Memes in Black: Thoughts on the MiB Phenomenon.
Even if I heard about them way earlier, through lots of UFO-literature I devoured at my local library as a kid, the Men in Black phenomena wasn’t something that entered my pop culture mind until Barry Sonnenfeld’s blockbuster Men in Black (1997). The concept there was from a hero’s viewpoint, and the elusive so-called MiB’s was portrayed as the saviours of the universe and all around good guys — even with a tendency to erase the memories of people from time to time. It’s a great film, I must admit it. It’s a perfect combination of action, comedy and mystery — all tied together with details only a 20 year old guy with an interest in the unknown would know, which made it even more intriguing.
Years later and having become a full blown Keelian (a follower of journalist och researcher John A. Keel’s writings — most famous for his bestseller The Mothman Prophecies), which means I’m more into the esoteric view on UFOs — they’re not “nuts and bolts’’ vehicles, but either visitors from another spectrum/dimension/whatever or physical manifestations of our own mind, and the mystery of the MiBs has grown even more intriguing and downright weird. The theories are many, and they go from three letter agents to aliens, and of course just random wackos/researchers being mistaken for something way more strange. What stands out the most is their look and their behavior, which might be connected — or is it just a way for the human brain to connect something weird with something weirder? If a person behaves oddly, maybe we have a bigger tendency to notice something off in their physiology, like slightly bigger eyes, the skin tone or how they move. Most of us can agree that people that behave odd often have a — in comparison to our usual circle of acquaintances — something special in the way they look, like their weirdness transcends into something physical. I remember from my teens when my mother took me to a UFO lecture and she still, until this day, thinks that the lecturer (whose name escapes me) looked “alien-like”.
Not long ago, after reading and researching a lot on the subject of UFOs, I was out walking and encountered a man (with a dark complex, probably Indian or Pakistani — and many witnesses reports men with darker skin — maybe it’s a hint of our inherited racism in western countries, regarding people that don’t look like us?) with odd behavior, he walked stiff and like a “robot” and after passing him on the street he turned around and started to follow me. I could sense him behind me, around 10–2 meters away, and of course I felt very uncomfortable. To really see if he was after me I decided to choose a more unique and somewhat unusual way home, and he continued to follow me. I was both annoyed and a bit worried, and turned around and looked at him — only to find him standing 20 meters behind me with his arms hanging down staring at him. I hurried inside the building, through the backdoor so he wouldn’t know which doorway that led to my apartment. Of course this wasn’t a MiB, but the thought struck me — and it gave me a valuable lesson: people behave strangely, even if they’re “normal”.
We see what we want to see, and as someone fascinated by the unknown and mysterious it was easy for me to see this connection. Men in Black has become Memes in Black, an idea/concept that travels through our collective consciousness. One experience makes another experience grow, details are added and the mythology is expanding for each time. More and more these almost mythical men take a bigger space inside us, from the products of Hollywood, the paranoid minds of ufology to ordinary people who get surprised when someone enters their personal space with questions and warnings. If any of these recently have experienced something out of the ordinary the interconnectedness between the experience and the MiB phenomena becomes more important, and somehow a reality — even if it’s only a subjective one.
Do I think it’s just imagination playing a role in this? No, I don’t. I would like to believe that there is something going on out there, but what the heck it is I have no idea. Humans experience high strangeness daily, to a degree that I would say it’s real — it’s difficult to comprehend that all of these people either imagine stuff or make things up to seem more interesting — even if our ego plays a part in most things we do. We might not earn money on a mysterious event, but we can earn attention, and for many that’s enough. The feeling of importance is way more important than monetary power. But for the sake of an open-minded discussion, here’s a few theories I have of what MiB can be — outside the usual seedy CIA/FBI/NSA agents and aliens with ill fitting human masks made of rubber..
The Simulation Theory.
According to this theory we’re living in a simulated reality, a non-physical universe where someone/something is keeping us under control, either programming us to behave in a certain way or letting us roam free what’s basically a test environment for a sinister experiment. I’ve always said that if that’s so, we’re living in an organic simulation, the result — or symptom — of the slime on top of a pulsating, intergalactic mushroom on some distant planet. But that’s a different story, and please don’t take it too seriously. So let’s say that an intelligent being has created all of this like a computer program, a game like The Sims. The reality is so high def we won’t even notice when it’s created in front of us, depending on where we look or how we behave, a technology superior to ours by millions of years. Why would it be perfect? Perfection is never perfect, there’s always something “wrong”, something “off”, contrary to what we believe — especially when it comes to intelligent beings. If dolphins are such god-like creatures, why would they want to mate (or rape) with some poor diver? Wouldn’t the be intelligent enough to understand the diver is of a different species or that its plain wrong to have sex with someone who’s not interested in such amourus activities? What if the MiBs are viruses intruding in our existence, trying to interfere with our daily lives — especially if we’ve encountered any other kinds of anomalies in programming, bugs, like the paranormal? Their behaviour would not be able to replicate our own perfectly, and their way of talking/thinking/moving would be slightly different and in some cases extremely different from us. Them often having a darker skin complex could be connected to the racist idea that humans with darker skin is more dangerous, something that’s more evident than ever now in this chaotic existence, and that makes us seem them as such.
The Probe Theory.
UFOs have been seen for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. They’ve gone through several incarnations, like chariots from the gods, airships, campy flying saucers, rockets and nowadays more and more abstract geometrical shapes — truly otherworldly compared to our understanding of reality. I mean, who the heck flies a plain, metallic looking cube? An alien race might! Outside the abduction culture there hasn’t been that many sightings of actual aliens either, except grey figures of short stature from time to time, the infamous “Nordics” (blond, tall Christ-wannabes) and similar beings with humanoid features. To be honest, if there’s intelligent civilizations out there — how big a chance is it that they would be even the slightest similar to how humans are built? Maybe they’re so damn weird they either let us see them as something less disturbing — or maybe they never set their foot on this planet and instead sends in human-like probes that mimics our behavior, looks and way of thinking — but as the extraterrestrials (or ultraterrestrials) themselves are way too different from us they can only guess how a human would work, and the result is weird looking men in old fashioned clothes and cars behaving unnaturally. A good example is Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic (1997), where cockroaches imitate humans to get close to us (and eat us, but let’s not think about that). Like astronauts, dressed as humans, these aliens take a closer look at those of us that might have noticed them and let them know, in a very awkward manner, that we should stay away and mind our own business. Or maybe they’re not even organic, just robotic reproductions of what might look like a human? The way we and them communicate is too abstract, so they send in something to maybe — just maybe — get a chance to understand what’s going on.
The Manifestation Theory.
In some ways maybe this is the wildest, most far-fetched theory as it deals with the non-physical, the esoteric and occult: the MiBs are created by our own collective consciousness as a way to find order in a world of chaos and explanations to the high strangeness around us. I’ve always felt that we get what we deserve, and through our collective consciousness we unwillingly create figures that are harmful for our world. I believe that we to a certain degree create physical entities without really wanting to create them. This is not as crazy as it sounds, but more like this: every dictator/destructive person of power is a collective creation taken from millions after millions of humans and the darker parts of their minds. Imagine all that small-minded bitterness, all that racism and greed that never fully develops into something more serious but slowly grows subconsciously inside us all, leaking out in small doses from us all and just grows bigger as it finds like minded feelings. All this hate and greed and stupidity is slowly creating a race of hateful people, some more and some less, which creates a society of stupidity — which shapes newer generations, from parents to kids to friends to co-workers to… you get my point. Maybe the MiBs are Tulpas, created from our own imagination into a physical manifestation and now we can’t get rid of them. Watch Dan Schoenbrun’s archive documentary A Self-Induced Hallucination (2018) for a closer, and excellent look, at this abstract and yet so tangible concept.
All this is of course just speculations, hypotheses that have very little evidence behind them. Yeah, one can say it’s just for fun. A mind game, a thought process gone wild. But if something as abstract as religion can be taken seriously, why can’t high strangeness? Something’s out there, that’s for sure. The question is just what exactly? Damon Knight wrote something that’s been on my mind for years now, in his biography on the pioneer of weirdness, Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained (1970), and I wonder… I wonder, if that’s not more true than we ever could imagine:
“If there is a universal mind, must it be sane?”
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.