06 August 2012

Commemorating Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Every August brings the anniversaries of the American atomic bombing of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombings ushered in the "atomic age," which saw the development of ever more powerful weapons of mass destruction; it also began the Cold War, in which the United States of America and the Soviet Union squared off with their massive nuclear arsenals, at times coming to the brink of nuclear warfare. Today, many states possess and test nuclear weapons, and others are attempting to develop them. Given the current turbulent military and political climate of the world, with Americans once again marching toward global warfare, perhaps it would be prudent for everyone to step back and join Japan's remembrance, not only as a national event but as a grave warning to humanity about the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

27 May 2012

American Media Culture in the Atomic Age

After nearly four of decades of Cold War conflict, accompanied by apathy and acceptance of the general population, the ‘no-nukes’ movement finally arose in the early 1980s to protest the ongoing threat of nuclear conflagration. Or so goes the pious orthodoxy that Margot A. Henriksen seeks to problematize in Dr Strangelove's America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age (University of California Press, 1997), a cultural history of the Cold War years in America. On the contrary, she postulates that a long-standing resistance to nuclear weapons and warfare is evident in a ‘culture of dissent’ born with the first blast of the atomic bomb during World War II, and that this wide-ranging dissent is found in all walks of society, but primarily in works of film, art, music, television and literature during the period from the mid-1940s to the late 1970s, preceding the no-nukes movement. The American culture of dissent challenged ‘the dominant culture of consensus and its vision of a new order of atomic security, defense, and prosperity.’ Henriksen’s goal in pursuing this legacy is to highlight ‘the changed forms of cultural expression which challenged the serenity and order of the atomic consensus with a new cultural chaos that mirrored the disruption of matter achieved in the technology of the atomic bomb.’ Her work seems primarily geared toward refuting the consensus historians who have claimed that Americans were generally apathetic or disinterested in the threat posed by the atomic bomb until president Ronald Reagan re-invigorated the Cold War in the early 1980s.

17 April 2012

Books on Films on the Bomb

The development and deployment of the atomic bomb by the Americans during World War II ushered in what is commonly referred to as the 'nuclear age.' A growing shelf of books continues to be written about the various repercussions of the bomb, ranging from the socio-political to the cultural and psychological. Several recent titles explore this legacy, including Filling the Hole in the Nuclear Future (Lexington Books, 2010) and The Dragon's Tail: Americans Face the Atomic Age (University of Massachusetts Press, 2009) both by Robert A. Jacobs, After Hiroshima: The United States, Race and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945-1965 by Matthew Jones (Cambridge University Press, 2010), Screening Enlightenment: Hollywood and the Cultural Reconstruction of Defeated Japan by Hiroshi Kitamura (Cornell Univ Press, 2010), and Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan by Sean L. Malloy (Cornell University Press, 2008). While many of these books are about the historical and political issues related to nuclear weapons, Filling the Hole in the Nuclear Future focuses on how art and popular culture, including cinema, have confronted the bomb.