Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apocalypse 'R Us

Steve Almond in the NYTimes:
Yes, Virginia, apocalyptic ideation has migrated from the realms of science fiction and horror into the fun house of shtick. Back in the ’60s, “Dr. Strangelove,” a satire that played nuclear war for laughs, held the power to shock. This past summer, two apocalyptic comedies (“This Is the End” and “Rapture-Palooza”) came out within a week of each other, followed two months later by “The World’s End.”

As a form of disposable entertainment, the apocalypse market is booming. The question is why. The obvious answer is that these narratives tap into anxieties, conscious and otherwise, about the damage we’re doing to our species and to the planet. They allow us to safely fantasize about what might be required of us to survive.
After pointing out that the Biblical Book of Revelations was protest literature of a sort:
It’s only natural that the apocalyptic canon has radically expanded in the past few decades. Never has our species been so besieged by doomsday scenarios. If our ancestors channeled their collective death instinct into religious myth, we now face a raft of scientific data that suggest the end might be truly nigh.

This may explain the most perverse trend to yet emerge in the genre: child heroes. The exemplar here is “The Hunger Games,” which is about a girl who participates in a gladiatorial contest against other kids for the entertainment of a debased population. Most of the film is devoted to watching Katniss Everdeen become a trained killer and engage in combat. A sequel will be coming out in November, right on the heels of “Ender’s Game,” which features an exceptional child who is transformed into a super-soldier and fights off a horde of aliens. The recent Will Smith vehicle “After Earth” offered a father-son variation on this theme.

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