We love disaster porn, because knowledge that the system will prevail numbs the nerves. But what would happen if we truly embrace this demolition motive?
“Facing such an outlook, environmentalist movements ask in perplexity how is it possible that the risk of seeing the end of human life upon Earth be not enough for us to make some change, even a ‘modest one’, in our production methods as mentioned before. This question may be re-inscribed, in terms of the political philosophy of the event as proposed by Alain Badiou (1994; 2009), as follows: why the environmental crisis was not the event capable of traverse the order of the hegemonic liberal-capitalist discourse to create some sort of ‘society of ecologist subjects’?”34
Full spectacle “demolition motive” disaster films like San Andreas (2015) and Greenland (2020) could be the antidote to one specific issue in climate narratives, if only they had a different ending. Žižek critiques the notion of a return to a natural equilibrium and a more ‘traditional’ way of life, characterising this longing for an untouched ‘nature’ as a fantasy of an uncastrated Gaia mother goddess. This perspective, he argues, is driven by desires for wholeness and completeness and fails to account for the complexities of modern life. Non-hyperbolic Disaster films, on the other hand, offer a de-centred perspective that can help us to reimagine our relationship with the environment. What if the image of a fly crawling on a sleeping man's shirt was seared into our eyeballs until we couldn't do anything but look around to notice all of the species we encounter every day and their very real disaster narratives and how they are intertwined with our own?
By characterising the environment (industry included) and de-centring human spectacle, non-hyperbolic disaster films can transform our perspective of the disaster condition, and perhaps imagine a new way to move forward, that include equity and justice when it comes to accessing resources. Instead of replacing the auto industry with the electronic auto industry we need creativity to reach for new systems of energy exchange, as well as an adaptation of the narrative around climate change that de-centres capitalism but doesn’t exoticise indigenous practice, nor consider nature as a sublime entity that exists outside of society. While we may not yet be “ecologist subjects” under capitalism, we can acknowledge that in filmic spaces we are threshold subjects, that film has the capacity to bring upon ontological change, but It requires a new visual language and a vulnerable viewership. It is only after the disaster event that we can reflect on its damage. The desire in climate change discussions to talk about “reverting” back to uncastrated Gaia is a similar story arch adopted by most blockbuster disaster films: the Adam and Eve plot-line.
The Adam and Eve trope
is a storytelling device commonly used in film, television, and literature. It refers to a narrative pattern where two characters, often a man and a woman, are portrayed as the sole survivors or inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic or isolated setting