And I Feel Fine
I live in New York City. Also, last week New York City and much of the US’ East Coast was hit by a hurricane. Power went out, plumbing failed in the higher floors of NYU’s dorms (that is: mine), and classes were cancelled.
Of course, I find this all terribly exciting: this sort of event is what pop-culture has been training me for for years!
See, we love post-apocalyptic scenarios. What could be cooler than banding together with a group of friends and fighting your way through zombies/nature/killer tomatoes/zombies/triffids/aliens? It’s become the new unspoken American dream. Never mind that chances are you’d be one of the zombies/unnamed dead, you want to do this.
Understand the specifics here. I’m referring to movies that take place after the end, not during. So movies like 2012, or Cloverfield, or The Day After Tomorrow, or heck, most any Roland Emmerich movie need not apply. Neither am I talking about the really tragic/serious post-apocalyptic movie. This isn’t The Book of Eli or The Matrix. Or ones where civilization has come back (The Chrysladids or The Hunger Games). This is where the world has ended and, well, people are surviving.
One thing eerily familiar about an emptyish NYC was those images from I Am Legend (which actually is a really tragic/serious post-apocalyptic movie...I know, hush). Granted, there was significantly more life in my NYC than in Robert Neville’s, but the idea of emptiness remains. Neville’s Manhattan is empty and deserted and he, as the survivor, has full run of the place. And really, who wouldn’t want to hunt (deer) in Times Square or play golf off of the Intrepid? Solitude and vampiric zombies aside, it’s a fun life. Well, maybe fun is a bit of a strong word, but it certainly has a few perks
Unless you’re Tallahassee in Zombieland, in which case the whole dang apocalypse is a gleeful rush. After the zombie outbreak, Tallahassee found his true calling: zombie killing. And really, in this world where many of our pastimes include shooting stuff (virtually, anyway), it would be fun to be able to do that in real life too, no? This isn’t psychotic (necessarily), it’s just another hobby you can pursue after the end of the world.
The skittish Columbus gets in on it too. By the end of Zombieland he’s developed into something more of a hero. Why/how? The end of the world (and potential fun and games and adventure within) gave him the opportunity. Sure, it mayn’t have been his precise dream, but it’s something that would never have happened ordinarily.
So what am I getting at? Post-apocalyptic scenarios are wish fulfillment. There’s a reason zombie movies are so popular: it’s that chance to be a hero and fight your way out of something! The dull structure of normalcy has crumbled and you can finally use your wits to survive until help comes (if it does, anyway). You can jaywalk down main streets and go speeding around suburbs; it’s anarchy and you and your ragtag band of survivors are the only ones who aren’t shambling around looking for brains.
Like a lot of people, I love a good post-apocalyptic story. John Wyndham was one of my favorite authors growing up, Zombieland was one of the first movies I added to my nascent BluRay collection. Because hey, it’s a pleasant little fantasy. Sure, it’s naive to think that you’ll be the survivor, but in that slim chance that you are, it’ll be fun. Besides the whole trying-not-to-die-and-just-wanting-a-darn-shower thing.
The power’s been restored to most of Manhattan now. Classes start again on Monday and life returns to normal. Traffic lights work again and all that. The momentary post-apocalyptic scenario’s over. It was fun. But until the end of the world as we know it where zombies/nature/killer tomatoes/zombies/triffids/aliens walk the earth (if at all), I guess we’ll have to keep these daydreams to books, movies, and tv.
Also: buy my book In Transit!