“Blame it on the Black Star”: Black Holes in Culture

Author: Mario Rodriguez, American University in the Emirates
Email: mario.rodriguez@aue.ae
Published: December 30, 2023

Citation: Rodriguez, M. (2023). “Blame it on the Black Star”: Black Holes in Culture. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.8.2.01


“Black holes” continue to compel the human imagination, as demonstrated by the public reception of the first images of a black hole produced by the Event Horizon Telescope in 2019 or the success of Hollywood science fiction movies like Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar that depicts what it might be like to fall into one. My study traces the discovery of “black holes” in the 20th century – collapsed stars with so much gravity that nothing can escape them, not even light – regarding how scientists talked about them and their emergence in popular culture. This begins with discussing how influential scientists weighed in on the concept and how the scientific community finally settled on the term “black hole.” The study then considers various ways black holes have percolated into every aspect of culture: from TV to movies, popular science to modern rock. It concludes with a consideration of the more recent turn in the cultural meaning of this “exotic object,” particularly as it relates to the myth of the lone scientist, women scientists, and the climate crisis, but also the risk of nuclear war.


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