The Crazies: effective biohazard containment

So this weekend I watched a strangely apt movie: The Crazies. The plot line of this fantastic remake is basically this: Government plane transporting biological weapon crashes in the marsh that the town of Ogden Marsh ( uses as its water source. Rather than warning the citizens of the danger, the government waits until the townspeople start going murderously crazy to contain and shoot – everyone. After this mass genocide is over, the government deals with the remaining toxic contamination by NUKING the city (which is in the middle of farmland Iowa) and writing it off as a mild chemical explosion from a nearby plant.

Welcome to Ogden Marsh, Iowa. The friendliest place on earth.

This movie deals with three themes of this week’s reading: the responsibility of the government to warn citizens about the affects of chemicals, nuclear radiation (always an effective way of stopping another manmade, rapidly mutating toxin – superheat and irradiate) and the perception of risk.

The very idea that the government is shipping biological weapons across American soil and not even bothering to notify the citizens when something goes wrong makes our skin crawl, though as Rachel Carson points out toxic chemicals are used everyday (especially in farmlands), and everybody sees it as the norm – not even questioning whether massive food production is so important we have to poison ourselves and the environment for it.

And then they set off a nuke and downplay it, like an inverse Three Mile Island.  I’m especially fond of the idea of minimizing the effects of one manmade chemical with another, but isn’t that often the way we deal with it? (Like the fact that you can get cancer from radiation, but then you go into radiation treatment, never really made sense to me). Is the effects of one toxin better than another? And what about the effects of compounding toxins, which Carson deals with in her selection? (I want a sequel where the blood-crazy infected of The Crazies combines with the cannibal monsters of The Hills Have Eyes)

this +

this = awesome(ly relevant)

But see, in The Crazies, all this happens in the space of three days. It is a single disaster that drastically effects everyone involved (you’re either dead or two surviving heroes). The risk is very real and undeniable, whereas the effect of everyday toxins is not only slow but unacknowledged.


3 Responses to “The Crazies: effective biohazard containment”

  1. Man I want to see this movie, although I am not a fan of The Hills Have Eyes. When we think of “toxic” chemicals or substances, we think often of the really horrible stuff like Agent Orange or radioactive waste (which seems to work out or a lot of super heroes) and all the images associated with them. Nearly every aspect of our industry contains processes that are reliant on toxic chemicals. The fear from movies like The Crazies and The Hills Have Eyes should be centered more on the government regulations and lies associated with accidents and tests and te like instead of the fear of the substances themselves which, because we can control them, make our live better in myriad ways.

  2. here’s a list of ATSDR toxic chemicals and facts about them if you guys want to see how previlent poison is in our lives

  3. Brian Nichols Says:

    Sara Ray makes an interesting point in her blog that a lot of Risk perception is influenced by popular media such as the movies. This writer ventures to argue that Hollywood makes films with images that play on the imaginations of their audience. In the wake of the 9/11 and Al Gore’s film Inconvenient Truth, it seems natural Hollywood would cash in on images that deal with the war on terrorism and environmental degradation. In this manner, Hollywood seems to amplify the symptoms and not the illness- that environmental degradation= war. As Robert Kaplan argues in his essay “The coming Anarchy,” much of the old world’s nation-states with histories of excessive population growth seem to be disintegrating because of internal strive amongst natural resources. Hollywood audiences would probably not want to spend their weekend nights watching films that would point this out.

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