The changing face of the apocalypse



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    Good thoughts Will. I’ve noticed a bit of the same in my own fiction reading. The end of the world in our more recent fictions seem to angle more towards biological disasters (28 days later, I am Legend) or natural disasters (Impact, 2012). Beyond our more sophisticated narrative I’d say that the cultural consensus is that it’s very unlikely now that we’ll immolate ourselves in nuclear fire. This is understandable what with the receeding fears of the cold war. Even Iran or Pakistan or terrorists in general don’t command the kind of existential fear that the old Soviets could arouse and sensibly so.

    On a slightly similar note I’d reccomend the movie 9. The script is no where near air tight but for ambiance, especially early on, it’s got an incredible mysterious post apocalyptic feel that I really enjoyed.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, North. I’ve also noticed an uptick in biological/chemical disaster scenarios, at least in post-apocalyptic movies.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      North, my wife and I saw 9 and were confused greatly by it.

      The analogy she came up with was this:
      Imagine someone raised Buddhist and who had never encountered Western culture before sat down and watched Passion of the Christ.

      While he might say “there was a lot of stuff in there that went over my head”, he might also, instead, say “wow, that guy could really take a punch” and “why did he show up in the last scene?” She said that she felt the same way watching 9. It was like watching a moral fable for children from a different culture.

      Why did the dolls die in the order they died in? Why did the ones that survived survive? What are the virtues espoused by the survivors? What does death mean in the context of the story?

      It’s like we were sitting there with no idea of what was going on or why but that, surely, there were people out there who saw every frame dripping with as much symbolism as, say, The Passion of the Christ.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I do know that the scientist, the dude who created the dolls, supposedly put components of his own personality into each one. #2 being his scientific fascination, #5 his helpful nature, #3&4 his passion for classification and knowledge etc…

        I didn’t derive any deep meaning from it myself Jay. I did enjoy the feel of it though. I know it had a very strong viral web marketing campaign that gave the movie a lot of background so maybe the callouts were in reference to that but I don’t think there was much spirituality written in. I think you may have mistaken vacuous Hollywood feel good-isms as being laden with more significance than they actually had. In fairness though, any children’s movie that starts out and the first thing your protagonist see’s is his creators moldering corpse is at least slightly deviating from the mold even if it got stuffed back in at the end.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I can’t watch a movie without thinking “what moral or theme are we working on here?” and a movie has to be Transformers dumb or dumber for me to say “okay, didn’t have one”.

          I had no idea what lesson 9 wanted me to walk away with.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Me neither. I’ll be honest there. I either missed the message or didn’t like it but the presentation was good and they did a great job with ambiance.Report

    • Avatar Katherine says:

      I am Legend isn’t recent fiction. The movie is based on a book that was written around the 1950s or earlier. And if Impact is an asteroid movie, those seem to have been around for a while.Report

  2. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Will, congrats on this. You’re addressing a philosophical question that’s existed since the Enlightenment Project went in the crapper.
    The problem is we’ve lost the ground, or the really big Ground, and as a result we have lost the meaning of our own existence (Matoko Chan are you out there?) and are suffering through the ennui, narcissism, and boredom that’s the result. We have replaced the Ground, that in our lives would explicate the nature of man as openness toward transcendence, with a contentless rationalism or a economic lust and/or the Freudian libido or whatever we choose to replace the Ground with.l
    Yet, as our lives collapse into wonkism we continue on as the seeker of immortality (though we never consciously admit it) and given that, nod in agreement with the apocalyptic myth.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    On my wall, I have a handful of poems, koans, and assorted trifles. One of them says this:

    According to Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts (1979), An Assyrian clay tablet dating to approximately 2800 BC was unearthed bearing the words “Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common.”Report

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Ronald Reagan on The End Times.

      “First and foremost, Reagan was a firm adherent to Biblical prophecy; specifically, he believed that the end of the world — the Battle of Armageddon — was close at hand. As you know, the fundamentalists just love that eschatalogical stuff.

      “While he was running for office in 1980, candidate Reagan announced during an interview with televangelist Jim Bakker that ‘We may be the generation that sees Armageddon.’ But that certainly wasn’t the first time. At a 1971 banquet for California state senator James Mills, then-Governor Reagan broke it all down for the honoree during the dessert course:

      ‘In the 38th chapter of Ezekiel, it says that the land of Israel will come under attack by the armies of the ungodly nations, and it says that Libya will be among them. Do you understand the significance of that? Libya has now gone Communist, and that’s a sign that the day of Armageddon isn’t far off.

      ‘Biblical scholars have been saying for generations that Gog must be Russia. What other powerful nation is to the north of Israel? None. But it didn’t seem to make sense before the Russian revolution, when Russia was a Christian country. Now it does, now that Russia has become communistic and atheistic, now that Russia has set itself against God. Now it fits the description of Gog perfectly.

      ‘For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. It can’t be too long now. Ezekiel says that fire and brimstone will be rained upon the enemies of God’s people. That must mean that they will be destroyed by nuclear weapons.'”

  4. Avatar Richard S says:

    If you want a view from a long time post-apocalypse try Russel Hoban’s Ridley Walker. It’s a lot of work to read (it’s language is ‘post-english’ dialect) but well worth the effort.Report

  5. Avatar Hudson says:

    I think you have a point (I can think of pro and con). Post-apocalpytic fiction has become self-referential, so that when we see metal monsters battling rebel humans on burnt ground, we are immediately in familiar language and landscape. We need only ask few questions. Oh, the bomb.

    I think this represents laziness on the part of the writer. While real society desperately tries to make the center hold, the writer blows it all away with a sweep of his hand. Then, he implores us to pay attention to his tale, in which he builds his society from the fictional dust. Do I care? Depends.

    I’ll second Richard S re “Ridley Walker.” I remember the word “trubba.”Report