I suspect that in the wake of September 11, disaster movies will no longer hold the same appeal: it is one thing to watch from the safety of the knowledge that 'this could never happen', and quite another to watch in the knowledge that it could and has, that the distance has been lost. The event has required the mobilising of different forms of spectatorship; it has altered our framing of such events, and significantly altered our horizon of imagination.
It may be fortuitous for Hollywood that by the time of September 11, a shift had occurred towards more fantastical productions such as the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series; and in the wake of the realisation of events previously confined to
disaster movies, the global audience looked for a different kind of fantasy into which to escape, a 'guaranteed' fantasy, the reality of which was securely beyond imagination.
Magical narratives have - until now - been pleasurable, perhaps because they are securely sited in fantasy. Three-headed wolves, twelve-foot-high trolls and broomstick lessons have always been from the realms of fantasy, and scary only in an irrational, nightmarish kind of way. However, maybe the lesson of September 11 is that reality might not be too far behind, that the horizon of imagination is itself an illusory line, which - like any horizon - shifts as we approach. And maybe the allure of cinematic representations of fantasy (whether of disaster or of magic) would not be so compelling if we began to suspect that, just beyond that horizon, reality lurks, and that what might today be comfortably fantastic might, tomorrow, be painful reality.
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o t^ In Memory of Neil Powney a 1961-2003
^ Courage Has Many Faces.
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