The Culture Apocalypse: Hegemony and the Frontier at the End of the World


culture industry
risk society
popular film

How to Cite

Oldring, A. (2013). The Culture Apocalypse: Hegemony and the Frontier at the End of the World. Stream: Interdisciplinary Journal of Communication, 5(1), 8–20.


The turn of the millennium saw a marked increase in apocalypse-themed mass media, especially in television and film, of which the United States is the largest producer. The role of the apocalypse has been to produce hegemony for the ruling establishment that purported itself as being able to prevent or somehow save potential victims. Historically the church possessed this authority, but in contemporary society that role has been passed to governments and to scientific and technological institutions. In contemporary America, apocalypse is part of a spectrum of religious beliefs ingrained into the American Way of life. Commercial America has resurrected the apocalypse myth as spectacle commodity. Apocalyptic media today reflect current values of the American hegemon in globalization, and are portrayed as particularly real in order to be effective. The increased interest in disaster myths specifically reflects Beck’s (1992) concept of a world risk society. Deconstructing the films Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow reveals hegemonic devices that uphold the American way in the advent of globalization through the use of heteronormative values, scientific savior-adversary binaries, and symbolic rebirth through the recreation of frontier space.