Recently, as I navigated the crevices and caverns to the centre of the earth that dot my road home, I started to consider the end of the world. I’m not usually such a doom-and-gloomer, but given the latest UN environment assessments regarding global warming and the future of our planet, what else am I to consider?
Plus, we already lost Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for 14 hours last week. Oh, the humanity!
Of course, it doesn’t help that I had also recently watched the two-hour season finale of The Passage – Fox’s foray into the Vampire Diaries. The series received positive initial reviews with a sweet – albeit unorthodox – father/daughter storyline regarding its 7-year-old heroine. So I had watched a few episodes and wanted to see how it turned out. (After all, it starred a grown-up Saved by the Bell’s Zack Morris – aka Mark-Paul Gosselaar.)
Spoiler alert: it’s not a happy ending.
And I had to wonder: Why are we watching shows about vampire-zombie apocalypses and the end of life when we’re already getting Doomsday scenarios on a daily basis from the real world? Why focus on such a depressing negative?
Then again, the fact that we’re still around on these shows one hundred years into the future might be proof that a zombie apocalypse could be the only way to stop global warming and save the planet.
No wonder they’re such a popular form of escapism these days. Thirty years ago, The Walking Dead would have been limited to the Freaks and Geeks of the population. Mr. Robot, which gave birth to Oscar-winner, Rami Malek, would have been laughable. And The Handmaid’s Tale would never have gone beyond the first season. Margaret Atwood certainly didn’t.
Instead, television writers are getting more creative coming up with different ways the human race is going to die. Or worse, survive. The Colony, The 100 and Z-Nation aren’t just post-apocalyptic dramas for your viewing pleasure. They’re veritable survival guides for the planet’s worst-case scenarios.
Zombies, vampires, viruses, computer domination – take your pick. They’re certainly more interesting than the floods, hurricanes, starvation, and mass shootings currently filling our reality. And at least the ones on television dangle a sliver of hope for survival.
But they didn’t necessarily start that way. TV’s most historic apocalyptic drama was the movie, The Day After which depicted life after a nuclear attack. Airing in the fall of 1983 when Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev were on the brink of war, playing chicken with their nuclear arsenals, the film was both praised and disdained for its graphic content. Yet 62 percent of all U.S. televisions were tuned in – a record number to this day.
Many viewers were left numb and horrified since, at the time, their future was literally at the mercy of two male super-egoists. Fortunately since then, fatalistic attitudes have changed.
Today’s viewers want to believe we can survive the un-survivable. And it’s that optimism – not pessimism – that keeps the apocalyptic storylines coming.
Even when there are vampires involved.