Commentary: Conspiracy Theories Make The Best Stories
by Frank Martin
The world is crazy right now and conspiracy theories have a lot to do with that. Wild, conspiratorial explanations for the world and the weirdos who believe them have been around since probably man could think on his own, so they’re nothing new. But in this new age of divisiveness and internet connectivity, conspiracy theories have blossomed in a way people have never thought possible. Why do people gravitate towards conspiracy theories? An easy answer is because they are just damn good stories. Truth can be boring. A conspiracy theory, however, is exciting and riveting. That’s probably why they make such great fiction.
One such conspiracy theory is the involvement of aliens in the development of ancient cultures. It’s crazy to think that a TV station called The History Channel talks so much about aliens interacting with humanity, but it’s a theory that has taken off in recent years (despite first gaining purchase in the 1970s). One specific example is that, according to the theories, it was actually aliens who built the pyramids. Or, at least, inspired their creation. This concept was used as the foundation for the sci-fi film Stargate. The story goes that aliens traveled to ancient Egypt and used the humans they found there as slaves on a far off planet. The film starts off with its main character discussing these theories with his peers. Of course, they dismiss him outright, but then he’s proven correct when he’s sent on an adventure across the stars.
More recently, the Hollow Earth theory was used in the plotting of Godzilla vs. Kong. This conspiracy theory took more of a backseat than the one in Stargate over the years, but it’s still there and used to explain where all these giant monsters came from in Warner Bros’ so-called Monsterverse. During the movie, the plot takes a ridiculous turn when people actually travel down a kind of wormhole to the center of the Earth. It’s fantastical and absurd, but so is the idea that the Earth is hollow.
I’m not sure of the ramifications of using conspiracy theories as jumping off points for storytelling. Does it give these theories credibility or does it mock them? Often times we’re watching a work of science fiction and enjoying it thoroughly knowing that it leans heavily into the fiction side of things. But for people who believe conspiracy theories, they’re watching and think “the science” is what’s stronger. Who knows? Maybe the Illuminati are real and they are making these crazy movies so that people are less inclined to believe their secrets. I know one thing for certain, though: they are damn entertaining.