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Alien Invasion, “V,” and Political Theory

March 29, 2011

While I hope alien invasion never happens, I sometimes think about how people would react. Rebecca Solnit’s piece The Uses of Disaster might be useful for thinking about this. Does the Hobbesian state of nature emerge, as survivors flee and hide? Or do victims band together and pool resources to fight the aliens? Television and movie watchers have certainly “discover[ed] the fragility of existing structures of authority” as society disintegrates in fictional imaginations of hostile alien takeovers.

The 2005 film War of the Worlds, for example, evokes imagery of giant long-legged machines shooting at humans, who make futile attempts to fight back, and ultimately die. A current ABC show called “V,” offers what I believe is an interesting take on extraterrestrial invasion; its characters and plot provide interesting ways to look at various types of political thought.

For readers who have not watched the show, the premise is somewhat unique. Anna is the queen of a lizard-like alien species that has superior technology. Hiding under the guise of friendship, Anna offers the humans “gifts” such as healing centers and blue energy. Her sign-off line, “We are at peace. Always,” masks a darker motive; that the aliens are here to harvest human genes to perpetuate the species.

So by pretending to come in peace, the Visitors complicate things. We expect the Hobbesian state of nature from humans, but since the majority of the population does not understand Anna’s true motive, what emerges is something more complex. A resistance movement called the “Fifth Column” emerges; some of its members represent different political thinkers.

Kyle Hobbes (Thomas Hobbes)

Kyle Hobbes is a mercenary whose name provides the basis for understanding his character. He is initially hunted by both the V’s and the FBI. Constantly on the run, he trusts no one, believing that everyone is trying to apprehend him. He later joins up with the Fifth Column, but his allegiance wavers, as he is tempted by money and safety for his own survival, like anyone in a Hobbesian state of nature. Hobbes distrusts all new recruits to the resistance movement, suggesting that they might be working for Anna. In The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes sums up Kyle Hobbes fairly well: “Every man ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it, and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war.” Both might be willing to sacrifice other human lives if it means preservation of their own.

Father Jack Landry (John Locke)











Father Landry becomes involved with the resistance movement after seeing evidence of malicious Visitor intent. Like Locke, he believes that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions,” which is derived from the Christian beliefs that he preaches about. As a former army Chaplain, Landry is a voice of reason, suggesting that the Fifth Column take less drastic and violent action in order to preserve the lives of innocent humans. By striving for peace between humans and visitors, he frequently butts heads with Hobbes. Interestingly, Landry later gives up his collar, symbolic of his departure of his Lockean views into a Hobbesian state of nature. This may suggest that in dire times, the Hobbesian state ultimately prevails.

Anna (State of Nature)

Anna, the Visitor queen, represents the state of nature. She operates in the Hobbesian state of nature under a Lockean guise. She kills alien aides, her own mother and countless humans, in order to advance her own interests. The queen justifies her actions by claiming that she is giving them just punishment for wrongdoings, which Locke might support, but she is merely eliminating those who oppose her.

Rather than the usual chaotic destruction involved with alien invasions, Anna uses a unique strategy that requires cunning and deliberation. She pretends to be the victim of Fifth Column terrorist attacks, and calls for the U.S. government and FBI to assist in punishing all humans who resist the Visitors. She cleverly pitts humans against each other, which is why different factions, with varying political sentiments towards Anna, emerge.


Or Evil?

The Visitors are highly intelligent and cunning, manipulating humans into believing that they are here for benevolent purposes. “V” portrays humans as victims, which they are.

But let’s think about this differently. What is unsettling to me, is that we humans are no different that the Visitors. As rational beings, we are constantly trying to advance and improve humanity using all of the “resources” that we have at our “disposal.” Is this morally justified? What would utilitarians say? Hypothetically in the future, if we could travel distant planets, would it be right to “harvest” or “use” another species to save or advance our own? In some ways, we are already doing this. And I hope, for the sake of humanity, that Earth doesn’t have any “Visitors” anytime soon.

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