Three Things: The Post-Apocalypse in Pop Culture

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The trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road caused quite the commotion at Comic Con. The movie itself seems to have a fairly interesting production story, and it doesn’t really look all that much like the original Mad Max trilogy (despite being directed by George Miller — the same guy who did the originals), which may turn out to be a good thing. It got me thinking, though, that we creative types, as well as audiences, are pretty obsessed with post-apocalyptic settings. I’m not talking about the end of the world, but instead what happens after the end of the world. And so, in the spirit of Mad Max’s showing at Comic Con, here are my three favorite post-apocalypse tales.

Y: The Last Man

Y: The Last Man explores the post-apocalypse with a simple question: what if every man on the planet died? That is, all save for one–an aspiring magician named Yorick. The story explores a landscape left void by the death of half the world’s population and the destruction that would ensue afterward. Yorick is joined by secret agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann, as they take him on a journey to see if they can discover the cause of the plague and perhaps a way to reintroduce a male population. Forces on every side, including mid-west Amazonians and a incredibly resilient Israeli military, attempt to capture or kill Yorick along the way.

What I love about this comic series is the way that it treats the idea of an entire population of a single sex disappearing in one fell swoop. Writer Brian K. Vaughan could have simply wrote off the remaining female population, or made Yorick a savior figure. Instead, Vaughan shows that, after the initial chaos, the remaining female population is able to restructure fairly quickly. And Yorick, instead of being the savior of all women, is actually portrayed as a tool in making sure the human race can continue on. Really, the role of savior falls more on Agent 355 and Dr. Mann, who must drag a sometimes unwilling Yorick from place to place in order to find out how best to use him.

Wall-e

Who doesn’t love cute robots? I do! More than that, I love cute robots programmed for repetitive tasks in the barren wasteland that is the used-up husk of planet earth. So goes the life of Wall-e, a robot tasked to clean up the trash that we humans littered the globe with before abandoning the planet altogether. His life is fairly hum-drum, that is until a new robot, Eve, comes along. With the arrival of Eve, a series of events are set in motion for Wall-e that will see him saving humanity from themselves.

Let’s just get this out of the way, Wall-e is a fantastic movie. Probably one of the best films that Pixar has put out–or at least in my top three (but that’s a post for another time). I love Wall-e as a post-apocalyptic story because it plays with a common troupe. Usually, in the post-apocalyptic world, the robots are the enemy. Think Terminator or The Matrix. In these movies humans must battle the evil machines in order to save themselves from oppression, but in Wall-e, we see the robots as heroes. And, in fact, Wall-e and Eve (who are pretty much the only ones who care about saving Earth) seem to have more humanity in them than the humans themselves.  It’s a great movie for many reasons, but being a primer for the follies of humanity’s treatment of the planet doesn’t hurt.

City of Ember

Movie or book? The book has some fantastic writing, the movie has Bill Murray. It’s a question for the ages. What’s not a question for the ages is how great this story is. City of Ember follows Lina Mayfleet and her friend Doon Harrow, residents of the city of Ember. Ember is an underground bunker, saving what everyone in the city believes to be the last remnants of humanity. The city also provides people with what they believe to be the only source of light left in a dark world. But the lights that Ember provides are going out, and Lina may just be the only one who can save the residents of Ember from total darkness.

What I love most about this Young Adult title is the strong female lead. Lina is a strong female lead who doesn’t have to kill anyone (sorry, Katniss), and she doesn’t need to have a love interest. Too often, female characters are called good role models for young girls when in fact they are just female characters who are given male attributes. As if the only way to be a strong female character is by being more like a man. But this isn’t the case with Lina, she is a strong character based on what makes her, her. Not what makes her like someone else. She reminds me of another strong female lead in a book that is coming out pretty soon, ZT’s Gone to Wonder

There you have it. Three of my favorite post-apocalyptic stories. There are plenty more out there that could have made the list. Last of Us was a pretty close last minute call. But I digress. What I really want to know are your favorite post-apocalyptic stories. Let me know in the comments below!

One last thing before I go. If you enjoy stories about the end of the world, I have a short that you may like. Right now on Amazon you can find my short, Tim and the Breakup of Impending Doom. It’s a story about a guy Tim, who thinks his life is over because of a recent breakup. Little does he know that his life may end for reals as an event of apocalyptic proportions befalls the planet. You can find it on Amazon for .99 cents by clicking the image below!

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