I’ve been watching the television adaption of Snowpiercer. So I’m delighted to have the polar vortex collapse that is chilling most of American dovetail so well with my current media aesthetics. I’ve always loved the cold.
Colorado has been in the single digits all day and will be below freezing for the weekend. I had to drive out to a doctor’s office for some treatments and was terrified I’d slip off the road at every intersection. As the sun slipped behind the flatirons a gloomy grey quickly turned into a pitch back snowstorm.
The aesthetics of disaster and apocalypse generally lean more towards heat and explosions but the subgenre of extreme cold holds our attention. Day After to Tomorrow, Snowpiercer, The Revenant, The Thing, The Grey and many other freezing fear movies capture an aesthetic.
The natural fear of cold isn’t just about freezing to death. Much of the claustrophobic feeling of cold crisis movies comes from isolation, loneliness and it’s resulting paranoia. It’s why the genre does so well when mixed with horror or action. Game of Thrones regularly intoned the threat of winter.
Freezes typically operate on bleak but wide open spaces like arctic tundra or within the confines of a station or refuge that quickly closes in on its people. Scenes of mayhem and violence come out of close quarters that are supposed to guard you from the even more fearsome freeze right outside your door.
All of this conditioning from film and television makes a weather condition like a polar vortex collapse take on a bit of an edge. I indulged in my pre-storm prepping shopping to make sure we has enough beef for stew and chickens for roasting. But that’s partially ritual. A sacrifice to the gods that says I am worthy to survive the bitter cold that is coming. It’s almost superstitious. But it’s also joyful. Humanity against the odds of Mother Nature. We’ve developed rituals and technology to live in the worst conditions.