Aliens or Alienation: The Commoditized Creature that Walk among Us

Aliens or Alienation: The Commoditized Creature that Walk among Us

A Closing Comment

The Gabbards, despite being astute psychoanalytic observers, pay only slight attention either to the political overtones of this movie’s plot or to the place in our mythology occupied by Alien and its many artistic relatives. In this they are, perhaps, like many of us. We have, in general, unreflectively entrusted a great deal of the welfare of our world to institutions (and the people who operate them) whose central motivation (along with extracting from us the most labor they can)  is to maneuver us out of as much money as they can, by the most effective means they can find. The devices to do so even include exploiting the insights uncovered by psychoanalysis. Like they do for many commodities, sellers of our popular arts manipulate developmentally early states to increase the volatility of the fuel mixture of their product’s sales rocket.

In a passage from their chapter on Alien, Gabbard and Gabbard (1987) do quite insightfully highlight the powerful psychological element that pulls  people into sci-fi and horror movies by drawing upon Freud’s (1920/1955) notion of repetition compulsion. In the same passage, and apparently quite unintentionally, the Gabbards give us grounds for an explanation as to why the proliferation of aliens and their horrific ilk in our society does not more effectively assist us in encountering and processing our own unconscious: “People line up to see movies like Alien in order to reencounter powerful unconscious anxieties while retaining a sense that they have some control of an active nature the second time around” (p. 231). I have sought in this essay to illustrate the ill psychosocial effects that flow from the fact that the dominant goal of people such as movie producers is not to help people work through their unconscious anxieties, it is to encourage, fetishize, and exploit these anxieties, leaving them largely unresolved and festering, such that, time after time, “people line up to see movies….”

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References

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Freud, S. (1955). Beyond the pleasure principle. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 18, pp. 3-64). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published in 1920)

Gabbard, G. & Gabbard, K. (1987). Psychiatry and cinema. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Greenacre, P. (1952). Trauma, growth and personality. New York: Norton.
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Josephsen, E. & Josephsen, M. (Eds.), (1962). Man alone: Alienation in modern society. New York: Dell Publishing.

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Lasch, C. (1984). The minimal self: Psychic survival in troubled times. New York: W. W. Norton.

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Ogden, T. H. (1989). The primitive edge of experience. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Schacht, R. (1970). Alienation. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Sykes, G. (1964). Alienation: The cultural climate of our time (Vols. 1 & 2). New York: George Brazillier.

Tobias, A. (1976). Fire and ice: The story of Charles Revson, the man who built the Revlon empire. New York: Morrow.

Tocqueville, A. (1969). Democracy in America. (J. P. Mayer, Ed., G. Lawrence, Trans.), Garden City, NY: Doubleday. (Original work published serially in the 1830s)

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Gene Riddle, Ph.D., 3616 Monterey Blvd, Oakland, Cal, USA 94619
bgyk@earthlink.net
© 1999 by Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology

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About the Author

Gene Riddle

Gene RiddleGene Riddle earned his Ph.D. at The San Francisco School of Psychology and The Professional School of Psychology in 1997. His prior degrees were an MA in Clinical Psychology, before that a BA and an MA in Political Science. Gene Riddle’s doctoral dissertation, from which this essay is drawn, was titled “A Certain Laming of the Personality: The Alienated Dialectics of Subjectivity and Objectivity in Capitalist America.” For the past 15 years, Dr. Riddle has been a clinical psychologist with Kaiser Permanente at its Oakland California medical center, providing new patient triage services at the Adult Psychiatry clinic. He is currently researching a paper, provisionally titled “Lee Oswald’s Life of Unquiet Desperation,” examining the psychological makeup of Lee Harvey Oswald and how that bears on an understanding of the killing of President John Kennedy.

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