Slate has an interesting article on reports of real Men In Black. A comic book series was inspired by real life reports of visits related by people who have seen UFOs. The comics inspired the movie series with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The third MIB movie is released this weekend.
That comic book series was in turn inspired by actual reports of clandestine, black-clad figures, reports that date back several decades and are an integral part of UFO folklore.
The producers of Men in Black III are even attempting to cash in on that folklore through a viral marketing campaign that mimics “men in black” accounts of old. Cheap-looking billboards (which don’t mention the movie at all) declare that “The Men in Black Suits are Real” and direct the curious to call a hotline, which then encourages them to leave a message detailing their own supernatural experiences. (There is also, of course, a blog that further exploits MIB culture in the hopes of a box office bonanza.)
This got us thinking: Given the enormous commercial success of the Men in Black films—as well as the popularity of TV’s The X-Files, which also drew on “men in black” mythology—do UFO seekers still report such sightings? Or has the mainstreaming of this phenomenon rooted it out of the UFO subculture that produced it?
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It’s a decent summary of the history of MIBs.
The author interviewed UFO and anomalies researcher Jerome Clark noting that accounts of MIBs have tapered since the original film was released (and the X-Files TV show is no longer on the air). She notes that Clark did not believe the films were responsible. (Not sure if this means for the decline or the surge in reports from 15 years ago).
Few ufologists, besides Nick Redfern who has a new book out about the subject, are paying much attention to the topic.
There have been some recent “events” in the media like this video of Real MIB caught on tape.
I contacted Jerry Clark and asked him to clarify one quote from the article that I didn’t understand…
Whether or not the sightings have continued or will continue, Clark cautions against dismissing such stories as the ramblings of crazy people—or to think of them as literal events, like bumping into someone at the grocery store. Rather, Clark said, the direct observation and the event must be separated. Accounts of the men in black represent experiences that, in his words, “don’t seem to have occurred in the world of consensus reality.”
What did he mean by “don’t seem to have occurred in the world of consensus reality”?
He tells me that concept got misinterpreted. Clark says: “many high-strangeness phenomena are vivid experiences while not being actual events in any ordinarily understood sense,” which he has written about in his several books.
Jerry and I don’t agree on everything but he has a point here about “experiences” versus “events”. As suggested in the quote above, in order to find the best explanation for an event, we need to remove people’s interpretation from the facts of the event. The experience can take on a wholly personal meaning dependent on the witnesses’ worldviews and frame of reference. See the difference?
When we attempt to make literal interpretations of people’s experiences, we can really fail. He writes to me:
In my view the centuries-old debate over anomalies and the paranormal stalled long ago because both sides have insisted on either-or interpretations, causing both to engage in extreme, untenable — not to mention absurdly literalist — rhetoric. It would have helped if the debaters had acknowledged that sometimes “experience” and “event” are not synonymous.
In many cases of what he labels “experience anomalies”, we just don’t know what happened. We only know that people had some experience for which no literal explanation fits comfortably.
I’m OK with saying “I don’t know”. I’m sure we will ALWAYS have such “experience anomalies” to contemplate.