17 Pages

Introduction: US foreign policy after hype(r)-power


Contemporary American cinema has no shortage of images of future disasters that, consciously or not, contribute to the debate over the future of American politics and foreign policy. Blockbuster movies such as I am Legend, Cloverfi eld, or The Day After Tomorrow, along with hit television shows such as Heroes, Jericho, or 24, do not only imagine different catastrophic scenarios; they also obsess over the dangers of the state’s response to terror and disaster.1 In Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, for example, a nuclear attack on Texas results in World War III, the creation of a radical all-seeing surveillance system, and a beefed-up version of the Patriot Act (called US-Ident). This fi lm’s narrative involves a complex intertwining of events related to the apocalypse and the development of wave fuel (called “Fluid Karma”) as a response to dwindling oil supplies; the activities of a neo-Marxist revolutionary group in Los Angeles (based in Venice Beach); and the kidnapping of a republican politician’s movie star son-in-law. But what stays in the minds of viewers after watching the frenetic and farcical onslaught of surreal scenes in this movie are images that resonate with the contemporary US public sphere and its anxieties: the pop star Justin Timberlake playing an Iraq veteran who surveys a beach in Los Angeles from an armed defensive post that protects the Fluid Karma installation in the ocean; Republican politicians in a medicalized room full of surveillance cameras spying upon the population of the city and aided by staff in transparent raincoats; and a motorized toy solider crawling across the sidewalk. In the end, both critics and audiences did not really know what to make of the fi lm, perhaps because its surreal journey is too much like American everyday life where anything seems possible in this post-9/11 age of hype(r)-power.2