Sunday, March 27, 2011

Superman and the Mole Men

Hi, class,

As I mentioned last Thursday, we will be looking at this film on Tuesday. I am hoping that you all are familiar with the "Superman" character as presented in film, television, and comic books. Although Superman himself could be viewed as an "outsider," given that he is literally an alien being from another planet, this film doesn't really examine that.
Superman and the Mole Men (also known as The Unknown People) was a feature-length movie (dir. by Lee Sholem) that was later re-edited into two episodes for the 1950s-era TV show. The plot revolves around three little visitors from the center of the earth’s core, whose lives are disturbed by an oil rig that has drilled deep into the earth. 

When the little mole men (ignore the zippers on the back of their costumes--lol) come up from their habitat to explore the desert, the townspeople become frightened because they are “different.” A mob (led by a bully) forms, and the three are nearly lynched. 

Racial allegory or justification for segregation?
Of course, the film has been read as a reaction to the Cold War Communist “scare” (and Cold War-era movies), but it can also be read as an allegorical reading of race relations and mob mentality, with Superman, of course, as the voice of reason. The little mole men mean no harm, and after witnessing the evil and hatred and intolerance of humankind, they return to their own world at the center of the earth.

So the question I have is: is the film a progressive, forward-thinking allegory on the dangers of mob mentality and a plea for racial "tolerance," or is it instead suggesting that we would all get along we were to remain in our separate spheres, i.e., a justification for continued segregation? How do you view it, vis a vis Frankenstein, or The Monster? I encourage you to think about these questions as you view the film.  

All best,

Prof. Williams

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