Do It for The Kids: Dismantling Norms of The Family in Cli-Fi Literature
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Do It for The Kids: Dismantling Norms of The Family in Cli-Fi Literature

Abstract

“Do it for the kids,” cry climate activists, in an appeal to intergenerational responsibility. Climate change fictions make similar emotional appeals to their audiences by centering their plots around a family struggling to beat the odds of the Anthropocene. Electing the nuclear family as the genre standard reinforces heteronormativity, relies on the misleading catharsis of the “child savior” figure, and furthers procreational narratives. To examine the norms of the family in Cli-fi, this paper examines two popular short stories, “Quiet Town” by Jason Gurley and “The Smog Society” by Chen Qiufan and two Climate Disaster films, 2012 (2009) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004 dir. Roland Emmerich). To contextualize my exploration of such tropes, I consulted theory across multiple relevant disciplines: particularly, Edelman’s Queer theory of reproductive futurism and James Hughes’ work on Sociological Biopolitics informed my analysis. Close reading analyses found that even as Cli-fi work blocked the agency of children they also placed upon them the responsibility of maintaining and perpetuating generational and heteronormative tradition. Times of crisis within the story were mirrored by the destruction of the nuclear family, and times of environmental sustainability were signaled by the nuclear family. With this paper I hope to encourage further research into the emerging genre of Cli-Fi and the norms of gender enshrined within it.

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