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Environmental Ethics

Volume 31, Issue 3, Fall 2009

Martin Drenthen
Pages 297-315
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics200931332

Fatal Attraction
Wildness in Contemporary Film

The concept of wildness not only plays a role in philosophical debates, but also in popular culture. Wild nature is often seen as a place outside the cultural sphere where one can still encounter instances of transcendence. Some writers and moviemakers contest the dominant romanticized view of wild nature by telling stories that somehow show a different harsher face of nature. In encounters with the wild and unruly, humans can sometimes experience the misfit between their well-ordered, human-centered, self-created world view and the otherness of nature, and in doing so face, what Plumwood calls, “the view from the outside.” Three films—Gerry, Into the Wild, and Grizzly Man—deal with contemporary encounters with wildness. What these works have in common is the central theme of modern humans who are fascinated by wild nature and seek experiences unknown to those limited to the overly cultivated life (psyche) of modern society. Another connecting theme, however, is that any idealization of wildness is in itself deeply problematic. All three films have fatal endings, which in turn fascinates the contemporary viewers. These films show, first, that wildness is conceived as a moral counterforce against the overly civilized world; and, second, that fascination with this wildness has itself become thoroughly reflexive, and

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