What would America look like after an apocalypse?
After watching Doomsday, an awesome little love letter to 1980’s post-apocalyptic cinema like Escape From L.A. and Mad Max, I found that question rattling around in the ol’ brain-pan.
I wrote a post-apocalyptic (by the way, is it okay if we just make up the term “post-apoc”? I think it is, spellcheck be damned) story during college. It was simple enough: after massive, irrevocable EMP devastation, America carried on as best it could, mimicking its pre-destruction pride through inventive use of tiki torches, among other ways.
(The lead characters were a nomadic writer, a hermetic artist, and an idealistic nurse. The primary enemy was a militant Darwinist who was spreading his message with alarming effectiveness from coast to coast. I was bigger on archetypes back then, I guess, though their personalities were more film noir than anything epic – I hope, anyway. It was a silly little story, but I’m still fond of it, for what it was.)
One of my favorite post-apoc visions is the cult film Six-String Samurai – the tale of a guitar-slinging Buddy Holly figure making his way through literal nuclear families, Russian bowling champs, and Death himself (who looked a lot like Slash) as he trekked to Lost Vegas, to become the next King (of Rock and Roll).
It’s a very American post-apoc.
My post-doomsday story was really just a dressed-up western. Six-String Samurai’s combines a spaghetti-western sensibility with rock-n-roll culture. Very American Post-Apocalypse theories. We simply imagined post-apoc to be a modern version of the old west. Which is sort of comforting, I think. The idea that if life-as-we-know-it were to cease, we’d just go back to whatever we were doing before all that techy jazz.
(And I half-recall a “Twilight Zone” episode where horses pulled along burnt-out Studebakers, so I think it’s safe to say even in the face of Armageddon, Americans hope to hell their cars will be around in some form).
Thinking about it, the most American Post-Apoc may be Mike Judge’s sci-fi comedy satire Idiocracy – a case study of a future ruled by product-placing idiots, which looks…well, dangerously familiar at times.
But what I love about the movie Doomsday is its use of Europe as a proving ground for a variety of Post-Apoc scenarios all at once: London is in Children-of-Men-style urban decay, Edinburgh is a hotbed of post-punk mayhem, and the Scottish Highlands have reverted to a feudal society (though they still haven’t bothered removing the “gift-shoppe” signs from some of the castle entrances).
By virtue of its own long history, the UK has such a wealth of lenses through which to view The End of All Things. I find myself a bit jealous.
So I put it to you: The bombs drop (or the EMPs burst, or the vials uncork, or whatever your preferred doomsday-scenario is). The world as you know it is over. But humanity survives, keeps on truckin’ – even if those trucks are horse-drawn – because that’s what we do.
So what do we do next?