Friday, April 23, 2010

Atlantis Rising, Part 2: Sirens from Sirius


Before we start looking at a movie made a quarter-century ago, it's important to establish exactly why the film is still relevant. It comes down to this; Cocoon is centered on two memes that have become increasing prominent on this blog - and in the culture at large - ancient astronauts and the Sirens.

  Linking the two is the Atlantis meme, which burst back into the Memestream shortly after the 2008 Election, with the jaw-dropping Atlantis Rising display in Dubai

The story of Atlantis comes to us through Plato, who heard it during his initiation into an Egyptian mystery cult. Atlantis was said to be a technologically advanced city-state, based on an island continent somewhere past the Pillars of Hercules, the gates of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Having angered the gods with their arrogance, the Atlanteans were wiped out when the continent was destroyed during some calamity. Some scholars today claim that Atlantis was a mythologized account of the destruction of a large island in the Aegean Sea, most likely during the eruption of the Thera volcano (with accompanying earthquakes and tsunamis), which some historians point to as the source of the Egyptian plagues in the Book of Exodus.


 Now, while poking around the web looking for syncs to the Atlantis narrative, I stumbled upon this remarkable string of headlines:
  • ‘Ocean census’ scientists taken aback by diversity.
  • Colony of microbes 'as big as Greece' found in ocean.
  • Saviours of fish'n'chips: British scientists find a way to breed sea fish in fresh water.
  • How an Icelandic volcano helped spark the French Revolution.
  • Get ready for decades of Icelandic fireworks.
  • Aerosols: From Ash in the Wind to Smoke from the Stack .
  • Iceland volcano: Photos show apocalyptic scene as wall of black fog covers Icelandic countryside in darkness.
  • Another photo gallery: Volcanic activity in the land of fire and ice.
  • The science behind the many seismic headlines: The public perception could easily be that we are undergoing a peak in global seismic activity, but the science suggests otherwise.
So, in addition to the alien themes in Cocoon, we also see other themes pertaining to Atlantis on the front pages of the international media. But within the cinematic memestream, Cocoon is ripe with meaningful connections, especially those of an esoteric variety:
 • We looked at Ron Howard's resume in the first installment of this series, focusing on his early career. More recently Howard has been adapting the Dan Brown blockbusters to the screen, which has inspired the Pope to appoint an Opus Dei cultist as Bishop of Los Angeles. The Telegraph writes "the appointment was described as the Pope's revenge on Hollywood for filming The Da Vinci Code."

• Ron Howard escaped the clutches of the child-star curse in George Lucas' American Graffiti (the primary influence for the Happy Days juggernaut), which also starred Harrison Ford, Cindy "Shirley" Williams, Candy Clark and McKenzie Philips, among others. Clark went on to co-star with David Bowie in the AstroGnostic classic The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Philips starred in a particularly subversive ep of The Outer Limits that we looked at recently. And of course Lucas and Ford brought AAT roaring back into the Memestream with the most recent Indiana Jones film.

After Happy Days, Henry "Fonzie" Winkler went to a successful career as a producer (he also appeared a football coach (read: Zeus) in the Aquarian allegory The Waterboy). One of Winkler's biggest hits was Sightings, a UFO/paranormal newsmagazine. Another was MacGyver, which starred Richard Dean Anderson of Stargate SG-1 fame.

Happy Days spawned a number of spinoffs, one of which was the alien contact-themed Mork and Mindy. The Mork character made his debut in this cringe-inducing episode* of Happy Days, in which Ron Howard's character Richie has a close encounter with a manic, grating alien played by Robin Williams (this was Williams' star-making turn, believe it or not).

As we saw before, Cocoon was preceded by Splash, which is rife with Synchromystic easter eggs. Several of them punch you in the face in the movie poster.

Daryl Hannah's mermaid character shows up naked (albeit with strategically placed hair) at the feet of the Statue of Liberty.

We also get a few interesting shots of the Twin Towers, but none of the Stairway to Sirius, which hadn't been built yet.

The Twin Towers also feature in early versions of the home-video art. There's not necessarily anything to be inferred from that- the Twin Towers replaced the Empire State Building as the iconic NYC landmark for a while. But given all of the sub rosa semiotic connections, the placement does take on a bit more resonance than if we were looking at an ordinary romcom.

Speaking of Masonic Manhattan, Hannah's character in Splash is named "Madison," a name which recently figured in the Watchers-themed Event Horizon art installation around Madison Square (Madison means "Son of Maud," so technically it's a masculine name. Given the connection here, I wonder if there's a deeper, more esoteric meaning to the name).

And Splash ends up with this shot of Atlantis, alive and kicking beneath the waves.

Howard's daughter Bryce Dallas Howard played a mermaid/Siren several years later in M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water, a film Bruce Rux would certainly interpret as an alien contact allegory (and I wouldn't necessarily agree). Shyamalan is obviously no stranger to more explicit alien contact narratives.

Bryce has also appeared in installments of the symbolically-supercharged Terminator and Twilight franchises, spreading out little semiotic tendrils across the Synchrosphere. Note that like Daryl, both Bryce and Dallas are masculine names, an important detail given that the aliens in Cocoon seem themselves to be androgynous.


*Warning: Anyone who's ever been forced into proximity with that guy at the RenFaire or the comic con who thinks he's hilarious (you know, the "Knights who say Ni" guy) will get the cold sweats watching "My Favorite Orkan."