The Dirty Details

Posted: May 21, 2014 in apocalypse, horror, survival
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The apocalypse has gone mainstream. The end of the world manifested in a myriad of scenarios has infiltrated the many forms of the media—books, movies, cable and network television. Right now, it is simply everywhere.

Where zombies used to be at the fringe of horror, they are now their own genre and pop culture phenomena. Where you used to keep some bottled water and canned food in case of emergency, preparation and survivalism have become publicized arts.

This apocalyptic focus is a fascinating cultural fixation. For those of us who have been lurking in horror and the like for years, we now find our interests readily available and flourishing under all the attention. However, despite the avalanche of awareness, there seem to be some real life details that the apocalyptic media glosses over or neglects.

Some of the dirty details get left out. Mundane, daily concerns we would like to pretend we do not have to deal with. Those annoying little realities that will not just be alleviated by the end times. As a woman, three specific examples come immediately to mind.

#1 Periods. Menstruation is a reality most women cannot escape, no matter how much we may wish we could. How in the hell are these surviving women dealing with their periods? Clearly, they did not stop menstruating because a zombie ate their husband or the power suddenly went out. It is safe to assume tampons and pads would not be readily available, and even if they were, how much real estate could these women sacrifice in their nomadic bags to tote them around?

I cannot see any woman just bleeding down her leg (and have not seen it in any movie or show). Not to mention the sanitary considerations this would bring up, blood leaves a trail—both in sight and smell. In most cases, survivors are nomadic and often evading some form of threat. Whether that danger is zombies, other survivors, or (more mundanely) a bear, they would not want that pungent of a trace left leading right to them every 28 days.

Maybe they have gone colonial and are using folded pieces of cloth, if they could acquire enough cloth. However they are coping with the monthly, how are they disposing of the method? Bury it? Burn it? It could be any of the methods used to eliminate shit as a tracker, which I was made intimately familiar with from the stories of my coworkers in Iraq.

Whatever these women would have to do, no one is telling.

#2 Birth Control. This is not all that separate from menstruation. After all, pregnancy is a direct result of the same cycle. And by the same token as assuming tampons would quickly become scarce and nonexistent, condoms are probably not just lying around everywhere. The same would apply for birth control pills, and all medically administered methods (IUD, Depo-Provera, and the like) would naturally be gone with the doctors who would have provided them.

So birth control is out the window, beyond natural methods like pulling out or the “rhythm method” (neither highly effective). People are going to continue to have sex, apocalypse or not, maybe even more so in the face of their demise. Apocalyptic media surely includes plenty of sex between characters. Sometimes there is even pregnancy. However, it is rarely addressed how they would avoid getting pregnant.

Walking Dead did make an exception and included two instances of pregnancy tests miraculously spared and available being used. When Laurie finds out she is pregnant (with a child she eventually has) and when Maggie is confirming that she is not pregnant. Laurie’s pregnancy was a significant plot point, but Maggie’s test was merely a raw and real detail to thicken the authenticity of the show.

#3 Shaving. I will preface this one by acknowledging that Hollywood in particular has to make things pretty. Movies and television have an inescapable visual element. Just like there would no longer makeup or curling irons after the apocalypse yet the characters are still startlingly groomed and sexy; there would not be frequent showers or time with a razor. I understand why this particular aesthetic detail is purposefully ignored and contradicted.

Nonetheless, this applies to both men and women. If the story takes place two years, seven years, decades after the fall of civilization, why does everyone not look like Tarzan? Do they all have a razor and clippers packed efficiently with their magical tampons and birth control pills? When people are scrounging for food, it is very unlikely they are concerned with keeping their hair trimmed short and shaving their legs.

Not many people want to watch a movie with a zombie-slaughtering heroine with French plumes of armpit hair, yet that does not alter the reality of it. Hair will keep growing; women will continue to be fertile and still have their periods.

Shaving does not affect much from a survivalistic standpoint; what difference would it actually make as to whether a survivor makes it or not? A screaming newborn or a trail of blood, on the other hand, would impact the chances of surviving whatever apocalypse in which the character might be trudging. Pregnancy weakens the woman, limits her activity and possibly mobility or ability to flee. A baby makes very clear and constant noise. Blood leaves a trail to follow.

Maybe it does not matter. Maybe these details are deliberately omitted for entertainment value. That is perfectly reasonable, yet I cannot help but notice as I indulge from the buffet of apocalyptic media options.

The questions become:
Apocalyptic fans, would these details make the movies/TV shows/books more realistic or entertaining; are they necessary?
Preppers and survivalists, how would you deal with these realities after the world ended?

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