Monday, April 30, 2012

Natural Disasters and Final Words

I think a lot of kids go through a natural disaster phase. There’s just something morbidly fascinating about the fact that the earth can and has wiped out civilizations.

My sister’s interest in this manifested itself in films. She loved Dante’s Peak and Twister (the movie, not the game. Though she liked that as well). Roomie was more into the Titanic, which while certainly tragic, was more human error than natural disaster. I asked another friend if she had also been interested in such things and she responded:

If by fascinated, you mean terrified and morbidly interested in…then yes. If by “which one” you mean “ALL OF THEM EVER – EVEN EARTHQUAKES I DON’T CARE IF I LIVE IN FLORIDA WITHOUT FAULT LINES” then that’s the answer. Although, I would say that tornadoes fascinated me most. Also, potentially dinosaurs coming back to real life, a la Jurassic Park. I still occasionally have those nightmares.

My tragedy of choice was Pompeii. I lost count of the number of times I took out Edith Kunhardt Davis’ Pompeii…Buried Alive! from the library. I would just read it over and over again, equal parts enthrallment and horror. Sometimes I would try to create stories where the people of Pompeii had a different, happier ending. Some crazy epic about a hero (or occasionally a group of aliens) who rode in just in time to get the city’s inhabitants to safety. At other points, I would accept their tragic ending (often there were tears involved on my end) and create death scenes that at least allowed them a chance to get whatever had bothered them in life off their chests.

It’s one of those things that drives me nuts in TV shows – things look grim for the main characters; even though we know they won’t, they think they’re likely to die. But rather than give voice to all those pent up feelings that have been building for seasons, they just give each other meaningful looks as the clock ticks down.

I get it. They’re not actually going to die and the writers don’t want to create a situation where they have to deal with the fallout of near-death emotional declarations that would make it more difficult to string out the will they/won’t they tension for another fifty episodes. Still, though, it annoys me. And is one of the reasons I so loved Chuck. They were willing to have the “oh, so we’re not actually going to die….awkward” moment

I love stories that are fantastical. The more I have to suspend my disbelief, the better. But when it comes to dying, it’s just too unrealistic to me that people wouldn’t be spilling their guts if they actually thought it was going to be the last chance they got. Of course, that may just be me. For all I know, everyone reading this may be stoic badasses. If so, congratulations, 'cause that's impressive. But I’m guessing that in such a situation, my reaction would be akin to that of Emma Corrigan in Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep A Secret? Plane’s going down? Volcano’s erupting? Dinosaurs are back and roaming the city? Apologies to whoever happens to be next to me, because I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to hear quite the stream of vocalized inner monologue.

There’s a very good chance that if a natural disaster of Pompeii proportions was to strike, my last words would not be eloquent nor something that history would see fit to quote. But let me tell you, they would be comprehensive.

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