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Friday, July 31, 2009

America, Apocalypse and Anime

There are some spoilers here pertaining to the movies Cloverfield, Watchmen and Knowing, so if you haven't seen them be warned.

When 9/11 hit, certain taboos became self-evident in the media. Sensitive of the national tragedy, any imagery involving the World Trade Center, attacks on major cities - and especially New York, and terrorism in general became hot topics. No longer could terrorism be a blanket kind of bad guy, a default motive for any villain in an action movie - now it was all extremely real to American culture. An interesting example is Man On Wire, which is particularly more potent because of the focus of the two towers, even from a relatively serene, stoic, pre-9/11, stance.

Cloverfield probably most famously crossed over this line, rampaging and destroying Manhattan in full monster movie trappings. New Yorker friends of ours still haven't seen the movie for exactly the fact that destroying the island doesn't hold much entertainment value for them.

Yet in one weekend, we saw Watchmen and Knowing to see the theme re-addressed all over again. Watchmen underwent a specific change to the ending from the graphic novel, removing a lot of graphic carnage from a giant squid for a massive blast instead. Recall that the script was being done when 9/11 was still new, and yet it is interesting that the World Trade Center is prominently displayed in one scene. Knowing seems to direct the action to Manhattan specifically for some apocalyptic scenery.

What I'm wondering is if we won't see more and more of this line being crossed. The analogy here is in anime, where the dropping of the atomic bombs set a tone for the genre which still persists today (not to mention, to be a little circular, monster movies in general where radiated creatures lay waste to urban landscapes). Whether revisting the carnage is cathartic or exploitative is probably a topic for a whole other post, I don't see much reason why American media would diverge from the Japanese direction, and it seems to be following suit. And we've seen this before - science fiction owes much to the Cold War, not only in general themes but having some ancestry in the way aliens and robots are portrayed as well.

I would also expect, especially given the growing similarities between large scale game development and movie production, that games will pick up this trend as well. inFamous comes to mind, for sure.

1 comment:

alicia said...

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