The Apocalypse Is No-Thing To Wish For: Revisioning Traumatic Masculinities in John Hillcoat’s The Road

  • Brent Strang


There is a curious irony in the young adult male habit of indulging in survival fantasies while sitting idly on the couch. Digitally interfacing with fingers and thumbs, sheltered by modernity’s creature comforts—their bodies could not be further removed from the strife-torn apocalyptic landscapes depicted onscreen. The myth of regeneration through violence surely animates this brand of entertainment, but perhaps there is another psychodynamic at work that rivets viewers and gamers to specifically apocalyptic and dystopic virtual worlds. Trauma-studies scholar E. Ann Kaplan’s forthcoming work on “trauma future-tense cinema” explores what’s culturally productive in this genre of violent, seemingly gratuitous, spectacle.1 Though I take her point that the traumatic function of these films rouses audience awareness of the politics of our contemporary moment, cultural studies of popular phenomena must also consider how genre conventions perpetuate a discourse that underwrites and often undermines political statement.


Video Game Comic Book Late Modernity Vicarious Trauma Lost Object 
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  1. 2.
    E. Ann Kaplan, “Trauma Future-Tense (with reference to Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006),” in Trauma und Film, ed. Julia Koehne, 364–381, 370 (Berlin: Kadmos Publishing, 2012).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    See Kenneth Turan’s interview with Clint Eastwood, “A Fistful of Memories: Interview with Clint Eastwood,” in The Western Reader, eds. Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman, 249 (New York: Limelight, 1998).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America, 12 (New York: Harper Collins, 1992)Google Scholar
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    See Brent Strang, “‘That There Corpse is Startin to Turn!’: Three Burials and the Postmortem Western,” Cinephile 5, no. 2 (2009): 39–46.Google Scholar
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    Rosi Braidotti, Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics, 245 (Cambridge: Polity, 2006).Google Scholar
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    See Dominick LaCapra’s chapter “Trauma, Absence, Loss,” in his book Writing History, Writing Trauma, 43–85 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    See Michael Kimmel, “The Contemporary ‘Crisis’ of Masculinity in Historical Perspective,” in The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies, ed. Harry Brod, 121–53 (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1987)Google Scholar
  9. Stephen Whitehead, Men and Masculinities: Key Themes and New Directions (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).Google Scholar
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    Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, ed. and trans. James Strachey, 11–12 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1961).Google Scholar

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© Brent Strang 2015

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  • Brent Strang

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