The Rev. Terrance W. Klein, professor of theology St. Bonaventure's University and author of Vanity Faith, catches up with TNT's hit sci-fi series "Falling Skies," and finds its take on American culture none too, um, alien.
I recently enjoyed a barbeque at the Connecticut home of a former student and his wife. The topic of backyard wildlife came up, the most fearsome being the largest snapping turtle they had ever seen, although they assured me that a mountain lion had also been reported in Connecticut. That lead to the topic of guns, and my host reminded me that his grandfather, a former Marine, still sleeps with a handgun under his pillow. “Loaded?” I said.
“Of course. Not much use if it’s not loaded.”
His wife expressed—at least to my mind—a correct abhorrence of household guns. Yet even though one’s chance of being shot increases significantly with gun ownership, nothing seems able dim the American romance with firepower.
You can catch a glimpse of America’s ballistic soul on “Falling Skies,” the popular new summer series on TNT produced by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks USA. Always clairvoyant when it comes to the American zeitgeist, Spielberg may have caught the cadence of the Tea Party. In the winsome words of one youth, “Just remembering, what was it? Seven or eight months ago, you wouldn’t let me ride my bike over to Julian’s at night because I didn’t have a bike light. Now you’re offering me extra ammo.”
Why is that? The show’s premise could not be more trodden. Aliens have invaded earth, though in this series one searches in vain for their presence beyond American borders. Who cares about the rest of the planet? They have landed on American soil! All electronic devices have been instantaneously disabled. The child-voiced prologue explicates: “computers, radios, satellites, cars, TVs...everything!” The only thing standing between us and them are guns, handed out to anyone who can use them, even a 15-year-old Dickensian waif named Jimmy (Dylan Authors).
We might have been able to defend earth if we had nuked the “Skitters” when we had the chance, but the federal government wavered. Given that the series is set in the immediate future, one can only surmise that the aliens arrive before the 2012 election, when American foreign policy was still under a misguided policy of “Ask questions first, then shoot.”