On the Inevitable Scrutiny of Snow Aliens
In many ways, our culture is obsessed with the prospect of extraterrestrial life. We have thoroughly fleshed out preconceptions of aliens, detailing everything from their preferred modes of transportation to their distinct speech patterns. We’ve made hundreds of movies about aliens. Hell, we even have an entire cable channel devoted to aliens. There are literally people who spend their entire lives ruminating on the possibility of otherworldly life, and whether it will observe, contact, or — God forbid — attack us.
Oddly enough, an important component of The Alien Question that seems largely ignored is their environment. We think about aliens, and we look outward into the vast expanses of outer space for planets that could support human life, but we never seem to put the two together and ask ourselves, “What kind of planet would aliens inhabit?” It’s a cumbersome chicken-or-the-egg query; to imagine what kind of planet could support aliens would require a deeper understanding of said alien biology, but the evolutionary biology of an alien would be impossible to study without a working knowledge of the alien’s environment. Maybe some leading scientists will tackle that question someday, but for the time being, it is our rightful duty as arrogant Internet pricks to examine the more applicable end of this question: How would an alien’s home planet environment affect their attitude toward the human race?
After some thought on the matter, one truth has surfaced with celestial clarity: If our civilization is ever discovered by aliens hailing from a cold, snowy climate, they will most certainly find us to be, collectively, an irreconcilable shit-stain on the pristine, etherial fabric of intergalactic inhabitation.
Let’s give us ourselves the benefit of the doubt and say the aliens first land in Alaska — a place on Earth most comparable to the supposed climate of their home planet. We’ll say they land somewhere by Highway 4 between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
One alien will flag down a passerby to get some answers. His first red flag about the human race will probably be the fact that an Alaskan would actually pull over to help a lost goddamn alien find his way.
“How long did it take to build this?” asks the alien, motioning to the highway.
“Oh, several years,” answers the passerby.
“Really? Why not just travel on the snow?” the alien retorts.
“Well, ya know, our vehicles aren’t designed to drive in the snow.”
“Why the fuck not? There’s snow literally everywhere. All the time.”
The passerby is momentarily stumped.
“Well, I guess we do have our own specific mode of transportation for the snow. It’s called a dog sled.”
The passerby will proceed to attempt to explain the concept of the Iditarod to the aliens. The alien will smile and nod, and even sit through the first twenty minutes of Balto as a polite gesture, but will come away with nothing more than the understanding that there are two ways of traversing the commonest local terrain: one that requires years of building, and another that takes a really fucking long time to get anywhere. And that will be his first impression of how Earthfolk deal with a snowy climate.
However, let’s say these aliens are really rooting for Earth to be an exciting place, so they give it a second chance. They pack their belongings into a minivan and head east to see the rest of the continent. They drive through Canada, and their opinions of Earthen civilization continue withering as they learn that they have crossed an abstract political line into a different country, where you need another currency to pay for things, and where lawmakers can be fired by the mostly powerless figurehead of another country without really any explanation, and where the first syllable of “Mazda” rhymes with “Jazz.”
And yet, they continue persisting. All the way back into the United States, and into the Midwest. They take careful note of the fact that more people live in the flat, desolate wasteland of Nebraska than live in the majestic beauty of Alaska, but try not to be too hasty in their judgments. As they cross into Iowa, the youngest alien, growing discontent with the aesthetic of middle America, discovers how to operate the DVD player in the backseat and pops in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. He had picked it up at a gas station superstore along I-80 for $3 — a bargain he would admit was pretty fucking great.
While the youngest alien would probably love the comedic triangular tension among Han, Luke and Leia — as well as the dichotomy of promising spirituality and nervous impatience visible in Luke’s Jedi training — he would be appalled at the Earthen portrayal of a futuristic snow society. The most advanced method of “speedy” transport is a taun-taun, which is so fucking useless that it wasn’t spared by evolutionary processes on the aliens’ home planet. He would also take issue at the notion that cutting open a taun-taun could provide warmth in sub-zero temperatures, as even the youngest alien’s own education in alien biology (one should mention that said youngest alien is currently in 10th grade) has taught him enough about how body systems function in permanently sub-zero temperatures to know that such internal warmth is scientifically unreasonable. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the travesty of AT-AT walkers; anyone who had real familiarity with a year-round snowy climate would know that the leg joints would freeze and render the walker immobile. To the youngest alien, these oversights are nothing less than astounding, and beyond that, symptomatic of a highly limited intellect.
After a long drive through Iowa and Illinois — set to the soundtrack of the youngest alien’s impassioned airing of grievances regarding the use of outrageous climate-based plot devices in Disney’s Frozen — stop at a brewpub in Chicago for a hearty dinner. As it turns out, it’s Sunday night, and the restaurant is bustling with Bears fans there to watch their team play the Packers at Lambeau Field. The aliens are actually quite excited to witness this authentic piece of Earthen culture.
The game, unsurprisingly, is amid a blizzard of northern-Midwest proportions, leaving the ball rarely passed and frequently fumbled. The aliens can’t help glance between this game and the other game, a match-up between the 49ers and Saints in the Superdome.
An alien leans to the mustachioed Bears fan to his left. “The quarterback in the other game is throwing the ball a lot, with great success. Why are the Bears only running the ball? Especially when their running back is such a dual threat both running and receiving?”
“Oh, when you get snow like that up in ‘Sconnie, it’s just a different game,” responds the friendly, rotund Chicagoan.
“Oh, that makes sense, so it’s really rare to see it snow in a game?” asks the alien.
“Nah, happens about every year.”
This will baffle the aliens: if the sport is entirely different — borderline unrecognizable — in the snow, then why the hell play it in the snow? The aliens, of course, have dozens of brilliant games to play in the snow. If it’s always snowing up in this mysterious place called ‘Sconnie, why don’t they have snow sports up there? Why doesn’t their football team move somewhere warmer, like Los Angeles?
They will also fail to understand why the camera kept cutting to #6, even though he was on the bench throughout the whole game, but they chalk it up to “one of those Earth things.” He sure did seem sad about it, though.
The next day, they embark eastward again. After a very long day of driving, they get to their final destination: Washington D.C. They’ve been looking forward to visiting the capital of United States throughout the trip. Alien history textbooks describe it as “the seat of an empire” and a “glorious, opulent city.” After resting in a Holiday Inn (accommodations that do nothing but damage the aliens’ already-tarnished impressions of Earth), the aliens pile back into the minivan to drive around the city. It’s snowing very lightly, with about a half-inch of snow on the ground.
“Perfect — we’ll get a little taste of home as we explore this wondrous city,” says the youngest alien.
Unfortunately, and much to the aliens’ alien chagrin, they are unable to explore the city, as every major thoroughfare has been shut down due to “inclement weather.” From the window of their hotel room, they can see 11 car accidents. At any given time, 3 out of 5 cars are fishtailing through intersections. The local news informs the aliens that the entire government has shut down until the weather clears up.
“Fuck it,” says the eldest alien. “Let’s just go home.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we don’t stand a chance of impressing snow aliens. Even making the very generous presumption that they can find it within their alien hearts to look past our obvious cultural shortcomings, like the Iditarod and the NFC North, they would think we are, for lack of a better word, huge pussies. And they would probably be right. So when the skies darken and the intermittent flashing lights of alien spacecraft come hovering down to us, let’s pray that the planet whence they come is tropical, or mediterranean, or even desert, because make no mistake: if they visit from a cold, snowy climate, they will not think dick of us.