Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores why apocalypse fiction on the small and big screen feels different these days.
It’s a little trite, but it’s also true: the way we picture the apocalypse says a lot more about our present than it does about our future.
One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the rise of environmental horror films in the 1970s. In many ways — especially in America — the ’70s were the decade in which the other shoe dropped. Free love failed to fulfill its untenable promise; Vietnam had thoroughly muddied the myth of imperialist heroics, and a mounting number of environmental disasters resulted in the creation of the EPA. I’m oversimplifying. But understanding the through-line between the “70s scourge” of acid rain and the rise of environmental catastrophe flicks like No Blade of Grass (1970), Z.P.G. (1972), and Soylent Green (1973) isn’t hard to follow.
All this to say: we shouldn’t just be looking to our apocalypse fiction for visions of what’s to come. And, if you’ve been paying close attention (especially to apocalypse media created around/after the COVID-19 pandemic), you may have noticed a shift. There’s a good deal of 21st Century apocalypse fiction that argues we’ll immediately turn into animals the moment governments and institutions fall. Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope right before the credits roll, but generally speaking: it has been the style, until recently, to showcase how primal, selfish, and individualistic we’ll become the moment society goes bust.
But, as the video essay below argues: this is starting to change. Survival isn’t enough, or even possible, without community. We have an instinctive drive to feel human, even while the world is crumbling around us. And an inextricable part of feeling human is feeling connected to others.
Beware slight visual spoilers for The Last of Us, The Leftovers, and Station 11.
Watch “Why Apocalypse Stories Feel Different Now”
Who made this?
This video essay on why survival movies and television shows feel different was created by Like Stories of Old, a video essay channel run by Tom van der Linden. You can follow van der Linden on Twitter here. And you can subscribe to his YouTube account here.
More videos like this
- Here’s Tom van der Linden unpacking Interstellar‘s message about how love transcends time
- And another, on A Hidden Life director Terrence Malick’s philosophical inclinations.
- And one more from Like Stories of Old: The Philosophy of Blade Runner 2049
- Here’s Entertain the Elk with a video essay exploring what makes the grim prologue of The Last of Us season 1 so effective.
- And finally, courtesy of You Have Been Watching Films: here’s a video essay that looks at how the movie Tetsuo: The Iron Man captured the apocalyptic anxieties of the 1980s.