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Disney’s Reel Doubling of Violent Desire in J. J. Abrams’ Mimetic The Force Awakens

Office of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Divinity, VIC 3052 Melbourne, Australia
Religions 2019, 10(11), 615; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110615
Received: 17 October 2019 / Revised: 2 November 2019 / Accepted: 4 November 2019 / Published: 6 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-framing and Re-focusing Religion and Film in America)
Abrams’ spectacularly distended infantilising manipulation of the saga embeds a form of cognitive resonance with a state of perpetual war and a politically thanatising mythos fitted out as a politically containing moment within what cultural commentators are referring to as “post-9/11 American cinema”, a form of cinema reacting to a cultural trauma and that normalises a hegemonic political reactivity in a perceived ‘clash of civilizations’ in “the social embodied” in an age marked by what Terry Eagleton describes as “holy terror”. As cultural philosopher Douglas Kellner argues, movies of apocalyptic or catastrophe cinema can “be read as allegories of the disintegration of social life and civil society, and the emergence of a Darwinian nightmare where the struggle for survival occurs in a Hobbesian world where life is nasty, brutish, and short.” The contention is that if George Lucas developed Star Wars to struggle with, among other things, an America that had elected Richard Nixon and engaged in the culturally traumatic Vietnam War, Abrams and his co-writer Lawrence Kazdan have relocated the franchise in a context marked as “post 9/11 cinema”. It is unclear quite how The Force Awakens could offer a distinctively interrogatory function for conceiving political subjectivity in the contemporary fractured and self-assertive space of global geopolitics, expressing, as it does, the classificatory coding that figures innocent selfhood in a conflictual relation with the evil terrorist other. Abrams’ movie, accordingly, is ill equipped to refuse to naturalise the innocence of the politically regulative messianic monomyth of the exceptionalist nation that instils a sensitivity conducive to violence against the foreigner when it is perceived to be under threat. It is, in other words, ill-equipped to resist being captured by the Girardian framing of myth within an identification of “sacred violence”. Consequently, The Force Awakens provides a resource for the critic’s reflections on the cultural difficulties of learning about our learning, of the disciplining of desire through monomythic intensification, and of sustaining reaction to cultural trauma through the hostility of sacrificial disposal of the other that requires the instrumentalised rationality of the self-secure national subject. View Full-Text
Keywords: mimesis; mimetic rivalry; sacred violence; scapegoat; cinema; culture; critical theory; post-9/11 cinema; disposability; instrumental rationality; realpolitik; otherness; alien; stranger; thanatology; star wars; J. J. Abrams; Disney; George Lucas mimesis; mimetic rivalry; sacred violence; scapegoat; cinema; culture; critical theory; post-9/11 cinema; disposability; instrumental rationality; realpolitik; otherness; alien; stranger; thanatology; star wars; J. J. Abrams; Disney; George Lucas
MDPI and ACS Style

McDowell, J.C. Disney’s Reel Doubling of Violent Desire in J. J. Abrams’ Mimetic The Force Awakens. Religions 2019, 10, 615.

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