It’s a Disaster

I’m just curious. How many of you watch–and enjoy watching–disaster movies?

I remember watching both Poseidon Adventure (the original, starring Gene Hackman and his sideburns) and Towering Inferno (Paul Newman AND Steve McQueen!)in the theater.

Poseidon, along with Jaws, might have something to do with my deep and abiding mistrust of the ocean. There’s stuff living out there that we don’t know about. Which is almost as scary as the stuff we do know about.

But I digress.

I saw a headline today on Facebook about an earthquake rocking Dwayne Johnson. He’s a big, powerful dude, but I don’t think he’s big enough to absorb an entire earthquake all by himself. Turns out he has a new movie called San Andreas, about what happens when the big one finally hits the famous fault line. You can picture the trailer already–freeways collapsing, skyscrapers crumbling to the ground, explosions, massive amounts of people being wiped off this mortal coil all in one fell swoop.

I just don’t know if I can watch these movies any longer. The widespread destruction and loss of life, which we are powerless to prevent, is just depressing. Sure, the hero saves the girl. And usually the dog, often attached to an adorable child with a will to survive and a gap-toothed grin. But for every person the hero saves, there’s a close-up shot of a loving couple holding each other and bravely facing their death holding each other.

I call bullshit. How many people would really go gracefully into that good night, their eternal dirt nap? And how many would run like hell for the high ground/bomb shelter/life boat? That would be me. And if my beloved spouse proposed that we meet our end stoically and with dignity, I would happily bash him over the head, dump his unconscious form into a wheelbarrow and take him with me.

(Sidenote: That’s why we’re so well matched. Neither of us would give up. Any death that wanted to take us should be prepared to have its ass thoroughly kicked first.)

I much prefer when the threat to the world is aliens. Or monsters. Or zombies. Love me some Independence Day, because the film gives us clearly defined enemies that we can fight against. It’s the fact that we have a chance.

You can’t shoot a tornado. You can’t reason with a volcano. You can’t outsmart or outrun earthquakes, floods, blizzards, tidal waves, hurricanes or icebergs. They don’t care. They don’t exist to do us harm–they’re natural phenomena going about their own business and casually crushing anything that gets in their way.

You might say, “Hey, MB, we can’t reason with zombies. And aren’t aliens all hostile and much more intelligent that we are?”

And I would reply that you can at least outrun zombies. And everyone knows aliens can be outsmarted as long as Will Smith has a cigar.

But the natural disasters. You can’t fight nature. Because nature doesn’t engage. The planet doesn’t plot to vomit lava on someone in particular. The planet doesn’t care for your clenched jaw, clean-cut good looks and moxie.

Watching hundreds of innocent victims being trampled, crushed, burned, drowned…I know it’s CGI. I know people aren’t really being killed. But on a very deep level, I react to it. It bruises my soul.

It does not entertain me. It disturbs me.

Am I alone in this? Does wholesale destruction bother you, or are you immune to the made-up images? Or do you fall somewhere in between?



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4 responses to “It’s a Disaster

  1. It does disturb me, but in a distant way. I don’t figure those things will happen to me. True crime, that disturbs me. Real life cases of serial killers. Little girls having gasoline poured down their throats before being lit on fire. Disaster movies are an escape hatch for me so I don’t have to think about the real things. I just don’t find them at all realistic. However, those sad scenes do get to me. Little snapshots of personal devastation. Some of the hardest are when they finally have some awful person redeem themself then kill them. The grandma in Dante’s Peak, for instance. The idiot kid in U-571, who’s an asshole, but not enough of one to deserve dying brutally while fighting to save everyone. Etc. Why redeem them only to kill them? I hate that. But I can now tell you who in each movie will be that person. Trope-tropity-trope.

  2. Sheila

    I thought it was me. My kids enjoy disaster movies but I have images from tsunamis and tornados etched in my brain. I did cleanup after my folks’ family home was affected by hurricane Sandy. When I see an office building crash in a movie, I flash to the real people who dies when the World Trade Center towers fell. No, I can not watch because I can’t separate reality for make believe or, at least, don’t want to par $12 to see it.

  3. Donna Ross

    Having been near the San Francisco earthquake, having seen the devastation of the World Trade Center, and watching the news of the tsunamis around the world, it makes me reluctant to see movies of those scenarios. It seems disrespectful somehow to anyone who survived and/or lost a loved one to a disaster of any kind. Even war movies… On the other hand, aliens are fair game!

  4. Also, character study: One of my kids isn’t fazed by scary movies, but was severely traumatized by watching Dante’s Peak (thank you Waldo Canyon) and has nightmares when hearing about or reading about natural disasters, while the other loves the disaster movies, but has nightmares about other types of scary movies.

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