Are UFO Movies Hurting UFOlogy?
During a panel at the Roswell UFO Festival on Sunday, paranormal pop culture blogger, author, and television personality Aaron Sagers moderated a panel with host of Syfy's Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files Ben Hansen and Open Minds' Maureen Ellsberry and Jason McClellan (who are also the hosts of Spacing Out), in which they discussed whether UFO popular culture hurts the credibility of UFOlogy.
McClellan and Elsberry mostly took the stance that movies that depict real-life UFO abductions are helpful to UFO advocates, as they expose many people to ideas that they may not have considered previously. Elsberry said that "anything that makes people ask questions" about the veracity of UFOs and brings them to the subject as "believers or skeptical analysts" is positive. She recounted that she had received countless emails from fans of the film Fire in the Sky, the Hollywood treatment of the infamous Travis Walton abduction, claiming that the film had inspired them to seriously consider the existence of UFOs. McClellan agreed, calling the film a "gateway" to UFOlogy.
But according to the panelists, as well as 'The UFO Book', most of the film bore little resemblance to Walton's actual account. As a result, Sagers and Hansen felt that these abduction movies could potentially be detrimental to UFOlogy, as the embellishments and inaccuracies in the films that are purportedly "based on a true story" would make the accounts, and therefore the field in general, seem less credible. In Sagers' words, "they take a nugget of the truth and build a myth or a lie." (However, in an interview with Outer Places, Sagers clarified that he thought the exposure these films provided outweighed the potential negative impact.)
The panelists also discussed whether UFO popular culture in general hurts the UFOlogy movement. They joked that UFO abduction had become "all about the probing" as a result of Hollywood seizing on this concept, even though it comes up relatively infrequently in actual reports. Furthermore, many abductees are discredited as a result of their prior interest in science fiction films, with the media claiming that the power of suggestion incepted the memories of a UFO abduction in their minds, especially when they recount their experiences under hypnotherapy. They once again used the example of Travis Walton, who was accused of fabricating his story partially because he was a fan of alien abduction movies and because he had been discussing UFO abductions with his fellow loggers immediately before his reported abduction. Hansen said that UFO abductions were "what you talk about in a small town," especially on some kind of outdoors trip. He compared Walton's case to accounts in which people have been attacked by sharks directly after talking about shark attacks, because "that's what you talk about when you're near the water."
(As a bonus, all of the panelists except for Sagers had at some point been accused of being reptilians. You're next Sagers...you're next.)