What the Hell! – questions about all this apocalyptic stuff
A couple of months ago, I was peacefully lying on the living room floor, enjoying a lovely dream about the nearby barbecue restaurant having forgotten to shut its kitchen window one night, just enough for me to squeeze in and have my way with the refrigerator… when I was awakened by the television. Handsome and his friends often watch it, and usually I don’t pay much attention to them. But this program had such interesting sounds, I couldn’t turn away.
All these grotesque humans, with parts of their bodies eaten away, were clumsily clomping after other people, trying to eat them. I thought this was the oddest thing I’d ever seen. Then one of Handsome’s friends commented that this is the most popular series on television, at least in our country, for teens and young adults. “Wow,” I thought, “this must be a particularly strange episode. The teens I know are always writing me about love and family and school and the pains and joys these things bring. Not about flesh-eating zombies.” But no, this show, which most of you’ve probably seen, is always about these monsters, and a few people who are trying to survive the world being taken over by them.
I wouldn’t have thought much about that (after all, Handsome’s always loved monster movies), except that then an ad came on for an upcoming movie. A movie about the end of the world, and how people would survive after it. And Handsome put the TV on mute, and started talking with his pals about what movies each were looking forward to seeing. Was it the movie about Tom Cruise in a futuristic Hell, or Matt Damon in a futuristic Hell, or the American comedy about guys who smoke lots of pot facing the end of the world, or the British comedy about guys who drink a lot of alcohol facing the end of the world, or the more serious science fiction movie about the world being destroyed by dinosaurs who fight giant robots, or…
They all disagreed about which ones looked better or worse, but then they all said there was one movie they wanted to see, because they’d loved the book so much: the one about how, in a futuristic postwar world, the grownups make starving teenagers fight each other to the death. Or rather, it’s the sequel to that movie – the original was one of the biggest hits of our time.
Which all brings to my little mind one big question: What in the still-existing world is going on here?!
The entertainment industry is not stupid. They spend billions of dollars to find out what people want to see – especially young people. Sure they make mistakes (such as betting that millions would want to see their favorite pirate in the old West with a bird on his head), but for the most part, they know what they’re doing. And what they’re finding – with movies, with TV, with books, with video games, with graphic novels, with EVERYTHING – is that the Apocalypse is huge today. Especially when it involves the world attacking teenagers!
And what I want to know is: Why?
A few years ago it was all about heroic heartthrob bloodsuckers; before that, it was young wizards. Admittedly, all of these young characters were being attacked too, but there wasn’t the sense that the whole world was villainous. Voldemort had his minions attacking Harry and his pals, but they were a small part of the world (most of whom were Muggles who had no idea what was going on); Bella’s dad might have been a potential threat to Edward and Jacob, but he was a good man protecting his daughter and community. But Katniss Everdeen is suffering under a grotesque government, who consider her fight for her life entertainment. Yucch!
Why this? Why now?
Observant pup that I am, I have a few thoughts. First, you teens have grown up in a very odd time, when it comes to entertainment. Your parents grew up watching sitcoms and cop shows, and maybe some song-and-dance variety. But you’ve been raised on “reality” television, especially shows where people battle each other to keep from being “voted off the island,” or where they try to become popular singers while daring cruel insults from scornful judges. Is this what you’ve grown to expect real life to be?
Second, you’ve grown up in an unclearly-defined world war, where there are often no uniforms, and even nations don’t mean as much as they once did. Instead the rules of combat are random attacks, hidden bombs, unmanned drones, or hijacked airliners. One of the more popular TV shows in my country is about that war, where one of the two main characters is mentally ill, and it’s hard to determine which side the other is on. War is always horrible, but other ones have seemed to make more sense, at least from the outside.
Third, I wonder if the idea of the world ending seems especially realistic to a generation who’s grown up in a time where we’re of drastic consequences to humans’ pollution of the planet. Mountains of plastic bags and bottles show up in the oceans; animal species are dying off at a rate unlike anything since the dinosaurs; and the atmosphere is heating up at an ever-accelerating rate, resulting in ice melts, changing weather patterns, and countless other shifts we won’t know till they’ve happened. And no matter how many adults try to pretend all this isn’t actually happening, you kids are facing very unsure futures, and it’s in your faces every day.
And last, I wonder if there’s a little bit of craving for the world of these stories. So many kids today are trapped in worlds with hardly any Nature. Their parents make them stay indoors, they watch TV or their computer all the time (when they’re not imprisoned in classrooms, which sometimes remind me of pounds) – they suffer from what some call “Nature Deprivation Disorder.” So how natural then to fantasize about being Katniss with her bow and arrow, or one of those other heroes in a world after technology has failed – and get to feel part of Reality. What I get to feel when I meet up with my friends and we have a big play fight and tear up a back yard! I might get cut up or punctured a bit, but it feels so good to do!
But is this enough? Does all this explain the attitudes of this generation? And is there more to ask? I love Taylor Swift and Adele, but has there ever been a time before when the two biggest stars in music focus so much about their bitterness about past boyfriends?!
My Pack, my favorite people in the world: Are you happy? Do you feel safe? Or are you, like Katniss, and Rick and Laurie and Daryl, kind of terrified of what’s out there? Do you feel like this is your world, that you have the right to step into it and find love and happiness and meaning? Or are you feeling like it’s all against you, and that you are Never Ever Ever going to get to Roll in the Deep of blissful connection?
(Handsome wants me to also ask what you all think about this “Blurred” something? I don’t know what he means, though, and he refuses to tell me more. But if you want to tell me about that, too, please do!)
I am a very optimistic pooch. I continue to believe that humans are so smart that even if things get as bad as these movies and books and TV shows show, you’ll find a way out of it somehow. But I have a tiny brain, I know. So let me know what you think.
And in the meantime, don’t forget to step outside your homes, gaze at a sunset, listen to the birds’ songs, and acknowledge that no matter how bad the world might seem at times, you humans (and we dogs) haven’t completely ruined it just yet.