The late 1940s and the 1950s produced a series of sci-fi themes in the United States that have spread and marked our cultural imaginary since then. It’s from those times that the most famous UFO-related case in history emerged: the Roswell Incident, in New Mexico, US, dates back to 1947. That’s the starting point for Cornhub, built in North Korea region, in Second Life.
Cornhub (on a side note, let’s notice the pun on the sim’s name, that relates to Pornhub) is actually a mix of references. Its central point is a crashed UFO displayed as a flying saucer or a flying disc – and such a shape may also work as a link to elements from other well-known UFO cases, such as the Kenneth Arnold sighting. A dead grey alien lies close to the crashed spaceship, in front of which there’s a sign saying “Area 51” – again, another allusion to the American tradition of UFO stories.
The general themes shown in Cornhub are those that have spread throughout the American sci-fi stories of the 1950s, particularly in the movies. After the explosion of the first nuclear bombs in 1945, the post-World War II scenario saw the rise of anxiety related to the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse. Such a possibility was related with the Cold War and the growing dispute between the United States and the Soviet Union. That combination created a cultural environment prone to the development of certain preoccupations as well as some paranoid ideas.
Those elements are reflected in some well-known sci-fi movies of the 1950s, which tell us stories about creatures from outer space who come to Earth in order to stop us from developing new weapons of mass destruction, invaders who want to replace the free world by a controlled and automated one, monsters that are revived by atomic tests in the Arctic, mutations…
Aliens are an important feature in many of those stories. The reports of UFO sightings multiplied after WWII, and that echoed in the sci-fi works. In many cases, those unidentified objects, both in the accounts by witnesses and in fictional depictions, were described as round objects (such as in the Kenneth Arnold sighting, an episode in which a private pilot claimed having seen a series of unidentified flying objects in the state of Washington, US, in 1947 – the same year as the Roswell Incident), popularly called flying saucers. That’s exactly how the UFOs are shown in Cornhub.
Besides the crashed one, there are other flying saucers in Cornhub (observing? Preparing an invasion?). They certainly represent a threat to humans – those who experimented contact with the accident area, and maybe with the dead alien body, have died, most probably for some contamination.
The scene develops in a 1950s (or a late-1940s) environment that includes some art déco buildings and, among them, the Diner that, with its decoration, was part of the gifts given at the recent event that marked Second Life’s 16th anniversary. There’s also a small area with trailer homes (are they becoming a trend in SL?).
There’s no intention, it seems, of making the sim a mirror of any real life reality, if we can say so. The 1950s buildings are shown side by side with elements that would probably fit better another era, or that would just be fiction in any time. That also draws a parallel with the development of the Roswell mythology.
Though the Roswell Incident had an important repercussion on the press at its time, it soon underwent a period of relative latency until it was taken back into light in the 1970s and 1980s. When it reemerged, it was already molded by new layers of “the spirit of time”: in some accounts of the incident, Area 51 started being cited as the place where the debris of the supposedly crashed spaceship – and the alien that would have died in Roswell – were taken to. Such allegation could not exist in 1947 or in the early 1950s, for Area 51 wasn’t established until 1955, and only underwent a major expansion in the late 1950s.
We can say, then, that the renewed interest in Roswell, decades later, was shaped by the cultural repertoire of the new times, in which different UFO stories had already emerged and conspiracy theories – not without reason – had multiplied.
Well, not only the Roswell Incident representation in Cornhub follows that path, with references to Area 51, but also the whole scene is seen under a more contemporary point of view, with some of the items placed in the sim, such as the ruins of the Statue of Liberty and other elements, linking it with today’s view of decay – especially, decay as displayed in SL.
For all that it brings, Cornhub (what’s the deal of the allusion to Pornhub? Hehehe) is a very interesting place to visit – a place where one can find a range of references to cultural features of different decades of the 20th and 21st centuries in a sci-fi scene well put together.