I’m pleased to announce that I will be presenting a paper today at the 2019 International Conference on Religion & Film in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My talk title is “Unveiling Bird Box: Thinking about Genres of Apocalypse and Contemporary Culture.” This post includes the resources, including the abstract, the powerpoint show, some of the clips I’m using, and a handout from The Apocalypse of Abraham. See more here.
“Unveiling Bird Box” Abstract: Unveiling Bird Box: Thinking about Genres of Apocalypse and Contemporary Culture
Bird Box has emerged as a pop culture phenomenon with ads warning the audience, “Don’t Look!” The supposal is basic: a global apocalyptic scenario of near elimination where the near survivors must veil themselves in order to survive. And yet, much of the speculative logic of the film is unknown. Despite widespread social media speculation, we do not know if the entity or entities that threaten human elimination are supernatural or natural. Despite the unknowns, and although the film presents itself as being about veiling, Bird Box is clearly about seeing. The tension of looking/not looking that film marketers captured in the ad campaign is not merely a challenge to the audience but is the essential diegetic crisis of the survivors.
While there are many unknowns about the speculative universe of the film, it is clear that it is an entirely post-religious world. And yet, to call the film “apocalyptic” is to recall the Jewish roots of the genre. Observation of themes of seeing in Bird Box reveals intriguing points of continuity and discontinuity with the religious roots of the genre, even in this post-religious film. In exploring definitions in John J. Collins’ The Apocalyptic Imagination and other scholars of Second Temple Jewish and Christian literature, and using examples in sacred texts like The Apocalypse of Abraham, this paper explores ways Bird Box invites us to think about apocalyptic films as revelations for contemporary culture.
“Unveiling Bird Box” Presentation: Unveiling Bird Box presentation final (PPT)
“Unveiling Bird Box” Presentation: Click Here (PPT Online).
“Unveiling Bird Box“ Handout: Unveiling Bird Box Handout (PDF)
Some Clips Used in the Presentation (note: the one where Tom tells a story won’t load, but it is at 1:30:54 in the film)