"!" [Hollywood Blues] July 2013 - Page 31

Rather, it is in pursuing the correspondence between the ‘real’ and the represented upon which, I shall suggest, Rowena Easton’s “!” (Hollywood Blues) comments, that the arguable displacement of Hollywood’s monopoly on trauma or disaster, as suggested by the question above, warrants some unpacking. The concept of ‘disaster’ I introduce as a means to broaden this discussion beyond 9/11, and to invite the reader to consider events that, whilst radically dissimilar from those that occurred in New York, have also re-shaped states and nations irrevocably; in cultural, geo-spatial, psychic and socio-economic terms. Moreover, the post-millennial ‘natural disasters’, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy (2005 and 2012 respectively), as well as the Boxing Day Tsunami that devastated countries bordering the Indian Ocean in 2004, had in common with 9/11 extensive media coverage from and for the developed West: both as they unfolded, and during their aftermaths. If a consideration of these disasters in tandem with the 9/11 attacks appears a crude or troublesome collapse, it is worth highlighting that their historic, cinematic Other — the representation of people in unforeseen and unforeseeable states of danger and extremity, the result of human action, or nature, or both — can be read as a sort of collective ?ctive plane that might unite an eclectic trope of ‘the real’ in Western cultural consciousness. A paradox thus presents itself within the parameters offered here: the disaster movie genre to which I have alluded both anticipates/symbolically ‘groups’, and fails to keep pace with, lived and documented disasters that have taken place since 2000. That the former is conceivable owes, of course, to the fact that it is the form(s) and themes of the disaster picture that comprise the ground for this possible ‘grouping’, rather than the imaginable excesses of plot or narrative per se. Clearly, technical advances have been key to enhancing the scope of formal and thematic possibilities for the Hollywood industry at large, as re?ected, for instance, in the role of the (now familiar) computer-generated imagery (CGI) to three box of?ce successes at the end of the last century: Fight Club, The Matrix and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). Such developments are genuinely seminal, and surely extend beyond an ongoing demonstration of what the cinematic text can do to question the ontological limits of what it might be. What happens, then, when the profoundly signi?cant shifts enabled by CGI, 3D and comparable technologies, seemingly ubiquitous in usage and the wider cultural discourses around (Hollywood) ?lm, fail to ‘match’ the impact of a disastrous ‘real’? 31