Sometimes the aliens get in the way of good sci-fi

During my recent movie watching with my mom, I tried showing her a couple of films featuring extra-terrestrials. We started out with E.T. We only got about half an hour in before my mom refused to watch more.

Mom: The alien looks just like a human. It has a head, hands, and feet.

Me: I know. Most aliens in movies look like humans.

Mom: This is nonsense. Aliens shouldn’t look like humans. They might look like a cloud of air.

Me: I know. I also think it’s dumb that people always imagine aliens to look like humans.

Mom: This movie is nonsense. Aliens should be smart. If they can come to earth, then they must be much smarter than us. The alien in the movie is too stupid.

Me: It’s not stupid. It’s a scientist.

Mom: It looks like a lingzhi (a type of mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine).

Me: How does it look like a lingzhi?

Mom: It’s got a large head and a long, thin neck. It’s even about the same colour.

Me: You said it looks too much like a human.

Mom: It does look too much like a human.

Me: If it looks like a human, then it can’t look like a lingzhi.

Mom: I don’t like this movie. The alien is too stupid. I want to watch something else.

Seeing that she didn’t like E.T., I decided to show her Arrival, which was also on Netflix. We managed to get through the entire movie, even though my mom did not particularly enjoy it.

Mom: Why would China try to destroy the alien ships? If the aliens can come to our planet, they must be much more advanced than us. We should immediately surrender to them.

Me: Yes, but people aren’t going to surrender right away. They are going to try fighting first.

Mom: The aliens will destroy us. It’s like hitting a rock with a chicken egg.

Me: But the aliens in the movie are good aliens.

Mom: Those aliens are stupid. They look like cuttlefish and they sound like elephants. People can only imagine aliens that look like things on this planet. Aliens shouldn’t look like anything from earth. They might be a beam of light.

Me: I know, but most movies make them look like humans or animals.

Mom: This is nonsense. People are just making things up.

Me: Of course they’re making things up! We haven’t met any real aliens. Nobody knows what they look like.

Mom: I hope aliens never come here. What if they like eating humans? What if we become their favourite food?

Me: Maybe they don’t need to eat. You just said that aliens shouldn’t look like anything from earth.

Mom: What if they enslave us?

Me: If they have advanced technology, they’d build robots to do their work. They wouldn’t need us.

Mom: What if they want to keep us as pets? It’s not fun keeping a robot as a pet.

Me: But maybe they are good aliens.

Mom: What if they aren’t good aliens? What if they want to conquer the planet? Whenever humans go to a new place, they’ll start killing the natives.

Me: That’s what a lot of alien movies are about. The aliens come and try to conquer the earth, and humans have to fight them.

Mom: That’s stupid! We can’t travel to other planets. If the aliens can come to us, then they must be much smarter than us. We’re probably like ants to them. We should immediately surrender.

Me: Yes, I agree. That’s why I like this movie. I think it’s more realistic.

Mom: I don’t like the movie. The characters are too dumb. Why did the woman have the child even though she knew the child was going to die?

Me: Maybe she can only see the future, but not change it.

Mom: Then the aliens gave her a bad gift. If she didn’t know the future, at least she’d be able to enjoy the years that she had with her child. Now she’s going to spend all that time knowing that her child’s going to die.

Me: It isn’t just about her. The aliens need the humans to help them 3000 years later.

Mom: I don’t like movies about aliens. It’s all nonsense. I want to watch real stuff.

To give a brief summary of the movies that we’ve watched, my mom couldn’t finish E.T. and didn’t like Arrival. She also didn’t like A Quiet Place, Toy Story 2, Inside Out, or Unforgiven, and was lukewarm on My Neighbour Totoro. She thought the lions in both the original and the remake of The Lion King were too ugly, and they should have made a movie about pandas instead.

She did enjoy the first two of the rebooted Planet of the Apes movies. She also liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Million Dollar Baby, but found the endings to be too dower. She really liked Up, There Will Be Blood, and Hacksaw Ridge.

I’ve returned back to work now, so I’m unable to continue on our movie watching together, but I’m glad for the time that I did get to spend with my mom during the lockdown.

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