The aesthetic I chose to study is best described as ‘nature fighting back’. Depictions of this aesthetic include imagery of nature flourishing despite man-made obstacles – how humanity has abandoned, neglected, or mistreated a space that was once vital to everyday life. This style was popularized by multiple forms of media, ranging from photographs, paintings, films, shows, and video games. As concern for climate change and other environmental impacts grew, it was not uncommon for movies and novels in the early 2000s to depict apocalyptic events in succession to a man-made catalyst, and how these disasters would affect humanity. An influential example would be the final scene from Planet of the Apes (1968), in which we see a crumpled and tattered Statue of Liberty washed up on the shore of a beach. What used to be an imposing statue that visitors around the world would gather, now only remains as a quarter of her body as if being pulled back into the ground she was made from. Another popular example is the overgrown highway leading into Atlanta, Georgia, which was created for the first season of The Walking Dead (2010). After an outbreak that proves fatal to the human race, the road that leads away from the city is packed with cars, while the entry has no obstructions.
This type of imagery is seen as both beautiful and foreboding. Since most people seem to be rooting for the environment, seeing nature “win” against human obstacles feels gratifying – as if no matter what we do to our planet, it will find a way to live on. The foreboding aspect stems from the feeling that the imagery is an unavoidable future – that at the same frozen moment in time, humanity is either greatly reduced or gone entirely. It mostly seems ominous when seen in a large-scale context, such as cities or villages being reclaimed by nature. Examples of this include stills from video games titled The Last of Us Part II and Uncharted: A Thief’s End, in which we see an overgrown hotel lobby and a long abandoned village peeking underneath shrubs and trees. When seen in a small-scale context, most view it as a satisfying outcome to a silent duel. A photo even titled “Nature fighting back” shows a tree engulfing a metal fence, seemingly unbothered by the unmovable barrier. Ultimately, I think that this aesthetic brings satisfaction to the viewer, while also pointing out the potential in valuing the evidence of past mistakes.