Life Imitates Art: Let’s get to the bottom of this monolith nonsense

Out of all the narrative rule-breaking that can be found in Stanley Kubrick’s movies, my favorite might just be the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its first ten minutes have absolutely no dialogue, showing prehistoric primates encountering a mysterious monolith in the deserts of Africa, set to the music of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra. After their encounter with the monolith, they learn to use animal bones as tools. This serves as a prologue to the inciting incident of the film, in which a similar monolith appears on the surface of the moon in the futuristic year… of 2001!

The events and meaning of the film are largely up to interpretation, and that makes for one of the most unique sci-fi viewing experiences. Unsurprisingly, this story out of Utah, and now Romania, where visually similar metal monoliths have appeared, has drawn comparisons to it. If you’re here, you’ve likely already heard the story of these 11-foot tall pieces of metal appearing in these locations without any clear indication of their purpose or who put them there.

Initially, I thought about talking in greater depth about this, and really taking it seriously; but I just don’t know that I can. Many people online have already taken to questioning it, and I’m inclined to agree with them. This is likely some kind of promotion for some new technology or forthcoming movie.

Whoever is behind this campaign clearly wants to capitalize on our tendency to panic. We’ve been living in a state of heightened tension and hysteria for the past year, and it feels like this is the only natural way to capitalize on this.

I’d love to believe that we’ve been visited by an alien race beyond our comprehension – and I know what you’re inclined to say “If there was a year for such a thing to happen, it would be 2020!” And perhaps that’s right, but it’s also what someone who were making some kind of viral marketing campaign around these things would say. We are so close to becoming like those yahoos in 1938 who were said to have actually believed Orson Welles’ reading of War of the Worlds (granted, the true level of hysteria is often exaggerated). Why do I get the feeling 80 years from now, people will be talking about the time Elon Musk or whoever started planting these huge pieces of metal in random spots all around the world and people fell for it, thinking it was the start of some grand alien invasion, when in fact most people just saw the story, said “Oh, that’s odd,” and just went about their day.

Maybe the clearest indication that this is a total non-story is that this thing was found on United States soil and it wasn’t immediately commandeered by the U.S. Government. Yes, we are in a time of transition, but if you think that they wouldn’t be all over that, you’re mistaken.

As I wind this post down, I realize I don’t have much of a point, only to echo the sentiment of the above tweets; man, can we just get this over with? This year has been exhausting, so let’s just get to the conclusion of this nonsense and move on.

What do you make of these monoliths?

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