Thursday, September 08, 2005

The imagination of disaster: 1

Like many of you, I spent most of last week glued to the tv and heart-rending websites like this one absorbing all I can about the catastrophe in New Orleans. That city will always occupy a special place in my heart, and everything feels even more (sur)real because for several years the Hub and I headed down there on Labor Day weekend for Southern Decadence. (BTW, you'll be intrigued to learn that the rain of destruction visited upon that poor city is actually God's punishment for Decadence, according to this fucked-up web page. On the bright side, it seems a dozen or so Quarter residents held the parade after all.)

Any time something globally awful happens (9/11, the tsunami disaster, etc.), it seems trivial, if not downright offensive, to continue talking about superheroes. On the other hand, I can't help finding comic-book parallels to real-life events as a way to comprehend the otherwise incomprehensible. Such events aren't really "unimaginable," given how vividly they have been imagined in horror and fantasy fiction for decades. Osama bin Laden is nothing if not a member of the Legion of Doom, and the horrors of New Orleans (flooding, looting, fires, mass casualties, the apparent neglect of the federal government) keep bringing me back to the earthquake that turned Gotham City into a lawless zone a couple of years back during that whole "No Man's Land" saga that I didn't really follow too closely.

In other words, fictional worlds give us ways to envision disasters in the real one. "It's just like a movie" has been the recurring response to both 9/11 and Katrina. I have more to say about this, but I'll save it for a future post.

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