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liliaeth
liliaeth
I was thinking of this after seeing a trailer for a new British zombie series that seems really interesting. (In the Flesh)

But is the concept of an apocalypse where all of society breaks down an American idea?

I could be entirely wrong of course, but most movies I know that deal with some form of apocalypse are either American, or based on American ideas only transplanted to another country.

Not to say that I couldn't be wrong on this, but... when dealing with apocalyptic societies, what interests me the most is how society builds back up again. To me, the most interesting ideas aren't living all alone in a world with no rules or organization, it's seeing how civilization gets restored. And I can't help but think that that is because when we learn history in high school, we read about all the times that society collapsed and then people got right back started again on rebuilding it anew. Maybe not the same way it was before, but still something.

I mean, the closest thing the world ever had to a 'apocalypse' was the situation during the plagues in the Middle ages. Millions of people died, and that in a time when the population was far smaller than it is now. But even though things fell still, they rose up again afterwards.

After every war, every plague, invasion, and so on... civilization restored itself eventually. Why? Because most people really don't want to live in a lawless world where you need a gun to survive and aren't able to go outside without the fear of ending up dead.

I mean, for me, the most unbelievable part of the Walking Dead, isn't the zombies. (well those are close ;-)) But the fact that the army/police/... are utterly gone, lost to the walkers. That there was at most a vague attempt at protecting the population, and then they died and society collapsed. (esp. since the army seemed well armed enough)

I mean, if a small bunch of survivors can take out an entire prison full of Walkers, then how did the walkers ever manage to take out an entire army full of armed and well trained soldiers whom I assume are far better able at dealing with taking lives? Hell, even a kid like Carl can manage to kill walkers...

One of the things I like about the News Feed triology is that society doesn't end because this plague hits. The government reacts and tries to retain control. Even in Warm Bodies, where there was an apocalypse, the survivors still live in a city with thousands of people in at least some version of law and order. Instead of a small group of less than ten people.

This notion of 'the government can't protect you' just feels... wrong to me. Here when bad things happen, the government at least tries to step in and do something. And I find that rather... lacking in movies and shows like the Walking Dead.
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Comments
ffutures From: ffutures Date: March 6th, 2013 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
The interesting thing about In The Flesh seems to be exactly that it's NOT the collapse of civilisation - it's set a few years after the zombie plague, which was kept under control, and rehabilitated zombies are now being returned to the community.

Of course something is probably going to go wrong somewhere, but it's a nice change to "OMG Zombies - Civilisation collapses!"
liliaeth From: liliaeth Date: March 6th, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly, it just seems much more interesting to me. I mean, how does the cure work, how do the former zombies feel about what they did. How does society react to them after being afraid of them....

There's just so many more stories to get out of that, both good and dark, than the usual 'everyone dies' and 'even your fellow humans can't be trusted' that you usually find in zombie stories.
gillo From: gillo Date: March 6th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Some of John Wyndham's books deal with a range of apocalypses - Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes and, in a way, The Chrysalids. All written around fifty years ago, all ridiculously Anglocentric - and the films based on the books are pretty much to be avoided.

Edited at 2013-03-06 03:37 pm (UTC)
makd From: makd Date: March 6th, 2013 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you review the works of 19th century English utopianists, they were concerned about the breakdown of civilization as they knew it.

So were the early Christians.......
oneiriad From: oneiriad Date: March 6th, 2013 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you ever read World War Z - the book by Max Brooks, not the movie that doesn't seem to actually be based on it? It's constructed as a collection of interviews with survivors, telling the story of the zombie apocalypse - and thing is, civilization never does collapse. Retreat and regroup, yes. Figure out new tactics because old-school doesn't work against unthinking masses that can only be stopped by damage to the head, yes. Collapse? Not so much.
elisi From: elisi Date: March 6th, 2013 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you have not seen 'Shaun of the Dead', do so now! I think it would appeal. :)
timshel_by_love From: timshel_by_love Date: March 6th, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think The Walking Dead actually does address some of these things. Woodbury is a very good example of what you are talking about. The leader of that place is called The Governor. They have built walls, and developed laws, and basically rebuilt their society, at least the looks of a society. In reality, they've handed over their lives and freedom to a dictator who protects them, yes, but at what cost? They are insulated and desensitized to the danger the walkers pose. So, what happens when their walls are inevitably breached? And they will be breached.

Everyone in that universe is searching for somewhere they feel safe, but in the zombie apocalypse, safe just isn't a reality. Because zombies just keep coming. They overwhelm and destroy. Zombies may be slow, but if they were easily defeated, it wouldn't really be the apocalypse, would it? The drama in The Walking Dead comes from how these people are broken down, seeing what it takes for them to persevere and survive, and then watching them rebuild themselves. It's just a different way of telling a story.

Also, there are hints that the military is still in existence. The black helicopter that keeps showing up, the camped out soldiers the Woodbury scouts found, killed, and robbed.

I would very much like to watch the Post-Walking Dead show, watch how Rick and Co settle back in to regular civilian life. It would be fascinating! But that's not a show about zombies, which is kind of the point.
sinanju From: sinanju Date: March 7th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC) (Link)
"I would very much like to watch the Post-Walking Dead show, watch how Rick and Co settle back in to regular civilian life."

I had this sudden vision of a show starting with a gunshot, and a zombie falling over. Then we pull back to see a number of people walking through a field of bodies, some of which are feebly struggling. They shoot them. They shoot the last one. And then they look around. No more zombies. "Now what?"
hells_half_acre From: hells_half_acre Date: March 6th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I actually read a very good book/article (I can't remember which) once about how the closest thing the world has ever come to an apocalypse was actually the small pox epidemic that swept through the Americas ahead of the European invasion. Upwards of 90% of the population was killed, which actually made it far deadlier than the Plague of the Middle Ages.

They argued that the reason that America is so obsessed with the apocalypse is because it was built on the remnants of one.

Now, with that in mind, I agree with you about the unbelievability of some of the zombie films - the only ones that I think account for the kind of government breakdown that most zombie films have are the ones where the zombie-state is spread via plague and not just via being bite by a zombie. In order for the government to be that unstable/non-existent it needs to have been decimated in the modern sense of the word.
transemacabre From: transemacabre Date: March 7th, 2013 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
In a real zombie apocalypse, horrifyingly enough, the police and other first responders would be among the most likely to be infected first. Imagine it: a zombie is attacking passersby willy-nilly on the street. Cops intervene. They're bit. Maybe the zombie is terminated or maybe its restrained. But the virus is now taking effect on the cops. They go to the hospital for treatment of the bite wounds. The infected cops bite EMTs/nurses/doctors. And the virus spreads.

I do think, on a cultural level, Americans are fascinated by the concept of a lawless society, of being on your own, with little to no support system, in a world of horrors. That most American of genres, the Western, has some features in common with the zombie apocalypse. The idea of the thin veneer of civilization disappearing overnight is a potent one.
badforthefish From: badforthefish Date: March 21st, 2013 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not stalking I swear! ;-)

You will find that quite a few British novels and films deal with post apocalyptic societies, so I don't think it's an exclusively American idea even if the fear of the nuclear bomb gave rise to a truckload of books and films on the subject.

I was gonna mention Day of The Triffids as one of your friend did above, the book is so much creepier than any of the films made though. There's also HG Wells' "The Time Machine" and the 1970's British series "Survivors". Wikipedia tells me that Mary Shelley wrote a novel called "The Last Man" in 1826 about a plague destroying the world. There's also the heartwrenching "When The Wind Blows" about an elderly couple coping with a nuclear fallout which is British as well.

One of my favourite apocalypse themed book when I was younger was Arthur C. Clark's Childood's End.
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