Why Are We So Interested in Our Own Deaths?

As we have learned this semester, the apocalypse has been prevalent in literature for thousands of years. It is visible throughout the Bible, literally from start to finish; it is the main thread in classic literature such as Blake and Wells; the nuclear apocalypse took off in the middle of the twentieth century; and now we are privy to all sorts of different ways that the world will end and we will virtually all die, whether it is due to differences of opinions in separate governments, nuclear weapons, our awful treatment of the environment, technology becoming scarier and scarier, etc. Regardless, there is enough material on our deaths to warrant a University class on it.

And not just a couple people dying here and there either, pretty much everyone is going to die at the same time, together, and violently according to popular media.

Why must we dwell on such morbid thoughts?

I found an article on this topic by Sara Goodwin, which I will link here:

She basically sums up the apocalypse into the basic, most popular 3 categories, simply for ease of discussion because there are way too many to talk about all of them.

  1. Zombie apocalypses

She argues that for Zombie apocalypses, we like it because it “provides you with a scenario that makes it acceptable and even heroic to mow down the masses. Zombies make us feel smart and superior, and zombie-themed entertainment is designed to fill that void in our hearts. Whenever a character goes somewhere alone, without a gun, in the dark, and gets him or herself zombified, we can sit back, shake our heads, and say, “Well, that guy deserved it. He was clearly an idiot.” “ (2014).

Well I think that’s pretty valid don’t you? It basically lets us blame all our problems on one category of (sort of) humans, without sounding like Hitler or Trump. Plus, the survival-of-the-fittest scenario would work great in a zombie apocalypse, as many of you have already pointed out in previous blog posts.

  1. Dystopian apocalypses

Further, Goodwin considers distant, future, apocalypses. This would be like A Canticle for Leibowitz, where no one remembers the apocalypse happening, or what it was like on earth before. She contends that it removes a sense of guilt for the audience and that it also provides us with a certain level of freedom that we do not get to experience presently. For example in the Mad Max movies they have little fuel left and so they have the freedom to kill each other to get as much fuel as they can.

However, I’m not sure if I agree with this point, particularly the guiltless part. I think it adds another level of guilt because if the apocalypse were to happen after we’re dead, there’s still that notion of “don’t you want to leave the world a better place for your grandchildren and other descendants?”

  1. Environmental apocalypses

Lastly, she says that we like to envision environmental disasters for one simple reason: “we as humans like to be right” (2014). In other words all the environmental scientists and activists out there cannot wait to be able to say, “dammit I told you to recycle!” Fair enough.

Although she makes some really interesting points, I personally think that it all comes down to “a car crash where you can’t look away.”

Somehow looking at or reading about human destruction and ruin triggers something in us that keeps us locked on the page or screen.

What are your thoughts?

Work Cited

Goodwin, Sara. “Why do we love the apocalypse so much?” The Mary Sue. September 2014. Web. 3 April, 2016.