Date of Degree

6-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Robert Singer

Subject Categories

American Film Studies | American Popular Culture | American Studies

Keywords

film studies, media studies, forbidden planet, mccarthyism, science fiction, hollywood blacklist

Abstract

Many American science fiction films of the 1950s served as political allegories commenting on the post-war fears of the nation. One major fear was the fear of communist infiltration: the Red Scare. In films of this era, the enemy walks as one of us. In most of these films, the alien other, the monster from without, takes on a familiar form. But at the height of all these fears comes the fear of the enemy from within, an enemy that winds up destroying us from the inside out, as can be seen in Forbidden Planet (1956). In this film, a monster from a scientist’s subconscious, an Id Monster, terrorizes a group of human space explorers surveying an extra-terrestrial planet. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, dedicated to uncovering Communists, ruthlessly conducted senate investigations to accuse people of communism wherever he thought he found them. McCarthyism created an Id Monster in America, a monster that haunted the country for years. This Id Monster saw communist threats where there were few, and thrived until McCarthy was brought down just as Dr. Morbius was in Forbidden Planet (1956). This is one of the first films to criticize McCarthyism in America, and I will demonstrate how this film uses filmic means to convey this criticism through dialogue, art direction, mise-en-scène, sound, and other compositional elements. Forbidden Planet (1956) should be read as a veiled criticism of McCarthyism and the Red Scare in 1950s America.

 
 

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