Posts Tagged ‘media’

I have already shared my thoughts on our culture’s current fixation and mainstreaming of the horror genre. A natural extension of this is our culture’s near obsession with all things apocalyptic.

The horror and apocalypse genres easily blur and mingle, mostly because the apocalypse is the worst thing that most people can imagine. The apocalypse, in any of its varied forms, also nearly always includes a whole menagerie of horrors. It does not have to include a knife-wielding serial killer to be considered a member of the horror family.

I am no exception to this. My first book, Savages, is entirely centered around an apocalyptic scenario. I found this topic fascinating for the same reason I think we as a culture and a species fixate on it.

Humans, as a whole, are almost always somehow focused on our own demise. We have writing about it since there were cave paintings; we invented religion to explain it. We all know it’s going to end somehow, and an apocalypse no doubt seems the most grandiose. What is really more terrifying and fascinating than the abrupt end to absolutely everything we know?

Beyond this inherent morbidity in us, I am drawn to the psychology of the survivors, what happens to people who lose everything and manage to continue on. Due to my own personal beliefs on the savagery of humans (for another blog post, I assure you), I believe something like the apocalypse reverts us back to our natural and base instincts. When falling from a society as advanced and convenienced as ours,  this is a drastic and near unfathomable change. It’s no different than the change required in desperation or war, yet the apocalypse equalizes all humans involved.

I do believe that the more socially tense or politically unstable our culture, the more we tend to gravitate towards this apocalyptic media. The post-apocalyptic obsession is art manifesting our deepest fears about our current reality. Is the apocalypse really happening now? Probably not. But with the issues we face, we can see the path down that road more easily; it seems like a more realistic scenario.

We like to flirt with that fire, get close enough to the heat of that idea while still being able to tell ourselves it’s all fiction and just for entertainment.

Why do you think we are all binging on movies, television, books, video games about the end times?

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I remember when zombies were Romero. I remember when vampires were Anne Rice. I remember when werewolves were barely on the radar. Nothing sparkled in the sun; no tweens lusted over the dark creatures. I remember when being a horror lover made you a goth in high school or a gore whore as an adult.

This is no longer exactly true.

Pure and raw horror will never really be mainstream; that is part of what defines it as a genre. Deeply disturbing will never been normal because then, by definition, it cannot be disturbing. However, this diluted, stylized horror has seemed to take over recently.

zombies

The Walking Dead has turned zombies into an utter phenomena. Twilight has brought the screaming teenage masses to vampires and werewolves (if you can even call them that). Hannibal, and TV shows of the like, have brought gore to network television. Serial killers and supernatural creatures and blood are no longer in the shadows. It seems like they are everywhere now.

As long-standing horror lovers, this cultural development is a double-edged sword. On one side, what we love is saturating the market now, easily accessed and pursued. We can see new (and rather well done) stories of Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates in shows airing weekly. We can find zombie clothes, backpacks, whatever in the mall rather than some obscure, overpriced store online. There are more horroresque movies than we have time to attend.

Yet, on the other side, the genre can seem tainted. A key component of horror is being outside the status quo, ripping out of the box to be upsetting or traumatizing. For horror to fit inside the mainstream, the mainstream has become more tolerant of violence and gore, more amiable to fear; however, horror has become more pretty and appealing in turn. To a degree, it has been neutered.

Personally, I love the cultural shift. And I hate it. I enjoy the influx of media in my particular twisted flavor while I lament the perversion of the perverted to something placid for the masses.

Love it and/or hate it, it is what it is. There will always be a place for pure horror on the outskirts of our culture; there will always be a line that the mainstream will be too scared to cross. Even if the majority has adopted the idea behind the genre, purists will be out there keeping the darkness black and frightful.

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?