Too Earnest

The sometimes serious, but generally frivolous, musings of a city girl now living in the woods.

Disaster Porn

Disaster porn.  That’s a thing, right?

I don’t want to Google it because then I would know I didn’t make it up and it just seeped into my subconscious because we are so saturated in media and opinions and stuff….

Yup.

There it is.

Thanks to Urban Dictionary for (so helpfully) crushing my dreams of wit.  According to them, disaster porn could either be when the news media put tragic and disastrous images on a continuous loop–much like they did on 9/11 or just after Sandy Hook–or film or TV that glorifies, or at least portrays disaster in great detail.

Welp, that’s what I just went to see at the movies:  Disaster Porn The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan MacGregor.  And this fantastic kid called Tom Holland.

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Photo by Jose Haro/Summit Entertainment, LLC.

Honestly, I think I cried, or at least welled, for most of the movie, so, you know, if you need a good cry or feel one coming on, just right head out to the multi-plex and plop down your hard-earned smackeroos for tickets to The Impossible.  It’s called that because Maria and, hmm, what’s his name?  Let’s call him Ewan Bennett and the family actually survived the 2004 Indonesia tsunami.  I know, that sounds like a spoiler, but it’s in the trailer and the poster and every ounce of promotional material out there.  And I think the filmmakers did that because, really, otherwise, why would you watch this movie?  I am planning to have drowning nightmares for the next few nights as it is.

And of course that is nothing compared to the nightmares the members of this family will have (are still having?) about their ordeal.  And for that matter, what the entire coastal people of Thailand and Indonesia are still dealing with.  Because what this film really does well is show the absolute horror that the tsunami wrought.  When the wall of water comes pummeling through the resort where the Bennetts are staying, which happens about 10-15 minutes in, your dreams of a tropical vacation are shattered.  For the next hour and a half, I was seconds away from a full-on sob because of alternating emotions of fear, awe at the generosity of humans, anger at the stupid things people do, and grief from all the lives lost and altered in such a very, very short time.

Naomi Watts and Tom Holland put on an acting clinic in the early parts of the movie as they cling to trees and a soggy mattress, while being relentlessly pulled into the undertow.  (I have read that the entire tsunami sequence took a year to film, such was the painstaking detail–and it was well worth it.  I stopped breathing every time one of our characters goes underwater.)  They finally get to relative safety in a tree and wait there for help. Then they are, quite literally, dragged to safety and driven to a hospital where Maria’s life-threatening injuries are dealt with .  At the hospital, Lucas–played by Tom Holland–is separated from his mum after she asks him to make himself useful and help people.  His face conveys a ridiculous amount of wisdom for a young person and he deploys it rather eloquently throughout the film.  Mark my words:  this kid is going places.  He tries to help people find their loved ones, and these scenes of desperation and reunification are heartrending.

Later on, we cut back to Mr. Ewan-Dad Bennett and he has found the his two younger sons.  We find them at what’s left of the resort, searching for the rest of their family and hoping for rescue.  It’s all very desperate, and I love Ewan MacGregor, but really, I was so much more interested in what was happening at the hospital with Lucas and his mom.  I was interested in the details of all these families separating and coming back together, of the bureaucracy that sprung up so quickly to help out the wounded and bereft.  Ewan, in his barefooted, dirty glory, showed the fear and sadness of losing one’s loves beautifully, but I guess I really like the parts of this film that tried to show what happened, I don’t know, administratively, in the wake of the disaster, not as much emotionally.  (Damn, she’s cold.)

Eventually, and spoiler alert, but not really, the family find each other and leave Thailand safely.  I have not really read reviews, aside from the one at the San Francisco Chronicle, but I imagine there are people who are frustrated that this is the story of rich white folks affected by the tsunami.  And, well, I truly had that same feeling over and over again as I was watching.  Yes, it was Thai people who rescued Maria and Lucas, and yes it was Thai doctors and nurses who took good care of Maria and all the injured. And yes, I know that Americans don’t got to movies with subtitles very often, and movies are, after all, made to make a buck.  But once, just once, I would like to see stories told from the point of view of the people most affected by history.  So optimistic, I know.

***

Speaking of disasters, I read a book all about being an outcast in high school.  See what I did there?

No, really.  Em and I both read a really great young adult book called The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  It was written by Stephen Chbosky, who later wrote and directed the movie adaptation.  Now, I really like young adult literature, and I have been amassing a collection of YA literature about queer young people, whch is not really so revolutionary now, but I sure wish there more when I was a kid.  Just telling you that I am predisposed to like this book.

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Photo from http://beatingaroundthebook.tumblr.com/

And I did.  Chbosky writes with such assurance, using letters to an unidentified “friend” to tell the story of our main character’s freshman year in high school.  It is set in 1991-1992, which was my junior year, and I was so nostalgic for all the music and lack of cell phones.  Charlie’s had a pretty decent life, and lives with his pretty normal family, but he is sad, and talks about having to calm himself down sometimes and mentions that he is a year behind in high school because he spent some time in the hospital.  He makes friends with two upperclassmen, Sam and Patrick.  Sam is beautiful, the girl of his dreams, and Patrick is the best friend he never had, and he happens to be gay and fearless; the latter serves as inspiration for our wallflower.  Over the course of the book, we watch his grow more fearless and confront his demons, while dating, drinking and generally messing up for the first time.

This is a quick read and it is a sweet book about friendship and first loves and heartbreak.  I loved it, and nearly started reading it as soon as I finished.  I had a book club book to read, so I left it, but I will read it again.  You should read it, too.

***

Em and I are going to watch the movie tonight for our Valentine’s date.  I’ll tell you about it later.

PS–Hermione’s in it.  It’ll be great.

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One comment on “Disaster Porn

  1. Pingback: Another Movie aaand …. It’s Oscar Season! | Too Earnest

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This entry was posted on February 14, 2013 by and tagged .
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