Monday, November 30, 2009

It's the End of the World As We Know It...and I Feel Fine?

The apocalypse has been on my mind lately, and not just because I watch Buffy every day and she's always busy stopping them.
Mostly it's because I've been reading Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games and Catching Fire. I cannot stop thinking about them. These books are amazing and deserve their own posts (which will soon be coming).

But it's also because last night I went to see 2012. My husband and I are rabid fans of disaster movies, particularly apocalyptic, nuclear, zombie, there will be few humans will be left variety. The over-the-top, lacking good acting and feasible plots content of these films always makes me giddy. But last night as I was watching human race scramble to save itself, I began to wonder - why is the apocalypse so popular (I mean, how many disaster movies do we get in an average year? Plenty. And that number only goes up when we're nearing some possible date of "real" apocalypse danger - i.e. 2000, 2012). What is it about watching cities leveled and nature becoming predatory that draws viewers to the big screen?

Because, hey, "morbid much"?

I have two knee-jerk responses to this query:

1) Disaster movies make us feel safe. In the context of real disasters that happen each year - tornadoes, hurricanes, fires - this security is obviously misplaced, but still I think seeing mass destruction somehow reassures us that this crazy scenario surely is so far-fetched that we must be safe, that could never really happen.
2) Disaster movies make us treasure the world that we do have. The one moment in 2012 where I choked up a little (um...yes, I'm serious) was the brief shot of animals being air lifted onto the arks. In that single clip the film made survival not just about the silly, stupid-decision-making actors on the screen, but about the the world as we know it. Suddenly disaster wasn't just about 'us' it was about this little blue planet and how precious and fragile it is.

So what do you think about disaster movies? Do they have anything of value to offer other than spectacle?


  1. For Thanksgiving I posted my gratitude for this little blue planet so I'm right with you on this. I also went to see 2012. What a riotous, wild ride! Goofy, cheesy stuff aside, I loved it, laughed and hooted. Maybe it's because somebody is always intrepid enough to survive the un-survivable? And you gotta love the CGI on this one.

  2. I love disaster moveis as well. It's a great escape for me. When I return to the real world I think about all the wonderful things we have. My problems seem miniscule to what could be going down!

  3. When you see a movie or read a book about a disaster, it always makes you appreciate your own life. No matter how bad things are for you right now, trying to survive a disaster will always be worse.

  4. From Billy Knoblauch (via Facebook):
    I attribute the continuing popularity of apocalyptic films to A). a U.S. ideology the fixates on self-reliance (quickly turned into self-preservation) and B). a self-centered American culture that somehow enjoys the idea that they might survive when nobody else could, as in only they...(yarr) Peer into the depths are the special ones. Finally, there's probably something to be said for the appeal of living in a world without rules or guidelines--a pure libertarian fantasy, if you will.

  5. I won't lie, I do find myself entertained by them. I can't quite say why. Half the time, when I see a movie like this, I get a pit-of-the-stomach feeling that sets my priorities all out of whack and makes me question "when will my time be up?"