The issue of nuclear weapons has become increasingly relevant during the fluctuating tensions between North Korea and American President Donald Trump. This essay argues that American attitudes toward the bomb have become less coherent and less consistent since the end of the Cold War, and that this change in American attitudes is reflected in television depictions of atomic warfare and post-apocalyptic nuclear wastelands. This essay presents 1983's The Day After as a case study in how television dramas can work to shape public discourse about nuclear weapons and continue to mediate their representation. This essay argues that in contrast to The Day After, more recent science fiction series like The 100 propagate an ideology of indifference to the issue of nuclear weapons, instead presenting a never-ending series of trolley problems—a scenario in moral philosophy in which a runaway train will kill several people on the tracks, but the listener has the choice to change tracks to kill fewer people. As a thought experiment, the trolley problem highlights the ethics of intervention and sacrifice. As a narrative model, it drains the conviction of individual characters, and perhaps the audience.


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pp. 70-94
Launched on MUSE
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