Lately, for one reason or another, I've been thinking about the Apocalypse.
Maybe I've just been thinking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it
amounts to the same thing. BTW - Season 6 totally holds up in
retrospect. I'll fight any man says different.
But I digress.
cute as the running joke about needing to know the plural for
apocalypse was, it remains undeniably true that the thing about
Apocalypses is very similar to the thing about Nemeses. You only get
Throughout the show's seven season run we never
got an actual Apocalypse. What we got were many, many Attempted
Apocalypses. Which is just a misdemeanor. If this had been an actual
Apocalypse, you would know by the none of us being here anymore.
at this stage it might be helpful to discuss what we actual mean when
we say 'Apocalypse'. Generally speaking, religious connotations aside
for the moment*, when we say 'Apocalypse' we mean The End. Of
Everything. Game, categorically, Over.
it's fun to point out that the word comes from Greek and is closely tied
to the concept of 'revelation', which puts a charming patina of
'Finally we'll get to know what the freakin' Hell THAT was all about.'
Which is probably just wishful thinking, but it's still a nice thought.
If nothing else it's worth noting that we as a species have always had a
tendency to associate 'The End' with 'Finally getting some damn
But what do we mean when we say The End of Everything?
Well, let's start by clarifying what we don't mean when we say that. What we don't actually mean is 'The End of Everything'. What we actually mean is 'The End of Us.'
Everything else... not at the top of our priority list. Much like when
we talk about global warming or radioactivity killing the planet, it's
not really the planet that we're worrying about so much. We could
explode a billion nuke's right this moment and the planet would be just
fine, thanks very much.* WE'D be screwed. But the
planet would continue to happily spin on while it waited for some other
species to step up and start bitching at one another.
*Unless we exploded them in the Mariana Trench and cracked open the core I suppose...
point I'm getting at - The ACTUAL end of everything (i.e. the Entire
Universe) very rarely crops up in this discussion. For the sake of
sharing I'll just mention here that it's broadly believed that the
universe will end in one of two ways, depending on which side of the
theoretical physics coin you choose to believe.
A: The Universe - which has been slowly (relatively speaking)
expanding since its inception will eventually reach a point where it
will begin contracting until eventually we reach the 'Big Crunch' (that
is to say the opposite of the Big Bang where everything that exists is
ultimately compacted into a singularity - possibly to begin the whole
miserable process again, or possibly to be the thing that started this
universe in the first place which if nothing else has a pleasing sense
of symmetry )
or B: The Universe will continue to
expand exactly as it is doing until eventually all matter has reached a
state of equal distribution across effectively infinite space which
means that there won't be anywhere with enough energy for light, energy
or life to exist, but at least things will be nice and quiet.
Hot Universe Death or Cold Universe Death. Pick your horse and wait to
find out, although it's probably going to be awhile.
But when we talk about the Apocalypse, we're not really concerned with the Universe. We're really more worried about 'Us'.
So, here's a quick rundown of the various types of 'Apocalypse' that we've considered.
END OF PLANET APOCALYPSE:
is your basic - the Planet explodes or crumbles or something for one
reason or another. the film 2012 embraces this concept, although
there's plenty of evidence that that's not exactly what the Mayans had
in mind - but we'll come back to that later.
two basic varieties - the version where we've gotten our shit together
enough to leave the planet before it happens and the version where we
don't and we're just screwed.
Most of your global
warming apocalypse scenarios fall into this pattern. It's the end of
the world because the world literally ends. Death through loss of
anywhere to remain alive in.
END OF PEOPLE APOCALYPSE:
you have your scenarios where the planet is just fine, thanks (see
above) but the human beings have come to an end. In bygone times this
would have been due to either nuclear accident or alien invasion, and
mostly would have served as an excuse to discuss the importance of
This has given way
somewhat in the last decade or two to a tendency to have viral or
chemical infections as the reason why you - for example - woke up in an
abandoned Hospital and are now running from Zombies
this might be a good time to mention some interesting thing about
Zombie-Specific apocalypses. Almost exclusively an 'End of People' type
of apocalypse (if only so that you had somewhere for the zombies to
chase you around in) the zombies themselves have had a fascinating
evolution as an icon themselves.
It's fairly film
theory 101 to point out, but- the quickest way to find out what a
culture is afraid of is to learn its stories. In Western culture this
means that the TV and movies of a period will tell you a lot about what
that period's fears and beliefs were.
In the 50s what
really scared the crap out of people in Western culture was the idea
that someone might steal your soul. That is - that someone might be
able to take that part of your personality that's essentially 'you' and
control you somehow. You'd no longer be a human being with free will,
you'd just be a tool of some other power. (this is what all those pod
people/Stepford wives films were about.) The zombies in films at this
point were people whose souls had been stolen by a Houngan (no, google
it) and weren't human any longer.
By the 70's the fear
wasn't that you'd lose your soul so much as that maybe we'd never even
had souls in the first place. Maybe at the end of the day we're just
meat, like the cows we slaughter (the cool vocab word here is
'Anthropophogy' and you should totally google that one.) This is where
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came from, and it's why the predominate
imagery in George Romero's 'of the Dead' films is of zombie's eating
chunks of flesh off of living human beings.
these days tend to be the sort that have been created by a virus that we
created in a lab which got loose, which means we've reached a sort of
hybrid of the previous two. We HAD a soul - but our own hubris and
ignorance caused us to destroy it. Which is as neat a summation of
early 21st century attitudes toward technology as you could imagine.
Anyone looking for a topic for their Anthropology Thesis could do a lot worse
than start there.
THE RELIGIOUS APOCALYPSE:
one has fallen out of fashion a bit (which is why I was so pleased that
the recent film 'This is the End' chose to go there.)
this really is, is a manifestation of the belief that at some point
someone has to show up and explain what the Hell all this has been about
because it's made f*ck-all sense while we were living it. Mixed with a
hearty dose of 'See, one day Dad will show up and you'll see how I was
right all along!'
This is also sort of the one the
Mayans were getting at with the whole 2012 prophecy although we should
be clear that they didn't see it as an End, so much as an end- if you
get what I'm saying.