Prof. Kibbie presents sci-fi film class
A new course, Science Fiction Films and the Culture of the
Cold War, will be offered in the spring semester. Taught by English Professor
Ann Kibbie, it will examine early classics of the genre in relation to
the psychological state of America under the Cold War.
"I'm not a science fiction buff. I've always been interested
in early sci-fi films and what they reflect about Cold War anxieties,"
The half-credit class (English 030 and Film Studies 030)
will study eight '50s films: The Thing from Another World, When Worlds
Collide, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, Them!, Forbidden
Planet, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Incredible Shrinking
Man - as well as remakes of The Thing and Invasion.
The film viewings will alternate with readings of history, social history,
and film criticism.
Kibbie, the Ladd House advisor, conceived of the course
while on sabbatical last year, in part to be more a part of the House.
"I think the social houses are doing a wonderful job of coming up
with programming that is also of intellectual interest and I was interested
in the ongoing programs," said Kibbie, citing Baxter's Loose Leaves.
"I'm hoping to use it to help me develop a first year
seminar on the topic," she said. "This will be a way for me
to get student reactions and input. And to give the course a kind of trial
The films reflect cultural fears such as massive invasion
(War of the Worlds), Communism (Invasion of the Body Snatchers),
and radiation (The Incredible Shrinking Man). Even gender anxieties
are represented. Them! is about giant ants attacking California.
"Them! is much like Alien, they have to get to the
queen," said Kibbie.
The remakes benefit from the enormous changes in special
effects - action maestro John Carpenter (Big Trouble in Little China,
The Fog, Escape from New York) updated The Thing in 1982. They also
use the original films to address new kinds of concerns, according to
"The 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers expresses
a lot of anxieties about mind control that's more related to pop-psychology
movements," said Kibbie. The film also addresses public health concerns,
Kibbie said, with references to the bathhouses of San Francisco a few
years before the AIDS epidemic broke out.
The class will be held from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays
at Ladd House. It is already full, capped at 20 students, but anyone may
come to screenings.