Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tired of Apocalypse

It is strange to think that we've made it almost half way through 2007, and the decade is almost over. Most of what I think of as my adult life was contained in it, not to mention the true start of the 21st century.

(If we talk about historical periods, centuries don't begin and end when the calendar says so. The divider will be a major event. The 20th century began with the First World War, and the 21st - on 9/11.)

History is cyclical, and I've found that with a bit of mental gymnastics it is possible to trace the interchange of positive and negative outlooks. The 90s were a time of End of History, of shrugging off the Cold War burden - in this part of the world specifically, it was a turbulent time, but overall the progress was welcome.

Estonians are still fairly confident of their future, but elsewhere the perceived imminent energy shortage and the spectre of terrorism - much scarier than the actual feasible threat - have affected the human mentality. This can be observed particularly in popular culture.

It is both easy and customary to criticize Americans' general intelligence level, but in this decade we've seen some genuinely good TV shows. The consumer culture has had its effect, and nearly every bright idea has been run into the ground (because it's not possible to infuse twenty two episodes a year with the same level of novelty and creativity as a good pilot), but the trend is certainly positive. And these shows allow us to extract the fundamental concept of this decade, in the same way as the 60s were all about revolts and new world orders, or the 80s - about greed.

The basic notion of the noughties is apocalypse.

How many of the good shows are about dystopia, about a Mad Max future and the world as we know it being taken away? Lost, Heroes, Jericho, Battlestar Galactica... I won't be so paranoid as to suggest that it's some far-Right-Christian plot to introduce the general public to the idea of Rapture, but one could argue the opposite - that the entertainment industry is tapping into a notion that most of the viewership finds plausible. Science fiction, the branch of literature whose entire point is to advocate prosperity through progress, has been coming up with things like the Riddick series or Serenity - that's besides the painfully obvious Matrix and its less grand but more endearing half-brother Equilibrium. The same relationship can be seen in two other apocalyptic prophecies - V for Vendetta and Children of Men, and while on the topic of British dystopias you might remember 28 Days Later (haven't seen the sequel yet) and the rather justly forgotten Reign of Fire.

It is probably indicative of general mindset that the original Star Wars trilogy - a struggle against evil - was filmed from the late 70s to the early 80s, and then in our time came the pessimistic prequels. But I, for one, am sick and tired of all this apocalypse talk. We've got two and a half years to go, and I can hardly wait. Roll on the next decade - I'm done with this one.

1 comment:

Jens-Olaf said...

I'm living in Korea now. And many of the photos taken during and after the Korean war ARE apocalypse. The 60s were hard living, one burned himself for worker's rights. 10 years ago they made a successful movie out of that tragic story. The 70s showed improvement. But housing was terrible. Since the 80s some people could reach western life standards. In the 90s the majority was reaching that level. After 2000 speaking of apocalypse, here? The nightmares are lying in the past. Some say that this is the reason why Korean movies are so violent. It's maybe a therapy, some described it that way.


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