There have been an awful lot of movies, shows and books that have stared deep into the looking glass of the future, offering viewers a bleak look at the possible outcomes. Some of these range from over-the-top implausible to hauntingly probable in their portrayals of society in decline or altogether absent and, for better or worse, we can’t seem to get enough of these.
The end of the year is always a strange time with a mingling of endings and beginnings. It gets a little bit colder, the earth gets a little grayer and you can’t help but feel that an ending is approaching. However, it’s always the imagined future that seems far bleaker in this regard. Indeed, the fact is often no match for the fiction and we can’t help but feel drawn to these “potential” apocalyptic scenarios.
Part of the reason may be because there’s just something so fascinating about seeing what all the glass-half-empty folks think the world will become. Another reason we seem to really clamor to these not-so light-hearted jaunts could be that they tell us something about the human experience: What does humanity turn into when there is no social structure — no incentive to be good?
Below are just a few visions of what may come, thanks to the world of television. If nothing else, it certainly puts things into entertaining perspective.
This TNT drama portrays the bitter struggle between the remnants of human resistance and their alien overlords – six months after a devastating invasion and occupation. It follows the story of Tom Mason, a former Boston University history professor, who must fight to ensure the survival of the civilians he travels with, including his own children. Early on it became clear that the focus of Falling Skies was on the humanity of the situation with the war being the backdrop. And, even in the face of a common threat to humanity, it shows that aliens aren’t the only threat.
A controversial remake of the original ’70s series, this BBC program takes place in the not-so distant future where most of Earth’s population is killed off by a viral pandemic. As the story moves on, it becomes ever-so clear that those who died of the disease were the lucky ones as societies with no government infrastructure and no law enforcement slowly collapse upon themselves. Despite having a rather abrupt end, the Survivors remake did a great job at exploring the darkness and the complexity of being human – what we’re all made of or capable of.
The Walking Dead
First a comic and now a popular AMC series, The Walking Dead features a similar premise to Survivors involving a mass outbreak. Unfortunately, those who succumb to this calamity don’t stay dead for long (hence the title). Where The Walking Dead differs from other zombie/dystopian stories is on the character focus: we see everyday people pushed to the brink of despair. There’s plenty of mutilation to be had, of course, but it’s not just the undead being dispatched – it’s the mutilation of ethics and decency in the face of the primitive need to survive.
For a Charlie Brooker production, Black Mirror isn’t really all that big on the laughs… and that’s a good thing. It’s no secret that technology has permeated and impacted our lives at a rate and intensity that few could truly anticipate, and Black Mirror explores the dangerous side-effects of such a techno-saturated world. What happens when basics of the human experience are rendered obsolete by cybernetic crutches? It’s a scary question with even scarier implications. Having just completed its second series on Channel 4, it was most recently picked up by Audience in the US and has been show all over the world including Israel, Sweden, Hungary and China – not surprising considering how much these themes resonate with us as a global species.
ABC’s Revolution offers a more tantalizing approach to the end of the world, starting with the absolute end of all electronic conveniences completely. Can you even imagine not having access to a telephone? Having to actually memorize things because you can’t make a note on your smartphone or *gasp* use pencil and paper? Most people can’t, and therein lays the charm of Revolution and the world it portrays – a world where people had to re-adopt primitive farming techniques (or starve) and where fencing is a much more practical skill than pulling a trigger.
The Day of the Triffids
The 1981 BBC TV series based on the John Wyndham novel is one of the more iconic interpretations of this strange yet chilling drama. In The Day of the Triffids, we learn what can happen to humanity when they are deprived of ONE thing: the ability to see. After a meteorite shower unexpectedly blinds most of humanity, it’s up to the few that remain with open eyes to survive and make something of the world. However, the blind, in their panic, claw and tear at any hope of guidance and survival. And, making matters worse, the triffids, carnivorous plants with a taste for human flesh, roam the streets in search of food.
Clearly the dystopian future comes in about as many varieties as there are colors in the rainbow. Unfortunately, what they all have in common is a certain bleakness that comes from the collapse of civilization and society. It’s an overwhelming sense of dread when you reach the end of the line and these stories resonate well with this time of year. So, if you’re looking for something to match this theme, these are just a few suggestions. And, remember, endings always lead to new beginnings…