Episode 7: Apocalypse!

Rachel and Leeman discuss the End Times and other fun topics.

Topics Discussed and/or Spoiled

Die Hard, Babylon 5, Angel, Kraken, Shadowrun, Children of Men,Once Upon a Time, Left Behind, Thief in the Night, The Last Battle, The Hobbit, and the totality of existence.

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12 Responses to Episode 7: Apocalypse!

  1. Rachel Kolar says:

    I’ve never really been part of an apocalyptic church, so I can’t speak to whether or not that particular line of preaching has been getting better or worse lately. (I was Southern Baptist and all, but we didn’t actually go to church that often.) Pop culture-wise, though, I think it’s interesting that, as our main cultural anxieties have gone from the Cold War’s literal “the world is going to end because we’re going to nuke the planet” to 9/11’s “the world and civilization as we know them are going to end and we’re going to have to find a way to survive in the rubble,” we’ve seen fewer literal apocalypses and way, way more zombiepocalypses. Instead of watching Bruce Willis try to stop asteroids from literally destroying the world, we’re watching Rick and Lori try to survive and protect their kid in a world that isn’t safe and doesn’t make sense anymore. I can’t think of many literal end-of-the-world movies from the past decade other than “The Day After Tomorrow” (the less is said of which, the better). Zombiepocalypse-style stuff is everywhere, though.

    Incidentally, speaking of apocalypticism in Angel, I stumbled across something online that made a really interesting point about season 4: Jasmine is Jesus, and her coming is the Millennium. They do a bunch of really, really explicit references to the Book of Revelation during all the stuff with the Beast, but his reign of terror comes to an end when Cordy has her miracle baby and then everyone lives together in peace and harmony. A lot of times Joss Whedon’s atheism is obnoxious, but I’m honestly impressed that he was that subtle about it. (About the Millennium specifically, I mean. There wasn’t much subtle about Jasmine being a big middle finger to religion, not that I don’t love the end of season 4 pretty much unconditionally anyway.)

    By the way, have Tom and I ever gushed to you about Sufjan Stevens? He’s an indie singer who somehow manages to write Christian music that doesn’t suck. He’s written two songs about the eschaton that I know of; one of them, Seven Swans, is utterly terrifying, and the other one, In the Devil’s Territory, is basically about how wonderful it’s going to be to finally see Jesus. Both of them give me chills every time for completely different reasons.

    • Leeman says:

      One quick note on secular apocalyptic fears, I noticed a while back that generationally, I fall into an interesting gap in that I can remember a time before the ubiquity of the internet but I also have no real memories of the Cold War, specifically that fear that at any moment, it could all go up in ash. Even at the worst of the 9/11 fears, you wind up in the worst cases with either an Islamic Caliphate or a perpetual state of war that allows for 1984-style tyranny. Neither is a recipe for cinders and cockroaches. Even environmental concerns are more long-term and depressing than We All Die, All of Us. I’m curious as to whether A) that Nuclear fear was really all that prevalent or if it just feels that way with War Games, Dr. Strangelove, Failsafe, etc and B) if this difference of mindset has led to irreconcilable world views between the generations.


      • Rachel Kolar says:

        I’m not sure how bad it was in, say, the ’70s, but I know there was some genuine apocalyptic nuclear fear in the ’60s, especially when the Cuban missile crisis happened and everyone thought it was going to be the end of the world. I read way too much Stephen King, and he’s written two stories in the past three years or so that have touched on the Cuban missile crisis; in 11/22/63, a guy about our age goes back in time to the 60s and is genuinely perplexed by the fact that people are committing suicide to escape the coming nuclear holocaust because he knows it turns out all right, and in one of his novellas, some guys are reading newspapers from alternate realities on a magic Kindle (yeah, it was pretty weird) and in one reality there are no issues of the New York Times after about November 1, 1962. Given that Stephen King is so baby boomerish that it’s occasionally painful to read (every single one of his protagonists reads like a baby boomer, even if they’re supposed to be in their 20s or 80s today), I trust him to be pretty accurate on how boomers remember the 50s and 60s. I can see how the perception that the world almost ended in 1962 would cast a pall over life even when things were comparatively cordial between Russia and the US.

      • Ben Avery says:

        I do remember growing up in the ’80’s and having that fear/knowledge in the back of my mind that we had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world a couple times over. Movies like The Day After and news reports about the Star Wars defense initiative and arms talks, along with some of the movies you cited, helped build that up.

        For me, the ’80’s were a time of fear and dread, because of that, and also a time of wonder, as the world grew smaller right before our eyes.

        • Leeman says:

          When did you stop worrying about the bomb? Was it before or right at the end of the Cold War or was there a lingering fear that something could still happen?

          • Ben Avery says:

            After the cold war, the lingering fear of the bomb sort of faded away . . . giving way to a different kind of uneasiness with Desert Storm and the Middle East, as I became more aware of the worldwide situation. I was in high school in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, and I don’t remember being afraid of the bomb at that point.

            But there was also a strange sense of calm that came from the Cold War — if anyone did something, it meant it was over for everyone . . . surely no one was THAT insane, right?

            Of course, currently terrorism has taken the place of the fear of the bomb — with the bomb, it could ALL be over EVERYWHERE . . . but with terrorism, YOU could be taken out ANYWHERE. And with the acts of terrorism we’ve seen, we can see that yes, some people ARE that insane. They just weren’t in the White House or the Kremlin.

  2. Rachel Kolar says:

    yay Geekually yoked! I find apocalypticisim fascinating so I want to find the time for a good post. In terms of post 9-11 apocalyptic fears, I think its not so much a rational, Cold War style fear of something happening that would end the world, as much as an emotional sense that the world ended, that can only be communicated as apocalypse- BSG’s Cylon attack is the literal destruction of everything, but it captures the feel of post 9-11 America so well.

    On the subject of secular apocalypses, you mentioned Enviromentalism, and that also (in my experience) often crosses the line from “rational fear of world-ending disaster” to “emotions that need religious language to describe”- In fact, its fascinating to me how much specifically religious language gets thrown about talking about say, climate change. It’s always personified as a “punishment for our sins.” A final form of specifically geeky secular apocalypse worth mentioning is the strongly religious language and imagery of a lot of Transhumanism, especially where discussing “The Singluarity” aka the Rapture for nerds. The day will come with downloadable consciousness and post-scarcity nanotech and there will be no more fear or pain or death, and every tear will be wiped away These are a group that are often very hostile and dismissive of traditional religious language and ideas, yet they’ve constructed a narrative of eschatological hope that fits those same traditional religious contours. With a lot of modern people, it seems to me, even if they reject the intellectual content of religion they use the emotional and symbolic vocabulary of religions to express their own hopes and fears.

  3. Tom Kolar says:

    sorry, that last post was me

    • Leeman says:

      I’m going to imagine Tom’s pseudo-Rachel post as him in a yarn-wig and coconut brassiere speaking in a high pitched voice.

      • Rachel Kolar says:

        Picturing phrases like “yet they’ve constructed a narrative of eschatological hope that fits those same traditional religious contours” uttered in falsetto is making me giggle so hard.

  4. I was raised in conservative Christan schools in the American Deep South. I am skeptical of much of what they say in general and very skeptical of what they say about the end of the world being immanent. True story; my mother *still* has a book naming Gorbachev as the Anti-Christ. I agree with the narcissism take on it, but I also think some of it is laziness – the end of the world ends the burden of having to live in the world and deal with the world, all the problem of the world and living in the world are over. So, the world’s end means the end of work and effort.

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