Klaus Dodds – Geographies of the end of the world: Hollywood and the contemporary disaster movie

Event date:1 March 2011 10.30 – 17.00
British Library
London Room MR4



The Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC) at
Royal Holloway University of London presents:

Civilizational Collapse: Dystopian Imaginings of the Past,
Present, and Future (1880 – Present)


Klaus Dodds:
Geographies of the end of the world: Hollywood and the contemporary disaster movie

Disaster movies have been a mainstay of cinema since the turn of the century, with Pompeii movies figuring significantly in the early history of cinema. Such films go through cycles of development, identifying apocalyptical threats from different sources. In recent films, the environmental disaster has figured significantly. Such depictions have a definite moral economy, and a definite geography, often based in a certain economic logic. Two key examples, The Day after Tomorrow and 2012 can be used to illustrate core features of the genre. Disasters often arise from remote places and strike at the heart of America, being particularly prone to attack cities, city-scapes and the most prominent and internationally recognised monuments. There may be technical reasons for this: a recognisable topography appeals to a wider audience; great cities provide a scale for disaster; filming might be easy in the city; but certain kinds of shots (the tsunami wave) become more powerful within a recognised grid plan city. Yet, the shift from a remote topography of original disaster to a familiar topography of actual disaster is replicated in a remote geography of redemption and resolution. The new community is built away from the city, sometimes in the verdant lands of the southern hemisphere. In the moral economy, the fractured family of the modern is repaired in the crisis; such a repair may stretch beyond the family to the community and the nation, but is strongly normative, heterosexual and reproductive, and sometimes national.




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