Parallel Tuesdays

Why is the Apocalypse so Fascinating?

What is it we love about the end of the world?

Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city
Did someone say apocalypse?

Seems like the apocalypse is everywhere these days. Books. Games. TV shows and movies. And it’s not really a new thing. From the dawn of humanity, folks have been fascinated with the end of the world as we know it (some times more than others). Why is that?

I have a few theories:

The world around is changing almost faster than we can keep up. The future is uncertain. The present looks pretty dicey too, what with economic upheaval, social and political unrest and natural disasters. On top of all that, we have our own worries: mortgage, kids, work, final exams. Sometimes, it gets to be a little too much and we need a break, a way to wipe the slate clean, or a big old cosmic do-over. Instead of Calgon, we want a nice, hot, bubbly apocalypse to take us away…

but only in our imagination, of course.

Kinda like why we might read 50 Shades of Grey

Hero Fantasies
This is probably just another aspect of escapism but I thought it deserved its own mention.

Most, if not all, of us want to believe that, deep down (sometimes waaaay down deep), there’s a hero just waiting for the right situation to show him/herself. Sure, I may be screwing up right-and-left in  the here-and-now but just wait till the apocalypse. I’ll show you then how super badass I really am.

Come on. You know you’ve thought about it.

Rubberneck Syndrome
It’s like the horrible car wreck or [insert reality tv show you’d blush to have others find out you watch] we can’t not look at. It’s part empathy, part curiosity and part thank-goodness-that-has-nothing-to-do-with-me. We don’t really believe the apocalypse will happen (at least, not on our watch) but we’re kinda scared it will and, either way, we just have to look at what could be.

It could be us.

Someday, in some way, it will be us.

Accepting the Inevitable
For every beginning, there’s an end (isn’t there a song about that?). That includes us. Unique among all other creatures (as far as I know), we humans are able to create a narrative of our existence and attach meaning to who we are and where we belong in the cosmic scheme. In fact, we have to have meaning and a cosmic scheme. Pretty sure the first stories around the first fire were about how the world began and how it would end.

On the individual scale, we’re all going to die someday. Apocalypse-as-entertainment gives us a safe way to play out all those fears.

Need for Perspective
Everybody has problems. Some of them feel like the end of the world. But what’s worse than the end of the world? Nothing. So, when things around us can’t seem to get any crappier, we can always say, “Hey, at least it’s not the apocalypse.”

Note: Don’t actually say this out loud. You’ll just jinx it for all of us. Then we really will have the apocalypse and it’ll be all your fault.

We know death is inevitable, not just for us as individuals but for our species, our planet, our universe. Some day, the lights are going out. But we want to believe the end is not really the end, that there’s hope for something beyond that. That everything will be made new. And the new world will be waaaay better than the old.

Who can say it won’t?

For me, my fascination with the apocalypse is driven mostly by the last. I’m an optimistic horror/post-apocalyptic writer. I believe that, whatever the universe throws at us, folks (or enough of us) are adaptable and courageous and that we can start over.

And, even if the world really ends, death is never the end.

Also, I do have some hero fantasies. If the apocalypse struck tomorrow, I would so tap into my inner badass…probably.

Super Cat
Super Cat will save you from the mean old zombies!

TEOTWAWKIMU (pronouced “tee-ot-wah-ki-moo”) – The End of the World as we Know It Mash Up

Why do you love the apocalypse or why do you think people are so fascinated with the end of the world?

Photo Credit (in order of appearance):
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city by Desmond Kavanagh, on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0
Super Cat by Photo Extremist, on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

10 thoughts on “Why is the Apocalypse so Fascinating?

  1. I love imagining how I’d cope in an apocalypse. Were it actually to happen, I think I’d be in big trouble. I’d have to cozy up to Daryl from The Walking Dead. He’s built for a post-apocalyptic world. 🙂

  2. Great choices! I am a self confessed apocalypse addict, whether on TV or in a book I love and revel in those kind of stories and the reasons you’ve mentioned here are great. 🙂 For me personally, I think I love these stories because of the dilemma’s of human nature fascinate me. Do you do the right moral thing and help those at the peril of yourself? Or do you go with your own self preservation?

    Great post. 😀

    1. Agreed. I always want to believe people will strive to be heroes, even if it means self-sacrifice. I’m not a big fan of the apocalypse scenarios where everybody ends up being in it only for themselves. At least, I hope it wouldn’t be that way.

  3. I love this post! Great analysis.

    Have you read SurvivalBlog? I love reading some of the articles there. It’s got some great info, both on what to do in emergencies and on how people react in a crisis (a lot of it from personal experience).

    As for me, I think preparing helps me realize how small I really am. I mean, if I think about all the things required for civilization to work, and how all that could disappear in a true apocalypse, it motivates me to keep civilization alive as long as I possibly can. No one can survive, long-term, all by themselves.

    1. Thanks! I just discovered SurvivalBlog when I was writing this. Lots of good stuff. Even if we’re not preparing for an apocalypse, it’s smart to prepare for a disaster. I live in earthquake territory and apparently we’re long overdue for another “big one.” I need to make sure my family is prepped. And maybe we can help others too.

      I hear you about civilization. So much of what we have is because our civilization has advanced to this point. The technology, the specialization etc. It’s actually a little frightening how much we rely on our civilization to keep us all going. Few of us have the skills to be pioneers anymore.

  4. I recently read an article that made a compelling case for escapism, proponing that the recent surge in apocalyptic stories is rooted in a sense that the powerful have become too powerful, and that a cataclysm that brought everyone back to the starting line would free people from the complex systems that currently bind them.

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