today is the 40th anniversary of the day human beings first set foot on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission touched down in the Sea of Tranquility in 1969, and images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the moon were broadcast all over the world. I’m greatly saddened that the iconic newsman of that moment, Walter Cronkite, passed away days before this anniversary. He was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a journalism degree in college. Mr. Cronkite was a class act, all the way.

I’m also a little sad that, though I am among the people who were around to witness the lunar landing, I still kind of regard the whole thing with a shrug.

I know exactly why I have that attitude. For one thing, I was only four years old at the time -– and, of course, four-year-olds have the annoying habit of not feeling the same things their parents feel when witnessing important events. Yes, Dad sat me down in front of the TV, and he was obviously thrilled about the fact that mankind had made it to the moon. However, all I remember from witnessing that historic event is a strong sense of confusion. My poor dad had unwittingly sown the seeds of that confusion by taking me to the movies a year before, to see director Stanley Kubrick’s now-legendary film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My dad, who was a very young dad, had a naïve and rather brave habit of taking Sea-the-toddler anywhere he wanted to go, and where he wanted to go usually involved movies and sporting events my mom didn’t want to attend. I remember being taken to Pacers basketball games, where I quite happily munched on cotton candy while Dad screamed at the guys on the court to quit fouling. I also remember feeling astonished by three movies I saw that still have an impact on me: Disney’s Fantasia, The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. To me, the scene of the half-built space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the music of Strauss’ “Blue Danube” swelling through the soundtrack, is one of the most beautiful movie moments I’ve ever witnessed. I love the movie, unconditionally.

Because the Apollo 11 lunar landing occurred after I’d seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, my four-year-old self was completely unimpressed by it. I thought we’d already been to the moon! Besides, there were big, circular space stations up there among the stars, weren’t there? So, what was the big deal about some guy jumping around the moon’s surface in a big, bulky suit? Not only that, the image on the TV set wasn’t as clear and nice-looking as the images in 2001: A Space Odyssey. How could Dad possibly expect me to find the lunar landing impressive?

Even later, when I learned that 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn’t REAL, I couldn’t muster up any excitement for the lunar landing -– and I still can’t. It certainly doesn’t help that mankind has had the ability to do so much more since that day -- and, quite frankly, hasn't done it. Yes, the lunar landing was a remarkable achievement, but to this day, I don’t feel excited about it. I feel more excited when I rewatch 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Curse you, Stanley Kubrick!


That Face! said...


Heck I wasn't even around for the lunar landing and I'm dissapointed.
No Death Star... No Star Gate...

Maxo said...

Did you see that the Apollo 11 astronauts are saying we should go to Mars? I personally love the whole Moon landing, but that would be something.

Saranga said...

I blame sci fi for my tenuous grasp of science. For years I thought that anti gravity machines existed. And gravity machines. Imagine my dissapointment when I found out they don't.
I've been reading about much more advanced stuff for years, why hasn't rl science caught up yet???

SallyP said...

I am so depressed that Uncle Walter is gone, that I can hardly stand it.

I DO remember the moon landing,and all of the various Gemini and Apollo missions. They would broadcast them on the black and white television at school, or on the radio. (They'd also play the World Series, so that kids didn't have to stay up until 2:00 A.M.!)

I was always sorry that we didn't do much afterwards except pick up some rocks. We should have moonbases and discos, and moon cars and things by now.

But it did bring us Tang. The breakfast drink that tasted vaguely like orange juice.

Siskoid said...

Not me, SF movies have only made the moon landing more incredible.

NASA sent people to the moon with 1960s technology and analog computers. That's is friggin' incredible.

Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. is all pretty high tech. You take the gadgets for granted. But actually doing it IN THE 60S? An amazing achievement that continues to delight and surprise me to this day.

RAB said...

Apparently you're my sister's age. This means I'll never be able to take anything you say entirely seriously anymore: after all, you're just a kid! ;-)

Funnily enough I didn't get to see 2001 on its original release and had to wait a surprisingly long time to get caught up with it. Every photo or image I saw of the ships or sets filled me with longing. But SF and Major Matt Mason swayed my reaction to the moon landing in the opposite direction -- I knew this was only the beginning, before you knew it there would be moon bases and space stations and Mars expeditions in rapid succession, and all this rudimentary stuff would seem boring compared to what we were about to get. Um, yeah, about that? I've never been able to let go of the disappointment...

Sea-of-Green said...

I would very much like to see us go to Mars. It's the logical next step!

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