From science fiction to bible thumping, the idea of a world’s end has been a common idea in our culture for ages. Given how often we see it in modern media, it seems to be a fan favorite as well.
It makes sense. It touches both on our fear of disaster and the reality of likelihood. It touches on ideas like overpopulation, infighting, greed, and forces beyond our control. It also feeds our instinctual desire for survival. We want to see bad scenarios so that we can better imagine how we might survive. It can be a learning opportunity. So what is more tantalizing to our minds than the ultimate bad scenario?
chief analyst at Boxoffice.com Shawn Robbins spoke on exactly this.
“These types of films are often viewed as pessimistic glimpses into the future, which is certainly one valid interpretation, but they can also be self-reflective in a positive way. It’s easy to see post-apocalyptic and dystopian film settings as part of our inevitable doom, but we can also take them as lessons and parables because, at the heart of any good story, the human condition is explored and challenged.”
It’s prevalent in a wide range of movie genres, as well. In Wall-E, we saw how mankind’s own sloth and indulgence leads to the total destruction of the planet Earth. In I am Legend, we see how proper survival techniques and a healthy dosage of preparation and planning can mean a longer life. While in the old classic Soylent Green, we see how an apocalypse can in a loss of resources, and the drastic measures mankind will take as a result.
Though just because they’re bad times, doesn’t mean that have to be a bad time for us. Joseph Hileman, a security supervisor from Concord, explained why these end-of-world tropes can still be enjoyable.
“There’s a slight bit of macabre fascination with the idea that we could all be done for at any time, whether people want to admit it or not. There’s a strange almost-fantasy in most people’s minds that this is something that could happen. And I think some of these movies give us that glimpse and allow us to be fearful for a moment but safe. It’s a chance to get away from the regular rat race life and have fun.”
While disaster movies may not be reliable documentaries on survival, there’s still value to be found in them. Even if you’re not a prepper.