Zak Bronson: A glimpse of the end of the world

By Max Martin

Zak's hometown: St. Catherines, Ontario

Zak Bronson investigates how sci-fi depictions of environmental damage intersect with global issues like overpopulation, inequality, gender and the legacy of colonialism.


Researching the end of the world doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

For PhD candidate Zak Bronson, studying the environment and ecology through dystopian and apocalyptic films mixes passion with academia.

“There’s definitely an enjoyment factor in studying science fiction film,” says Zak. “The lines between pleasure and research are often blurred.”

Zak’s dissertation focuses on how these films can shape the ways society understands the environment. He analyzes science-fiction films from the 1970s onward, including cult classics like Soylent Green, Logan’s Run and The Day After Tomorrow.

“What drives me is that there are continually new things that come out and emerge that make research fascinating.”
Zak is particularly fascinated by how cultural anxieties around climate change have evolved over time and how they are reflected in different films.

“There’s a lot of depth to these stories, many of which academics haven’t looked at much,” says Zak.

Zak’s love of film began as a teenager after watching Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. “It was life-changing,” he says. When Bronson was in his 20s, his passion for science fiction began in a master’s course taught by Dr. Tim Blackmore in the MLIS program. Fast forward to today, and Blackmore is serving as Zak’s PhD advisor.

“Tim was, oddly enough, one of the people who kind of led me to science fiction, and now I’m back here with it.”

It’s Blackmore, and the other faculty at FIMS, that Zak says make his studies so enriching.

“FIMS is a really great department because of how interdisciplinary it is in terms of media studies. I’ve learned from a lot of perspectives that I might not get in another department.”

Zak also says FIMS affords him the opportunity to balance his personal life with his research and teaching. Outside of his studies, Zak enjoys travelling, going to concerts, and hiking.

Fun Fact

Zak’s favourite novel is What Is the What by Dave Eggers.

He says those activities can provide a good distraction from the bleak, post-apocalyptic narratives he watches every day.

“Living in this modern world, we see so many images of the apocalypse and destruction in film, in television and in real life,” says Zak. “It’s hard to miss a lot of the environmental issues.”

Still, Zak says science fiction films aren’t always pessimistic; an aspect he hopes to highlight in his thesis.

“Sci-fi is hopeful in the sense that it’s one genre that always tells us that the world can be different,” he says. “It looks into the future. Whatever problems we are facing, we can change them.”


Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.