Author: Jonathan Kalman

The United States: Hollywood’s Effigy For Earth

Why is it that almost every disaster movie, whether it is natural, alien, zombie, etc, occurs in the United states. I’m not saying that there are not plenty of disaster movies that occur in other countries. One disaster movie that I enjoy in particular is Train to Busan, a zombie movie that occurs in South Korea. However, I find that the majority of popular disaster movies occur somewhere in the United States. More specifically, these movies tend to focus on a select few states like New York, California, and the nation capital, Washington DC. Does this simply occur due to the shear amount of movies that are produced in the US, or is there more symbolic reason behind it. I obviously cannot provide you with this answer, but I will give you my opinion.

Applying this to the question of why so many disaster movies are set in the US, we can see a few explanations. One possibility is that these states are highly populated and with plenty scenic views that many city or suburban dwellers could relate to. A second option is that these types of cities/states can be found all over the world and are more cost effective to film in since they are closer to Hollywood than, lets say China. A third and my last idea as to why this happens is due to hometown bias illustrated by some Hollywood producers. It is my personal belief that it is a mix of all of these options that lead to most disaster movies being produced in the US. According to, the US produces the highest movie revenue of any country. Even though they are far from producing the most amount of movies each year, it can be said that more people pay for movies produced in the US than that of other countries. Therefore, it can be said that if any of these ideas are correct (if any) it sure does show.

Regardless of what causes movie producers to set most disaster movies in the US, they are using the US as an effigy. They can’t set a movie in every country and therefore choose to do it in one. Directors and producers are using the US as a stage for what is happening in the rest of the world. Going back to our course discussion on Joseph Roach’s “Echoes in the Bone”, Roach defines the word, “effigy” as,

“a noun meaning a sculpted pictured likeness. More particularly it can suggest a crudely fabircated image of a person, commonly one that is destroyed in his or her stead, as in hanging or burning in effigy. When effigy appears as a verb, though that usage is rare, it means to evoke an absence, to body something forth, especially something from a distant past (OED)[…]it fills by means of segregation a vacancy created by the absence of an original” (Joseph Roach).

As to why these producers use the US as an effigy, I can not definitively say; however, they are doing so nonetheless. In doing so, they seem to act according to one one of two reasonings.

They might be acknowledging the limitations of movies and using specific locations of economic and/or cultural importance. These sites are usually well-known regardless of where the movie is released and are therefore going to be seen as at least somewhat familiar to viewers, even if they have never visited the site. Additionally, through this well-known state/city/landmark, they represent the world at large. It “fills by means of segregation a vacancy created by the absence of an original”. Since the whole world would be both difficult and expensive to film for a singular movie, they use what is closest and what is well known. For example. I want you to look at these two pictures. One is a picture of New York and the other is a picture of Beijing. Picture 1. Picture 2. Ignoring the names of the cities being present in the links, how easy is it to tell which picture is of which city? Sure there are certain landmarks unique to each one, but a city is a city is a city.

The second option, is very much like the first. However, they are using the US as a representation of the world, not because it is what they are limited to, but because it is what they know. Again, the situation is the same in that a city is a city is a city; however, here it is simply because they know nothing else. Writers who try to depict what they are unfamiliar with, might have a hard time doing so. Sure they have the internet to look at pictures and articles about various locations, but without ever experiencing the land for themselves, a true representation might never be achieved. Therefore they write about their home country/state as they are familiar with it at even the street level. If a writer really wanted to illustrate another country that they had never visited, they could hire an informant who could help them bring their illustration to life, but that costs time and money.

I honestly cannot say which of these options are the right answer even if there was an answer period. I believe that the reason could be a mix of each in that setting placement is a matter of time, money, familiarity, and ability to illustrate. Though producers, directors, and writers may have their own agendas beneath the overall reasoning, again I will say, they use the US as an effigy to represent the world at large.

Autonomy. Is it achievable? Part two.

Hello again everyone. Before I continue with part two of, “Autonomy. Is it achievable?”, here is a link to part one.

Before we begin with the second part of this post, I would like to acknowledge that I may be going into unnecessary depths as to the topic discussed in class. I acknowledged that I have not sufficiently linked this to the course aside from what we discussed during that one class time. The reason that I am writing this post regardless is that it is a topic that greatly intrigues me. I find that I am not only able to write about this topic in quantity, but in depth as well. Therefore, despite this post not being sufficiently linked to the course texts, I am posting my thoughts with the knowledge that my upcoming posts will make up for this deficiency.

Getting back to the post at hand, I would like to re-discuss and add onto the hypothetical of a a person kicking a chair. I like to expand upon this with a new hypothetical in which the blame is not as close in time with the end result. Imagine a situation in which a company releases a dangerous product, knowing that it can cause potential harm. To further explain, if a product has a faulty piece that could lead to a person being harmed, do we blame the user for buying the product, or do we blame the company for their negligence? Read more

Autonomy. Is it achievable? defines autonomy as, “independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions”, “the condition of being autonomous; self-government or the right of self-government”, and, “a self governing community.” The definition that I would like to focus on is the first of these three. However, before even discussing this definition, I want to illustrate just how complex the words, “independence” and “freedom” are. defines independence as, “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others”, and defines freedom as, “exemption from the external control, interference, regulation, etc.” Therefore, autonomy is alternatively defined as being in a state devoid of influence regardless of whether that influence takes a positive, negative, or neutral form. However, is this level of self-control even possible? Read more

“Free Will” Part 2

Earlier in the year, I had made a blog post in relation the concept of free-will. I evaluated this concept through Butler’s work, “Fledgling”, but now, I want to look at it through “Dawn”. This is not to say that the other two parts of the Lilith’s Brood trilogy are unimportant, but that I feel that this question is best analyzed through the first book. I would like to say that this is all based on my own personal thoughts and not based in some book I read. However, I did state in my previous post that biased knowledge can change perspective; therefore anything I have read could have led me to this conclusion. Regardless, this post is not intentionally based on anyone else’s work and is just my thoughts on the matter. Read more

Oankali and Humanity

One of the main questions formed when reading Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy, is, “what does it mean to be human?”. Within this work, an alien species called the Oankali, find the Earth nearly destroyed by a nuclear war and try to preserve what is left of humanity. The Oankali do this by incorporating some of their own DNA into the remaining humans as well as what will become humanity’s children. By doing this, they are not only NOT saving humanity, they are making humans an extinct species. Read more

“Free Will”

Is there such a thing as free will? Octavia Butler’s Fledgling has made me rethink this philosophical debate. Within this work, as those who’ve read it know, the saliva of an Ina bite addicts humans to the Ina’s saliva. This gives the Ina control over the human; however, still allowing the human to make independent decisions. Even without being bitten however, Ina still can influence humans through speech and action. This is no special skill as anyone can do the same regardless of how effective they are in doing so. People persuade, manipulate, and encourage others into doing various actions both intentionally and unintentionally. This mental effect people have on one another is called influence. Read more

A Better Way?

Jonathan Kalman

In the world of Octavia Butler’s “Clay’s Ark”, those infected by the Proxi Two symbiont have strong sexual urges that cannot be easily restrained. According to Stephen Kaneshiro, a resident of the Clay’s Ark enclave, the symbiont makes you, “like having kids. Makes you need to have them” (Butler, Page 532). As far as the readers are lead to believe, these urges are hardwired, rather than environmentally driven. Converting others is not exactly a want, but it becomes almost a need. Eli, patient zero states, Read more

Reaction to Bloodchild

Before diving into the main focus I wish to present within this blog post, I would just like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild. I was completely unable to predict where the story would go at any point within this work and that made this reading all the more enjoyable.

What I wish to discuss here is the relationship between the Tlic and humans and whether this connection is mutualistic or parasitic. For clarification purposes, mutualism will be defined as having both parties benefit from the abilities of the other. However, parasitic will be defined as a one-sided relationship in which only one party benefits and has the potential to harm the second party. Read more