05 February 2013

The Monsters Came to Poydras Street: Super Bowl Blackout Failure or Future?

In "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,"1960 Twilight Zone episode starring Claude Akin and Jack Weston, the residents of a typical suburban neighborhood lose their cool after a power failure is linked to a science fiction story about aliens posing as humans prior to a full-scale invasion.
United Planets Cruiser C-57D or Superdome?

The residents of the neighborhood are shown all chummy and cooperative and, well, neighborly, until something in the sky causes the lights to go out. Cars won't start and even the portable radios are silent. 

Someone first blames it on a meteor, but then one young boy offers an alternative suggestion. He recalls a science fiction story about a family of aliens sent to infiltrate a neighborhood much like theirs to prepare the way for a take over. The family looks just like a "typical human family: father, mother, and two kids," says the boy. 

Suspicion rules and paranoia escalates as neighbor turns on neighbor. A witch hunt ensues as first one and then another is accused of being the alien and on very little evidence. 

Someone gets killed, there's a riot, and mass hysteria breaks out. (I won't tell you how it ends; you should watch it on Netflix.) Suffice it to say, Maple Street is never the same.

Watching the episode last night, I couldn't help drawing parallels with the blackout during Sunday night's Super Bowl. 

The initially confused and perplexed faces of the players as they looked up to the ceiling of the Superdome in New Orleans as the lights started to go out giving way to anger expressed by the coaches as officials tried to explain the situation. 

Superdome or Alien Space Ship?
And then the blame game as Entergy tried to excuse itself, Peabody pinned it on reduced coal use, and stadium officials couldn't really shed any light on the situation.

I wondered what might happen if these types of events become a regular thing -- or when big weather events like Superstorm Sandy increasingly wreak havoc on our communities? 

How fragile are the bonds in neighborhoods in 2012 compared to 1960? (Admittedly, they were still in the midst of the Cold War and the McCarthy "red scare," but how will our modern, disconnected communities fare in the face of such crises?) 

As our electricity grid gets increasingly fragile and we grow more dependent upon our electronic devices, will we be able to keep our cool unlike the residents of Maple Street? 

Unless we make the necessary investments in our energy infrastructure to ensure that these types of events don't occur, we risk finding out the answer to that question. And we may not like the answer.