In the original, Klaatu was sent here by an intergalactic civilization worried that humans posed a potential threat to its peaceable ways. In the remake, humans are to be obliterated, not because we pose a threat to extraterrestrials, but rather — and this is literally stated — because we are killing the Earth. Indeed, the film strongly hints that Earth is a living entity — the Gaia theory embraced by some Deep Ecologists. For instance, instead of a flying saucer, Klaatu arrives in a sphere that looks like a blue planet complete with clouds. Other Earth-looking spheres soon arrive, and it quickly becomes clear that they are extraterrestrial arks removing species from Earth to be returned to thrive unmolested after the great obliteration.
As in the original, Klaatu is shot, escapes, and is befriended by a boy and his mother, who are unaware (at first) that he is the space alien. They and a scientist who won a Nobel Prize for “biological altruism” — played straight-faced by Monty Python’s John Cleese — manage to convince Klaatu that humanity is worth preserving. After all, we have classical music! But before he can call off the genocide, Gort transforms itself into a huge nano-swarm and begins the great kill-off by pulverizing all in its path.
At the last possible moment, Klaatu prevents the holocaust, but as he departs for home, his space sphere emits a pulse causing all machinery and electricity on earth to cease functioning — the clear implication being that in order to co-exist peacefully with the planet, humans must become utterly non-technological. Unmentioned in this happy ending is that such a sudden collapse in technology would result in billions of human deaths from starvation and disease.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is not the only recent A-list Hollywood movie that preaches the toxic idea that humans deserve to be wiped out for the supposedly unconscionable harm we are doing to the biosphere. In The Happening, starring Mark Wahlberg, filmmaker and writer M. Night Shyamalan, best known for the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense, offers an apocalyptic tale of a rebellion against the oppressive human hegemony — by plants.
In the Flora Rebellion, plants release “pheromones” that cause human beings to commit mass suicide. Shyamalan depicts this catastrophe as it unfolds through the eyes of Wahlberg’s character, his wife, and the small daughter of a friend — protagonists who get steadily pushed into ever tighter corners as the mass-suicide epidemic spreads through the Northeast. At one point, they take refuge in a model home in a new housing development. Realizing that the pheromones are released when a critical mass of human beings is present, they flee as a larger group of refugees approach. As the members of the larger group begin to kill themselves en masse, Wahlberg’s nuclear family runs past a huge advertising sign for the housing development that carries the unsubtle message of the film, “Because you deserve it.”
The attacks finally end. But lest anyone think it was a fluke, an ecological expert advises on television that the plants have sent us a warning to change our ways — or else.
It is some comfort that neither of these misanthropic films did well at the box office. However, the fact remains that hundreds of millions of dollars were poured by some of our most creative talents into the production and publicity of films that used the unparalleled influence of popular entertainment to preach the darkest dogmas of deep ecology to tens of millions of viewers. Indeed, the real warning we should take from these message films is that the darkness of deep ecology has moved beyond the fringe and has begun — like the pheromones in The Happening — to infect the cultural mainstream.
– Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow in human rights and bioethics for the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His next book, to be released in the fall, will be an exposé of the animal-rights movement.