Why the End of the World Makes us Feel So Good: Revolution Season Premiere vs Hunger Games
Procrastinating from work (which I always feel to be a colossal waste of my life, yet necessary to prolong it in comfort) I downloaded the Series Premiere of a new TV show called “Revolution”. It’s just beginning. It shows a modern family: toddler playing with an Ipad, daughter zoned out watching cartoons on a plasma screen, mother on her phone with daddy, and another pair of guys driving and sexting someone.
Suddenly, all the power goes out – and it won’t ever come back on.
I watch the globe-map of the USA becoming dark as all electricity fueling our modern life dries up, and I’m thinking, “AWESOME.”
Why is this so thrilling to me? Why are our favorite fictional beings – zombies and vampires – slowly giving way to End of the World Scenarios that lead to a Post-Apocalypse setting? Specifically, about Revolution, or Massive Social and Political Upheaval?
“Governments fell. Militias rose up. People starved. Sickness, without medicine, fires, without firetrucks. If you were smart, you left the city. If not, you died there.”
And then suddenly, after probably 90% of the population of the human race has died in the violent upheaval, a small portion of survivors are living an idyllic Medieval lifestyle of farming and simple naturalistic living. A hot girl with a bow and arrow and a handsome country rogue.
Militia, bandits, apocalyptic decay… roaming the abandoned landscape picking up whatever supplies you come across, like a post-modern RPG fantasy game. We’ve seen it all before in shows like Jericho or Falling Skies. But we have a lust for more. But why? What buttons is this particular flight of fiction filling for us?
Here’s what I think: there is absolutely no hope for optimism in modern living. The world is going to shit. While we all love our technologically enabled lifestyles, and we love our fast food and takeout, we know that we are chronically unhealthy, that our lives are devoid of meaning and purpose, that we are caught in a pointless rat-race of earning more and spending more, that our governments and corporations are out to screw us over, that the health-care industry has been bought up by pharmaceutical and insurance companies. There is no hope for us in the system.
Even as I dream of making a little extra money, buying a few nice things, taking care of my house and family – I know that such an existence is trivial, selfish, and empty. What we need, as human beings, is excitement, passion, great trials in which to prove our merit. We have none – other than perhaps joining the military and being a cog in a machine you aren’t driving, or shooting other players online in a Killzone 3 match.
But there is no easy transition to the kind of unregulated, frontieristic, fraught with danger and struggle environments that we all secretly crave – where we can be whoever we want and do whatever we want to do. Imagine deciding to rebel against the government and actually getting away with it. Refusing to pay taxes, go to school, get a job, give in to the system. Several nations have recently lived out this dream. In America, the mere hint of it sounds like terrorism – something none of us takes lightly.
Personally, I think the Powers that Be are sating our desire for real political revolution, by giving us Faux-Apocalyptic eye-candy in movies and TV series like Revolution and Hunger Games to keep us lazy and content to be so. Of course like everything else about our modern dilemma, it’s easy to make the argument that those on the top are simply allowing us to give into our own worst nature: we’d rather be lazy and watch TV like “The Newsroom” than actually do something hard, like camp out in the streets, quit our jobs, fight, struggle and die. We get to enjoy the illusion of change without the accompanying hardships.
But what will happen when the ride ends?
Society is in a precarious position: fully able to change our ways, develop the technology for renewable energy and smarter ways of living with the planet than ever before. We COULD save ourselves. But we won’t. Because the government and the rich have no interest in saving mankind: they have the means to survive whatever shitstorm is coming (private bunkers, all the weapons, decades of provisions stockpiled, etc).
Someday the TV really will go off. Food and water will dry up. We will have to fight our neighbors to feed our families. This isn’t pessimism – it is something that is already happening in many places in the world, but the USA has avoided it by military bravado and the international faith in the US dollar and economy (which is reaching an all-time low).
Why are our heroines all anti-feminist?
It may at first appear that Revolution (and Hunger Games by implication) is championing a girl hero – boosting up feminism and girl power with a capable, strong, independent young teenage girl who can go out into the wilderness and take care of herself by being a badass (even if it’s totally unbelievable).
What do we get instead?
In Hunger Games, the heroine needs to play up her beauty and feminine wiles to charm the audience into buying a fictitious romance story so they pity her. She also needs to be protected and saved by her doting boyfriends.
In Revolution, the heroine is (predictably) about to get raped by the first band of miscreants that find her, but luckily is saved by a handsome boy who she happens to have run into earlier and who of course, was instantly smitten, and decided to follow her and be her protector, because he had nothing else to do (oops, it turns out he’s actually one of the secret police and he’s been following her to led the armed forces to her uncle, who’s been in hiding).
The only legit badass female characters are always cold and insensitive villains. Heroines need to be weak and emotional and get saved by handsome boys. There needs to be romantic tension to keep our interest in the story. All in all, I’m disappointed with the Revolution Series Premiere, because it seems like an open rip-off of Hunger Games (as any post-apocalyptic story featuring a girl protagonist with a bow and arrow is bound to).
But I’ll give it a few more episodes anyway – at least until Revenge and Game of Thrones start releasing new episodes.
I gave it a second shot. I was even excited to watch episode 2, and I’m watching it now… and it sucks. Charlie (the heroine) is an annoying bitch. Clueless, strong-headed and stupid. Her uncle tries to ditch her, but she goes off to find him, fucking everything up, and has to get saved, again. All the other characters have a tiny bit of common sense. She has none. I don’t know if I can even finish the episode.
Derek Murphy is a writer and artist from Oregon, currently working on his PhD thesis on revolutionary literature while traveling the globe. He writes about comparative religion, popular culture and literary theory. If you’d like to hear about his upcoming projects or books, you can follow him on Twitter, join the Facebook page, or subscribe by RSS.