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Movies that Got Disasters Wrong

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

If your perception of climate change is a result of pop culture, you might want to reevaluate it.


Storytelling, especially in the form of movies and pop culture, plays a vital role in shaping our perception of the events unfolding around us and of the future. The stories of our future and the future of our planet are full of apocalyptic disasters and anarchy. While our reality may seem as desolate and hopeless as these stories, are we really doomed to this fate or can we build a better, brighter future for ourselves and stop giving in to the hopeless apocalyptic narrative that is set for us? Let us take a look at some ways in which stories and reality differ, giving us some hope for the future:



Freak Weather Events Taking Place at the Same Time Everywhere

Movies like Geostorm (2017) and The Day after Tomorrow (2004) depict extreme weather events taking place all over the world due to global warming. Here are some ways in which these depictions are inaccurate:


Movies

  • Extreme weather events happen all over the world suddenly and in the span of a few days.

  • Emergency services aren’t available, and the characters are forced to fend for themselves to survive.

Reality

  • It takes time for weather events to build up. Large-scale freak weather does not happen everywhere or at the same time.

  • Emergency services may be delayed, but emergency warning systems are usually put in place before the disaster occurs, giving people more time to react and prepare for impending disasters.


Pandemics

Movies like Contagion (2011) and Cabin Fever (2002) depicts the spread of infectious viruses leading to a pandemic. Although we have seen the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and they have been devastating and far-reaching, there are some ways movies can over-exaggerate the effects of a pandemic.


Movies

  • In movies, society and all protocols break down within days of a virus being unleashed. There is immediate chaos, with people hoarding supplies to save themselves and not caring about others around them.

Reality

  • In real life, pandemics are immediately addressed by global healthcare organizations which have protocols and backup plans in place for such scenarios.

  • Preventative measures and safety protocols like social distancing and quarantines are put into immediate effect and vaccines are developed as fast as possible.

  • The crumbling down of society as we know it and the apocalyptic nature of pandemics as depicted in movies does not really happen in real life.


Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters


Movies

  • In the 2015 film San Andreas, a series of high-magnitude earthquakes caused by the faultline running underneath the state of California kills a large number of people and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson essentially ends up saving everyone.

Reality

  • In real life, disasters such as these would be detected well in advance, giving people enough time to evacuate and setting safety protocols in place. Emergency services would be available, and the military would respond immediately to provide humanitarian services.


Movies show a highly exaggerated version of “what-if” scenarios, mainly for the purpose of entertainment. Although some films do show good methods of survival, these depictions are not always accurate and show a more dismal and hopeless version of the future. In reality, communities and people come together to support each other in times of distress. This article about flipping the narrative of our future talks about this issue in detail. If we are aware of how stories affect our perception of the future, we can imagine a better, more equitable society for ourselves and work towards creating it.


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