Monday, 21 November 2011

On the myth of the frontier in cinema and culture

'A whole new world that is nothing but frontier...': Richard Langley in the narration to his excellent short film, embedded above, American Un-Frontiers: Universality and Apocalypse Blockbusters
This film concerns recent apocalyptic Hollywood blockbusters, which have utilised notions of the ‘frontier’ to develop ideas of American hegemony in the uni-polar era, even as they postulate a universal erasure of national boundaries. Largely, the non-human agents of apocalypse in such films are responsible for erasing boundaries, but in so doing they simultaneously establish the conditions of American renewal. Indeed, the frontier must be continually renewed; it is drawn in order to be effaced, redrawn and effaced again.

      However, at the moment of effacement, when the boundaries between nations are broken down and a sense of universality seems triumphant, the dawning of a new world re-inscribes the frontier - the new world that is constructed is still American led; the mooted universality is both particular and parochial. Such films, which appear to posit un-American (or at least post-national) frontiers, actually achieve the inverse; the universal equality offered by apocalypse offers an American un-frontier, a site seemingly without boundaries, but which is simultaneously nothing but frontier, a re-dramatisation of America’s founding mythology.
The inspiration for today's Film Studies For Free entry -- on the (transnational) myth of the frontier in cinema and related culture -- was Richard Langley's excellent, highly persuasive, short documentary embedded above. That video also has a vivid, post hoc connection to this blog's popular list of "Links of Doom and Disaster! Apocalyptic Film and Moving Image Studies" posted but a few short weeks ago.

Like cinematic apocalypses, filmic frontier mythology turned out to be an incredibly rich vein of web scholarship. So, many thanks to Richard and all the below named scholars for making sure their very valuable work was openly accessible online.

Open Access is, after all, the real 'final [e-]frontier'.

And hopefully it won't turn out to be a myth...

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