Pants make Earth Special

I recently caught the end of “Cowboys & Aliens” on cable again and as I watched the climatic battle I remembered the bit of my original review about how Hollywood was getting in a rut with its aliens:

Grey, hairless, oddly-bent knees, big teeth, covered in mucus  and dripping with drool.  It started with “Aliens” of course but then we got “Battle L.A.”, “Super 8″, “Independence Day”, “Skyline”, “Pitch Black” and everything from “Avatar” that you weren’t supposed to want to bang.

As I watched the sequence again I was struck by something that solidified my problem with all of these designs.  The one thing that neatly represents all my complaints and frustrations.

Where are all the pants?

These are advanced civilizations.  They’ve perfected space travel, energy weaponry and (I assume) fiscal accounting policies and practices.  Don’t any of them wear pants?  Togas?  Kilts?  Uniforms of any kind?  Even if only to tell the grey, backwards-kneed space janitors from the grey, backward-kneed space generals?  Do aliens really not have a bikini area?

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2 Responses to Pants make Earth Special

  1. lukeripa says:

    Actually, we dress ourself because it’s part of our culture, its not said that an advanced civilization should wear something to be defined ‘advanced’.

    • kiwidust says:

      Well – that’s kind of my point, isn’t? Hollywood, at least, makes it clear that pants are the thing that makes Earth special.

      Clothing isn’t, of course, required. Every culture on Earth – however different – embraces some form of self-decoration (tattoos, makeup, body-modification, etc) or protection (shoes, clothing) even if it’s as simple as pigment rubs and genital wraps. The former is social; depicting standing, wealth or any number of other things. The latter is adaptive; allowing us to reduce the risk of injury or survive outside our normal range.

      Scientifically this seems pretty likely: an intelligence arises in one area and, through technology (like clothes) expands to others ultimately dominating the planet of origin. Clothing – first purely practical – becomes social and cultural.

      Of course scientifically the chances that any alien would have a facial configuration (or indeed, a “face”) anything like us is almost vanishingly small so we might assume that science isn’t the top priority around Hollywood.

      From the viewpoint of entertainment the question is easier: it’s a hell of a lot easier to make naked aliens than it is to cloth them. CGI wasn’t capable of realistic flowing cloth or the complex friction mechanics needed until just recently. When we do, rarely, see clothing on CGI aliens we get skin tight minimalism (like “Avatar”) or mechanical war suits (pretty much everything else). There are exceptions – “District 9″ being an awesome one – but they’re rare.

      When we relied on practical effects there still a lot of weirdly naked aliens (E.T., for example could have clearly used a cooling suit on our weird planet) but we also got a lot of aliens in clothes. “Predator” had pants. So did everybody in “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”.

      In any case now that the technology has caught up I really hope to see some thought going into the culture and trappings of our aliens beyond just “monsterfying” them.

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