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Film and Everyday Eco-disasters

Robin L Murray

Publication Year: 2014

Eco-disasters such as coal-mining accidents, oil spills, and food-borne diseases appear regularly in the news, making them seem nearly commonplace. These ecological crises highlight the continual tensions between human needs and the environmental impact these needs produce. Contemporary documentaries and feature films explore environmental-human conflicts by depicting the consequences of our overconsumption and dependence on nonrenewable energy.


Film and Everyday Eco-disasters examines changing perspectives toward everyday eco-disasters as reflected in the work of filmmakers from the silent era forward, with an emphasis on recent films such as Dead Ahead, an HBO dramatization of the Exxon Valdez disaster; Total Recall, a science fiction action film highlighting oxygen as a commodity; The Devil Wears Prada, a comment on the fashion industry; and Food, Inc., a documentary interrogation of the food industry. The authors evaluate not only the success of these films as rhetorical arguments but also their rhetorical strategies. This interdisciplinary approach to film studies fuses cultural, economic, and literary critiques in articulating an approach to ecology that points to sustainable development as an alternative to resource exploitations and their associated everyday eco-disasters.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Our thanks go to Julia Lesage, Chuck Kleinhans, and John Hess, the editors of Jump Cut, for their continued support for our work. Two of our chapters appeared in Jump Cut in an earlier form: a revised version of “Oil Drilling and the Search for the ‘Golden Shrimp’: The Myth of...

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pp. xi-xxiv

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011), an epic antiwar drama confronting the fight for survival of a Devon horse named Joey in the no- man zones of World War I France, addresses our relationship with the environment in a variety of ways. It effectively illustrates the connections between humans...

Part 1: Human Approaches to the Ecology of Air, Water, and Clothing

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1. At the Boiling Point

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pp. 3-23

In Red Desert (1964) director Michaelangelo Antonioni’s constructed world dominates the film’s narrative. Combined with an outstanding and eerie electronic soundscape, the film’s female protagonist Giuliana (Monica Vitti) and the contemporary viewer become trapped in a world...

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2. James Bond and Water Wars in Contemporary Film

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pp. 24-45

Chinatown (1974) serves as the quintessential water rights film: murder, infidelity, and incest all become integrally connected with water as a commodity in 1930s Los Angeles, a context established by a picture of FDR in the opening shot of the office of private investigator J. J. (Jake) Gittes...

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3. Ready to Wear?

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pp. 46-66

Near the middle of The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) reacts to Andy Sachs’s (Anne Hathaway) sniggers over her assistant’s struggle to decide between two similar belts for an outfit, asking her blithely, “Something funny?” And when Andy remarks on...

Part 2: Eco-documentaries and the Rhetoric of Food Production

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4. Contemporary Eco- food Films

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pp. 69-91

Documentaries focusing on the production of food have become popular in the last few years, with films from Morgan Spurlock’s personalized examination of the consequences of a fast food diet, Supersize Me (2004), to the critically acclaimed documentary Food, Inc. (2008), directed by...

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5. Flipper? We’re Eating Flipper?

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pp. 92-112

The Academy Award– winning documentary The Cove (2009) captures viewers’ attention immediately with its opening shots in Taiji, Japan, where its unlikely hero, Ric O’Barry, explains, “I do want to say that we tried to do the story legally,” but he then exclaims, “Shit,” as he sees city...

Part 3: Negative Externalities of Housing and Energy Industries

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6. Give Me Shelter

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pp. 115-136

In Blue Vinyl: The World’s First Toxic Comedy (2002), codirector and writer Judith Helfand and codirector/cinematographer Daniel B. Gold become comic detectives in their attempt to find a viable solution to the home repair dilemma of Helfand’s parents: is it possible to replace rotting wood siding...

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7. Activism in Mountaintop Removal Films

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pp. 137-158

B. J. Gudmundsson’s Rise Up! West Virginia (2007) opens with an assertion from the late anti– mountaintop removal mining (MTR) activist Julia (Judy) Bonds that restates one argument against MTR, its destruction of the Appalachian landscape. According to Bonds, “a sense of place pulls...

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8. The Search for the “Golden Shrimp”

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pp. 159-182

According to John Ezell’s Innovations in Energy: The Story of Kerr- McGee, after the first successful oil well was drilled out of sight of land in the Gulf of Mexico in 1947 by the Kerr- McGee Company, the January 1948 issue of Oil declared, “The Kerr- McGee well definitely extends the kingdom...

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Conclusion: Can the Film Industry and the EnvironmentalMovement Mix?

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pp. 183-190

Even though the oil drilling films we examined attempt to show us that oil and water can mix, at least if appropriate safety precautions are in place, the filmic representations of everyday eco- disasters explored throughout this book all highlight the negative consequences (externalities) of fulfilling...


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pp. 191-198

Works Cited

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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780803255142
E-ISBN-10: 0803255144
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803248748

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 877868623
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Film and Everyday Eco-disasters

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Environmental protection and motion pictures.
  • Ecology in motion pictures.
  • Documentary films -- History and criticism.
  • Documentary films -- Influence.
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