Sunday, 28 February 2010

Recently Published

My article, Reading the Apocalypse, has just been published in this quarters edition of Media Magazine: the text examines the history of the apocalypse narratives in British film and television, including The War Game, Threads and the recently revived series of Survivors. Here is a brief extract...

Throughout the steadily evolving history of the Post-apocalypse genre, those narratives based within Britain, be that film or on broadcast television, have a dominating preoccupation with two concerns: the contextual/political background to the story more often than not reflects the nation’s contemporary anxieties whilst its drama focuses on the plight of one or two families. When combined, this family becomes a metaphor for all families and so, in effect, come to represent the national experience in the face of real-world concerns. Perhaps predictably, these issues have a tendency to shift only slightly, fluctuating between the horrific consequences of a full-scale nuclear assault on mainland Britain to viral pandemics devastating the populace. In both scenarios, the causalities will be extremely high, its impact irreversibly changing the nation. And whilst these narratives are horrific, they function as a means of chronicling the social and political modes and shifts with the country. In this respect, these films and programmes of fiction becomes very clear works of fact for they respond clearly and without hesitation to the fears of the nation. With such destructive threats, the family – or at least what remains of it after the initial assault or outbreak – also shifts, from a normal functioning family unit to one that is at the mercy of a collapsing society: failing law and order, civil unrest, lack of food, fresh water and sanitary systems alongside looting, martial law, vigilante law and rape. Out of all these elements emerges a further recurrent element within the British post-apocalyptic narrative: in terms of its representation, these films and television serials have a clear preoccupation with realism. Instead of showing the consequences of assault or pandemic in abstract terms, they are shown in clear, brutal and graphic images, each time the camera lingering on the dire impact of a national catastrophe. Within these visual texts then the horror not only parallels but as warns us of our possible futures.
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