I thought I’d give an update on my project. You will recall that I’ve been using the Fallout series as a benchmark for examining changes in American nuclear culture from 1945-2011. It is striking how prevalent the image of the high desert is in current American concepts of a post-nuclear world. Below are just a few of the photographs from games and movies. It is simply impossible to display a post-nuclear world without reference to what Jeffrey Womack calls “The Landscape of Death.” Yet, significantly there is little to no use of this landscape trope prior to the early 1970s. My argument is that this is the result of the environmental movement, a reinvigorated anti-nuclear/disarmament movement, and most importantly the release and wide dissemination of films and images from the New Mexico and Nevada above ground nuclear tests, which permanently associated the high desert and the mushroom cloud together in American minds. There is, in fact an almost total switch of thematic focus. Most of the books of the mid to late 50s feature a decimated or extinct humanity in a pristine world, a world wiped clean by bombs. The latter movies, books and games feature a resilient, surviving and tenacious humanity in a world utterly devoid of nature. This changing focus speaks to larger fears about the affect of technology on our environment which simply was not a part of the zeitgeist prior to 1970.
Also, notice the theme of the barren road, and the loan traveler. I’m not sure how to interpret why that image is so striking, and used so repeatedly. Anyone have any ideas?