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.

Instruments for and against memory

“Echoes in the bone refer to not only to a history of forgetting but to a history of empowering the living through the performance of memory.” —Joseph Roach, “Echoes in the Bone”

I felt my most profound stirring at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem when I entered the Children’s Memorial. Continue reading “Instruments for and against memory”

Introduction: Reflection and Healing through Morrison’s Jazz and Dante’s Purgatorio

Borderline Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood.
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

Continue reading “Introduction: Reflection and Healing through Morrison’s Jazz and Dante’s Purgatorio”

Art and Empowerment: The Performance of Memory Through Artistic Expression

Last semester, I went to the event Professor McCoy and Steve Prince organized on Main Street, where students, faculty, and community members alike were invited to create woodblock prints that were then arranged around one that Prince had created. The focus of the piece was trauma and healing, inspired by the trials and tribulations of Emmeline the bear, who was run into by cars multiple times. As such, I immediately recognized Prince’s art style when confronted with it in class in the piece Katrina’s Veil: Stand at Gretna Bridge, pictured belowPrince Katrina's Veil Stand at the Gretna Bridge .jpgImage Credit

Prince’s work deals with remembrance: in the case of his project at Geneseo, remembering trauma and moving on from it, and in his series done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, remembering and bearing witness to the atrocities caused by the hurricane, but also by those in power that we are supposed to trust, namely the police and the government.

This brings me to the quote from Roach’s “Echoes in the Bone” that has so vexed and fascinated the class: “Echoes in the bone refer not only to a history of forgetting but to a strategy of empowering the living through the performance of memory” (34). What does it mean to “empower the living?” More importantly, how can we both forget and remember? Continue reading “Art and Empowerment: The Performance of Memory Through Artistic Expression”

Is it Possible to Remember and Forget all at Once?

“To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” – Elie Wiesel

For my first blog post (I’m shocked but also pleased with myself that I’m doing this now and not later), I’d like to delve further into the discussion we were having on Monday, in regards to memory and forgetting because it really sparked my interest. But first- Catherine already so-brilliantly tackled this subject in her blog post that you can (and should) check out here. I would like to further expand on this.

Continue reading “Is it Possible to Remember and Forget all at Once?”

Linear Memory and How Natural Disasters Can Be Manipulated.

During our last class discussion, we focused on an excerpt from Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, which discusses the idea of memory linearity and how memory operates as more than a way of remembering events and information. The brain’s function of memory is incredibly complex and, in literature, can be manipulated into operating as a tool that engages the reader in the events of a narrative. The end of the first paragraph states that memory, “operates as an alteration between retrospection and anticipation that is itself, for better or worse, a work of art.” This statement rouses my interest because of the two main components mentioned: retrospection and anticipation. For example, in the third person omniscient point of view of a story, the narrator is made aware of all thoughts, actions, and feelings of a character; he/she view the story as if they are looking through the eyes of God. We, the reader, are made aware of all retrospection in such a story because we are given the appropriate information to infer on the anticipated events as we continue reading. Memory is simply another tool that allows the third person omniscient to operate; however, when applying this idea to subjects of focus in class, the function of a person’s memory can become altered depending on the circumstances.


During life-threatening catastrophes, such as the one suffered by residents of New Orleans as a result of hurricane Katrina, the idea of life and death makes its way into the minds of those affected. The presence of catastrophes creates turning points in people’s lives that allow them to categorize their decisions into two groups: “before and after.” The actions up until the point of havoc are now actions that happened “before.” The actions/thoughts a person continues to make after a major event, for purely survival purposes, are now placed into the “after” category; the anticipated events in a person’s life. The decisions made after a tragedy are influenced by the capacity people have to offer help to themselves and to others; the will to survive and help others in time of need is subconsciously based on one’s memory. To aid in the understanding of why people act this way, the abstract of the book “The Memory of Catastrophe” can be viewed here.


One example of memory affecting the way people make decisions post-tragedy comes from Solnit and Snedeker’s “Snakes and Ladders” chapter, where the story of Donnell Herrington’s heroism is cut short by two bullets. Refusing to evacuate the city, Herrington stayed back and rescued over 100 stranded civilians using a small boat. After finishing, he proceeded for Algiers with hopes to leave the city via the Coast Guard. He was shot twice among arriving in Algiers by a vigilante who had previously been shouting racially-charged threats at him. Katrina was not the cause for this hate-crime, but it was the platform that allowed the vigilante to be reminded of their disdain for African-Americans; and it were these memories that became unlocked as a result of the lawless land created by Katrina. The events brought forth by Katrina allowed for the vigilante to retrospectively focus on his life before the circumstances, make a life or death decision by arming himself (no concealed-carry permit), and anticipate the lives he would be taking as a result of this tragic, new platform.