This year seems to have a significant meaning in Super 8, as this is the year the humans made contact with the alien in the experiments. During the flashback sequence in the lab, the file folder containing the experimental data has the year prominently displayed in bold writing, so it doesn't seem like this is just a piece of trivia for the viewer.

It seems as though the placement of a prominent African-American scientist in a lead role in this important experiment, who is then stifled, shamed, and silenced, amidst an America steeped in racial inequality and the nascent civil rights movement is more than an coincidence.

Is there any other evidence of inequality being a theme in the film, and does this relate to the "alien" aspect?

2 Answers 2


The civil rights context in 1958 was marked by sharp division and the beginnings of a greater activism. I summarize some of the important events in the preceding few years.

The modern era of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States began with the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, requiring desegregation in public schools. Most of the events in the following years resulted from attempts to achieve desegregation in other realms or to resist it.

In 1955, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. News coverage sparked national outrage, but two men accused of the crime were acquitted.

The Montgomery Bus boycott of 1955–1956 began when Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat to a white passenger. The boycott lasted just over a year until a court ordered the desegregation of the buses in Montgomery. The boycott was organized by the Montgomery Improvement Association, under the leader ship of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1957, a crisis occurred when the governor of Arkansas called out the National Guard to prevent the admission of nine black students to Little Rock Central High School. It was resolved when President Eisenhower took control of the National Guard in Arkansas and ordered them to return to barracks and used troops from the 101st Airborne Division to protect the students. In 1958, at the end of the school year, Little Rock and other school systems in the south closed their schools completely rather than continue with integration.

The first "sit-ins" had occurred as early as 1939, but in 1958, their use expanded greatly. During the year, sit-ins at lunch counters in Kansas and Oklahoma led two the successful integration of two chains of drug stores.

Despite the presence of a sympathetic African-American scientist in the film, it has received little critical appreciation for how it addresses racial issues. Even a comparatively favorable examination finds that it essentially calls for a "separate but equal" solution to race issues; others accuse it of avoiding the issue or of simply being racist.

  • Great finds with the blog posts! Thank you for compiling all of this information.
    – jonsca
    Jun 19, 2013 at 20:53

1958 was heavily affected by the first artificial satellite launch of Sputnik, which was launched October 1957: the satellite was visible around the world due to its low orbit and its radio emissions were easily detectable by any electronics hobbyist.

The cold war was already in force, but Sputnik caused a huge psychological shift called by some the Sputnik Crisis: fear of the Soviet Union now being superior rekindled much the same kind of fear and insecurity as Orson Welle's 1938 radio broadcast did. Grade school curricula were significantly altered to emphasize science and math. The Space Race was immediately kicked off.

I am not aware of any significant African-American associations with 1958 as it precedes the Martin Luther King protests of 1962 and 1963, which largely heralded the civil rights movement. Perhaps repression of the black scientist is symbolism for lost and wasted opportunities for improvement: the scientist loses out on contributing and recognition, and the world loses out for not sharing his gifts, racial prejudice being a deeply lose-lose situation.

  • It's a great answer. I'd like to see if anyone else has any more insight into the racial issues, otherwise, I'll accept.
    – jonsca
    Jun 19, 2013 at 19:57

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