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Connect Statesboro 08.06.2014

12 Brittani Howell


Godzilla once channelled fears about nuclear war, but the destruction he wreaks in the latest reboot might be playing to a different trend a little closer to home.

Block "Busters": Why we like to smash our cities

Scenes of mass destruction may address and exploit our fears and anxieties in a post-9/11 world Summer and the action-movie season is drawing to a close, and you know what that means: by August, we’ll have seen several major cities razed to the ground three or four times. Whether it’s because of superheroes, natural disasters, giant mutant dinosaurs or giant dinosaur robots, we love to see our skyscrapers fall like building blocks. For kicks, entertainment sites like the Hollywood Reporter and Buzzfeed have put together estimated damages reports summing up the monetary value these forces of destruction end up costing our cities. The numbers have been going up, with last summer’s Man of Steel topping the damage charts with a whopping $700 billion dollars worth of physical devastation wreaked on the city of Metropolis. This year’s Godzilla

reboot came stomping in with $46.4 million dollars worth of damage just to the island of Oahu, which is only one of the locations the monster crashes through. This trend is obviously successful, given that we see it repeat every year starting in June. But what is it that keeps us coming back? In an interview with the New York Daily News, Greg Pflugfelder, resident Godzilla expert at Columbia University, said, “These films always make a great deal of scene of buildings being destroyed. But the strikes are against our psychic infrastructure as well.” He argues that these movies affect us on a subconscious level, but judging by the box office sales, something in our “psychic infrastructure” clearly wants to watch our cities crumble.

The important thing to remember, according to media studies professor John Chalfa of Mercer University, is that this is not a new trend. “We’ve been destroying New York City since the 1930s in our movies,” Chalfa said. A handy map on TheConcourse. com, a culture and entertainment site, provides a graphic of just how many times various cities have been leveled by superhero battles, “creature” attacks, natural disasters, aliens and (most recently) “sharknados.” The dates go back for decades. However, Chalfa does think the movies from the 2000s, particularly the ones that depict mass destruction, have a markedly different tone. “I think one of the things that has changed — and changed dramatically — in those movies is that, pre-9/11,

there was always kind of a hope that we would overcome whatever force was destroying us,” Chalfa said. “But post-9/11 is more nihilistic. There’s more despair and hopelessness.” He said this theme is more pointedly obvious in the zombie genre, mentioning particularly the hit series The Walking Dead. “Nobody expresses any hope of ‘We’re going to get beyond this,’ ” Chalfa said. “It’s just, ‘How do we cope? How do we survive in this environment?’ ” Chalfa is far from the only person to theorize that action movies evoke our post-9/11 anxieties. Vulture writer Kyle Buchanan released an article last year titled “Is it Possible to Make a Hollywood Blockbuster Without Evoking 9/11?” He dates the trend at the 2005 War of the Worlds

Connect Statesboro August 06 - 12, 2014  

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