Pre-World War 2 immigration concerns were a driving force in American culture and politics following the immigration and quota laws of 1924. Post-World War 2 intensified those concerns for exclusion along radicalized lines, social Darwinism, and American exceptionalism. I will look at two movies “The War of the Worlds” (1953) and “Invasion of the Body snatchers” (1956) to answer the question: How were these two film adaptations applied to post-World War II America to make and remake illegal aliens and alien citizenship?
It may seem, even for critics, that immigration and the making and remaking of illegal aliens and alien citizenship are barricaded behind political, cultural, and legal institutions, but if we look at cinema as a far-reaching way for a society to work out its issues, we can use this form of popular culture to take the temperature of American society pre- and post-World War II. Both of the above movies function as dreams (of aliens, invasion, fear, death) in the American imagination, which relate back to the every real issues of border control, the invasion of aliens into the interior of the country, the replacement of the white race, and the replacement of white American culture. As such, adaptation occurs in two stages: the first is the adaptation from the original literary texts, which sticks to the letter of the original; the second, is an adaptation from the cultural text produced from issues regarding immigration, which takes that something essential and applies it to the film. This will allow us to take a closer look at how film adaptation functions in the discourse of immigration and citizenship theory.
I will use a historical and legal approach to analyze the cultural effect of immigration on American society, allowing me to look at specific laws produced from the codification of those cultural effects. This will give me a better understanding of the cultural factors that influence the two movies. Because these films are part of a discourse about post-World War II America, they provide a stark representation of what the country was feeling at the time. As such, I will also approach this paper from a critical perspective looking at film theory to see the cultural impact post-World War II sci-fi films had on America.
My sources will be Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America by Mae M. Ngai, which will give me the cultural background I need; A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy In the Fashioning of America by Aristide R. Zolberg, which will provide me the legal context I need; “You’re Next!”: Postwar Hegemony Besieged in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” by Katrina Mann, which will provide a comparison between “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) and immigration; IMDB.com critical reviews of both films; lastly, I will use the library databases, such as JSTOR, Project Muse, and MLA Bibliography to find articles on the cultural impact of post-World War II sci-fi movies.