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In "The Thing" (1982), John Carpenter's film adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr's novel "Who Goes There?" (1938), the threat created by the spreading paranoia of the characters is equally important as the Thing itself.

In the film, twelve men (MacReady, Blair, Nauls, Palmer, Childs, Copper, Norris, Bennings, Clark, Garry, Fuchs and Windows) remain secluded in a claustrophobic Antarctic station, a thousand miles from nowhere, with a deadly extraterrestrial creature on the loose, which can look exactly like one of them. I ask who, among them, was the first to succumb to the paranoia?

The Thing Cast

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    What is your definition of "paranoia"? In the story (I haven't seen the 1982 movie) the shape-shifting space monster is real. I'd be afraid of it too, what's irrational or psychotic about that? And the feelings of the crew of the Antarctic base are hardly as important as the thing itself, which is a threat to the whole earth.
    – user14111
    Jan 24 at 2:25
  • @user14111 - Paranoia: an irrational, intense and persistent instinct of fear of the actions or motives of others, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. The finding of an alien that can imitate perfectly other living beings creates distrust between the characters that fall into paranoia and subsequent madness which is definitely a threat. Jan 24 at 4:05
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    @user14111 the Thing is real, but there's no knowing who is or isn't the Thing. That's where the paranoia comes in.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Jan 24 at 12:41
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    @AncientSwordRage But how is the fear irrational?
    – user14111
    Jan 25 at 1:54
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    I'd say the cameraman/viewer is the first character to succumb.
    – Clockwork
    Jan 25 at 7:42

1 Answer 1

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Blair was the first to start becoming suspicious of the others, as he was the first to understand that the creature was capable of replicating other lifeforms, and the potential ramifications of that. He first starts showing these suspicions while questioning Clark, shortly after he'd performed the autopsy on the dog creature.

BLAIR: Clark.

CLARK: Yeah?

BLAIR: Did you notice anything strange about the dog, anything at all?

CLARK: Strange? No.

BLAIR: What was the dog doing in the rec room?

CLARK: I don't know. He was just wandering around camp all day.

BLAIR: Are you saying to me the dog wasn't put in the kennel until last night?

CLARK: Right.

BLAIR: How long were you alone with that dog?

CLARK: I don't know. An hour. Hour and a half, maybe. What the hell you looking at me like that for?

BLAIR: I don't know.

CLARK: What?

BLAIR: I don't know. It's probably nothing. It's nothing at all.

Clark didn't seem to grasp the implication of the questions be was being asked here, but to the audience, it's pretty obvious that Blair thought Clark might've been assimilated by the creature already. This is more or less confirmed when Blair later tells MacReady:

BLAIR: I said watch Clark. And watch him close, do you hear me?

(Of course, it later turned out that Clark hadn't been assimilated.)

Blair's suspicions also escalated to the point that he was willing to kill anyone who came near him, without explicit confirmation that they'd actually been infected. No one else reacted to the situation in quite such an extreme manner.

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    Which is why Clark's death is so gut wrenching: he was suspected by circumstance alone, but was innocent.
    – bishop
    Jan 24 at 4:33

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