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Energy Cinema, part 1: Filming Energy Landscapes

Sat, April 13, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Union D

Session Submission Type: Panel


Multiple Panel Abstract:
We propose two panels that investigate energy cinema. Energy history has long been a concern of environmental historians and several panels each year at the ASEH annual conference are dedicated to investigations into the subject. Cultural and film history have also been growing topics of discussion, as represented by recent work by Finis Dunaway, Neil Maher, Cindy Ott, and Gregg Mitman. This set of panels, based on the preparatory work done for an edited collection of essays titled Energy Cinema, investigates how Hollywood films are representative of America’s energy history. The papers included here hope to rectify the notion that energy history belongs in the material realm of policy, production, and extraction and builds on interdisciplinary scholarly work done in energy humanities that addresses how energy consumption has shaped American popular culture and political reality. The presenters in this group collectively argue that how Americans see and understand energy matters, and that Hollywood films from across the twentieth century give historians a glimpse into both the common, accepted ways in which Hollywood and the energy industries have sold themselves to the American public.

Energy Cinema, part 1: Filming Energy Landscapes

This panel tracks the ways in which Hollywood has interpreted the environmental consequences of energy production. Panelists assess films that span the middle decades of the twentieth century, contrasting American nostalgia for unfettered energy production with concern about increasing energy dependence and the popular uncertainty wrought by the 1970s energy crisis. These papers analyze how popular film taught audiences to use land and natural resources and show how filmmakers used spectacle both as a tool to build popular support for the industry and assuage fears about the industry’s destructive power.

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