Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Doomsday Entertainment

Dystopian, Apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic fiction is the hot trend in movies, television and novels. The August Romance Writers Report had an interesting article on the subject too.

Dystopian societies usually show repressed social control systems where its people exist under various levels of passive or active coercion. Their lives are oppressed by those in charge.
Apocalyptic fiction has to do with the end of civilization due to catastrophe such as war, pandemic, alien invasion, asteroid-type collision, take over by artificial intelligence (computers), natural disaster, resource depletion, etc.

Post-apocalyptic fiction is set in a world after such a disaster.

(The City of Ember)

These types of Movies have been around for a long time though. Remember War of the Worlds, On the Beach, Mad Max Cherry 2000? There are lots more. More recent: The Road, Independence Day, Armageddon, 2012. Can you name any others, new or old ones?
On Television. I don’t watch much TV, so maybe you all can help me. But the RWR mentioned: The Walking Dead, Jeriko & Supernatural- the 4 Horseman storyline. I have watched a bit of Falling Skies. I think that fits into apocalyptic. Anyone watch the season finale and believe Tom (Noah Wyle) would really walk into the alien spacecraft? Like he’d trust the aliens not to call his son back anyway? And not put that harness on him? Comes under the TSTL category for me. But I still like the show.

Books. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, The Running Man by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King, The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, Joss Ware-Envy Chronicles, Jessica Andersen-Nightkeeper series, Ellen Connor-Dark Age Dawning series, Jordan Summers-Dead World series.

Why? Why is doom and gloom, death and destruction, a world on the brink of collapse entertaining?

There might be several reasons. We like to root for the underdog. We want to see how everyday people, like us, survive when faced with insurmountable obstacles, against all odds. We admire courageous people. Maybe this type of entertainment gives us hope in a warped way. While we’re losing jobs, we see the economy getting worse not better, and watch our retirement saving dwindle to the size of a third-grader’s piggybank, we watch or read post-apocalyptic stories and suddenly our troubles don’t seem quite so bad.
If you’ve ever lived through a real disaster-- a natural one like a tornado, hurricane, flood or fire, or man-made—a war or act of terrorism, then you’ve experienced a mini-apocalypse.

People react differently in these situations when their everyday life gets turned upside down, thrown into a blender and pressed to liquefy. I’ve never been in a war but I have lived through Hurricane Andrew within the evacuation zone. I’ve seen the extreme good and bad in people—hospital personnel, police and firemen leave their families to work within evacuation zones for 35 plus hours without sleep to help patients and elderly people who had no place to go. Looting, fights at the gas stations when gas  wouldn’t pump (no power). I heard horrific stories (that never made the news) from police officers and National Guard.
We all saw the terrible disaster in Japan. Imagine this type of devastation world-wide. How would people react? That’s apocalypse.

Even in these horrors, or in the worse possible scenario—a world-wide catastrophe, I have faith in human nature. There will always be bad and evil in the world. But the instinct to survive, the desire for companionship and to love is too strong and universal for us not to overcome something this horrible. We watch these movies and read these books to remind ourselves that we’re a lot tougher than we think. What do you think?

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