In an era when many businesses have come under scrutiny for their environmental impact, the film industry has for the most part escaped criticism and regulation. Its practices are more diffuse; its final product, less tangible; and Hollywood has adopted public-relations strategies that portray it as environmentally conscious. In Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret, Hunter Vaughan offers a new history of the movies from an environmental perspective, arguing that how we make and consume films has serious ecological consequences.
Bringing together environmental humanities, science communication, and social ethics, Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret is a pathbreaking consideration of the film industry’s environmental impact that examines how our cultural prioritization of spectacle has distracted us from its material consequences and natural-resource use. Vaughan examines the environmental effects of filmmaking from Hollywood classics to the digital era, considering how popular screen media shapes and reflects our understanding of the natural world. He recounts the production histories of major blockbustersGone with the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, Twister, and Avatarsituating them in the contexts of the development of the film industry, popular environmentalism, and the proliferation of digital technologies. Emphasizing the materiality of media, Vaughan interweaves details of the hidden environmental consequences of specific filmmaking practices, from water use to server farms, within a larger critical portrait of social perceptions and valuations of the natural world.
About the Author
Hunter Vaughan is Environmental Media Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Colorado Boulder and a 2017 Rachel Carson Center Fellow. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Environmental Media, the author of Where Film Meets Philosophy (Columbia, 2013), and the coeditor of The Anthem Handbook of Screen Theory (2018).
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Big Picture
1. Burning Down the House: Fire, Explosion, and the Eco-ethics of Destruction Spectacle
2. “Five Hundred Thousand Kilowatts of Stardust”: Water and Resource Use in Movies and the Marketing of Nature
3. Wind of Change: New Screen Technologies, the Visualization of Invisible Environmental Threats, and the Materiality of the Virtual
4. Apocalypse Tomorrow: The Myth of Earth’s End in the Digital Era
5. The Fifth Element: Hollywood as Invasive Species and the Human Side of Environmental Media
Conclusion: An Element of Hope