The Once and Future Thing


by Eric J Baker

If you awoke with a different face, would you still be you? You’re operating from the same workstation inside your head, but a different mug is staring back from the mirror. Maybe you’re like Yoda (the cool one from Empire Strikes Back, not that nonsense-spewing goblin from the prequels), and you believe our true selves are defined by our relationships, memories, and moral actions rather than by our flesh. The spirit matters, not its temporary container.

But what if it’s your face with your memories and relationships, but you come to realize that you are no longer human? Your new ambition is to replace humanity with exact copies, starting with your family and friends. Then how would you feel?*

If there had been shots of Mary Elizabeth Winstead like this in “The Thing” remake, it would have been a better movie.

Such is the existentialist crisis facing the pod people of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), one of cinema’s most nihilistic films. In it, people are humans when they fall asleep and aliens when they awake, thanks to the intervention of a strange space plant resembling a seed pod. The only noticeable change in them is the absence of emotion.