The Influence of the Media

Close encounters of the third kind (1977)

In the character of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), director Steven Spielberg expresses the dilemma faced by an ordinary man who experiences a close encounter with a UFO and is given a mental summons to meet with the aliens at a future time. The film explores the range of emotions and inner stresses faced by a UFO contactee, including the confusion of his family, the reluctance of the authorities to recognize his experience as genuine, and the obsession of the contactee to respond to the "invitation" that the aliens have somehow impressed in his psyche.

Forced by an inner compulsion to seek reunion with the aliens atop Devil's Tower, Wyoming, Neary must leave his tearful and distressed wife (Teri Garr) and children behind as he continues his rendezvous with space intelligences. He is soon joined by an ally (Melinda Dillon), whose son was abducted from their farm home, who also is receiving telepathic messages about where he will be returned to her.

Spielberg claimed that he had adapted many actual stories of UFO contact for the screenplay, including accounts from the files of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who had been employed by the U.S. Air Force in its official research of the UFO mystery, Project

UFO hovering over a group of people in the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." (ARCHIVE PHOTOS, INC.)
UFO hovering over a group of people in the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." (
Blue Book. Hynek was even given a cameo in the film, and he can be seen among the scientists gathered to welcome the aliens when the massive mothership sets down on Devil's Tower. In numerous interviews, Spielberg said that he had always been fascinated by the subject of flying saucers and alien contact, and he liked to remind interviewers that he was born in 1947, the first year of the modern era of UFOs.

The alien beings, when they are at last revealed on screen, appear to be childlike, benevolent entities, seemingly so innocent as to be incapable of interstellar travel. And when Neary is selected to return with them to their world, many moviegoers were touched vicariously and felt their spirit prepare to lift off with them.

Such a positive portrayal of alien life-forms as that depicted in Close Encounters of the Third Kind was in sharp contrast to the monsters and the invaders that had populated so many science fiction motion pictures, and the way was paved for the arrival of Spielberg's E.T.—The Extraterrestrial (1982).

In this film, an amphibian/reptilian entity so lived on the love vibration that audiences could not resist its charm. The evil alien appeared banished from the screen and television sets, and talk of government cover-ups was forgotten by all but a small number of diehard UFO investigators. Even those aliens who looked human, such as Robin Williams on the series Mork and Mindy (1978–82), were not at all threatening.

Sinister aliens didn't return to the general public consciousness until stories began circulating of humans claiming to have been abducted by extraterrestrial crews for purposes of undergoing bizarre medical examinations. In 1986 Whitley Strieber (1945– ) told of

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind." (THE  KOBAL COLLECTION)
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind." (
his abduction in the best-selling book Communion and later translated the work into a motion picture in 1989, with Christopher Walken portraying the author. UFO investigator Budd Hopkins (1931– ), who earlier had authored Missing Time (1981), produced Intruders (1987), expanding upon the theory that aliens were abducting Earth men and women for the purpose of creating a hybrid mix of ET and human DNA. In 1992 Intruders became a television miniseries starring Richard Crenna, Mare Willingham, and Susan Blakely. The television version of Hopkins's book chillingly portrayed military and political figures covering up the truth about alien abductions while issuing official denials that such events were taking place. Once again, aliens and the entire UFO mystery were things to be feared, and thousands of people around the world began to recall abduction scenarios that allegedly had been repressed until such scenarios as those presented in Intruders and Communion caused terrible memories to surface.

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