"...an informative read and a much-needed work on the alien image in popular culture." -- Science Fiction Studies, 2004
"...extensively researched...this volume deserves serious attention from historians of science..." -- Isis, March 2004
"Moffitt's arguments are well-thought-out and meticulously documented...could be the basis for some very lively and interesting discussions." -- Tampa Tribune, September 21, 2003
From the Inside Flap
A recent Roper poll revealed that more than two-thirds of Americans believe the government is not telling the public everything it knows about UFO activity. Each week "The X-Files" is broadcast in sixty countries world-wide. And Steven Spielberg's blockbuster "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" is among the highest-grossing films of all time. What do these facts say about contemporary culture? Why have we become so preoccupied with alien depictions? What is at the root of our infatuation with extraterrestrials?
In PICTURING EXTRATERRESTRIALS, art historian John F. Moffitt presents a thoroughly researched discussion of the popular iconography depicting alleged extraterrestrial (ET) visitors and the widespread appeal of this New Age craze as a mass cultural phenomenon. Moffitt is interested in kitschy ET portraiture, not as evidence of aliens among us, but for what this imagery reveals about contemporary culture. By brilliantly placing the present cultural moment in historical context, he demonstrates how typical portrayals of aliens reflect long-running (even ancient) cultural motifs.
Whether we realize it or not, among ET's precursors are the pagan gods and goddesses of ancient Greek art, the religious visions depicted in fifteenth-century Spanish paintings, and the popular images of witches and incubi from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, in our postmodern space age, these timeless figures of the artistic imagination have taken on the other-worldly trappings of alien creatures. By the same token, centuries-old beliefs have evolved into the current New Age mythology that often surrounds the stories and pictures connected with aliens. Fueled by a huge entertainment industry and the mass media, alien imagery pervades our society, and the line between fantasy and reality becomes ever harder to discern.
Including 35 illustrations that trace the history of ET portraiture, this thoroughly entertaining perusal of popular culture presents a sophisticated yet very accessible and often funny dissection of our current obsession with the possibility that "we are not alone."