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Area 51

Entry updated 5 February 2024. Tagged: Theme.

Area 51 is a United States Air Force base in southern Nevada, the existence of which was not formally acknowledged by the US Government until 1995. This secrecy and the classified nature of the base's work have made it a magnet for Paranoia-fraught conspiracy theories, the most popular of which relate to UFOs and Aliens (often linked to the supposed crashed Spaceship recovered near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947). However, a range of other unlikely theories have also been attached to the base, including Weather Control, exotic Weapons, Time Travel and Matter Transmission.

The modern Mythology that has sprung up around the base has made its way into both popular culture and science fiction. This is perhaps best exemplified by the Television conspiracy drama The X-Files (1993-2002), which revels in a justified Paranoia: the shadowy Men in Black – as brought to the large screen in Men in Black (1997) – really are hiding something from us. Although only one episode, "Dreamland", is explicitly set on the base, Area 51 is a useful shorthand for this blend of contemporary alien folklore. The huge success of the programme inspired many pale imitations, including a Young Adult version directly linked to the area, Roswell (1999-2002). The base has also made appearances in Doctor Who (1963-current), The Simpsons (1989-current), Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007), Futurama (1999-2003; 2010-2013; 2023-current), American Dad (2005-current), Eureka (2006-2012) and Archer (2009-2023).

References in science fiction Cinema are likewise not uncommon, notably in Independence Day (1996) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). The term has become so familiar that it could be Parodied on multiple levels in the Children's SF movie Planet 51 (2009). A film actually titled Area 51 (2015), directed by Oren Peli, was completed in 2009 but for some reason not released until 2015; this production uses the Found Footage approach as three teenagers with video cameras explore the base's mysteries, discovering inter alia the inevitable Extraterrestrials. It is perhaps surprising that no filmmaker appropriated the name sooner: an arcade game did so in 1995, Bob Mayer used the title for his novel Area 51 (1997) – which opened a nine-book series – Connie Willis published the story Roswell, Vegas, and Area 51: Travels with Courtney (2001 chap), and a Videogame called Area 51 (see First Person Shooter) was released in 2005. A further book example is Mack Maloney's Wingman #17: Attack on Area 51 (2013). [ML/DRL]

see also: Carl Huberman; Media Landscape; Urban Legends.

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