Hollywood's Dirtiest Secret

The Hidden Environmental Costs of the Movies

Hunter Vaughan

Columbia University Press

Hollywood's Dirtiest Secret

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Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231182416

256 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231182409

256 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£70.00

Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231544153

256 Pages

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List Price: $29.99£24.00

Hollywood's Dirtiest Secret

The Hidden Environmental Costs of the Movies

Hunter Vaughan

Columbia University Press

In an era when many businesses have come under scrutiny for their environmental impact, the film industry has for the most part escaped criticism and regulation. Its practices are more diffuse; its final product, less tangible; and Hollywood has adopted public-relations strategies that portray it as environmentally conscious. In Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret, Hunter Vaughan offers a new history of the movies from an environmental perspective, arguing that how we make and consume films has serious ecological consequences.

Bringing together environmental humanities, science communication, and social ethics, Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret is a pathbreaking consideration of the film industry’s environmental impact that examines how our cultural prioritization of spectacle has distracted us from its material consequences and natural-resource use. Vaughan examines the environmental effects of filmmaking from Hollywood classics to the digital era, considering how popular screen media shapes and reflects our understanding of the natural world. He recounts the production histories of major blockbusters—Gone with the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, Twister, and Avatar—situating them in the contexts of the development of the film industry, popular environmentalism, and the proliferation of digital technologies. Emphasizing the materiality of media, Vaughan interweaves details of the hidden environmental consequences of specific filmmaking practices, from water use to server farms, within a larger critical portrait of social perceptions and valuations of the natural world.
Hunter Vaughan's forensic accounting uncovers Hollywood's secretly unpaid debts to the environment, demonstrating ecocriticism's power to connect political economy to movies' themes and styles, for analysis and for future makers. More than compelling: entertaining and inspiring. Sean Cubitt, author of Finite Media: Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies
Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret is an important new book that exposes the hidden environmental costs of how we make, watch, and dispose of movies. Well-researched and written in an accessible style, it is a thought-provoking alternative history of Hollywood, delving into the disconnect between our enjoyment of screen culture and concern for its environmental impact. It will be of interest to scholars and students in a range of fields including cultural studies, communication, social science, and environmental studies. Alison Anderson, author of Media, Environment and the Network Society
In Vaughan’s deft readings of multiple films and their production apparatuses, film theory and analysis also become “updated” into a cutting-edge discipline. Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret is an essential book in ecocinema and ecomedia studies and an important contribution to ecomaterialism within cultural studies more broadly. Adrian Ivakhiv, author of Ecologies of the Moving Image: Cinema, Affect, Nature
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Big Picture
1. Burning Down the House: Fire, Explosion, and the Eco-ethics of Destruction Spectacle
2. “Five Hundred Thousand Kilowatts of Stardust”: Water and Resource Use in Movies and the Marketing of Nature
3. Wind of Change: New Screen Technologies, the Visualization of Invisible Environmental Threats, and the Materiality of the Virtual
4. Apocalypse Tomorrow: The Myth of Earth’s End in the Digital Era
5. The Fifth Element: Hollywood as Invasive Species and the Human Side of Environmental Media
Conclusion: An Element of Hope
Notes
Bibliography
Filmography
Index

About the Author

Hunter Vaughan is associate professor of English and cinema studies at Oakland University and a 2017 Rachel Carson Center Fellow. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Environmental Media, the author of Where Film Meets Philosophy (Columbia, 2013), and the coeditor of The Anthem Handbook of Screen Theory (2018).