the good in disaster films

i love me a good disaster film. as far as i’m concerned, the greater the level of destruction, the better. i don’t want to see actual carnage. i have no interest in observing piles of mangled and devastated bodies. i’m okay with implication. long shots of waves wiping out whole populations or tornados ripping apart cities are best enjoyed when actual death is glossed over. i like to focus on the spectacle. i can’t enjoy them if i think too closely about what’s happening or see bodies lying around.

i wonder about my affection for these kinds of films sometimes. what is it about the collapse of a city at best and society as we know it at worst that appeals to me so much? i’m not a sadist; the real-life random suffering of people holds no appeal. i also don’t enjoy slasher films. too much gore and ugliness and very little in the way of redemption.

it’s the redemption i enjoy, i think, and the fact that the main characters rise above. they’re not perfect people, ever, in fact, in the beginning of the film, they’re usually moderately unappealing and realistically flawed. they’re horrible spouses or bad parents; they’re rude to everyone they encounter or are professional failures. but then disasters happen, and they change. they see the chaos around them and they step up. they begin to exemplify the best we have to offer as a species, demonstrating qualities like charity, selflessness, and bravery. i like seeing that in people, even when it’s make-believe.

the best seems to be in short supply these days but in disaster movies, it’s there for the taking. the heroes demonstrate courage, they fight when they need to, they persevere, and despite the obstacles they face, they get it done.

these are good characteristics to aim for if you’re struggling.

it takes a lot to fight the internal fight. it’s fatiguing to be in there, day after day, slugging it out when no one even notices. the bruises don’t show. the wounds are invisible. the fatigue is misunderstood. it’s tempting to give up at times, to lay down your weapons and let the wrong-headed thinking take over. it takes courage, the same kind i see on screen in disaster pics, to keep going. seeing the characters on screen persevere even when things are utterly dark, and hope seems pointless inspires me in real life. i want to be like them. their courage inspires.

they keep going no matter what. every time they get knocked down, they get back up. they persist. i used to think the fact that i wouldn’t stay down meant i was a slow learner but i’ve come around. you never get anywhere if you give up and that’s true no matter the battle, whether it’s digging yourself out of a building that’s collapsed following the BIGGEST EARTHQUAKE EVER! or pulling yourself out of bed once more time, despite the seeming futility of it all.

the best part about the heroes is that they succeed. they may not avert the disaster (and wouldn’t that be a boring movie, the climate shift that almost happened but didn’t) but they achieve what they set out to accomplish, whether it’s making their way through challenging conditions to warn the powers that be or rescuing their family and keeping them safe. they get it done. i want to get it done.

i don’t want to live through a massive disaster. i have enough small-scale problems to work through. i do like thinking that i could be like the heroes i enjoy watching so much. it occurs, however, that i could emulate their character assets without a societal collapse.

perhaps that’s why i like disaster films so much. they demonstrate that in our darkest moments, we are still capable of shining through.

3 thoughts on “the good in disaster films

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