Though the space thriller Gravity just spent a third consecutive week at the top of the box office charts, its depiction of space caused the likelihood of Americans wanting to be astronauts when they grow up to drop approximately 70 percent, according to the anti-space station group called BackSpace.
Movie-goers who did not know to pop a Dramamine before the hour and a half of zero-gravity IMAX 3-D were left nauseous and terrified of being abandoned, short on Oxygen, by George Clooney. Sandra Bullock’s panicked breathing alone caused an estimated $3 million youngsters to publicly renounce their childhood dreams of exploring space.* BackSpace’s weekly newsletter, The Non-Explorer, reports that the public opinion of NASA has crashed, leaving the agency vulnerable to major funding cuts.
(*This statistic does not include children under 13 who snuck into the movie after buying tickets for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.)
Gravity tells the story of a mission gone wrong: first time astronaut Bullock and seasoned space cadet Clooney are hit by debris while repairing the space station, getting separated from their crew and losing contact with mission control. They must work together to navigate the terrible emptiness of outer-space while simultaneously battling the inner demons they thought they left back on the launch pad.
It is no coincidence that NASA Kennedy Summer Space Camp has not seen this kind of drastic drop in applications since the likes of Alien in 1979 and Apollo 13 in 1995, boasts a recent BackSpace Tweet. Besides instilling deep-seated fears of birthing extra-terrestrials and/or vomiting inside of a closed helmet, these films, like Gravity, were released during the same year as government shutdowns.
While Sigourney Weaver was fighting for her life, members of Congress were fighting for a 5.5 percent raise to their own salary. And as Tom Hanks muttered the famous phrase – “Houston, we have a problem” – Bill Clinton was having his own problem striking a deal with Congress about funding for Medicare and public health. Sound familiar?
Gravity was released just three days into this year’s government shutdown, and with literally nothing else watchable in theaters, quickly dominated, earning back its $100 million budget and then some.
The film clocked in at half-Titanic; noticeably short. It also relied exclusively on only two actors (Ed Harris’ voice doesn’t count since he traded his home recordings of mission control impersonations for his next Oscar nomination), which is unusual for a blockbuster of its nature. Though it is unlikely that, in an effort to squirrel away some chump change for Obamacare, the government quickly created Gravity to turn America against space exploration so it could hoard its contribution to NASA, I have seen some extremely high-quality YouTube videos made in under three days.
I’m just saying it’s a possibility. Making things 3-D isn’t that hard.
In a post on their Facebook page (“liked” by over 30 people), BackSpace supports the theory that the government is using the fear inspired by Gravity to “free the American people of the enormous weight of rocket ship tax.” It should be noted that on average, the government only gives NASA under 1 percent of its annual budget. Though it sounds miniscule, this vital contribution covers a sizeable chunk of the $2 billion that the agency spends yearly.
There are no reports on how much of NASA’s efforts go into shipping astronaut ice cream to the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Assuming that the budget has nothing to do with the capital’s supply of the popular treat, funding for NASA could be squashed without any qualms from the public, still reeling from all the hyperventilation at low Oxygen levels (and that was just the front row at Regal).
In case you want to preserve your childhood dream of leaving footprints on the moon – simultaneously saving NASA’s reputation — try watching some of the space movies that clearly were not made by the government. My top three choices? Spaceballs, RocketMan, and Space Chimps.
If monkeys in diapers don’t restore your faith in the final frontier, then I don’t know what will.
Watch classic science fiction on Sci-Fi Telly on FilmOn:
The Zero Gravity Podcast
NPR’s Fresh Air: Houston, We Have a Space Flick