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Perpetuating Disaster Myth through Film

Myths in Disaster Movies Most of what we know regarding disasters is due to Hollywood disaster movies. Since Hollywood producers are mainly concernedwith selling the movies, they often stretch realities and exaggerate disasters and their causes so that they can appeal to a large number of audiences. These movies have been responsible for propagating a number of myths regarding disasters. After studying various disaster movies, I have isolated five disaster related myths commonly found in Hollywood movies. These five myths are:Myth 1: Disasters result from a dramatic, high-energy event, not necessarily of a global magnitude.Myth 2: Large-scale impact rather than small events.Myth 3: Death toll is the most reliable statistics regarding the magnitude of a disaster.Myth 4: Disasters result because humans are unable to predict them.Myth 5: Technocratic approach is the best way to solve the problem. After isolating these five common myths of disaster movies, I compared two disaster movies, Outbreak and Contagion, to see to what extend these movies propagate these myths. The table below shows the presence of these myths in the two movies.FilmMyth 1Myth 2Myth 3Myth 4Myth 5Outbreak    Contagion Table 1: Presence of Myth in Outbreak and ContagionOutbreak propagates four of the five myths while Contagion has only one of these five myths. Let us look at the presence of these myths in the two movies in details.In Outbreak, the Motaba virus spreads in US after the host animal (a monkey) is illegally brought to the United States. In Contagion, the disease spreads when a single cook forgets to wash his hands after handling a pig. In both the movies, the start of the disaster is the result of inconsequential events and not a dramatic event. Thus, the first myth is not present in either of the two movies.In Outbreak, even though the virus is localized to an area, the movie focuses on the large-scale impact of the disaster and ignores smaller events. On the other hand, Contagion looks at both the large-scale impact as well as small events. Thus, the second myth is present in Outbreak but not in Contagion.In Outbreak, the disaster becomes huge because it quickly kills 150 people in a small area. Similarly, in Contagion, 26 million people die globally. In both movies, the death of a large number of people emphasizes the magnitude of the disaster. Thus, the third myth is present in both the movies.The Outbreak suggests that if people are able to predict the disaster, they can prepare for it and prevent deaths. This does not apply to Contagion in which there seems to be no way of stopping the spread of virus. Thus, the fourth myth is present in Outbreak but not in Contagion.Outbreak uses the technocratic approach to solve the problem as scientists and doctors work hard to find a cure for the disease, an anti-serum. Contagion takes a much more holistic approach to fighting the disease with scientists and administrators pooling resources to fight the disease. Thus, the fifth myth is present in Outbreak but not in Contagion.From this analysis of the two movies, we see that compared to Outbreak, Contagion presents the disaster in a more realistic way. Contagion presents data to explain spread of disease and the number of people at risk in each city. Both Contagion and Outbreak bring focus on the various ways in which highly contagious diseases can spread. However, Contagion also gives real information that can help real people in society protect themselves in the event of an epidemic. So even though Contagion contains some of the myths associated with disaster movies, overall, it is a much more realistic movie which presents real solution to potential problems.Works CitedContagion. Dir. Steven Soderbergh. Warner Bros. Pictures. 2011. DVD.Outbreak. Dir. Wolfgang Peterson. Warner Bros. Pictures. 1995. DVD.

Perpetuating Disaster Myth through Film