There are a few movies and television shows that I was exposed to growing up that have had a large impact on my later interests in life. There was a particular period, when I lived on Travis AFB in northern California, between the ages of 4 and 6 in 1971-73, when I was first exposed to some out-of-the-ordinary themes that have remained of intense interest to me.
Because of the nature of some of these movies and TV shows, I’m not certain that I would allow my children to sit in front of the television and watch them, but things were different back then and we as children had a lot more autonomy than ours do in these times. I do not fault my parents now but thank them and wonder now at these shows, knowing that television is used as programming. Whatever the purposes might have been by those in charge of such, the outcomes surely could not have been known in advance. Insofar as a mind can be opened, experience can be moderated by the capacity of a mind to conceptualize beyond the mundane. Opening minds seems to have been one of the major intents of a certain type of media programming back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Considering that some of the tales told in these television shows and movies are ancient in conception, their relevance to our current dilemmas and questions as a species is quite interesting.
I can distinctly remember sitting in front of the television in San Francisco, while visiting extended family, glad to watch The Outer Limits as it was apparently my weekly habit to do so. I remember thinking, ah, I haven’t seen this one before and being quite excited to seeing a new episode. An episode having to do with a spaceship and someone dying, floating through space with a look of horror on his face. Wonderful stuff for a 6 year old.
Everyone watched The Twilight Zone, we only had three channels back then or maybe four, if we had good reception on the UHF dial. Too many crazy episodes to name particularly here, but as far as the plasticity of reality and the subjectivity of perception, the old episodes of this show has few peers.
This series was my introduction to the Japanese shows, alongside the Godzilla movies, and even though we didn’t have anime and manga the way kids do now, we followed Ultraman in a similar manner. I can remember my friend Daniel, of Caucasian and Filipino extract, who lived down the street and actually had an Ultraman action figure and manga comic books. Aliens, monsters, cyber-technology, robotics, themes that have continued to be developed and perfected in the popular consciousness since.
All kids raised in the 60s and early 70s watched the Godzilla movies. These old 1950s shows were shown on Saturdays, as I recall, and are perhaps remnants of the collective fear instilled by the explosion of the nuclear weapons in Japan, made manifest through this series about giant beasts of dubious character. But Godzilla’s exploits certainly caused us plenty of thrills as well.
This movie actually gave me nightmares as a child and contains themes of current importance to the world. Aliens, genetic manipulation, hidden history, the military industrial complex, spirituality vs. science, the occult vs. alien technology and fiction vs. truth are all themes that I have continued to explore since I first saw this movie.
When I was in my late 30s and saw the movie The Cell, Jennifer Lopez’s character was watching this movie and when I saw the image of the Blue aliens I got one of the biggest shocks of my life, as I’d almost totally forgotten this movie up until that point. I can barely recall a few memories where I wondered where I’d seen blue aliens, just thoughts out of the blue, but of course this movie explores many themes of spirituality and technology, of Self vs. Other, of what it is to be human, of superiority vs. inferiority complexes.
The movie made by the Beatles, of course this is a classic and perhaps not so strange for a child to watch in the early 1970s. Its depiction of certain forms of alternate spirituality, of the nature of humanity and of the subjective nature of value judgments remains of intense interest.
I’m certain this is one of those movies that I had to bend down in the backseat of the car at the nudity and sex scenes, as my parents were avid fans of drive-in movies at the time. But the theme of reincarnation is explored in great detail here. I just watched it again for the first time since a month or so ago. Even if I couldn’t understand it all at such a young age, the impression it made was enough to create a strong memory that lasted till the present.
Of course the work of Charlton Heston during the early 70s played its role. Omega Man, inadequately remade by Will Smith as the protagonist in I Am Legend, again highlighted the conflict between Self and Other, as well as presenting the conflict between sustainability and gross consumption in a very graphic manner. World-wide viruses, a mutated humanity and interracial relationships were all themes of this movie. This was nother movie that provided some graphic fodder for later nightmares.
Soylent Green is people. Much later to be used as Mulder’s passphrase in the X-files series, this movie’s final conclusion was actually a shock to me as a 6 year old child. Imagine that, in these days of Resident Evil, multiple Zombie Apocalypses and 28 Days Later.
Another one that seems tame these days, but I can remember seeing the statue of liberty at the end of this as a child and being amazed, once again, having had no idea that these astronauts might have been on earth the entire time, despite the clues given during the movie itself.
I’ve limited this discussion to shows I can actually recall watching within this 2-year period in the early 1970s. My parents loved California when we lived there, I have childhood pictures where I’m wearing a leather vest with fringes on it, my preschool teacher had hair down to her backside and I can distinctly recall flower children, hippies and giant afros, going to picnics in beautiful places in forests and my first days and years in school. Mix all of that together – taken alongside even earlier strange happenings and memories at Hamilton AFB in Nevado, California – and you have neurons firing in a manner that creates a neural net of a certain type.
We start out as a sum of our life experiences, which continues until we recapitulate our lives, come up with our life stories and then start out consciously on a path of awakening. It is said by psychiatrists and psychologists, sociologists and others charged with understanding the human mind, intention and causality, that our early life is important and the things that happen to us then often stay with us for the rest of our lives. If they are negative events then they can affect us negatively as we seek to find some resolution or way to reconcile them in our minds and experiences.
I suppose this is true of anything that we recall from our earliest years. Everything that we can remember, period, is of some importance to us, because those things that we recall all occurred in moments when we were totally present, which is why they made an impression in the first place. Times when we were in the Now, totally captured by the experience. Childhood memories especially mark experiences that marked us at that time. These also include positive memories of course, a parent’s smile, being tossed in the air, a game, childhood events, whatever it is we remember is something that, for us at that time, totally engaged our attention. Perhaps I and others like me who had the help of open-minded parents and relatively free surroundings can thank the mass media for a bit of help back then, if not that, then, at least, some weird memories and fine entertainment.