By AKANKSHA SAH
Set to be released on May 29, 2015, San Andreas is a disaster film that follows the main characters, Ray (played by Dwayne Johnson) and his ex-wife Emma (played by Carla Gugino), as they set out to find their daughter (played by Alexandra Dadario) after a devastating earthquake hits California. With famous actors, stunning effects and a high budget, producers predict a huge turnout at its premiere.
Unfortunately, their predictions will, most likely, come true. Although earthquakes are a fact of life in California, there has not been a truly major earthquake in California since the 1990s. According to the California Department of Conservation (CDC), the last earthquake of that sort was the 1994 Northridge quake, which registered a 6.7 on the Richter Scale, resulting in 61 deaths and $15 billion in damage. Since then, the forces at the San Andreas Fault – the origin of most of California’s earthquakes – have been building up stress in the Earth as they try to push past each other. Smaller earthquakes, most of which no one even notices and some of which have caused considerable damage themselves, have continued to rock California’s cities on a daily basis since the Northridge quake. However, the stress released with each of these relatively tiny quakes hardly makes a dent in the enormous built up force waiting to be released at any time.
Californian architects have been working hard, carefully designing cities to be “earthquake-proof” in preparation for the next major earthquake, which scientists have predicted is actually overdue, based on historical trends in earthquake patterns. Despite those efforts, however, California is still not truly prepared for an earthquake. At this point, damage to both buildings and people will be unavoidable when the earthquake comes, making it an impending tragedy.
The producers of San Andreas, however, have made the choice to take this approaching event and make a profit off of it. Showing no regard for the fact that a major earthquake actually might occur – not just in some unrelated place, but, rather, in the exact location of the title of the movie – they have decided to ignore the implications of their decision. When this movie does come out, people will watch it, and, as with any other movie, have varied reactions to it, but most will probably have no issues with the concept. However, after the inevitable earthquake, during which precious lives, money and resources will be wasted, these same people will look back upon this movie, remember the loss caused by the earthquake and be ashamed to have ever glamorized the event. What the producers and supporters of this movie have failed to do is understand the actual effects of using a real event for profit.
Before September 11, 2001, the United States Federal Government received a warning about terrorist attacks about to come. While the government was not able to stop the terrible disaster from occurring, it also did not go out and create a movie about a terrorist attack on the twin towers upon receiving the warning. The very thought of doing such a thing is ridiculous and grossly distasteful – people’s lives are not things to be taken lightly. Instead, the government poured its time and resources into finding a solution to the threat. Just as the government received a warning from the terrorists before the attack, so too have Californians received a warning from nature before the earthquake. When lives are at stake in just the same way as they were on September 11, why have the producers of San Andreas decided that it is acceptable to trivialize them? The idea of creating a glamorized movie about the earthquake is just as distasteful as a movie about terrorists would have been.
If the producers truly want to have something to do with the subject, they can just as easily take their time and resources and invest them in doing earthquake research, designing safer buildings or reinforcing existing architecture. There is still so much to be done to protect the residents of California – the money they used in making the movie and paying the actors could have been put to use in countless ways. The movie’s creators have clearly not understood the negative implications of their decision to make the movie, but, unfortunately, they cannot back out of their decision at this point, even if they do realize it. Luckily, however, their cause is not lost. If the producers take some of the profit from the movie and donate it to any of the causes listed above to help ensure that the scenes in their movie do not one day become tragic reality, the benefits of the movie would definitely outweigh any moral costs.