The Child in Post Apocalyptic Cinema

CFP: The Child in Post-Apocalyptic Cinema

Filmmakers have been fascinated with images of an imagined apocalypse since the first sci-fi films of the early 20th century. Humanity’s search for a Utopian existence has always been accompanied by the fearful counter-imaginings of a monumental dystopian collapse of civilization, a vision that has risen in popularity in cinema during the past two decades. In post-apocalyptic cinema, children have occupied conflicting positions—as harbingers of disaster, such as Children of the Damned (1964)—or as symbols of survival and hope, as in The Children of Men (2006). Recent upcoming films like After Earth (2013) and World War Z (2013) add to the growing trend of post-apocalyptic films with significant child characters. Children are most often symbols of Futurity, as Lee Edelman has argued, but what is the child’s role in a cinema that wallows in the aftermath and widespread devastation of nuclear disaster, alien invasion, ecological collapse, human transformation (zombies or other mutant human forms), technological or cyber disasters, paranormal invasions and/or possessions, divine judgment or widespread pandemics? The child character in many post-apocalyptic films is often overlooked as a significant source of meaning, yet the post-apocalyptic child occupies a unique space within such narratives that oscillates between death and destruction, and faith and hope— symbols of the resilience of life.

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