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Every summer, moviegoers flock to theaters to either watch the world end or to witness the struggles of those who were left behind in the aftermath of Armageddon. From localized disasters like those found in “San Andreas” to the complete annihilation of Earth as in “The Knowing,” people love to see destruction rendered in high tech CGI. Moviegoers also look forward to watching the struggles of the survivors of those disasters such as in “I am Legend” and unexpected hit “A Quiet Place.” People like to watch destruction. That is clear to anyone who has ever scrolled through internet videos. There is an awful lot of shaky cam footage of car wrecks, tornadoes and explosions among the many clips of cats being frightened of cucumbers. Why are we so fascinated with disaster? Why do we pay money to watch filmmakers imagine the end of the world?

Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, feels that the post-apocalyptic and disaster movies are so popular because they are the “definition of escapism.” “These types of films are often viewed as pessimistic glimpses into the future, which is certainly one valid interpretation, but they can also be self-reflective in a positive way,” he said. “It’s easy to see post-apocalyptic and dystopian film settings as part of our inevitable doom, but we can also take them as lessons and parables because, at the heart of any good story, the human condition is explored and challenged.”

Some have suggested that disaster and post-apocalyptic movies offer the same sort of catharsis that the ancient Greeks found in the performance of tragedies. Others claim that the popularity of both disaster and post-apocalyptic movies does not have to do with destruction as much as it has to do with survival. In most films in those genres, there is a person or small group of people who manages to live on despite the odds. We like the idea that humanity, or even we personally, could survive the utter destruction of the world as we know it. Still other people have said that the popularity of dystopian movies is due to the morbid fascination all humans seem to have with death and destruction. After all, most people’s reactions to watching something violent or disgusting is to either watch it again or tell a friend to watch it.

Which answer is the correct one is uncertain, but there is no doubt that disaster and dystopian films will continue to remain popular and a cornerstone of the summer movie season.

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