A Brief Note on a Minor Nuclear Plot Point in The Event

Two Mondays ago (NBC’s replacement for the original Law and Order [kidding]) The Event proposed as one of its plot points that whatever extraterrestrial or extra-dimensional people the US government had been holding captive since WWII were actually responsible for the atomic bomb, the Manhattan Project, and such.  The Event is an interesting show so far, and perhaps lives up to its advertisement as what offspring 24 and Lost would have if they decided to copulate (neither show was on NBC, btw).  But to be frank, the idea that nuclear technology wasn’t possible w/o the intervention of some advanced species, that we were “given” nukes to bolster some people’s (i.e. the “aliens’”) attempt to overcome their own state of being unheimlich, is tiresomely crazy.  Yes, I tend to like concepts like Stargate or Battlestar Galactica that propose humans are not actually indigenous to Earth (or whatever), and yes, I appreciate alternate histories of all sorts, but to take away from humans their greatest accomplishment ever—the ability to destroy themselves in their entirety—is going too far.

An alternate history like this—that the US government, Oppenheimer, and all the rest—were not actually responsible for nuclear technology appears to me like a particularly insidious form of delusional revisionism.  Not only does history easily refute this narrative point in The Event—if we allow it, the show makes the entire 20th-C. following it a colossal joke.  Which it isn’t.  SF has mined the depths of “what ifs” (take Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle, for example), but it rarely makes us completely un-responsible.  To suggest that human history is a whim of some advanced species is to suggest that nothing we do has any consequence whatsoever.  And to do this is to completely degrade the very cultural artifact we ourselves are watching w/ pleasure (or at least b/c it isn’t as shitty as our day-to-day lives).  In other words, a show that desperately wants our viewership, a show that is staking a claim on a now not-so-populated ground (read: there ain’t much SF on network TV no more), is suggesting that the very human history it is attempting to explore is not of our making, is a show desperately desiring to be cancelled after one season.

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