My one-year-old son loves to babble. His vocabulary includes two words: "mom" and "dad." Everything else sounds like nonsense. At least I thought it was nonsense until the other day. We were engaged in the daily battle of getting him dressed when I noticed how familiar his babble actually sounded. It sounded just like the "ak ak ak" of the aliens from Mars Attacks.
This got me thinking about those aliens. I realized how childlike the aliens really are. They speak in a language that humans don't understand. They lash out irrationally. They perform medical experiments on their toy. Ultimately, they are subdued by "old people" music.
So, is Mars Attacks a commentary on the generation gap?
Let's take a look at the movie's characters: We have the aliens, young adults, adults in charge, and the elderly. If we consider the aliens as children, or the most recent generation (for the time of the movie), we have four generations: the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials.
Mars Attacks was released in 1996, the Millennials were just emerging during that time. The generation's infantile. So the Martians show up in the movie and everyone on Earth prepares for their arrival. They don't know the motives of the aliens. Will they serve for the good of mankind, or will they destroy everything that mankind holds dear? The aliens come into the world speaking a language that the humans don't speak or understand, similar to the way a baby speaks. But also like a baby, their facial expressions show all the emotion. The aliens are unpredictable. They arrive on this red carpet with grins on their faces and announce peaceful intentions. But, on the flip of a coin, their attitude changes and they become hostile. Again, very much like the attitude of a toddler.
Like little kids, the aliens even take that which is not theirs (or kidnap) and perform experiments on the hostages. It's like a kid popping off the head of a Barbie doll and a stuffed animal and swapping them just because s/he can.
The Baby Boomers
Next, we have the adults in charge: the baby boomers. These are the ones who run the businesses, the United States of America, Congress, the military, and the media. They are also the ones with the most to lose when the Martians attack. Everything that they have built and maintained over the years is destroyed by the Martians. They hold dear their accomplishments and successes more so than family and relationships. When told by the President that the aliens may come visit them, the First Lady responds, "Well they're not going to eat off the Van Buren china." Her love for things eventually kills her when a chandelier falls and crushes her.
Although it's the Baby Boomers who lose their positions, power, authority, as well as their lives, the Generation X-er's are the ones who fight back. They are the foot soldiers. They are the simple Kansas folk who are trying to save the people that matter. When Norris tries to go save his grandma, he is rewarded at first by not dying along with his family who refused to save the old lady. He is later rewarded as the hero by the only person with ties to the government: the president's daughter. They aren't focused on losing things. It's their humanity that saves them, just like when two boys fight off aliens to save the selfish President Dale.
The Greatest Generation
It's the Greatest Generation that comes to the rescue along with the Gen X-er's. They aren't the ones that fight the war, but that's the point. They have gone through their own wars and have the hindsight that comes with it. They point and cackle when Congress is decimated. At this point in their lives, they just take everything in stride. They've seen it all. So that's why their music is able to subdue the aliens. The song "Indian Love Call" is about the love between two people being the glue that keeps them together no matter how far away they are from each other, and having peace in knowing that. It brings a calmness over the wild creatures.
Mars Attacks isn't just a spoof on the alien movies of old. It also says something about the generation gap. It's all about the disconnect in language, appearance, and technology between the generations or humans and aliens. The aliens represent something that the Baby Boomers don't understand. "You always fear what you don't understand." The elders understand that things will happen that are out of our control. The young adults understand that what's most important in times of uncertainty is family and helping each other. Although the aliens, or other generations, may seem like they are going to destroy society as we know it, as long as we continue to show perseverance, humility, and kinship, mankind will endure.